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A probe for all




NO magical  prescience  is  needed  to  arrive at  the fact  that  in  the next four years,  Muhammadu Buhari’s success as  the nation’s president would be determined  to a large extent by how much he fights corruption.

At  the last general elections, many Nigerians who voted for  him did so because he declared that a fight against  corruption would be a central objective of his administration.

Such support was driven by the disturbing awareness of corruption as an implacable incubus that has perennially stalked the development of the nation. To be sure, one cannot by any stretch of the imagination project corruption as Nigerian.

Even the history of the so-called advanced nations of the world is replete with cases of corruption. When their political and business activities are probed, only a few persons escape a rebuke for corruption.

In the 16th century Britain for instance, Francis Bacon, lord chancellor, philosopher, statesman and scientist, after postulating about the capacity of education to make the complete man, and being hailed as a revered custodian of the laws that upheld justice in his society, was found guilty of corruption.

On April 17, 1621, he was charged with bribery offences; and this ended his public career.  It is the same predilection for corruption that propels the businessmen of these so-called advanced nations of the world into colluding  with Nigerian public officials and swindling the nation of billions through bogus deals.

But a troubling character of the corruption in Nigeria is its seeming atavistic sovereignty that has transformed it into an ubiquitous culture in contradistinction  to  tremulously occupying a tangential space in the polity as one passing  social-cultural aberration. And its adherents are by no whit abashed as they publicly  profess their allegiance.

While aligning with the culture of corruption easily lends one access to the inner sanctum of the exclusive group  of the controllers of the levers of  the socio-economic and political fortunes of the society, a  resolve to be  transparent  inevitably  makes one an outsider, an endangered species.

Thus  when Buhari said he would tame this monster,  it never demanded an epiphany to realise that a successful prosecution of corruption would be a much-sought vista  to  the  release of all the trapped potential of the country and its  development.

But Nigerians now need to move out of this laudatory  mould  and subject  the  proposed anti-corruption fight to scrutiny. Buhari  has  explained  why  the anti-corruption  campaign would be  limited  to a certain period of our national life.

He  has  stressed  the need  to avoid  a  wholesale  anti-corruption project  that would  stretch  backwards  to  decades before his second coming into government.

But this position opens him to the charge of attempting to  persecute  some  people  while  protecting his  benefactors and minions.

Or, how can  Buhari  sincerely justify  his  limiting  the  anti-corruption fight? To demonstrate that he has set out to prosecute an anti-corruption crusade that is sincere and that would redound to the common good, Buhari is  obliged to review its scope. It must not be limited to the immediate past administration of former President  Goodluck Jonathan.

It must embrace all the  administrations  that  this country has  known since independence. It must even include his own past government and the offices he has held before.

After all, he is serenaded as Mr. Clean.  This is the only way Buhari  can validate  his constantly refrained  transparency on whose back he was ferried into the presidency.

A nation whose history from its political  independence is streaked with egregious cases of corruption has not known equity when it is said  that only some  people  have been  punished  for their  financial misdeeds.

Here, one is not making a case for the aides, ministers  and  even the president of the past  administration; they  must be made to account for their stewardship and if they are found guilty, they should  be appropriately sanctioned.

Despite the unremitting protestations of their  incorruptibility,  the leaders of the country in other  periods are not freed of corruption.

Let the anti-graft  officials begin their work from the 1960s and progress  to the contemporary times. What would be unearthed  is  how the proceeds of corruption have sustained business and political empires over the decades.

We  cannot all pretend as though the Nigerian National Petroleum Corruption (NNPC) which is now a poster boy for institutional corruption only lost its fiscal responsibility moors  in the last five years. Past  governments officials  benefitted  from  the rot of the corporation and these should all be duly punished.

But Buhari’s  anti-corruption  should  not be limited  to financial profligacy. Let him extend it  to  high- profile  murder cases  that  have  serially  jarred  public consciousness .

From 1999 when the current  democratic  dispensation began up to the presidency of Umaru Yar’ Adua, there  were several unresolved high-profile murders.

Who killed  these people? How could  they perpetually escape  the radar of  security officials? The security officials have no excuse.

