Itse Sagay: The Change of A Law Professor to A Raw Sycophant

Tom Paine’s saying that it takes only a step to descend from the sublime to the ridiculous is not a cliché: it’s a timeless truth.

One of the most erudite law professors to come out of Nigeria has become a raw sycophant. It took an unimportant political appointment for Itse Sagay to reduce himself to a hyperactive moral contortionist who twists himself into knots to defend the shameful scandals of the government of the day.

Before General Muhammadu Buhari appointed Professor Sagay as the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) in August 2015, he was a high profile legal luminary and Senior Advocate of Nigeria. He had garnered 28 years of professional experience as a legal practitioner, published 18 law books and
monographs and over 200 papers in local and international journals and served, at various times, as Dean, Faculty of Law of the University of Benin and of the University of Ife.

All of Sagay’s decorum and dignity have gone out of the window. The professor is now an unscrupulous apologist, a rash brown-noser who defends the indefensible. His vote of confidence on Kemi Adeosun, the Minister of Finance, is a confirmation of his ethical meltdown.

At a forum in Abuja, the professor was asked why the self-confessed forger was still in charge of Nigeria’s exchequer more than a month after she was outed as a forger. He veered away from the substance of the criminality into spin.

He said, ‘’This woman is a brilliant and extremely valuable member of this government. A lot of the good things happening now –the welfare that Nigerians are enjoying and are going to enjoy, because it takes time, and the way our economy is booming, how we got out of recession –are due to her expertise, her commitment, her sacrifice.

‘’There is nothing in this world that will make me remove such a woman from the government. The PDP can weep from now until there is no tear in their body; she is going to be there. We cannot afford to lose that woman.’’

Aside the fact-challenged claims that Adeosun has improved the feel-good factor, and the fundamentals of the economy, Sagay’s politicization of the issue of her forgery is a disgrace. He is frustrated that the scandal won’t go away in spite of Buhari’s determination to ignore its actuality till eternity. The professor thinks the opposition is prolonging the currency of the scandal.

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That’s nonsense. Kemi Adesoun’s forgery is a self-sustainable outrage. It took on a life of its own when it broke because it’s big deal to have a forger in a national cabinet –and in charge of the all-important portfolio of finance. The forgery has remained in the
front burner because Buhari has refused to fire her long after she was exposed as a fraud and cheat.

Buhari and his aides conduct governance by scapegoatism. Their reflex reaction to everything is to externalize blame and outsource responsibility. But Adesoun’s certificate forgery has nothing to do with PDP, as Sagay would have the gullible believe. It has everything to do with a criminal violation of an extant law prohibiting the counterfeiting of an NYSC certificate.

There is no way to implicate the PDP in the scandal. The party is the neither the culprit nor the Oluwole agent that Adeosun contracted to produce the fake document.  The offender is Kemi Adeosun, the shady character that the professor is portraying as an indispensable genius.

There is a preternatural force that compromises a person’s faculty of reason the very moment they get a political appointment in Nigeria. That thing resets their mind to the default function of illogic. It predisposes them to expedient lunacy.

A right-thinking professor of law would never suggest that Nigeria is so poor in talent that ‘’we cannot afford to lose that woman’’ because other Nigerians are less qualified and competent than the genteel forger. Adeosun is not the best specimen of Nigerian-born economists, by any stretch of the imagination.

Asked if Adeosun did not break the law by skipping the mandatory youth service, Sagay retorted: “Who cares about youth service? I don’t bloody care whether she did youth service or not. It’s irrelevant as far as I am concerned.’’

The professor knows that it is an offense for a graduate under the age of 30 to skip youth service. The assertion that Adeosun’s avoidance did not matter is ridiculous. He begged the question when he claimed that the youth service was ‘’irrelevant.’’

Prodded to address Adeosun’s forgery of an NYSC exemption certificate, the professor became incredulous and defensive in one breath. He said: ‘’ I don’t believe it. I don’t see anything about not doing youth service. I don’t see anything serious about it.’’

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In other words, the one year-long youth service is a waste of time. Therefore, a forgery perpetrated to evade the waste of time is not a wrongdoing even if the criminal used the counterfeit to beat the system and win herself cabinet seats in Ogun State and in the Federal Executive Council.

The professor even ventured further to insinuate that Adeosun’s forgery was one of the proofs of her rare brilliance. He suggested that she was ingenious to contrive a way to dodge the exercise and obtain the equivalent of its endpoint. He said: ‘’If I were President
Buhari, I would never, ever touch that woman because she’s damn good.

‘’The enemies of this government want to reduce his capacity to provide good governance by engaging in social media attacks and trying to get rid of her.’’

Sagay’s problem is the need to bring nuisance value to the table. An average Nigerian official bears the crushing burden of the assumption that his number one duty is to romanticize and rationalize rubbish on behalf of his appointer. The fulfillment of this responsibility is deemed a tribute that the loyal appointee must continue to pay to the big man, a rent for the privilege of tenancy in the corridors of power.  As per usual, the appointee works hard to impress by making headlines at the cost of deliberate self-abasement.

Sagay’s PACAC was constituted to ‘’promote the reform agenda of the government on the anti-corruption effort, to advise the present administration in the prosecution of the war against corruption and the implementation of required reforms in Nigeria’s criminal justice system.’’

But Sagay has yet to focus on the mandate of his Committee. From the onset, he redefined his role as the leader of an anti-graft think-thank and assumed the self-imposed task of being a media attack dog. He is always in the news, contrasting the infallibility of Buhari with the depravity of other politicians.

Professor Sagay brought his gravitas to the Aso Rock table. He cuts chunks of his honour like a butcher and makes it grist to the mill of the press. He is obsessed with ingratiating himself with Buhari.

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In response to the orgy of killings in Benue, the professor cynically averred that ‘’ the great failure and the person who should take all the blame about what is happening is the state governor, Samuel Ortom. Ortom is the chief security officer of Benue. Every time, the killings happen, he breaks down in tears and puts his hands on his head and keeps blaming the federal government.’’

Sagay knows full well that Ortom is incapable of rolling back the genocidal legion of the Fulani herdsmen. State governors do not control security agencies. It is the constitutional remit of the president to address insurgency as the commander-in-chief. But the professor said Ortom was remiss in arming the traumatized people of Benue and organizing them into ‘’ a state of collective self-defense.’’

Sagay has become an opinion conformist. When the Nigerian military presumptuously tagged the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) a terrorist group and proscribed it, he concurred. He said, ”while I am not sure of the legal parameters of the declaration, in practice, I agree.” He suggested that it was treasonous for IPOB to characterize Nigeria as a ”zoo.”

Sagay has no mind of his own. He is now a slave to the groupthink of Buhari’s inner circle. He would demand that Senate President Saraki resign for the sake of ‘’honour and integrity’’ and assert that Kemi Adeosun, a confirmed forger, would keep her job.

Professor Itse Sagay is an embarrassment to his sagely and perspicacious former self. His implosion near the kryptonite of power shows that he is made of weaker stuff. He is a disappointment to everybody who has ever had regard for him and his life work.

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Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu

Blogger at EmmaUgwu
Emmanuel Ugwu loves human beings. He thinks for a hobby. He writes for a better Nigeria.