Buhari’s Anti-corruption War Bearing Fruits, By Louis Okoroma
“Nigeria’s image is changing. The country is now seen in a better light as a country that wants to do things differently, otherwise the nation would atrophy. As is said in popular official parlance, the Nigerian government is making the right noise or striking the right cord with the ongoing anti-corruption campaign.”
Corruption is so deep-seated and pervasive in Nigeria that it has made it difficult, if not impossible, for the country to find its bearing. In various facets of life, we see the impact of corruption. The nation’s infrastructure is dilapidated, and in urgent need of attention. Rather than attend to it, public officials see any road or public infrastructure that needs rehabilitation or construction as an opportunity to steal at the expense of the society.
While exchanging views with a friend recently on the state of the nation, in terms of the anti-corruption war, we found common agreement that perhaps the best thing that President Buhari would be remembered for, and fondly so, without prejudice to other things he might accomplish during this eventful tenure of his, is the war against corruption. And, also the bringing to the awareness of Nigerian citizens, elites and ordinary people alike, that there is something like the betrayal of trust and pillage of the commonwealth of the people by those entrusted with its safe-keeping and management, as had gone on in a most rapacious manner in the last 16 years of democratic rule.
Most public enterprises, ministries and departments of government reek with the stench of corruption, which is why people speak of the divine nature of the Buhari Presidency. Buhari is the one sent to unmask the rot, pillage and unconscionable looting of the nation’s resources by those who are her privileged children, who ordinarily should love her, and do the best to make her great. In sixteen years of democracy and with the enormous financial resources that accrued to the nation from the sale of crude oil, what excuse has Nigeria got that most of its critical highways and public institutions of higher learning are not of the highest quality? Unfortunately, those who were in power at all levels, since 1999 frittered away most of the resources for their vain existence.
Within the period, rather than give the nation first class road infrastructure, railways, seaports, quality and comfortable airports, as well as a national airline with affordable domestic air connection to the capitals of all Nigerian states, those in power in the now crisis-ridden Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) looted the common patrimony for the purpose of becoming important strangers in Dubai, London and New York. These people, notably those in government, for whatever reason denied their country and communities the opportunity of modernisation and development through the use of government resources to put up modern amenities and infrastructure like potable water, public toilets and affordable modern housing for the people. Most of them, and their maniacal compatriots invested more in the foreign cities mentioned above and other places, where they felt more at home to the detriment of Nigeria. The erudite and patriotic lawyer, Femi Falana, is right when he likened the crimes of these people to ‘crimes against humanity’, demanding that the International Criminal Court help Nigeria to further investigate and try them for that.
The types of corruption perpetrated by these people, and former President Jonathan who was leader of the country when these evil took place ruined the nation’s economy, ruined the lives of millions of Nigerians by sentencing them to extreme poverty and terminated the lives of several thousands including soldiers and civilians who the Boko Haram killed because the Nigerian Army was not well-equipped to confront terrorists who invaded the country. As President Buhari noted in his recent media chat, about two million Nigerians are today living like refugees in internally displaced camps across the country, as in a period of war.
Thankfully, all hope is not lost. President Buhari’s anti-corruption war, despite the cynicism of partakers in the ruinous national looting, is having the desired impact, nationally and internationally. In the domestic realm, to the earlier unsuspecting average Nigerian who is ready now to ask questions, the true statuses of many so called big men and Jonathan’s big boys are becoming clearer. Most are criminals and thieves, whose wealth and importance never added any value to the nation because they aggrandised themselves with the wealth of the people. In a place like China, what would happen to these people is clear and unambiguous, rule of law or no rule of law! Some members of the former ruling PDP party, remorseful at the degree of damage done to the nation under their rule, have also come out to support the anti-corruption war.
Until recently, whenever the list of the most corrupt countries in the world is published, Nigeria normally occupied a prominent place. Erstwhile, it did not take an average person or researcher much time to see Nigeria prominently listed among the corrupt countries of the world, where it was risky and costly to do business. That has now changed! In the latest listing of corrupt countries of the World, Nigeria’s name is conspicuously missing. Wait a minute; don’t say something is wrong with the list or that it is inconclusive. Transparency International is usually meticulous and is never off the mark in the task of telling nations how corrupt or clean they are. It is the Buhari phenomenon, including his body language; the war against corruption has put Nigeria in a different class where the corrupt are afraid and national thieves and negligent officials have been unmasked, making the country a dangerous place for the corrupt!
Nigeria’s image is changing. The country is now seen in a better light as a country that wants to do things differently, otherwise the nation would atrophy. As is said in popular official parlance, the Nigerian government is making the right noise or striking the right cord with the ongoing anti-corruption campaign.
It should be noted that Transparency International is not alone in recognising and commending the value which the anti- corruption war of PMB has added to the integrity of the nation. Recently, at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, the US Secretary of State, John Kerry made an important mention of the war against corruption and how its success would help to re-position Nigeria. The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, during her recent visit to Nigeria, also drew attention to the importance of the anti-corruption war for Nigeria’s economic recovery and its future economic emancipation. And as recent as late January 2016, the US Commerce Secretary, Ms. Penny Pritzker, during her visit to Nigeria and after a session of talks with President Buhari, talked glowingly of the anti-corruption war and other plans of the government in the area of national security and poverty alleviation.
Similarly, the European Union is on the same platform with the Nigerian government on the anti-corruption war. Speaking recently, the European Union envoy to Nigeria, Michel Arrion, revealed that the organisation has supported the fight against corruption through a range of programmes aimed at strengthening the anti-corruption agencies, as well as the criminal justice system. He disclosed that the EU has committed about $35 million through ongoing projects being implemented by the United Nations Office in Nigeria targeted at various anti-corruption agencies.
The point is that an endemically corrupt nation like Nigeria must free itself from the malaise of corruption, otherwise, poverty in its generalised form, would be the twin of such a nation.
Louis Okoroma (firstname.lastname@example.org), a public affairs analyst writes from Abuja.