“Party line is no excuse in corruption fight”
Senator Solomon Ewuga was in the 7th Senate and a one-time Minister of State FCT. In this interview with Chuks NZEH, the Nassarawa-born politician speaks on issues of national importance. Excerpts:
The recent Supreme Court verdicts on some governorship elections are being criticised in some quarters, what is your take on this?
I am an officer of the law, I have been involved in cases related to election matters both pre-election and election matters. In all circumstances, for some, it ended in Appeal Court while some at the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is the cut-off point on any judicial matter; I think their reasoning must be respected.
They are not working according to political commentaries and interpretations. I think sometimes it is pertinent that we understand that whatever our limitations, the strength of our own constitution, is that we are a people governed by doctrines of law not any other principle outside the law.
Whatever the circumstances for the reasoning of the Supreme Court, the credit goes to them. The only good thing about it is that the Supreme Court has the legal capacity to review its own judgment based on new circumstances. I think this is the position.
Some persons have alleged that the judgments, particularly those in favour of PDP-controlled states were influence by Justice Mary Odili and others have insinuated that the current CJN owes some measure of loyalty to Jonathan?
That is not the way the Supreme Court works but you cannot remove political commentaries from judicial action. For instance, I read Segun Adeniyi's column in Thisday Newspapers recently and it was clear on the complexity of status of the Supreme Court, and political actions that can placate the sense of judgment.
The very familiar case was that of the late US Supreme Court Justice Antonia Scalia who went on hunting expedition with Vice President Dick Cheney. At that time Cheney’s purported liability case was in the Supreme Court and Scalia was supposed to give the lead judgment. 18 newspapers wrote editorials on the conduct of Scalia that about 5 of them that went for the hunting and at some point two of them were left alone, in that regard this case before the Supreme Court would come into reasoning. Scalia himself did the lead judgment and commented on all the newspapers commentaries on the hunting expedition, but he ended up saying those commentaries are not necessary so long the Supreme Court Judgment did not affect the substance of the case before it.
So these are issues that would continue to come in their jurisprudential behaviour and it can never in any way stop.
Fears have been expressed that Buhari’s anti-corruption fight may not succeed owing to abuse of due process. Do you share this thought?
Let me ask you, is the conduct of this people who are corrupt appropriate in the light of our democracy? Should their conduct be allowed to go because they don’t belong to the political persuasion of the present administration? Corruption is corruption.
But the law says the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court?
Who has been found guilty, nobody has been sent to jail, so they are all in a process of being sent to jail. It is the journalists that are sensationalising it, the man has been arrested on a presumed case of corruption and EFCC is prosecuting him, and you are saying this or that. But one point about this is that some of the things that were done were inappropriate, but the EFCC and the government are looking for proper ways to prosecute them.
So because you belong to one party or the other you should be left, or are you saying that if you presumed that the prosecution is wrong, so what will be the processes that should be done?
Going forward, what will you proffer?
The truth is that I despise corruption; you don’t convert public funds to your personal use; that is not good. I object and I’m against it, whatever the reason is. My father was a soldier; imagine if he was still alive and was sent to the North east, he could be among those killed because of non-supply of equipment. So it has nothing to do with me, it has to do with the fact that there were inappropriate conduct so I don’t want to be dragged into it. If there are traceable cases of corruption, the courts are handling it and would determine the appropriate thing. The only thing I will say is that as a senator, we approved $1billion which government wanted to take as loan, the only thing about it is that whether there was enough interface between the senate and the executive, those are things I cannot say because I was not a member of that committee.
Given the lacunas in our laws, don’t you think there is need for review?
That would be good so that the processes can be expedited, so that lawyers will not also ask for all kinds of adjournments and orders. Some cases in EFCC are more than five years. That is not desirable.
Are you still in the PDP?
I am facing my business and I’m happy about it. We will do politics when it is necessary, though I’m still a politician but I prefer to face the challenges of my business now. I just came out from an election, though I didn’t contest, but my inside knowledge of a lot of things makes me want to lie low. A lot of things have happened; some are acceptable to me, while others are not.
What is your assessment of the present administration?
Every government has its own efforts. I am a democrat, if I must support democracy I must understand that every change of government has its own implications and the fact is this government has its own change mantra, which they want to use to establish its own government; you cannot use your past antecedents as a basis to judge them.
One must give them the room to determine the direction to go that is why we have a change of government. You cannot talk about my expectation because it is in a different dispensation that is the reality of things. I cannot say I expect them to do this and that because the structures of government have not being fully established. Look at the issue of budgeting, it is only becoming very clear that auditing has always existed but now it took time to establish the profound nature of the rot in the budgeting process. Some of my colleagues that were appointed ministers have drawn their own minds to what is happening because it is not new but there are now being nipped in the bud, but I hope that the process will get to the end of it.
You were once a Senator, why is it now that the lawmakers are rising to ensuring proper budgeting?
The fact about it is that there are processes of interface or relationship between the National Assembly and the executive which goes on seamlessly in the course of budgeting. Some of the things coming out are baffling to me because Nigeria is one government with the president as the leader. The Senate president heads one of the institution, the Chief Justice also heads one, once there are issues, particularly with the National Assembly, what to do is continue to interface. So what is happening today is not new but unusual.