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Buhari’s war on corruption: Real or fake (1)




MANY Nigerians are puzzled by President Muhammadu Buhari and wonder what his #Change agenda really is. Someone has even gone as far as to say that “most people are feeling conned, and it is only morning yet.”  Luckily, Buhari’s first 100 days now belong to history. So, historians can begin to examine it for clues to his actual mission and agenda as President, and how he will go about implementing it. This essay is my contribution to that effort.

It is helpful to divide his actions into two groups:
(A) those he embarked on without public pressure and, in some cases, in great haste, as if to accomplish them before Nigerians wake up to what he is up to; and
(B) those he embarked on only after public outcry and pressure.

(A) includes his napalming of Akwa Ibom villagers claiming that he was going after what he called “oil thieves”; his sending of Boko Haram detainees to Ekwulobia prison in Igboland; his claim that those seeking the breakup of Nigeria are crazies; his determination to limit his anti-corruption prosecution to the Jonathan administration; his directive to make Islamic books mandatory in all secondary schools; his slowness in appointing cabinet; his war on corruption; his pattern of lopsided appointments.

(B) includes his delay in making public his assets declaration.
Nigerians have protested against most of these.

To help those who are confused about Buhari’s agenda, this series will X-ray his first 100 days with the aim of finding clues to his real but hidden agenda.

Thus, the Part I of this series, shall examine Buhari’s war on corruption to see why it won’t work, indeed why it will further entrench corruption and lootocracy; how it is being restricted to implement the Caliphate’s hidden agenda; and if it is real or fake.
Buhari’s War on Corruption
The question to be answered here is this: Is Buhari’s war on corruption real or fake?

The first thing to note is that, as we all know, corruption is a worldwide malady. But what most people don’t know is that the Nigerian brand of corruption is peculiar in two ways. First of all, it is primarily lootocracy. Whereas corruption is the dishonest exploitation of power for personal gain—as by a clerk who hides a file until he is bribed; or a policeman who mounts a checkpoint and extorts money from bus drivers.

Lootocracy is the constitutionally approved and protected looting of the public treasury by officials. It should be noted that the bribe-taking clerk or policeman is breaking a law, but the governor or president who empties the treasury into his personal bank account is not breaking any law. His constitutional immunity is a licence to do so.  Secondly, because lootocracy is legal and not prosecutable in Nigeria, its example has promoted rampant and brazen corruption throughout the society. This makes lootocracy the fountainhead of corruption.

In his inaugural address, Buhari listed corruption among the enormous challenges which he promised to tackle immediately and head on:

“At home we face enormous challenges. Insecurity, pervasive corruption, . . . are the immediate concerns. We are going to tackle them head on. Nigerians will not regret that they have entrusted national responsibility to us.”

— President Buhari’s inaugural speech

And he has also just told us that:

“Corruption in our country is so endemic that it constitutes a parallel system. It is the primary reason for poor policy choices, waste and of course bare-faced theft of public resources.”

While further clarifying his administration’s commitment to the war against corruption, the President said: “Our fight against corruption is not just a moral battle for virtue and righteousness in our land, it is a fight for the soul and substance of our nation.”

Giving an insight into the way corruption destroys the nation, Buhari told the second plenary of the conference that “it is the main reason why a potentially prosperous country struggles to feed itself and provide jobs for millions.”

In the same way, the President posited that “the hundreds of thousands of deaths in the infant, maternal mortality statistics, the hundreds of thousands of annual deaths from preventable diseases are traceable to the greed and corruption of a few. This is why we must see it as an existential threat, if we don’t kill it, it will kill us.”

— Corruption is cause of poverty in Nigeria –Buhari

Despite all that rhetoric, we must ask: How serious is Buhari’s war on corruption? What are the chances that it will reduce, let alone kill, corruption? What is the likelihood that it is just a foxy PR gimmick that will further entrench corruption by leaving its fountainhead, lootocracy, in place?

I must first draw attention to how a war on corruption can paradoxically obscure and protect a corruption system.

From his rhetoric thus far, Buhari will noisily hound, prosecute and severely punish hundreds and even thousands of corrupt officials. That is all well and good. But, unfortunately, that isn’t part of the solution to the plague of corruption. Paradoxically, that is a key and devious part of the ways to preserve the plague, for it camouflages and distracts attention from the looting system itself. It is like when a magician makes a noise in the east to turn the gaze of the audience eastwards while he strikes a silent blow from the west.

Of course, all those caught looting must be punished severely, routinely and without favoritism. But paradoxically, that punitive approach, if used all by itself, contributes to preserving and proliferating corruption. It hides from public view the fact that there is a mechanism or system that breeds corrupt officials every day, in their hundreds or even thousands, and in fact more than you could hope to catch even if the entire criminal justice system was commandeered for fighting corruption alone. It also hides from public view the fact that the elimination of that system or mechanism is the key to winning the war on corruption. You can’t win your fight against mosquitoes in your house unless you destroy their breeding ground in your compound. That corruption breeding mechanism must be eliminated if the war on corruption is to have any chance of success at all. If that breeding mechanism is eliminated, the number of corrupt officials to be caught and punished will dramatically reduce and become manageable.

But what is that breeding mechanism that must be eliminated? It is the 1999 Constitution and any amended version that has certain of its key features.
• To be continued tomorrow.
• Chinweizu wrote via

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