They must get to work as their counterparts in other nations of the world  and ferret out those who committed crime no matter  how long it takes.

When the anti-corruption campaign assumes these ramifications, it is easy for the government to hector the public about the prospect of the time and the energy it would consume.

Yet, this  is the only way the Buhari government  can  justify  the confidence of Nigerians in his ability to  successfully fight corruption. After all, he is not the one that would directly prosecute the  campaign.

All he would do at the beginning is to set the tone, define the framework and set the officials to work.  Just in our recent history, the Justice Chukwudifu Oputa  Human Rights Violations  Investigation  Commission  was  set  up  to investigate  cases  of  human rights violations including assassinations and attempted assassinations.

It was not limited to a certain political epoch; it covered almost  the entire gamut  of the nation’s political history, from January 15, 1966  to May 28, 1999. And former  President Olusegun Obasanjo was not involved in the  investigation when he set up the panel.

Nor was the late Nelson Mandela  involved  in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission  of 1995  which he set up as president to investigate  violence and human rights’ violations  that resulted  from the  apartheid regime that humiliated  the blacks.

And since the Buhari  government needs all the stolen money to revamp the failing economy and infrastructure,  it would  boost its revenue  if it widens  the scope of the anti-corruption campaign and validate his sincerity. • Dr. Onomuakpokpo is a  member of  The Guardian Editorial Board

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  • Gabriel

    If Nigeria will be sincere to itself, corruption is the only problem it has. Take that out, and the nation is not only clean, but it also begins to make progress. And I quite agree with the writer that limiting the scope is like targeting a particular group of people. Corruption has pervaded all gamut of our existence, and it did not start in 2011. Or 2009 for that matter. All that benefited from looting the public treasury, in one form or the other, right from when we began to govern ourselves should be brought to book. And we should not say that since some of the deeds were done so long ago, the facts to undertake successful prosecution will have disappeared. Let us begin first; if we are eventually stalled, everyone will see.

    But there is a very potent covert corruption which nobody seems to note. This is legalised ‘cornering’ of resources through. For all i know, Nigeria seems to be the only country where retired public servants continue to be paid their full remunerations as if they were still in service. This began when Obasanjo decreed that all army generals would retire on full pay for life. The public servants cashed on this and smuggled their cadres into it. Today, only God knows how many Perm Secs and their cadres (in one form or the other) who have combined to bloat our combined public expenditure. And, many of them even collect such compensation/remuneration from more than two points in the government. Buhari should fight for a reversal of such legalised robbery.

    Then we should look into the necessity of cleaning up the people’s mindset. The average person does not really abhor corruption (at least what we call corruption – which Jonathan had attempted to correctly label and which he failed to properly express when he used the word ‘merely’ when he should have used ‘simply’). The word STEALING should come back into use. When a person is apprehended for financial offences, the word STEALING should be used when appropriate. It may be this will change the people’s perception about what those who occupy public offices may do or may not do. The average Nigeria assumes that once someone occupies public office he has a right to public money and property and items. This is why there is no grass-roots outcry against public stealing. I am saying this because I engage the common people in debates in buses (yes, Molue) and restaurants and such commoners’ gatherings. Rather than decry stealing of public funds, the mothers fervently pray for when their own children will be able to occupy such positions, and have access to such ‘privileges’. It is sickening. So the fight should include reorientation.

    God bless Nigeria.

    • AA

      Nice one, Gab. But I think we need to tackle the causes of runaway corruption and not just the symptoms. The way I see it, the root of corruption lies in a system – social, political, governmental – in which there are no checks and balances. If these checks are in place, corruption will be drastically minimised. So, we need to overhaul our entire system. We need to reduce the power of people in office, especially our executive president and governors who have power to collect money, spend it, appoint auditors, appoint judges, appoint electoral commissioners, etc. Such a system will ALWAYS be corrupted by whoever is there. Remember the famous quote – power CORRUPTS, and absolute power corrupts absolutely!

  • AA

    Right on point! ProbeOneProbeAll. Let’s make it clear – not everyone is deceived by the suggestion that PMB is Mr Clean. I can’t accept that without concrete proof and only an INDEPENDENT, THOROUGH and forensic probe will convince me. The man said Abacha was not corrupt! The man was head of the NNPC that is now said to be notoriously corrupt. He was oil minister, governor, head of state! How can it be said that he was not part of the corrupt system. All his posturings and the APC propaganda is not convincing.

