By Inibehe EFFIONG
During my tenure as the President of the Student Representatives Council (SRC), Nigerian Law School, Lagos Campus, April 2014/2015 Set, I was accountable to all the students as their leader. I never stole a kobo throughout my tenure. That is a position that I could have used for self-aggrandizement if I was corrupt.
Today, my colleagues in the law school respect me because I led them responsibly and transparently. I sacrificed my time and personal resources to ensure that they had a conducive learning environment. The Law School Management never paid me, the other executive and members of the SRC a kobo for our services to the students and we never complained.
All the positions that I was privileged to hold while in the University were on trust. Nobody can come out today and say that Inibehe Effiong has ever stolen or looted public or association funds. I held many leadership positions while in the university and funds came into my custody in the process; either for management or for safe keeping. There is no colleague of mine or student in the Faculty of Law, University of Uyo at the material time or in the MFM Campus Fellowship where I was Secretary, Vice President and President at different times that can say that Inibehe ever stole a kobo or misappropriated funds.
Some students bribe lecturers to get good grades. Throughout my five (5) years in the university, I never bribed a lecturer for good grades. Many of my colleagues in the university will read this piece, any of them that know that I ever bribed a lecturer or that I was ever involved in examination malpractice should come out and say so.
Nobody can accuse me of using whatever influence or connection that I have today to enrich myself. Nobody can accuse me of using activism for pecuniary gains.
Can Senator Godswill Akpabio say the same thing about his management of the finances of Akwa Ibom State during his tenure? As one of those that are at the vanguard of the struggle for Akpabio to render account of his stewardship, I challenge him to come out and say that he never stole Akwa Ibom State funds.
I am not trying to blow my trumpet. But I am ever ready and willing to defend myself if questions or issues relating to my leadership in the past or present arise. A leader that is clean, incorruptible and that led his people in accordance with the dictates of the law should never be afraid of being probed.
It is true that we, Nigerians, are fantastically corrupt. But it is not true that ALL Nigerians are corrupt. Leadership should be about service, not self-enrichment.
I am writing this article in reaction to some self-serving persons from my home state, Akwa Ibom, that are currently killing themselves over the ongoing investigation of Akpabio by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). I have been reading all sorts of offensive publications on the social media lately. Some people are asking the EFCC to leave Akpabio alone.
That will never happen. EFCC should not and cannot leave Akpabio alone, except the ongoing war against corruption in the country is mere shenanigans.
Is the EFCC asking Akpabio to give account of his father’s company? Is the EFCC investigating Akpabio’s relationship with his wife and children? Nobody is investigating Akpabio over the management of his family estate.
Mr. Akpabio is a former governor of Akwa Ibom State. He is being probed over the management of the finances of Akwa Ibom State from May 2007 to May 2015 when he was the governor. Some people are shamelessly asking whether he is the only thief in Nigeria. That is nonsense. A thief is a thief. If Akpabio never stole Akwa Ibom money he should not be afraid. There is no need for panicking. Let him give account of the resources of Akwa Ibom State under his control.
We are talking about the finances of Akwa Ibom State. Messrs. Amaechi, Fashola and Tinubu and other chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC) were never Governors of Akwa Ibom State. The people that are petitioning the EFCC to make Akpabio to give account of his stewardship are indigenes of Akwa Ibom State; they are not from Lagos, Kano or Rivers State.
In any event, there are ample cases of chieftains of the ruling APC, including former Governors, that are currently being probed and prosecuted by the EFCC and other security agencies for corruption and other criminal activities.
The likelihood or existence of corruption in Lagos, Rivers, Kano or any other state during previous administrations in those states does not excuse the corruption in Akwa Ibom State under Godswill Akpabio. Whether the current war against corruption is selective or not does not affect the culpability of Akpabio. We cannot use one corruption to justify another.
The question is: Is Akpabio guilty or innocent? The court will decide if the EFCC eventually initiates criminal charges against him. If Akpabio believes that the ongoing probe is witch-haunt he should wait for the EFCC to charge him to court. He can then instruct his lawyers to raise a defense of “witch-haunt”. As a lawyer, Akpabio knows that such a frivolous defense has no place in the Nigerian criminal jurisprudence.
Witches will always be haunted. If you do not want to be haunted, do not practice witchcraft of any form.
Some say Akpabio is “our voice” at the federal level and should not be a victim of “pull him down syndrome”. But for the teachings of my Christian faith, I would have said woe unto those saying such nonsense. Who is Akpabio speaking for? How? If Akpabio was up before now, it is time for him to come down or be brought down to tell the world what he did with the allocations of Akwa Ibom State.
Myself and other self-respecting indigenes of Akwa Ibom State will never rest until Akpabio is made to account for the over two (2) trillion naira that he received on behalf of our state. No amount of propaganda, newspaper advertorials or open letters can save Akpabio.
The EFCC cannot and will not be intimidated or blackmailed by the nauseating cries of “witch-haunt” by sycophants and praise singers. I repeat, the EFCC cannot and will not leave Akpabio alone. Nigeria is not a Banana Republic.
Effiong, a Legal Practitioner, is the Convener of the Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (COHRD).