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Anti-corruption war: Perception and reality in branding Nigeria

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Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari

Indeed, corruption is endemic in Nigeria. Little wonder President Muhammadu Buhari has kept saying that if Nigeria does not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria. And when he ran 2015 campaign on the mantra of ‘change’, he spoke about a government that would stop at nothing to fight corruption.

Four years down the line, and the war is still on. In fact, many have argued that the anti-corruption war has not yielded positive result while others believe the president is winning the war.
 
The anti-corruption war was one of Buhari’s top priorities in the hope of revamping the economy and building a new Nigeria, which became obligatory in the face of dwindling revenues.

The war attracted international support from former president of the U.S., Barrack Obama, U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry and the U.K.
 
After years of fighting corruption, the president recently blamed his inability to win the war on the Nigerian system. Corruption has affected the system of education, governance, health, legislative, and so on.

Perhaps, the president should have narrowed the fight to the Nigerian system, rather than targeting ‘corrupt leaders.’
 
In the real sense, it is people who make up a system, and if there is a problem with the system, it then lies with the people, from top to bottom, to fight it.

Branding a nation is not a one-off campaign, but a continuous exercise where every individual, organisation, and other stakeholders must contribute. A former American ambassador to Nigeria once said the worse corruption that can happen is for one not to follow the rule of law
 
Nigeria ranks 136 out of 175 countries surveyed on the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index 2017. According to a report by Ultrascan AGI, losses from Nigerian scams totaled $12.7 billion in 2013.

Nigeria ranked 36 out of 54 countries in overall governance with a score of 46.5 out of 100 in the 2016 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG).

Nigeria currently ranks 127 in the Global Competitiveness Ranking. It is projected that Nigeria requires at least $2 trillion (N398.1 trillion) for infrastructure development over the next three decades.
 
Leaders are expected to be the drivers of any branding project, by leading the lights that must form the examples that others should emulate.

It will be recalled that an Executive Order was signed in February 2018 by Buhari titled “Presidential Executive Order 5 for planning and execution of projects, promotion of Nigerian contents in contracts and science, engineering and technology.”

This order is a welcome development and a step in the right direction towards growing Nigeria’s weak economy.
 
Charity, they say, begins at home. The campaign for patronage of made-in-Nigeria goods would yield a more positive result if enforced first at government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), many have said.
 
Former Director General of Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Dr. Tonnie Iredia said, “These same leaders said no Nigeria would have need to go abroad for medical care; yet, they are the ones traveling for medical attention. I’m not sure they are aware of ‘Change Begins with Me’ slogan. Unfortunately, when you argue like this, you sound like you are in the opposition party, and the opposition party is not better; it’s just that they are not in office.”
 
Social Commentator and Public Affairs Analyst, Ikem Okuhu, stressed that the fight against corruption has not been successful due to compromises the president is forced to make.

Accoridng to him, “The Nigerian political space is littered with people with shady pasts and it’s these same people the president must have to work with in his fight. This will compel him to side step some people just so he gets or keeps his power base.
 
“Corruption is a sprawling industry with resources that whoever determines to fight it usually does not have, and to that extent, Buhari finds himself handicapped.”
 
Okuhu, however, expressed concerns that leaders go abroad for medicals with attendant costs on Nigeria.

“It’s quite ironic that a government that preaches the development of local capacity is the same that’s not encouraging the growth of same local medical industry.

Nigeria loses billions of naira annually in medical tourism. That our doctors practicing abroad turn out as some of the best suggest that given the opportunity and the right environment they’d thrive and make the difference here. But unfortunately the encouragement to remain here and thrive doesn’t come from government.
 
“Corruption does not lie only with politicians or leaders; it is a national plague, not synonymous with any particular tribe or people. It cuts across all social classes hence the issue of greed, dishonesty, and oppression prevails in the society.
 
“Recall the case of the notorious kidnapper and killer, Evans? What about the wives or husbands who kill their spouses? What about the aggressive behaviour of commercial bus drivers towards passengers? The inability of artisans to meet deadlines, journalists who collect bribe? What about the lecturers who demand for sexual gratifications or impose their books on students as recommended texts and even bar students who refuse to buy their books from attending classes or writing tests?
 
A human rights lawyer, Chief Malcom Omirhobo, while commenting on why prosecution of corrupt people should be taken outside of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, said, “Are we saying there are no lawyers in EFCC? The issue is how they go about the prosecution. Are they honest? Are they political or apolitical? Are they being used as tools? In terms of prosecution, you need lawyers but you don’t need lawyers to carry out an investigation.”
 
Omirhobo said Nigeria does not need EFCC to prosecute corrupt people, adding, “we have laws, or are we saying that before EFCC, we have not been prosecuting corrupt people? We have the criminal code. If the federal orientation is right, a college graduate or a school cert holder can be a member of the police force. A school cert holder can prosecute and jail the president. A judge can prosecute his chief judge, as long as they are patriotic and discrete.”
 
On whether the Federal Government is leading by example in the fight against corruption in view of Buhari’s constant travels abroad for medicals, vacation and all, he lamented the dishonesty of the government towards Nigerians.

“They lack scruples and think Nigerians are foolish,” he said.

“The people who are talking corruption have not declared their assets. They travel for months, incurring debts on Nigeria. Where did their children get money to buy power bikes? How much was spent to anchor the presidential jet on foreign soil for three months? All the people following the president, the Oshiomholes and company, do they not have one criminal charge or the other hanging around their necks? All the people standing on the podium with Buhari campaigning are corrupt. God will not forgive them. At this point, they rob it on people how they can forgive and not forgive others.”

 
If no one is above the law, one wonders the place of the rule of law in the fight against corruption, as the law does not discriminate. But on a daily basis, this is what plays out in Nigeria.
 
He advised the Federal Government to ‘borrow’ the manual for prosecution, following the law.
 
For Adetokunbo Mumini, “I don’t subscribe to the power of prosecution to be taken outside the EFCC because it is the law that gave it the power. They are indirectly saying that the law should be cancelled.”
 
He blamed the media for always escalating corruption cases, which thereby tailor the cases towards naming and shaming.
 
“In the fight against corruption, rule of law ultimately is part of it because if you fight corruption, you must be even, “I believe if someone is accused of corruption, he or she must be given the opportunity to defend themselves.”
 
He, however, noted that medical trips abroad do not amount to corruption, especially “when the country lacks the expertise or equipment to handle the case. “

     


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