Prof. Itse Sagay is no doubt an angry man from many indications. The nationally renowned professor of law and now Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) in the Buhari presidency is not a happy camper, most specifically when he must lend Nigerians his opinions on some issues of national importance. Sagay has left them with no doubt that he will never be found in the league of the upper crust of the Nigerian elite whose tongues are always in their cheeks. The erudite professor has demonstrated that he does not mince his words and tact has no place in his vocabulary. He leaves you with no ambiguity on those issues and people he feels very strongly about. While one may never know if Sagay has always been a one-man battalion who takes no prisoners, but ever since his advent to the Buhari administration as the chairman of PACAC—-an advisory body on Buhari’s anti-corruption war—-Sagay’s tongue is now considered so caustic that it may not be a stretch that the country’s politically exposed persons with skeletons in their closets (and they are many) probably has it as part of their prayer points that their names would escape the memory of the PACAC chairman whenever he’s in front of a reporter.
Perhaps Prof. Sagay’s railings against the political class and some of the country’ institutions in this dispensation may not be without any basis on the strength of his dual responsibilities as a highly enlightened Nigerian with an acute understanding of what politics should produce as well as the PACAC chairman, an important organ in the anti-corruption war. Considering the fantastically unprecedented and revelation of monumental looting of a country’s treasury in the six years of the Jonathan administration that may never have been witnessed anywhere in the world—-thanks to president Buhari—-it’s not inconceivable that Sagay probably sees the unbelievable paradox in a land reeling in grinding and heart-wrenching poverty that could have been fundamentally transformed if what has so far been revealed as being looted in the immediate past government had been utilized for developmental purposes. The in-your-face, heaven-may-fall corruption under Jonathan’s watch is what a perfect revolution would have been made if it had happened in most countries of the world, yet Nigerians seems unperturbed and there’s no significant outrage. Perhaps Sagay is as mad as hell (no pun intended) as evidenced in his many outbursts for the maintenance of his own sanity in a largely insane society. His constant swinging at the soft underbelly of the political class, which is largely responsible for the corruption and many of the self-inflicted socio-economic ills of the country may very well be his own way of expressing his outrage as a concerned Nigerian.
Nigerians are by now not under any illusion that the country’s judiciary is a pathetically and hopelessly corrupt institution that has since demonstrated in so many ways that it is uninterested in Buhari’s anti-corruption war—-Onnoghen’s recent reading of the riot act on corruption to members of the bench notwithstanding. As the chairman of the president’s advisory body on the anti-corruption war, one can see a clash of interests between Sagay and the judicial institution that’s trying so hard to push back the president’s anti-corruption war in which Sagay also occupies a prominent place as a professor of law.
One would have thought that the National Assembly (NASS) and the Judiciary, which have fallen into such unprecedented ignominy among Nigerians, would have been enough for Prof. Sagay to chew on with the hope that these two branches would mend their ways and respond positively to the yearnings of the Nigerian masses by frontally addressing the debilitating corruption that has held them down for so long. But the law professor has added the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) into those people and institutions that drives him to the wall. In an interview published in The Nation newspaper on Sunday, September 24, 2017 Professor Sagay lashed out with vehemence at the leadership of the party. Hear him: “As for the leadership of the APC, I think they are the most unprincipled group of people. They are lily-livered, weak, and cannot run any organisation. The whole party is collapsing under them. They cannot control anybody. Because they cannot control anybody, they’re now in fact encouraging and accepting ‘rogues’. When I say rogues, I don’t mean stealing…it means people who are running riot and destroying the party. They’re pampering them, saying: Let’s not annoy them too much, but they’re destroying the APC house. So, I think the APC leadership is weak, is too compromising and certainly a failure as far as I am concerned.”
One may never know what may have triggered Sagay to have made such a scathing, if not unjustified sweeping generalization on the leadership of the APC. But regardless of what may have tipped over the law professor to make these remarks, his characterization of the leadership as “lily-livered, weak, [that] cannot run any organisation” is without a doubt a commentary that went too far and therefore must be condemned by those that are desirous to build rather than to destroy the party. One is befuddled that the renowned scholar not only threw circumspection into the wind on account of his closeness to the inner sanctum of the presidency by virtue of his position, but his inability to recognize the fact his scathing criticism of the party leadership can, in effect, also be ascribed to the president—-who’s the head of that leadership—-in whose behest he’s the PACAC chairman.
It takes a higher degree of principle to exercise restraint in making the kind of public statement that issued from Sagay about the APC (so that it may not be weakened nor destroyed) whose door is open to Nigerians from all walks of life even when he may have made some observations in the organisation that he had come to detest. It’s therefore a curious irony that Sagay did not see how he’s “running riot and destroying the party” in his uncharitable public criticism of the party which, unfortunately, was one of his accusations levelled against the party leadership. Most importantly, Sagay must be reminded that in a liberal democracy in which the APC government of President Buhari is so audacious to have taken on many of the country’s ills that has adversely affected even many of its own members, not to talk of the opposition, that no government (either military or civilian since the civil war) had the political will to confront, which in effect has turned the country’s fortune around in remarkable ways, the party leadership cannot afford to be about confrontation as Sagay would have preferred. Ditto the president. Just because some things are the right things to do at a given point in time does not make them politically expedient, and vice versa.
Yes, the APC and its government have unsavoury characters whose sole purpose is not to up build but to destroy both the party and the Buhari administration as quickly as possible. It’s hard to see the value that Prof. Sagay’s comments have added to not only the party but the presidency in which he’s a key part. Introspection may well be a better part of valour the next time that the law professor is opportune to speak publicly on issues of national importance. I therefore implore him to tame his anger in the interest of the party that midwife the president’s electoral victory in whom he’s now gifted the rare honour to serve.
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