THE FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION AND THE GRAND SOLUTION PART 3
This is the continuation of the public lecture I started serializing two weeks.
Thus, the effectiveness of a leader depends on the prevailing conditions by which the leader operates. In other words, regardless of the nature or extent of the qualities of a leader, effectiveness can only be enhanced and sustained if the powers of the leader are not only augmented but also checkmated by the elements within his or her internal and external environment. Again, there is possibility, too, that President Obasanjo, a “born again Christian” and a distinguished soldier, initially meant well with his pronouncements against corruption but conveniently took advantage of a hole created by weak opposition in the Nigerian political party system to undermine the capabilities of good men and women that served in his administration, especially the EFCC and its leadership.
This claim is rightly assertive especially with the later activities of the former Chairman of EFCC, Nuhu Ribadu, which suggest that he has the abilities to have electrified the war on corruption from the beginning but was sadly conditioned to be selective in the fight, so as to survive President Obasanjo’s administration.For instance, immediately after the end of Obasanjo’s rule, it became apparent that Nuhu Ribadu seemed determined to cleanse the ungodly practices that had continued to cloud the image of the country. The then EFCC boss boldly exposed and charged the corrupt associates of the former President and the new President, Umar Yar’adua. As a result, the Anti-Corruption Tsar became very popular not only with Nigerians but around the world. A real change! Surprisingly, he was redeployed for no just cause. While some groups, particularly those who felt victimized with the anti-corruption agency during the Obasanjo administration logically hailed the decision. In the overall, the removal of Nuhu Ribadu indeed dented the image of President Umar Yar’Adua and the country across the globe. And this is part of the Nigerian situation and one of the reasons why the fight against corruption does not hold water.
What Nigeria needs for the success of the anticorruption fight to succeed, is a truly independent anticorruption agency that is backed by a dynamic legislature, with a vibrant opposition activity, which can efficiently evaluate and prosecute, where necessary, offenders from both the ruling party and the opposition groups without fear or favour. And not to shield the looters of States’ and national treasuries, just because they are strong ruling party stalwarts and financiers of successful elections that led to the mounting of the leadership position of the apex public officeholder.
The fight against corruption is more attainable in countries with dynamic opposition culture, where the oversight functions of the legislature are readily promoted. Simply stated, corruption will remain unabated as long as an overwhelmingly majority of Nigerians is drawn from the ruling party. Such unfortunate phenomenon led to the misguided decision to remove an effective leader like Nuhu Ribadu from the EFCC by President Umar Yar’Adua, who simply followed the footsteps of Obasanjo before him by capitalizing on the absence of a strong opposition party to control the activities and leadership of the anticorruption agencies. Painfully, the most enticing treasure for Nigerian leaders has also been the root of their downfall: Their penchant for absolute power, which abhors checks and balances usually leads to abuse of public office and thus corruption, and of course, the eventual but unfortunate fate with history. These are also reasons why we remain stagnant like this.
It is a historical fact that the anticorruption fight momentum in Nigeria began to wane under the leadership of former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who would allow his government to be infiltrated by powerful and corrupt elements who demanded that he turn a blind eye to graft and water down the EFCC as payback for their political support in the 2007 elections.
The administration of Goodluck Jonathan fared no better as it was engulfed in numerous scandals, including the $8bn fuel subsidy overpayments in 2012 and the unremitted funds to the State’ scoffers by NNPC, which former Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi estimated at $20bn. Both were seamlessly swept under the carpet, with the EFCC’s effectiveness in securing high profile convictions of society’s ‘big men’ becoming non-existent.
The emergence of Muhammadu Buhari on March 28, 2015 as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria came with a lot of hopes and expectations. His administration was seen by many as one that will usher in a new dawn in the political and economic life of Nigeria. President Buhari seems to be keeping to his promises since action has began to be directed towards the country’s biggest issue, corruption. Consequently, his administration has been investigating some activities of Jonathan’s administration with government officials, claiming that the past administration was characterised by impunity and large scale corruption. It has also probed some former aides of the ex-President, Jonathan, such as his National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki; his Chief Security Officer, Mr Gordon Obuah; and the former Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Dr Patrick Akpobolokemi, etc.
