Mr. Muhammed Zakari is a graduate of the Bayero University, Kano and former chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Suleja branch. He is the current Deputy National Treasurer of the All Progressives Congress, APC. In this interview, he spoke on the anti-corruption fight, whistle blowing policy, law and the economy.
WHAT is your appraisal of the anti-corruption war of the Federal Government?To be honest, the government’s drive towards the anti-corruption campaign so far is wonderful and successful. It is not an easy task coming up with an anti-corruption war in a country like Nigeria where the entire system is faulty and appears to be celebrating corruption in all its ramifications. The government needs the support of all of us to succeed looking at the challenges and the dangers corruption pose to our economy, our growth as a nation and national life. There was public outcry, recently, that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has consistently lost some high profile cases in its anti corruption war. How do you think we can strengthen the war to ensure victory? It is not surprising seeing our anti-corruption institutions like the EFCC losing high profile corruption cases. This will tell you the dangers of corruption and how deep corruption has eaten into the entire system and fabric of our country.
Can you explain this? Much as the President is fighting corruption, corruption itself and all those benefitting from it are equally fighting back. It all goes to show that we need to strengthen our anti-corruption agencies including the Police as well as educate all stakeholders on how to carry out proper investigations, how to put their facts and evidence in order before arraigning suspects in court. It also signifies the need for the NBA, the Judiciary and other agencies to assist the government’s efforts in achieving its anti-corruption crusade by doing away with unnecessary technicalities during trials. The perception of Nigerians is also an issue in the anti-corruption struggle. What do you mean by the perception of Nigerians in the fight against corruption? There is the urgent need for all Nigerians to see the fight against corruption as a collective responsibility, as an attempt to better their lives, their future and that of their generations yet unborn. We all must view corruption as an evil against our collective heritage as against sectionalizing it or taking sides in corruption cases simply because the beneficiary is a close associate. The most unfortunate thing now is the fact that in the 16 years rule of the Peoples Democratic Party PDP, they had succeeded in dividing us along ethnic, tribal and religious divides which tends to blind us whenever our own persons are involved in issues of corruption. The society itself must learn to stop celebrating corruption and corrupt individuals; they must rise against crowning corrupt officials or individuals with all kinds of traditional titles. There have been calls for State Attorneys-General and other prosecutorial agencies of states to take over prosecution of corrupt politicians while the EFCC will focus on the prosecution of those who commit financial crimes as envisaged by the EFCC Act. What is your reaction to this? It is not who carries out the prosecution that matters, but the competence of those who carried out the investigation first and of course, those that prosecute the offenders. In all respects, we need to have enough manpower and the government must be interested in the training and retraining of its personnel. It is good to have an independent investigator and an independent prosecutor. This will enable each of the departments to carry out its functions very well without compromising along the way. The EFCC should be vested basically with investigatiive powere while a different agency such as the Office of the Attorney-General (AG) of either state or the federal, as the case may be, prosecutes those found to have committed the offence. What is your appraisal of the whistle blowing policy of the government and how can we strengthen the policy to make it more efficient and effective? It is my humble submission that the whistle blowing policy is a good one as it gives people the opportunity of exposing those who hide illegal wealth. However, the government must come up with adequate means of protection for the whistle blower. The issue of corruption is a very serious one. In some cases, even the security agencies disclose the identity of the whistle blower to the looter in return for favours, which is also another form of corruption. There should be a systematic approach on how to access and use any information coming from whistle blowers. Law cannot be separated from politics; how do you think the two can go together to deepen democratic ideals and values in the country? The whole idea about politics is the ability and desire to provide for qualitative leadership aimed at improving the living standard of people. Law, in itself is aimed at achieving a more peaceful cordial and organisational behaviour of citizens. Thus, both law and politics are aimed at enhancing the socio-economic well being of the people. There is, therefore, the need to play politics in accordance with the rules. Why? Because this is the only way the society can benefit from the tenets of politics and to gain the so-called dividends of democracy. Dividends of democracy They both compliment each other and there is the need to look at our laws so closely with a view to strengthening those pieces of legislation that will add value to our political ideologies. As the deputy national treasurer of the APC what is your appraisal of the APC-led Federal Government? I can attest to the fact that the APC-led government has done creditably well and is still doing more to improve on the socio- economic life of the average Nigerian. There has never been such a time when the average Nigerian feels the impact of government as in the present dispensation. Federal Government’s policies are all geared towards a better Nigeria. Things like the youth empowerment, the various agricultural support programmes, and the schools free feeding programme are all pointers to what the government is doing. We are determined to do more. I am not sure Nigerians will want to go back to such an era where you spend days in filing stations waiting to buy fuel with your hard earned money. Our foreign policies have grossly restored the reputation of the average Nigerian doing legitimate business with other countries of the world. The issue of security is something we are all proud of. The government is doing more and I am optimistic we shall succeed. It is widely believed that your party could not manage their electoral victory at the centre, what is your reaction to this? Intra-party squabble is not a new thing in politics and cannot be different with our party. Ours is a peculiar case, especially in view of the financial prudence introduced within the system. Unlike before, there is not enough money to throw away and people no longer cut corners like before. It will actually take time and patience for us to get it right but having said that, the leadership of the party is doing its best to bring all its members back on board. We are going to do all things humanly possible to strengthen our party. We appreciate the fact that Nigerians are happy with what Mr. President is doing and we are not going to fail them. They have shown concern and are all prayerful to ensure that the party is strengthened and brought back on track. Finally, we must also appreciate the fact that the squabbles are not far from the successes so far recorded by the party. Every second, more people are trooping into the party and others becoming interested in the parties’ activities.