War Against Corruption And The Bamboozle By Buhari
One of the saddest lessons of life is that when we allow ourselves to be fooled long enough we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle.We are no longer interested in finding the truth. It is even painful to acknowledge that we have been fooled. As in the words of Carl Sagan, 'once you give a charlatan power to fool you, you almost never get it back”.
So when recently at a campaign event in Kaduna, the APC presidential candidate announced with fanfare that if he wins, he will grant universal pardon to all those who had committed acts of corruption between 1999 and 2015, I knew once again the Nigerian public have been taken for a ride.
I remember stating very candidly in my article titled “Buhari, The Overhyped messiah”, that anyone who intends to vote for Buhari based on his promise to fight corruption was living a pipe dream because it is never going to happen. I had reached that conclusion based on the fact that, considering the presence of some corrupt politicians around him , I very much doubted if he is ever going to do anything worthwhile against corruption, since there is no way he is going to ignore the allegations against Tinubu and others and yet swear fidelity to his promise to eradicate corruption. Well, it does appear I have been proven right with this announcement. In view of this development, it is not too farfetched to assume that this was an agreement or understanding reached with leaders of the APC and especially Tinubu before Buhari was given the Presidential ticket.
What this announcement by Buhari tells us is that he has been lying to the Nigerian public all along. This is a campaign which according to Edwin Clark has been anchored on two planks, namely the fight against Boko Haram and the war against corruption. As Mr Clark correctly stated , with the successes of the Nigerian , Camerounian and Chadian troops in their fight against the Islamic sect and the recovery of lost territories ,the Buhari campaign is left with only one leg to stand on, the promise to eradicate corruption. And lo and behold, a promise ofamnesty has been announced even before the fight begins.
It is true that all political campaigns involve a certain amount of looking the voters straight in the eye and lying to them. Yet the mistake most voters make is in believing some of the promises politicians make. We persuade ourselves into believing that our preferred candidate is different from others, sometimes for reasons of religion, class, language or ethnic affiliation. The truth however is that most politicians are exaggerated personalities of themselves and Buhari is no exception.
This is a man who has asked us to trust him and to believe in his resolve to eradicate corruption in the country and yet the first thing he intends to do should he win the elections is to grant amnesty to the crooks who financed his campaign. What if the same crooks having gotten away with their loot become emboldened and continue to dip their hands into the cookie jar, what guarantee do we have that they will not get a second reprieve?.
I can actually see Buhari in the mode of Napoleon in George Orwels book “Animal Farm”, in which Napoleon cries out to other animals , “never mind the milk comrades, that will be attended to”placing himself in front of the buckets of milk.“The harvest is more important”, implying that he will not let anyone tamper with the milk. So the animals trooped to the hayfield to begin the harvest but when they came back in the evening, they discovered to their dismay that the milk had disappeared. Buhari is asking the electorate to trust him to keep our treasury safe from corrupt officials but meanwhile the people who will be standing with him to guide the treasury will be busy helping themselves to the contents. The reason being that it is in the nature of these people to steal. They are like the lion who says, “no matter the economy of the jungle , he cannot eat grass , not out of pride, it is his nature.”
Those who support Buhari are quick to convince us that he is a man of principle, yet on the one issue where he could prove how principled he is, he failed woefully. This is because being principled only means something if you are willing to stick by it when it is inconvenient for you to do so. The fact that he could not stand by his principle when it is obvious it was going to be inconvenient to go after the corrupt politician in his party after they had helped and financed his campaign makes one wonder if he ever had any principles or whether he just abandoned them.
As for the rest of his campaign, it will be disingenuous of him to continue to attack Jonathan's administration on the issue. To continue to do so will be displaying a touching faith in the power of hypocrisy. The Jonathan campaign in my opinion should do well not to make political hay of this blunder since one of the tenets of warfare as in politics is ”not to stand in the way of your enemy when he is shooting himself in the foot”. That is not to say the Jonathan crowd are themselves saints.
It is mind boggling to note that with all the recent revelations in the Independent Television documentary about Tinubu, Buhari the crime fighter has never said anything about it. Neither have a host of all ourself professed corruption crusaders, not to mention the EFCC, who seem to be more interested in denying that they have plans to indict Tinubu, that's if the charges are true.
