Buhari And Corruption Malaise In Nigeria By Utum Eteng
History has it that, no success, failure, loss or defeat is a product of a single factor. Thus, Buhari’s chosen fight to eradicate corruption in Nigeria is by no means a child’s play. Given that corruption malaise has become so endemic that it would take not only extreme boldness on the part of Buhari but also, the grace of God to truly liberate Nigeria from the stigmatization of the corruption cankerworm.
Corruption index in Nigeria is high, alarming and is manipulated by a cabal with other rich, entrenched and influential forces of darkness with a determination to continue as usual. It is common knowledge that the malaise of corruption in Nigeria is spreading like wild harmttan fire such speed as if a destructive virus is discharged into the thin air by an avenging god ready to infest everybody. With the rate and speed with which the malaise is spreading, it may not be totally out of place to opine that, given the circumstances it is possible for an Angel of God who finds his way to this part of the earth could be a convert in this practice of corruption. A nation wallowing in corruption denies itself of essential infrastructural development as all funds budgeted for development would usually disappear into the deep pockets of the few opportuned corrupt leaders.
Thus, Nigerians will not forget in a hurry that the last 16 years of PDP misrule was a period of corruption boom in Nigeria and the world knows this. It was an era corruption blossomed overwhelmingly, and out of 175 most corrupt nations of the world, Nigeria ranked 135 as revealed by Transparency International Corruption Perception Index. By a new estimate by the Business Council of Africa, an estimated near $1 billion is allegedly stolen vide conduits of unfettered profligacy. In Nigeria today and yesterday, the much touted power sector development reforms has overtime amounted to a wasted dream because of the alarm behind the scene oxygenated corruption by corruption magnates who are entrusted with the responsibility to salvage the nation. Thus, the emergence of Gen. Buhari as the president-elect of Nigeria appear to be giving hope to Nigerians and to the international community that, after all, corruption when tackled with zeal and determination will be stamped out sooner than later. Without mincing words, Nigeria is desirous of a change in the true sense of the verb, not just a change of guards. A change capable of injecting new results with the hope to raise the perception and the morale of the people, a change where culprits are not treated with kid gloves, a change aimed at exposing corrupt leaders known to have encouraged corruption as a way of life, a change where the $16 million US dollar given to a committee to enhance power will be accounted for. But, will Buhari realize that the cult-like followership enjoyed by him which led to his victory was because the people have come to have hope that with him on the driver’s seat, the nations corruption index may zero down? However, in spite of the goodwill enjoyed by Buhari, the questions that have continued to find answers in speculations yet are not limited to the following; where would he start his war against corruption from, in view of the fact that he cannot do it alone in a democracy where every arrest and prosecution counts and must be navigated within the limits allowed by law? Would he start the war by engaging some of the corrupt men around him who may possibly be his sponsors? Would Buhari be firm enough to realize that the support given to him that translated into huge physical votes in the last general election was because as a onetime military Head-of-State he did it and it is hoped that he can possibly do it again? The fight to exterminate corruption is Buhari’s chosen mother-of-all-wars requiring commitment, focus and ability to decipher in advance the expected organized sabotage from all directions and would be ready to confront it headlong.
Perhaps as a starting point, Buhari would have to start with his foes in the Nigerian Army who were wickedly sponsored to stealthily cancel his certificates lodged with the Nigerian Army department of records to embarrass him. Would Buhari be bold enough to open the corruption rotten books of some of our state governors who have stolen out states dry? It is common knowledge that some of our state governors have decapitated the lean finances of their states and have up till now not paid staff salaries, retirement benefits cannot be paid, yet allocations are received regularly from the Federation Account. Would Buhari have time to investigate the huge loans collected by the state governors and its proper use not minding the docility and comprise stance of the State Assemblies? Nigerians in private and public have continued to ask the mind boggling questions whether it would not be a good strategy and an object lesson if Buhari starts his crusade with the investigation of the cabal that collected $16 million to fix electricity in the country but have nothing much to show for it. Buhari as a leading light must illuminate all the dark corruption corners where corruption has been institutionalized to leave no one in doubt.
The pretended mass decamping by some of the old PDP corruption inclined members into APC should not becloud Buhari’s focus to put the records straight. They decamp to seek a soft landing for their atrocities. As some state governors are planning to do, he must first sanitize them before they infest the APC members with the virus. The same rules must apply to everybody caught stealing irrespective of how much is involved. The amount stolen is never the issue, but the act of stealing alone is the offence of stealing.
It is important to let Buhari know that he has to be circumspect in dealing with the ICPC and the EFCC as presently empanelled. The two anti-graft agencies have over the years become an extension of the PDP. It must as a matter of urgent importance undergo clinical overhaul. Buhari as president may need to allow the anti-graft organs to do its work without fear, favour or unnecessary interference from the Federal Attorney General.
In Buhari, Nigerians and indeed the international community desire a new, refreshed and improved beginning for all old things about corruption to pass away with a view to return to the initial concept of the anti-graft apparatchiks. The current methodology where the anti-corruption agents only yield to investigate leaders how disagree with the PDP overlords must be avoided and some of the investigated cases should be reinvestigated by an independent body to clear doubts and clouds hanging in some cases sent to court and dismissed for lack of proper investigation. If possible Nuhu Ribadu could be brought back with a caution haven tested the mulky waters of politics. If indeed we must take the Buhari initiative to fight corruption seriously, the approach should be different, since Buhari as president would not be in all places at the same time, the men he takes to oversee anti-corruption agencies must themselves not get dirty down the wad or have filthy apparatchiks in the oversight of such sensitive agencies.
Buhari’s vow to probe the $20 billion missing from the coffers of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC is in order. The following uninvestigated corruption cases must be investigated with a view to bringing the culprits to justice; the purchase of 2 BMW Armored Cars for N255 million by former Aviation Minister now senator-elect, the fuel subsidy scandal, the Maina pension scam, the allegation that members of the senate committee investigating pension scam were paid N3 billion by Sani Shuaibu Teidi, Kerosene subsidy scam, police pension fund fraud, $15 million private jet for arms scandal, Abba Marro Immigration scandal, Malabu oil scandal, $16 billion for reform of power sector scandal, 7.8 million collected for the construction of Jos-Yola transmission line not executed. The Buhari change mantra must move from being a slogan into action, from a noun or a jingle into an active verb.
Chief Barr Utum Eteng
Private Legal Practitioner & Public Affairs Analyst