Is Nigeria's Fight Against Corruption Selective?Bukola Saraki's Corruption Trial In Focus
The ugly nature of corruption is evident in our nation through the entirety of its life. Despite the vast resources that abound, Nigeria's ranking in all key performances and economic indicators is at a lowest ebb. Corruption is a major social problem which this country faces. Although there is a negative growth in all areas of economic development, corruption appears the only thing that is growing at a fast and alarming rate.
Unfortunately, corruption pervades all aspects of our national life - Government, Non-State actors, civil society, traditional institutions, churches, mosques - you name it and more likely than not corruption is somewhere to be found. The monster of corruption has continued to bleed and deprive our people of a peaceful enjoyment of the country's God given blessings. This depravity has created a wide social divide, making the poor poorer through a lack of good roads, inadequate educational facilities, non-existent jobs, dysfunctional judiciary, chaotic political structure devoid of principles, etc.
The negative effects of corruption results in: poor service delivery, absence of justice, less regard for governments and public officials, unfavourable business environments and downward trends of economic development. The evil of corruption should therefore be condemned in the strongest of terms and fought to a standstill. The situation has become so pathetic that it's difficult to transact a legitimate business in Nigeria. What an utter shame.
Nigeria receives huge revenue from oil, it is one of the top highest petroleum and gas producing countries in the world. Paradoxically, we rank near the top on the long list of poor countries in the world based on per-capital Gross Domestic Product (I have deliberately omitted specific statistics). According to the ‘Transparency International 2014’ report, Nigeria scored 27 and ranks 136 in the Corruption Perceptions Index. For purposes of comparison, Ghana for example scored 64 and ranks 61. A country or territory’s score indicates the perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). We have built a culture of tolerance to corruption in that it has become a way of life. Corrupt people are being celebrated and rewarded with appointments, chieftaincy titles, university honours, spiritual blessings and the likes.
Elected politicians or civil servants who display stupendous wealth and live above their legitimate earnings are not being challenged. The system encourages corrupt practices in silent acquiescence. Our Clime is deliberately designed to covertly aid corruption. There is an insatiable craving for wealth and materialistic tendencies which defy moral reasoning. Everyone desires to be rich overnight without expecting to walk the tight rope of hard-work and creativity. Instead of hard work pays, it's corruption that pays.
In view of the submission above, I welcome the resolve of president Buhari to fight the monster of corruption head-on. In fact, the president won the last election on a popular mandate to fight corruption. This, he must do through his actions and interactions, to fulfil his campaign promise, and leave a legacy. He should be encouraged by all lovers of the Nigerian state to succeed in this fight. That the posture of President Buhari has energised the system in relation to the fight against corruption is a fact that cannot be disputed. Even the most ardent critic of the president would find it difficult to go against this fact.
We now suddenly live in a Nigeria in which the near comatose anti-graft bodies such as the EFCC and the ICPC have become hyperactive in the 'discharge' of their constitutional responsibilities. Though Nigerians, by their nature, are loyal to leadership, many are sadly sycophantic, which negates this positive virtue. It therefore raises questions as to the real motive behind the renewed vigour seen recently in the way the same actors of yesterday are now approaching their jobs today. Deep down inside of me is a great belief that their motivation may not be for the right reasons but it's likely for self-preservation, suspicious and mischievous. That, notwithstanding the message that it's no longer business as usual is sinking into the psyche of our countrymen.
Back to the focus of this article, the senate president, Bukola Saraki is being prosecuted by the federal government at the Court of Conduct Bureau (CCB) on a 13 count charge including alleged false declaration of assets. He has since insinuated political persecution. Ordinarily this innuendo should not attract favourable disposition if not for the semblance of selectivity created by the way the current war against corruptions is being approached. It is no longer news that there is no love lost between senate president Bukola Saraki, the top hierarchy of the APC and president Muhammadu Buhari.
Saraki's sin is that he defied 'party' position on the issue of senate leadership and the constitution of its principal officers. Since the events of June 9, 2015, it is clear that the president and those that matter in the APC have not hidden their disdain for the senate president's actions which nearly destroy the foundation of the APC.
It is worth mentioning here that the senate president did nothing unconstitutional by vying for the office. He exercised his constitutional right to vote and be voted for, as such, should not be persecuted for this. It would be difficult to envisage a situation in Nigeria where a sitting senate president is subjected to prosecution without an express presidential sanction. The Nigerian factor is such that the government will know of the skeleton in your closet but will only use it when you fall out of favour with the establishment - this should not be the case. The fight against corruption is a worthy cause to be pursued, but this should be done holistically irrespective of the accused's ties with the government.
From 1999 till date, how many politicians truthfully declared their assets? How many prosecutions are we to see going forward? Will the Obasanjos of this world ever face prosecution? What about the Lagos axis? What about the Lion of Rivers State or the Kwankwasos? I believe president Buhari means well for the country, however, he will need to truly demonstrate sincerity and follow due processes in confronting corruption and corrupt practices. Overzealous tendencies from the aides of the president should be checked. For goodwill and support of Nigerians towards defeating this monstrosity, the current government must present a clear action plan and strategy for the fight against corruption.
Picking and choosing timescales to beam searchlights on corrupt practices at random would smack of discrimination and selectivity thereby discredit this noble fight. If Saraki is being pursued for actions dating back to 2003 , and rightly so, I believe there will be many more in this category. All those from this era found wanting should be made to be held accountable as well, irrespective of their affiliations to the federal government. In this way the genuineness of the anti corruption crusade is assured.
As the government pursues its fight against corruption, suffice it to say that advice on strict observances of due process and the rule of law will be needed. There is the need to guard against selective approaches and any attempt to spin the old legal principle 'innocent until proven guilty' on its head. The mood of the country now is such that the government could hang the toga of corruption on anyone and citizens will support actions against the person irrespective of rule of law and due process.
The voice of reason is gradually being silenced. The recent media campaign against Bishop Matthew Kukah for daring to ask for civilised approaches towards the fight against corruption is testament to the fear expressed in this piece. This must be disturbing because allowing any government unrestricted powers could lead to a slide to democratic dictatorship - this must be checked and fought against. Corruption should be fought without malicious intent to coerce, intimidate, manipulate, bully or squeezed out opposition and perceived enemies of the Buhari government.