There are parallels between the moral approach-avoidance conflict in which many Americans were trapped during the Vietnam War and the Farouk Lawan case. In Vietnam, the first obvious instinct for many Americans was patriotism – communism needed to be contained from spreading to South Vietnam. In the Lawan case, the first instinct is an expression of outrage at public officials apparently abusing their oversight functions. In Vietnam, as the horrors of the killing of some 2-3 million people, mostly Vietnamese, began to dawn on Americans, there arose the moral unease of whether the war was after all worth the human costs.
In the case of Lawan, as the first wave of anger disappeared and people began to notice far too many grey areas and numerous unanswered questions, many people appear trapped in a moral crisis: to boldly speak up about the grey areas in the saga or how the system is skewed against Lawan in the case might seem as condoning bribery. Yet we need to confront some of the grey areas: Since neither of the two government’s committees on the fuel subsidy scam headed by Access Bank Chairman Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede found any of Otedola’s companies culpable, does it follow that Lawan is vindicated in moving for Otedola’s companies to be removed from the list of companies indicted over the fuel subsidy scam? And if so, what was the purported $620,000 bribe money really for? Why has the SSS which carried out the purported sting operation refused to speak up?
I do not for a second believe that Farouk Lawan is a saint – even if he has not been found guilty of any crime. But I am miffed at how stories on the issue from the police appear slanted, often presenting him as a man broken by guilt: he was said to have broken down when confronted with the video recording of his encounter with Otedola (that video has not yet surfaced despite Lawan’s challenge for such to be made public). Some papers quoted police sources as saying they allowed Lawan to go on the lesser hajj only because he broke down in tears. Presenting Lawan as a broken man feeds into a narrative that already found him guilty before the trial. Meanwhile, Otedola, with whom he traded accusations, was not only reportedly shown a few times on television in the company of the key power brokers in Abuja but was declared a prosecution witness in a case that apparently is yet to be filed in the courts. Something seems very wrong here.
With numerous unresolved questions, conspiracy theorists are having a field day: In the current face-off between the House of Representatives and the executive in which the former is dangling the impeachment axe, conspiracy theorists claim the House is fighting back because the presidency allegedly wanted to use Otedola to bring down the House leadership. Another set of conspiracy theorists claim that Lawan is a victim of his own ambition – that his open secret of wanting to be the next Governor of Kano State unleashed forces that needed to stop him in his tracks. Remember Dominique Strauss-Kahn? The former Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund was tipped to beat Nicolas Sarkozy in the French presidential election that was held in May 2012. On 14 May 2011, a 32-year-old maid, Nafissatou Diallo, at the Sofitel New York Hotel alleged that Strauss-Kahn had sexually assaulted her after she entered his suite.
By the time prosecutors filed a motion to drop all charges against Strauss-Kahn on the grounds that they were not convinced of his culpability beyond all reasonable doubt in addition to serious issues in the complainant’s credibility and inconclusive physical evidence, the French elections had come and gone and the scandal prevented him from contesting. If there were elements of truth in the ‘theory’ that the Lawan- Otedola saga is rooted in Lawan’s gubernatorial ambition, then the plot, as in the case of Strauss-Kahn, has also succeeded.
In all these, Lawan’s voice remains muffled. Apparently not a friend of the government of the day and reportedly treated as a pariah by his fellow Members of the House who probably fear that to come to his defence on this issue could lead to the public finding them guilty of corruption by association or attract the anger of the forces that allegedly used Otedola to rope him into this saga, I can only imagine how lonely Lawan may be feeling. His accomplice in the saga meanwhile does not seem to feel any heat, which makes it unfair.
Depending on where you are in a system of power configuration, once you are broken, you become even afraid of defending yourself. It costs money to defend yourself and you need people to speak up for you or to be by your side to encourage you to tell your own side of the story. It is not clear that Lawan has any of these. This is why I feel that as appalled as I was when the bribery saga first broke out, I am willing to be on Lawan’s side to encourage him to speak up and tell his own side of the story – as truthfully as he can.]]>