Unfortunately, this anticorruption fight under Buhari is lopsided. Renowned politicians, social critics and human rights activists today criticise President Buhari’s anticorruption war in the country, and this makes headlines in the national dailies of the print, online and electronic media. For Samuel Ogidan, “one of the cardinal foci of President Buhari when he came on board was to pursue with vigour the recovery of the nation’s stolen funds, which he has been doing with zeal, but this war is mono-dimensional (mainly on PDP members), and this pilfers the credibility of the anticorruption war. Why has the crusade not reached to members of the APC” (The Authority: Saturday, January 9, 2016, 6-7). The argument is that corruption is not opposition-infected or inflated, but a general malady that cuts across parties in the country, both those in the realms of power and the opposing group.
A cursory look at all that have been probed for corruption since the inception of President Buhari’s government and his avowal to fight corruption, reveals truths to the claims that like the PDP, APC members have very corrupt members too who have not been apprehended, but also engaged in financing past presidential electoral campaigns. The corruption searchlight seems stage-managed and highly regulated like a standing fan. It does not rotate round, but only blows where the placer positioned and determined its airy focus and benefits.
How many of the present APC members are not former PDP members? It is on this mono-dimensional fight that Abdullahi Jalo remarked that “the fight against corruption by the administration of Buhari since inception is one-sided and not holistic, prompting people to ask if the anticorruption war is actually against corruption or a revenge mission” (The Authority: Saturday, January 9, 2016, 7). It is on this note also that Nnamdi Obi opines that the Buhari’s anticorruption fight is selective and tilts against the opposition (Daily Sun: Thursday January 7, 2016, 39).
Similarly, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu also envisions that “fighting corruption should tax the ingenuity of the new Buhari government,” as “fixing corruption will set the nation on a solid footing to attain other challenges of development.” He however foresees the temptation of Buhari toeing the same vindictive lines of President Obasanjo whose administration though did well to establish the EFCC in 2002 but lacked the political will to make it work as it turned it to a terror-machine to hunt perceived enemies” (Saturday Sun: January 30, 2016, 55).
The third-time Nigerian Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremmadu, noted that the Buhari’s anti-graft war is meant to gag opposition (PDP) in the country. He stresses that “an anti-graft that catches only members of the opposition and those with axe to grind with the government of the day is compromised” (Saturday Sun: January 9, 2016, 6).
This criticism is based on the fact that many Nigerians are decrying the one-sided nature of the fight, which makes it selective. However the declaration of the anticorruption fight as selective is founded on the fact that there are some APC apex leaders in various positions in the Buhari’s administration that are as corrupt as the interrogated PDP leaders. This claim has some degree of objectivity as corruption in Nigeria is an endemic one, and as such, all facets, levels and dimensions of its existence are plunged in the cesspit. Consequently, there are and must be very many APC members that have looted public funds but are hiding under the umbrella of party-sacrifices and strong party plinths states, to escape being trapped in the determined searchlight of the corruption-fight.
Common evidence to this claim is the outcry of prominent ruling APC party members that President Buhari’s fight against corruption has adequate saboteurs in his government. These saboteurs in his government, critics ask, are they only in the budget office where President Buhari and his apex leaders sensed the existence of such sabotaging elements in his government or do they also exist in other sectors? Are some of his ministers, appointees or perhaps protégés also among those their loyalties to him are in doubt? If they are, then the critic on one-sidedness is true (Daily Sun, Monday March 7, 2016, 41-42).
