JONATHAN'S TEAM AND THE NEW REVOLUTION

By NBF News
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During the swearing-in of the new executive council of the federation, President Goodluck Jonathan, rightly observed that corruption is one problem that confronts his administration and that the anti-corruption war must start at the centre. He therefore directed the anti-graft agencies, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), to beam their searchlights on the ministries, departments and agencies of the federal government.

They should also pay attention to what happens at the states and local governments. All this, the president reiterated is to send a message that no form of abuse will be tolerated. Jonathan's administration promised to carry out a comprehensive audit of all ministries, departments and agencies of the federal government from June 2007 to the present. He urged his team to put up a superlative performance as they are on probation in the eyes of Nigerians, adding that his administration will touch on all sectors that affect the lives of Nigerians. Like the late social critic and educationist, Tai Solarin, he ended his speech by wishing his team a hard and rough road ahead. It is all good talk which the nation does not lack. Our problem, as always, lies in implementation and lack of personal examples. We tend to sermonize more and practice less of our preachments.

All the same, Joe has spoken well. I thank him for that memorable speech. But, two things that will concern this piece today are fighting corruption at all levels and the rough road wish. Jonathan's charge to the anti-graft agencies to probe all levels of government is good. However, I do not think that the agencies need wait for a presidential nod before they would swing into action. All the same, it is better than not asking them to commence work at all.

The laws establishing these agencies are enough impetus for them to carry out their duties. Waiting for a presidential directive is not part of it. Their waiting for such order speaks volumes of our anti-corruption war. It shows that these agencies are not truly independent. It further shows that they are not living up to their biddings. There has been lack of diligent prosecution on their part as well as securing convictions. Most of their convictions are laughable.

The anti-graft agencies in the eyes of most Nigerians are in deep slumber and snoring heavily at the same time while corruption envelops the land. It is a big surprise that the EFCC has since May 29, 2011 when some former governors lost their corruption-shielding immunity not commenced the trial of at least one governor among those that allegedly looted their state treasury blind. The same applies to the federal and state legislators.

The only exception to this is the case of the immediate past Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, which the anti-graft agency has enacted a big drama on. Upon the dramatization of Bankole's trial, it appears now that the matter is gradually dying down as the accused boasted the other day that nobody has the right to try him as he purportedly acted under the laws. While not holding brief for the embattled Speaker, I want to say that the fight against corruption in the country should go skin deep instead of the prevailing cosmetic treatment the exercise is enjoying. The war presently is lukewarm.

The sanctions given to past political office holders and other public officers that were convicted of corruption were comical and can even encourage corruption rather than discourage it.

It is even paradoxical that somebody that steals a goat in the country receives a stiffer penalty than somebody that looted his state treasury. What is the value of a goat to billions of looted naira? To make the matters worse, plea bargain was brought into corruption cases. What this amounts to is that you cough out part of the loot and retain some and get a laughable one month jail term that you spend at a high brow hospital feigning ill-health or you even spend the term in your house or some other exotic places with your luxuries assured. And you come out of jail, you become a hero. There is an allegation that some jailed persons hire some people to serve their term for them. So, don't rule out mercenary prisoners in Nigerian jails. Let the authorities investigate.

Treating high profile corruption cases with kid gloves through plea bargain is not proper. People that loot state treasury should be made to face the music. They should spend a higher jail term in Kirikiri Maximum Prison. It is only when they serve their jail term fully and not through proxy that we can actually say that we are fighting corruption. Outside this, please forget the fight.

Jonathan's wish to probe the federal ministries, departments and agencies is good but will the anti-graft agencies be given a free hand to carry out such investigations? Won't there be scared cowism in the system? Will the probe see the light of the day? Won't the entire matter be swept under the carpet as usual in typical Naija fashion?

But if they will have the liver to carry out the probe, it is all good. Corruption is the reason why things do not work in the country. It is the main reason for our general under-development. That our roads are in dilapidated condition and our hospitals are not functioning are traceable to corruption. Corruption accounts for the current high level of rural-urban drift and why the 774 councils that supposed to be the hub of our rural development have remained static and undeveloped despite millions of naira allocated to them every month. The corruption at the council level is the worst. Most of the 774 councils do not have elected governments. Their host states are in charge of their finances and they dispense them the way they like thereby leaving the rural areas more impoverished.

Until the government at the council level is restored as guaranteed by the constitution, Nigeria will never see development. Our dream of joining the league of 20 best economies in the world by the year 2020 will never materialize.

As we run a federal system of government, there is the need to ensure that there are three levels of governance as enshrined in the constitution. No layer of government will be subsumed under another or be subverted by another as the councils are now being treated.

Let there be elections at the councils just as we have during general elections and let the councils enjoy uniform tenure as the other tiers of government. If there are constitutional issues that militate against this, let the National Assembly amend the constitution to ensure that we have a truly working federal system of government. Such elections should be conducted by INEC and not is state counterparts that are at the mercy of the governors. The joint account operated by the councils and the states should be abrogated so that the councils can receive their allocations direct from the centre as do states.

To the second leg of this piece is concerned with the president wishing his team a rough road ahead. There is really nothing wrong with the wish. The wish is a clarion call for them to hit the ground running. It is a timely warning. Let me add that the team must be on a fast lane in order for them to meet the expectations of Nigerians. Virtually all the sectors are sick and require urgent attention. The education system is in ruins just as the economy is in shambles.

There is massive infrastructural decay. The power sector is in perpetual doldrums. The security is under serious threat. Diezani Allison-Madueke must ensure that kerosene scarcity is a thing of the past. The price of diesel should also come down. Our refineries should be made to work. We should stop importing refined petroleum products. Barth Nnaji must ensure that we generate enough energy for home and industry within a shorter time-frame. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala should fine-tune the economy. Emeka Wogu should have enough energy to wrestle with labour over wage issues. His road will be rougher. Rufai must revamp the education sector. We need quality university education and not quantity. The government must create jobs. All the members of the team must rise up to the challenge of their various sectors to make the president's transformation agenda to work.