Joel Nduka questions the public condemnation of Representative Farouk Lawan.
The unfolding story of the alleged six hundred and twenty thousand (620,000) dollars bribe involving the former chairman of the ad hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy of the House of Representatives, Lawan Farouk and the chairman of Zenon Oil, Femi Otedola does not seem to be going away anytime soon.
However, there is an apparent skewing of the stories and a deliberate lack of objectivity by some of the writers who have stayed on the story. Of particular interest to me was the piece done by Mr. Adeolu Ademoyo titled “Farouk Lawan must leave House of Rep Now” on Premium Time website.
It was laughable going through the article which was somewhere between anemic and empty. It was more like a verdict than an opinion. Fortunately, the Nigerian judicial system has evolved beyond such myopic views on issues.
In any society with equity, fairness and justice, an accused is innocent till proven guilty. So far, all the evidence tended by Femi Otedola falls flat and does not support any logical view. Like Mr. Ademoyo, most individuals often get blinded by our sense of judgment. The irony of our society is that we believe that an accused is guilty until proven innocent; we allow sentiments to override better judgment. But it is important to view things from both sides, which most people have failed to do.
There are questions arising that are begging for answers. If Otedola sincerely acted with the complicity of the security agencies in a sting operation, why was Farouk not picked up the moment he stepped out of the meeting venue with the currency notes in his possession? Why did the security agencies fail to act until the news became a media sensation? Why did the other members of the committee not object to the removal of Zenon Oil from the list? Did Farouk err on the side of judgment or on the side of principle?
There are suspicions that Otedola’s belated ploy to go to press with the news was a politically motivated scheme to discredit the 205-page subsidy report that uncovered a long list of alleged wrongdoings involving oil marketers, DPR, PPRA and NNPC.
Perhaps, Farouk Lawan is now a victim of the delinquent political system that pays lip service to Change and is already reneging on prosecuting the indicted oil marketers. One of the things that the protests showed us during the fuel subsidy strikes was that the people are fully aware of this, a situation that can breed further instability if it is not properly addressed. Let the government continue, we will be watching.
The history of Farouk Lawan is one replete with hard work, selflessness and integrity. It was Lawan who in late-2007 led the move that caused former Speaker of the House, Patricia Etteh to resign. Lawan led the Integrity Group. It was on the back of impeachable integrity that he was made the chairman of the committee on fuel subsidy scandal after a nation-wide strike that shook the whole of Nigeria in January, 2012.
Ours is a country betrayed by a tiny group of moral derelicts. It will remain a baffling question how Farouk Lawan ended up as a pawn in the chess board of strange bed fellows of oil marketers and the allies in government.
When one examines the life of Femi Otedola, he has been nothing but mischievous; his history is fraught with exploitation and opportunistic disposition to business. This is a man who did not only profit from the regulated petroleum market, but also plagued the stock market, setting the value of stock for more than its real value.
How else can you describe a man whose philosophy is purely about the bottom-line? How best can you describe a man that sees people as mere tools to use and achieve higher profits? In what possible way can you describe a man that does not invest in long term projects but focuses on cheap and short term gains? What can we call a man that has no sense of national interest, but is engulfed in pure self-interest?
Our refineries have become dysfunctional and we continue to export crude and import refined petroleum. We exported all our jobs to neighbouring countries and enriched other countries because the group of people in the cabal couldn’t think beyond themselves. Otedola’s proximity to the corridors of power may shield him from our perverted justice system but not from karma and the powers beyond human capacity. We must take whatever Femi Otedola says with a pinch of salt.
**Joel Nduka is a public affairs commentator based in Abuja.