The general impression of these anomalies in the avowed anticorruption crusade makes for Ikenna Emewu’s satirical remark that “all that Buhari does is well,” wherein he noted that “in this present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, it is common to hear people say they have changed parties and have become angels sent from heaven to supervise clean bill change next time.” For him thus, these happen in President Buhari’s reign when the cleanest Nigerian who never breeds other clean men to succeed him, is saintly (Saturday Sun: January 9, 2016, 52). What is central in the criticism is that the fact that one finger is dipped into oil, thus all other fingers are oily or because an enemy’s finger is perceived with oily patches by the opponent in the same oil mill, then only him is soiled and other oil workers in the mill have clean palms.
Thus, because President Buhari is called Mai Gaskiya- “The honest one” by his teeming number of supporters in the North, then all his followers are saints and have no need of being probed or perhaps by dint of their joining him, purges them of past corruption mess and entails outright prerogative of mercy. Perhaps Buhari is honest as said, but does it imply too that all the lope-sided appointments that grossly centred in the North are saintly acts, and all the northern appointees, saints too?
2. Grand Solutions to the Nigeria Situation
From the discussions above on the fight against corruption, it is evident that certain grand solutions to the national malaise have been said. Nonetheless, some additional ones would be made here. Thus, for the Buhari administration to win the war against corruption, it must learn lessons from the failure of past attempts. Hence, for the fight against corruption to succeed, the administration must focus on six key areas.
a. It must formulate a national strategy to fight corruption that is comprehensive and owned by the citizens of Nigeria. The importance of a strategy in the fight against corruption in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. The process of developing the strategy should be participatory and involve a lot of consultation of citizens across government, private sector and civil society. Thus, there is the need for Nigerians to have ownership of the fight against corruption otherwise it will be an exercise in futility.
b. The fight should focus on education of the citizens on the negative consequences of corruption and enlist citizens as soldiers for the fight. In this regard, government must put in place mechanisms to protect whistle-blowers through legislation and concrete programmes. Situations in the past where whistle blowers are victimized and harassed should be avoided. Indeed, the government should launch a programme of war against indiscipline and corruption and enlist more people as whistle blowers.
c. The government should engage in corruption risk assessment of all government ministries, departments and agencies and put in place integrity systems. The aim of the corruption risk assessment is to identify key corruption and fraud related risks in the public sector. The assessment will also help to identify vulnerable areas that are prone to corruption and proffer recommendations that will lead to the development of integrity plans that would strengthen accountability and transparency towards enhanced public service delivery.
d. The government should prioritise the prosecution of corrupt people especially in the short term, to serve as deterrence to others. In this regard, there is the need to improve the capacity of prosecutorial agencies in investigation and prosecution. There is also the need for legislative reform, including amendment of the evidence act, criminal and penal procedures act and enactment of whistle-blowers and witness protection laws to aid the fight against corruption.
e. Government must revisit the high profile corruption cases that are well known to the public, but appears to have been abandoned for political considerations.
f. Government should also put in place system somehard mechanisms to recover stolen loots at home and abroad. There is the need for a clear procedure and protocol for asset recovery following the rule of law and where necessary amendment of the law to ensure speedy recovery.
g. Government should launch a national programme on war against corruption and indiscipline. The programme should focus on ethical re-orientation and sustenance of national values and ethos. The government by its actions should promote persons of value and integrity.
Corruption is bad for any society. It is partly responsible for the underdevelopment of Nigeria. The problem of corruption has been recognized by all in the country and efforts have been made in the past to address it. Unfortunately, previous efforts have failed to achieve the desired result. The Buhari administration has displayed the commitment to fight corruption by setting the tone at the top. But the administration must learn from the failure of previous attempts and focus the war properly so that corruption will be tamed in Nigeria. Failure to do so will be disastrous for future generations of Nigeria. It should be extended to all Nigerians irrespective of party affiliations.
The problem of unemployment, which has become a feature threatening socio-economic development in the nation, must also be addressed as a matter of urgency by calling a national stakeholders convention. If not, the nation will continue to sink and no bold attempt to fight corruption can succeed, neither can any Nigerian be compelled not to be corrupt.