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Farouk Lawan: An inglorious end to a political car
FAROUK Lawan’s is, indubitably, an already badly damaged if not totally destroyed political career. I cannot see how his political career can survive intact his current travails over the $620,000 bribery scandal. Let me drop this caveat at the outset! I am not by this assertion convicting the legislator of criminal conduct, for under our legal system, an accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. For now, Hon. Farouk Lawan, Member, House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria since the inception of civilian rule in 1999, only stands accused of demanding and receiving the sum of $620,000 in bribe money from Mr. Femi Otedola, a business magnate whose companies were alleged to have collected more than a quarter of a billion US dollars for petroleum products never imported. Since the bribe scandal broke, Farouk Lawan has been variously detained and questioned by the police, his premises has been searched and some items confiscated as evidence, and he has been released from police custody. Also, the House of Representatives has suspended him from chairmanship of both the Education Committee and the ad hoc probe committee on the fuel subsidy management, and distanced itself as an institution from the entire mess.
Until otherwise proven, he remains innocent in the eyes of the law. This piece is therefore not to condemn or convict him; it is merely a commentary on his political career which is already tainted by the bribery saga. Even if proven not guilty in the final analysis, the allegations and ensuing developments have undoubtedly done considerable damage to his integrity and current political standing and future career in politics. The allegations would continue to hang on his neck for a long time to come, no matter what the courts say. And this is because his political enemies would always seek to gain political mileage by playing the politics of embarrassment, Nigerian style. Nigerian politicians are a particularly savage lot, and I can bet his foes would not mind draining his blood for their own political survival. In this country, politics is truly a blood-sport, and only the savage survive it. Farouk Lawan just might have unwittingly offered himself as the sacrificial lamb to atone for the gargantuan sins of corruption in our National Assembly. And there would not be a shortage of hack writers and journalists that his political adversaries would regularly press into service to rake up more mud against him. Himself a veteran of Nigeria’s current democratic experiment, he must know what herculean hurdles he is up against. I pity him, though, because both the unfolding events and his political foes would help put him permanently on the defensive!
No meaningful political career can be built or sustained when the main actor is on the defensive. It is in this sense that I am here suggesting that Farouk Lawan’s political career has, for all practical purposes, come to an inglorious end. Even as it is, his political goose is cooked! Suspended as chairman of the House Education Committee which he has chaired for quite some time till recently, he has been publicly ostracized by his colleagues in the legislature. Indeed, he is already a bad political product his colleagues would do their utmost to distance themselves from. The House of Representatives would rather sacrifice a member than ruin its entire institutional integrity. By reaffirming its earlier position on the report of the Farouk Lawan committee, and expressing implicit confidence in the leadership of the Speaker, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, the legislators have collectively and firmly put the executive on notice that they would not countenance executive meddling in legislative affairs. This is coming in the wake of allegations that the Presidency orchestrated the bribery scandal to move against the Speaker whose emergence as Presiding Officer both the Presidency and the PDP hierarchy openly opposed. In Farouk Lawan’s case, the House has hung him out to dry. That is the way it has to be, for the House cannot allow the report of the subsidy probe which they have already discussed and adopted for implementation be casually rubbished by the executive arm of the Federal Government. As it is, the visible body language of the government is to sweep the whole subsidy probe report and all its indictments under the rug because many of those indicted of unethical and corrupt practices are partisans of the PDP or those close to the centre of power. The way I see it, Femi Otedola’s role in the bribery set-up is not yet clear. Neither is the role of the security agencies which were privy to the so-called sting operation known. What of the Federal Government itself? It is not known, except that the president’s handlers have tried to distance President Jonathan’s government from the legislative corruption. So far, it’s all smoke and mirrors! Hon. Lawan will now have to face the law, go through further investigation and painful prosecution, a process which in the Nigerian context is usually long drawn, and will have whatever ‘integrity’ he possesses savagely dragged in the mud by his traducers.
Lawyers and journalists will have a field day at his expense. Newspaper readers will be treated to more scandalous expose and other gratuitous details that lawyers and journalists would rake up to prove him guilty.
While prosecuting lawyers would seek to prove him guilty in the court of law, journalists and his political foes would do their utmost best to convict him in the court of public opinion and on the pages of newspapers. Scandal is, after all, the stuff that newspapers feast on. And Farouk cannot legislate that away.
By the way, who is Farouk Lawan? A fourth-term national legislator from Kano State, Farouk Lawan had over the past twelve years in the National Assembly cut the image of a man of integrity and honour, and a leading figure in the so-called ‘Integrity Group’. He is well known as an intrepid politician whose giant political stature belies his diminutive physique. I doubt it if Hon. Patricia Olubunmi Etteh, the first female legislator to preside as Speaker of the House of Representatives, will forget him in a hurry. He was at the head of the so-called ‘Integrity Group’ in the House that got her removed from the exalted seat of Speaker, on allegations of corrupt dealings. Today, it seems the shoe is on the other foot. I heard the other day that she is now gloating that she has at last been vindicated, as the real corrupt legislators have been unmasked! As lawyers are fond of reminding us, those who come to equity must do so with clean hands. I don’t see Hon. Lawan smelling like roses, going by all the allegations and counter allegations already in the public domain. Collecting the money from Femi Otedola, whether it is bribe money or not, and keeping quiet about it for so long, have created considerable doubts in the minds of Nigerians that Lawan may not be the Mr. Integrity that he has all the while appeared to be. If it is true that he actually collected the money as bribe, then it confirms what George Washington said long ago that “few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder.” And that also makes him a careless and naïve politician. An intrepid legislator who is not shy of taking on any fight, so long as such would enhance his self-created image of Mr. Clean, should also have been conscious of the ubiquitous banana peels that tripped others before him. Whether the allegations against him are true or not, the entire episode pungently signposts the incurable
depredations of members of the ruling class for whom politics is really no more than an avenue for corrupt self-enrichment at the expense of the teeming mass of the poor. If Farouk Lawan’s political career is irretrievably damaged by this scandal, it would be because of his inability to rise above personal fatal flaws. It would be difficult for him to regain the political stature that he has now lost. In any case, rebuilding a damaged political life is usually a very slow and painful process, if it ever succeeds at all. In most cases, complete political rehabilitation is near impossible to achieve. Remember Richard M. Nixon. Even the ruling PDP is full of such politically damaged individuals who are no longer electable and hardly more than electoral liabilities to their party. No one wants to touch a damaged product so as not to be tainted by their sins. It is in this sense that the final curtain may have been drawn over Lawan’s erstwhile promising political career.Share