How to Deal with the Elites Tying The Vice President's Hands
Ngaire Woods, the founding dean of Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford University, who moderated the plenary session of the 24th Nigerian economic summit asked Vice President Osinbajo to tell the summit who called him when he wanted to sack someone corrupt. The Vice President responded by saying that he gets several calls from the Nigerian elites that cut across segments like politics, religion and business. I think it is pathetic and subnormal to hear that the elites seek to influence the decisions of our elected political office holders. It shows how low our society has sunk in terms of its moral values and principle. Although the Vice President did not tell the audience how he handles calls seeking to hand tie him, i find it subnormal that someone will request that corrupt officials be left unpunished for their sins.
The revelation by the Vice President reveals that the government is fighting corruption the wrong way. It is a fact that every society has elites with vested interests and will seek to advance their interests at any given time. A godfather is not likely to watch his boy or daughter who is a political appointee get fired for being involved in corruption because that will put an end to his interests. Such a godfather will seek to silence the case. A religious leader who has access to the Vice President, who is also a pastor, is likely to place calls on behalf of his church member found corrupt to be forgiven and not made to face punitive measures. I can imagine such a religious leader quoting a bible or quranic passage that reads about forgiveness. To prevent Nigeria from being killed by corruption, these elites who by their actions, do not mean well for the country need to be stopped.
To stop these elites, we need to absolutely institutionalise the fight against corruption and the process by which punitive actions are meted out. A strong anti graft institution will be completely free of interference from the politicians. The laws of the land will guide its operations and not the politician who appointed the anti graft head. Elites will not call the Vice President if they knew that he had no influence on the anti graft agencies. Nigeria is old enough to get to a point where whether a case is reported or not, the anti graft agencies begin investigation. It is an anomaly for heads of anti graft agencies to observe the 'face' or 'body' language of politicians before investigating or prosecuting a corruption case. I am of the opinion that to effectively fight corruption, the right to hire and fire certain appointees should be taken from the executive arm of government. A proper and absolute institutionalisation of anti graft agencies will give corruption a tough fight where the 'big men in the anti graft agencies' fail.
Those who commit grand and systemic corruption have either an influential elite who backs them or who benefits from them. It follows that public officials who have powers to hire and fire need to realize that they cannot continue to make themselves available to be persuaded to take or not take certain decisions by the elites. The corruption in Nigeria is so bad that there should be laws that makes any elite who intervenes for someone found to be corrupt liable for prosecution.
To untie the Vice President's hands and indeed that of others tied by the elites, Nigeria needs to ensure strong anti graft institutions that will be non partisan and goes after corrupt people no matter who they are or who backs them. Our justice system should be so strong that no intervention from an elite will set a corrupt person free. The strong man approach to fighting corruption will fail. The Vice President and others should be reminded that their loyalty should be to the constitution, rule of law and the entire Nigerian people and not the one percent elites .