While we knew and respected each other from a distance, I first met Ja’afar Ja’afar sometime in 2015 when I was serving my second stint as the editor of Friday Leadership.
Journalists have a way of knowing themselves through various networks even if they had never met. Journalism is a profession like any other that builds ones reputation in the eyes of the world. Knowing the hassles one goes through to put a paper to bed or produce an article, colleagues rate themselves even from afar.
Ja’afar, with his journalist twin brother, AbdulAzeez AbdulAzeez, is one of those not too young to write and not too old to dare firebrand journalists that enjoy their work not necessarily because of the fame it can bestow, or the money that isn’t there, but largely because of the adrenaline that courses through one’s veins when faced with danger. Saying the truth can be dangerous.
He may be seen as a controversial young chap by many, but hey – truth most times comes wrapped in controversies. Is there a prophet that was not seen as controversial in the beginning? Or a revolutionary that was welcomed without invoking controversies on the society? Any change from the known or a challenge to the established order brings with it a certain dose of controversy.
We all know, not just suspect, that our leaders are sleazy. They steal our commonwealth, especially through contract inflation and collusion with contractors – their partners in crime. At the end of the day, no work or poor work is done while funds have been disbursed for them. In other cases, to cut their losses, contractors who had been short-changed by government officials deliver substandard projects and services. In most cases, the projects are abandoned midway. And those who should hold them to account cannot because they had eaten from the forbidden pot.
Unfortunately, it is always the ripped off citizens that hail their cheaters and damn those who expose them.
Corruption, it has been said, is not chickenhearted; it always fights back. This is why it is hoped that it is not the case when we see pictures of pre-puberty school children, whose future is being mortgaged by the corrupt, being used as cannon fodder, bearing placards denouncing Ja’afar and “promising” to vote for Ganduje next year.
While the issue of the Ja’afar videos is under probe, I would not opine on their veracity or otherwise but call on all relevant authorities to do the needful because such case can only be likened to the Godwin Daboh versus Joseph Tarka or even the Nasir el-Rufa’i versus the Senate sagas. They are defining event that can shape our thinking as a nation.
Ja’afar Ja’afar risks being regarded unfavourably if it turns out that the videos are doctored but he also will be a celebrity of sorts if the videos are proved to be genuine. He will become our modern-day Dele Giwa and perhaps get his sculpture erected in the journalists’ Hall of Fame, when we get one.
Governor Ganduje will politically fizzle out in ignominy if the videos are authenticated but his hand will be strengthened if they turn out to be doctored. People will read it as desperation on the part of his political enemies, but especially it would be said that they set out to embarrass President Muhammadu Buhari.
The way to give bite to the anti-corruption crusade is to give people like Ja’afar political appointments, if he comes out victorious, because such people would have a reputation to guard jealously. There are others like him, but the orientation of our leaders is to give appointments to “team players”. Their definition of “team player” is a person who will partake in defrauding the people without letting the cat out of the bag.
There had been cases of people society expected uprightness from but had entered into a “quid pro quo” arrangement and smiled to their banks. Anybody who will expose vice anywhere deserves commendation.
However, my main concern is the contractor who agreed to be part of this sting operation assuming it really happened. He risks losing it all. He will no longer get any patronage from that angle, because the governor must know him very well. He has a family to cater for, he has commitments and obligations, yet he was fearless enough to go through with this. He is a really patriotic citizen who can sacrifice his personal interest for Nigeria. Not many like him around.
But if he can take this kind of risk for Nigeria, what is Nigeria going to do for him?
People fighting corruption this way not only risk their livelihoods but also their lives. So it won’t be out of place for the country to give him some kind of social protection for such exemplary act. After all said and done and he is proved true, the whistle-blower’s reward would also be a good idea, in addition to whatever else may follow.
There must be a deliberate policy by government to protect such people and their families, or they would be left vulnerable to the mercy of wounded public officials or the espirit de corps that is strong among the class of our traducers.
These undesirable elements at the helm of affairs in our country recruit only their ilk for top positions and it is these corrupted people who become part of the army corruption uses in fighting back. They emasculate the upright physically, mentally and financially.
The fight against corruption must be intensified and won. For as many smooth operators, there will always be patriots who will blow the whistle. However, the fight will be lost or won depending on how the government treats or mistreats all involved.
If corrupt acts really take place, government must show its teeth and protect those who bell the cat. If a hard earned reputation is being tarnished unjustifiably, it will be incumbent upon the authorities to punish perpetrators so as to serve as a deterrent to others.