The Fight Against Corruption, What We Should Do
On reading that article a friend called and asked, if I thought that Nigerians have the collective will to fight against corruption. Before I could offer a response, he posited that if any body/group raises a voice against it, there would be an equal number of people or more saying no, that corruption must be left alone or be legalised.
That interaction made me reconsider how deeply the country is mired in corruption. As I watch some of the reactions trailing the desire of President M. Buhari (PMB) to fight corruption, I feel I am noticing the testing of my friend’s hypothesis on corruption in Nigeria, albeit not quite as he proposed.
Since President Buhari publicly pronounced his commitment to fight corruption, an eclectic miss of apologist of corruption have been sending him open and subtle messages on how to tread.
For the unabashed apologist, there is no need going back to uncover and recover most of the stolen wealth of the nation carried out under former President Jonathan.
Why probe Jonathan and not go back before him, stopping with him smacks of witch-hunting, they orate? National asset stripping did not start with Jonathan, we are reminded.
They also argue that some members of the All Progressives Congress (APC), particularly those alleged to have sponsored President Buhari’s campaign should be probed.
Before considering any logic to these debates, the other advice offered is that PMB should soft-pedal; Jonathan should not be humiliated having handed over peacefully to him.
If by humiliation they mean the dragging of an ex-president through the streets in handcuffs, I think it is safe to say that this type of humiliation is out of the question even for those blood thirsty Nigerians. But, the trial of ex-presidents for criminal acts unrelated to their official acts is entirely legal and should not attract public sympathy.
The era of preceding administration proudly bequeathing empty treasury to its successor has to end. This is not rational human behaviour. The suggestion that the fight against corruption should extend beyond the Jonathan’s administration is attractive.
The question is how far back is considered acceptable? Do some really expect PMB to be bogged down in unending probes? Besides, would the probing of his predecessors not have been a matter for President Jonathan to have considered? Anyway, a future president may decide to probe events of thirty years earlier, which will be within their gift. As much as one can tell, President Buhari was clear that he was not going to embark on an historic probing.
It is probable that had Jonathan’s administration not been ruthless in out stripping its predecessors in assets stripping, PMB would have been contented in concentrating his energies in governing.
The obvious challenges facing the country are enough to engage his immediate attention without the distraction of asset recovery. Sadly, colossal public stealing went on under Jonathan. PMB to turn a blind eye to such wanton economic sabotage would be an abdication of responsibility.
The last six years witnessed an unprecedented financial recklessness, rules of common public decency were abandoned as certified criminals were offered and paid billions of dollars and naira of unexecuted contracts. Including, making American dollars the fashionable currency to buy votes in a poor Nigeria.
The litany of financial misdemeanours by PDP and Jonathan are better provided by APC with its access to public files than an outsider’s speculative attempt.
What is worth sharing though, is the story of how the director of a federal agency who must have been on mind-altering substance, dared his staff starved of their salaries to protest about his open stealing.
(Tufia kwa). On the insinuation that corrupt monies were used to sponsor President Buhari’s election, if these were true, we may need to consider the sequencing of crimes.
But importantly, without being provocative, there is a question; how many saw PMB’s election as desirable for the country’s future and how many dipped their hands in their pockets to support the cause? Perhaps, it is time we realise that we must be willing to fund and fully support any public good cause we believe in.
Otherwise, there should be no surprises when those who pay for the goods demand receipts. Fortunately, we may be spared that spectre because of PMB and what he stands for; I equally suggest we accept that sometimes the end justifies the means.
As the cynics noise gets louder it is important that Nigerians are not beguiled by the noises of self indulgent few about selective justice, because beneath it all is the subtle message that looters should keep their loots.
It does matter to these people that ordinary Nigerians have for long been forced to live in misery and squalor out of the sheer greed of public office holders.
The worrying problem is that looters would not beat a quiet retreat to their comfort beds and wait to be picked up as fish out of water. No they would not.
Having profited from a disordered Nigeria with their illegal wealth they are now pulling all their dirty tricks to forestall PMB’s stated mission against corruption.
They are already using the media to confuse the motive behind PMB actions and minimise their wrong doing. Soon they will use the judiciary aware of the prevalence of rotten judges who delay justice by allowing morally bankrupt lawyers to use frivolous objections to frustrate prosecutions.
The complicit Economic & Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) will be relied on their theatrical artifice to bungle investigations. It is astonishing how EFCC surrounds its arrests and interrogations with fanfare, with no corresponding acts in announcing its appalling conviction rate.
The lack of remorse of looters and the weaknesses in our yet to be reformed corruption and other crime fighting institutions requires all opposed to the evil of corruption to come out and stake their interest in the fight.
PMB cannot and will not carry it alone. It is not a one man crusade however powerful the man is. What PMB presents to Nigerians apart from his personal commitment to fight corruption is an opportunity for those opposed to corruption to work with and be backed by State power.
This should be taken as a collective challenge that can be met. First, we can start by building community of activists wherever we are as Nigerians, and across the nation to perform all the roles of active citizens.
Two, start developing individual progressive ethos to question official wrongs and demand answers from all State actors. Three, pass on all relevant information about corruption to the relevant authorities.
Above all, not only is there a need to re-orientate the Nigerian mind, this unique opportunity to repel corruption in our national life must not be missed. Ogbonda wrote from London.