The truth is that the general attitude in the country and more so amongst members of the elite is akin to a comment by Mark Twain, regarding a Montana senator who had bought his way to the U S senate, when he said 'He had sweetened corruption so much that it no longer has an offensive odor'. That is exactly what is happening in Nigeria right now. There is always this deafening silence by the elite class when members of their class are mentioned in corruption scandalswhile the poor masses are fed with all the propaganda about fighting and eliminating corruption.
Corruption as we can all agree is not a theory of paradox, but an actual entity that exists only for itself. From its ether of manifestation that is hidden sometimes in perpetual darkness, it not only influences but seek ruination and destruction of everything that resides in our country. To accomplish this, corruption must hide within the shroud of lies and deceit, spin to manipulate the weak minded .
To survive corruption must rely on the self serving interests of the arrogant, the lustful, the power hungry and the greedy. But we can be rest assured that it will eventually turn upon and consume what remains of the immoral servant who assisted its purpose so well along with itself. So it was with Abacha whom if I recall correctly, Buhari said was not corrupt.
Truth be told, corruption is a way of life in Nigeria today and our leaders are the champions of it, while most of us just wait patiently for our turn. In Nigeria and indeed all of Africa, the culture of corruption is so deep, hence some would say it started with our forebears when they sold their children and neighbors as slaves to the Portuguese. It has progressed from just accepting bribes to a state of mind, from attempting to make ends meet to a sense of entitlement, hence our society today exits in a morality vacuum.
It is only in Nigeria that a manwho was indicted in a US court according to newspaper reports for drug trafficking can end up as the Governor of a statefor 8 years. Yet the voting public, either have not noticed, choose not to notice or do not care. It is now quite obvious that politicians are the only people who can secretly and unobserved confiscate the wealth of the people and the theft is not detected until they leave office. I guess today the only pockets of wealth are literally speaking in the trouser pockets of our politicians.
One thing about presidential politics as observed by Gail Collins of the New York times is that, 'it changes everybody who gets into it, generally for the worse, frequently for the awful'. Buhari is on this merry go round for the fourth time and I dare say his campaign this time around is more awful than past ones hence he does not have a well articulated program to run on. If the issue of corruption is all he has left he is not sounding very convincing.Were his promise of pardon borne out of a magnanimous spirit, it would not raise my ire and that of most well informed Nigerians. Its just that the whole thing is his way of paying back his sponsors and helping them maintain their wealth status in the country.
We can however take consolation in the fact that It will not be the first time in history that we will have a politician who have sold out and subverted the ideals for which he stood for in the past. In my opinion , a corruption free Nigeria will truly be in a future impossible tense because we continuously re-elect unscrupulous politicians. If there is one thing I have learned over the years it is that nothing, absolutely nothing is above corruption so long as human beings are involved, because in truth, most people are not above the lure of money or other material
entitlements. We continuously look for things or people that are incorruptible, while in truth nothing is incorruptible , merely uncorrupted. We value innocence, but only the kind we cannot alter. We throw mud at purity and mock it for its stain. We have a government and a judicial system that snubs honest simplicity but fondles artistic villainy. The same government and the system cuddle the few who are legitimately corrupt and who will not admit that legitimacy allows them to be corrupt legitimately and also to legitimately corrupt others and still we hope for change from a messiah that does not exist.
As citizens we make the mistake of thinking that some of us can live in a corrupt society without being corrupt . Some will ask, after all what do you achieve by refusing to make money? To also assume that one man can cure our corruption ills because he said so is not only delusional but ludicrous. As Derrick Bell asserted in his book , 'Ethics Ambition: Living A life of meaning And Warmth', he said, “power in the hands of a reformer is no less potentially dangerous”. So we must beware of what we are hoping and asking for. Let us not lose tomorrow by holding on to Buhari's past antecedents as corruption crusader. Let us as the electorate let Buhari's past efforts on the issue cloud our intellect and our ability to see through his diluted sense of seriousness this time around.
The fight against corruption must start from us. To fight corruption effectively is to accept the fact that the giver is just as guilty as the receiver. We must start by singing a new song with everyone contributing to the lyrics. The bus conductor must resolve not to cheat the driver and the driver in turn must resolve not to cheat the owner. It is only when we, as citizens resolve individually and collective to eschew corruption and to undergo a complete makeover of our values, our attitude towards wealth acquisition and our public display of conspicuous consumption that the war against corruption would actually begin.
A formerSpecial Assistant to EmekaOjukwu Teaches Political Science in New York City. [email protected]