In a country that makes heroes out of people who do normal things – like carrying out the jobs they are paid or elected to do, or by just summoning the courage to say what is right, Farouk Lawan would easily pass as a hero.
Mr. Lawan is a charmer whose eloquence, innocent facial appearance and expressions during legislative advocacy endeared him to many Nigerians. The historical narrative of Nigeria’s House of Representatives cannot be complete without the name Farouk Lawan being mentioned, especially considering the role he played in the impeachment of Patricia Etteh as Speaker of House of Representatives in October, 2007.
Mr. Lawan is not a new comer to the intrigues of Nigerian politics. A fourth term legislator and a power broker in the ruling People’s Democratic Party, he understands politics of legislation; he is also seen by many as a progressive, one who defends the socio economic rights of Nigerian citizens.
The Leadership of the House of Representatives assumed that Mr. Lawan is a man of unquestionable integrity and character, that informed their decision to have him Chair the House of Representatives Ad-Hoc Committee on fuel subsidy probe and ‘to verify and determine the actual subsidy requirements and monitor the implementation of the subsidy regime in Nigeria’. Not many doubted Mr. Lawan’s integrity at that time, but those who knew him well said he is a wily man who would not fight a cause except it is for his personal profit.
Mr. Lawan’s committee and the report of the fuel subsidy probe were the last hope the common man had to justify the protests against the Federal Government’s removal of fuel subsidy. When Nigeria’s president hinted that he would remove the fuel subsidy because a few corrupt and influential people benefitted from it to the detriment of the majority of Nigerian, citizens argued that Mr. President should prosecute the cabal rather than make them pay for the corruption of elites either in his administration or in the private sector. The pleas were however, disregarded by Mr. President. He went ahead to remove subsidy, but did not identify or prosecute those who he referred to as “the cabal”.
Instead, he violated rights of Citizens who protested peacefully by unleashing the military and other state security on them. Innocent and peaceful citizens were unlawfully arrested, brutalized and some were murdered in the process. Nigerians felt even more helpless and heartbroken when the organised labour called off the strike.
Truly, Nigerians do not deserve to pay N97 for fuel, but the government over powered them. They needed someone to save them, and it appeared that President Jonathan was too weak to fight the “cabal” for the sake of the people who he claims voted for him overwhelmingly.
So when Mr. Lawan’s committee laid its report on the floor of the House on the 18th of April, most thought that respite had come. Many Nigerians observed the report and events that followed with keen interest. The report was finally adopted by the House and Mr. Lawan became “our hero”. At the time, Nigerians had cause to embrace him because his report buttressed their position. It is extreme callousness for Nigerians to pay for the crimes and frauds of a few individuals whose faces are hidden behind 78 indicted companies by the report. Mr. Lawan report restored some level of hope and faith in Nigeria.
However, not long after, their hopes were dashed. As Nigerians praised Mr. Farouk for a job well done, he was compromising the report that would define new dynamics of our economy. The most intriguing part is that Mr. Lawan did not find it difficult to attend events that made him seem like a progressive. He went about beaming with smiles, waving at, and shaking hands with cheering supporters and innocent citizens whose future he has mortgaged with a few bunch of dollars in his “agbada”.
One thought that keeps resonating in my mind is how cheap Mr. Lawan is. I think every man has a price (cash or kind); but I am ashamed that Mr. Lawan would offer himself for sale for as low as $620,000. Mr. Lawan was a rising star with a bright political future. What greater glory did he see in $620,000 than the one that was set ahead of him? Could it have been the allegory of 99 days for the thief and one day for the owner in play? Could it have been a combination of poor character and judgment?
It must also be known that whatever paltry sum that made him to expend his moral capital has caused serious psychological damage to young people who looked up to him from a distance. It is indeed a total betrayal of hope; he raised the hopes millions of Nigerians had in the National Assembly, but he has now killed the spirits of Nigerians with the revelation of his solicitation for bribes. He placed his interest above the interest of millions of Nigerians and the bright future we seek.
Now that Mr. Lawan has disappointed Nigerians, the best way to move forward is to separate the report from the man who chaired it. Although one may argue that the credibility of the process of the report is central and as important as the report itself, but there are certain established and uncompromising facts in the report.
Therefore, the Civil Society can decide to claim ownership and give credibility to the report by demanding that the report goes through the test of prosecution in our courts of law. Another way out is for the House to wipe the report of all Mr. Lawan’s filthy hands prints by making a clear statement distancing itself from Mr. Lawan, and reviewing the report again in order to restore its legitimacy by identifying those who are culpable but not found in the report by virtue of their inducements. The House will stand a chance of losing credibility, if these allegations are left to go unravelled and then the accused unpunished.
In fact, if the National Assembly whose duty is to provide oversight functions over the executive is compromised and further loses its credibility in the eyes of citizens, then our democracy is threatened. The role the legislative arm of government is important, so it is hoped that members of the National Assembly will treat these allegations with the necessary seriousness it deserves.