  • Fuzio

    Spot on. He should ask everybody harboring Nigeria’s commonwealth to surrender it. No exemptions, no statutes of limitations.

  • amador kester

    Nigeria is yet to realize that corruption is a greater threat to its existence than militant insurgency….

  • Izeobor

    A constructive analysis. OBJ, ThiefNubu, IBB, and likes must be shivering now and praying for GEJ-type leadership!

  • Bello Barriga

    If past administrations failed to probe the preceding administration, it is not PMB’s place to do so. If PMB decides to probe the immediate past administration, that of course, is one of the reasons NIGERIANS voted for CHANGE. With Sai Baba, “it is no longer business as usual”

  • Olori First

    A financial/banking system that does not provide widely available and competitive credit facilities for major expenditure items like houses, cars etc for its qualified citizens but require100% upfront payment will always be corrupt. A political system that takes the resources of a segment of the country and turns it into a ‘national cake’ automatically creates a scramble to grab as much as possible and therefore promotes corruption. A political system that turns a Federal government into a Unitary government and compounds it by making Local Governments federating units, with bloated numbers of Local Governments in some sections is unjust and therefore corrupt. A country structured on unjust systems will remain corrupt and unprogressive until fair and just systems are put in place.

    • AA

      Nice one. It is so heartrending that many Nigerians cannot understand the systemic nature of our problems. Indeed if these systemic issues are not dealt with, how can corruption even be minimised? It is the politicians who show an interest in dealing with these fundamental deficiencies that is willing to fight corruption, not the propagandists that are now in charge.

    • AA

      Pls let me know if I can email u pls?

      • Olori First

        Thank you AA. Exchanging ideas with like minds on how to actually move our dear country forward can only be a good thing. However, I would prefer not to display my email address on social media. So if you have a better idea how we can exchange email addresses, that will be fine. Best regards.

        • AA

          Solid point. Will find a way to reach you.

          • Olori First


  • ryhope1

    Why ruin an otherwise excellent piece with some of the most ungrammatical and most unnecessarily long-winded drivel ever published in a supposedly serious newspaper, such as: “…[A] troubling character of the corruption in Nigeria is its seeming atavistic sovereignty that has transformed it into an ubiquitous culture in contradistinction to tremulously occupying a tangential space in the polity as one passing social-cultural aberration. And its adherents are by no whit abashed as they publicly profess their allegiance”? What on earth could this possibly mean? Why do we think we must express ourselves only in this shameful way?

  • Aghomon Tunde

    My brothers, GBH can not fight corruption nor recover loots for future developmental project period!
    Who is corrupt me and you waiting for opportunity. How do we stop it, No court, No anti graft agencies can stop it, unless you want to make them richer. Can you call the Pope to help nominate ministers or recruit your officials? Stopping corruption starts from defining our value. Compensating corrupt people cannot stop corruption. What happened to the case of 2.8 billion Naira in cases in GMB government?.

  • Paul Nwaogu

    The Guardian
    newspaper by this article has begun to regain lost territories that the Nigerian
    media has lost for a long time. It has done what it is expected to do ‘inform
    the nation’. The title of the article says it all. Three concerns are
    mentioned-scope, loot and murder. Extending the scope beyond President Jonathan’s
    tenure removes witch-hunting syndrome. After all Nigerians were rulers before
    Jonathan; loot is about money laundering embarked upon since the end of the
    civil war when Gowon told the world that the problem of Nigeria was how to
    spend money–money that came from oil drilled in the Niger Delta Region. Murder
    is on the list of demands that President Buhari should also investigate. There
    have been high profile political assassinations in this nation that have been
    swept under the carpet by previous governments. The mystery should be

  • dellyray

    What a silly tthought. That is practically impossible and would lead to an unfinished job after his four years. Do I heard you said probe since independent? You joke alot and you turning into a cmmedian. Will the probe be only for one ministry or all the ministies, you asking for the moon. If its a joke stop it men.