Buhari’s War On Corruption: Political Blunder Or Rational Interest? By Aamir Siddi Abdulrahman
Majority of Nigerians are complaining, displeased by the socio-economic upheaval. There is an untold economic hardship in the country as the economy is gradually crawling into a recession. The present political epoch, the basic content of which is the “change mantra” is basically an epoch of socio-political transformation for Nigeria as a Nation and Nigerians as people be it positive or negative, the epoch in which there is a shift in the modus operandi of governance from what it is used to be. More recently than ever in our country’s teenage democracy, “the wages of sin is death”, all over the news we have been hearing of probes of alleged public office offenders for abuse of office and diversion of public funds as well as the mentioning of ungodly amounts of money borrowed from the country’s treasury without permission. Reactions were immediate all across the country as Nigerians continue to be divided over the “anti-corruption campaign” of Mr President.
But why is this being mentioned here? Because it should be regarded as more than just news headlines. The anti-corruption battle (be it political or not) and its reactions (be it ideological or superficial) have serious implications to the future of this great country, to our politics and policies, to Nigerians and hopefully the way we regard public office holders. On the first notion, that Buhari’s war against corruption is a political blunder and that it is structured nepotistic to politically witch hunt those who are not on the President’s side, this is neither true nor false, it depends on which side of the debate you are on, but let us examine that.
When young Lee Kwan Yew became the Prime Minister of Singapore, he was asked how he would address the myriads of challenges facing his country; he replied “I will fight corruption”, obviously, because corruption is an enemy to development. Corruption makes any giant move towards development impossible for any nation. Buhari’s emergence as President of Nigeria was met with myriads of social and economic challenges, created as a result of mismanagement of the Nation’s abundant wealth ab aeterno. His agenda political or not, is to make sure the old system of “anyhowness” is phased out by blocking the many loopholes through which Nigeria’s wealth leaks out, one of the major achievement in that direction was the hasty implementation of the Treasury Single Account (introduced and partially implemented by the previous administration) which has curbed the use of commercial banks by MDAs and top government officials to misappropriate funds.
For the first time in our teenage democracy, the word “budget padding” is aloft in our lexicon. Certainly, this is not new to the system but this is the very first time the average Nigerian is hearing about it. What this implies is that, before now, the budget meant for over 170Million Nigerians was an avenue for some 500 people to “Hammer” their “magas (masses)”. We have being defrauded serially in the past 16 years of “Demokrazy”. What a classical political 419ning?
The timely removal of the fuel subsidy and the unbundling of the NNPC are giant steps in slicing and drying the petroleum sector under the sun to expose the latent form of corruption going on in the oil sector. This has eased the “cabalocracy” touting the oil sector for decade and of course, it came loaded with counter reactions, the resultant effect is now “oga, just drive in and buy your fuel, no queue”
Recently, the anti-graft agencies and other agencies like the Code of Conduct Tribunal have been catalyzed into action by the body language of Mr President, whether political or not, average Nigerians are obviously seeing the result of our tax deductions. Similar sentiments by political deductionists are being expressed about the pattern in which certain influential people are being booked, calling it a political witch hunt, whether this is correct or not, we leave it to the prosecution of providence.
On the other important issue, whether the anti-corruption war is rational and a transparent façade to victimize people of certain order. Whether or not this is true also, it is too early for us to be parroting such twaddle based on pompous sentimental references. I am not in any way implying that President Buhari’s system of administering his socio-economic medicine is perfect and shouldn’t be criticized if it lacked the necessary political power to protect the grassroots, what I am saying is the widespread rhetoric touting the democratic nature of the anti-corruption campaign of Mr President is maladroitful.
Taking us back into history, when Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew started his anti-corruption war in Singapore, he was one of the most criticized leaders in the world at that time because many people (especially the international community) were too myopic to see beyond their noses. It took a decade for the blueprints of Lee Kwan Yew to start reflecting on the destiny of the country. There were many during his time. There are many after him. According to Transparency International there are 6 countries ahead of Singapore and cleaner than Singapore. Yet he stands out as a champion of anti-corruption because he transformed Singapore from very corrupt state to one of the cleanest in the world. He said that during his early days of his political carrier he carried a sharp hatchet in his red brief case. Such was the condition of Singapore when he inherited it. He stands out for leaving an enduring legacy. Of course, Singaporeans and Nigerians are not the same owing to the fact that Nigeria is a country where mediocrity enjoys her recruitment and our sentiments are rooted in many historical contradictions.
It took President Hu Jin Tao a decade to re-construct China into a 21st century political wonder which is now a cynosure of all eyes. What this implies is that, there is no easy short-term solution to our chronic socio-economic malaise; 4 years may be too short a time for Nigerians to start seeing the effect of the anti-corruption crusade of Mr President, especially, considering the fact that, Buhari’s entire practice of power suggests a process-based strategy with caution at the heart of his every actions.
In the fight against corruption in a country like Nigeria, the challenges are enormous. Optimism and pessimism are registered in equal eloquence. Too many Nigerians believe this anti-corruption crusade remains a pure rhetoric, this I may consider being apt, scrutinizing the present content of our Parliament and the state of our Judiciary; any move to usurp power from certain people and official arbitrariness will hit a brick wall hence the continuation of the status quo of political mediocrity is more likely. But, we hope not!
Buhari achieved power at the expense of process over content. What he still enjoys is the goodwill of most Nigerians who despite the tormenting economic hardship still remain hopeful of his panache to pull out the Nation from its present state of moribund. Buhari’s emergence may not be to do it quickly, he may have emerged as the political brand to wrestle the hegemony of certain political order and take the nation from the hands of blithe political marabouts marauding the corridors of power.
In the words of Pratiba Patli, one time president of India “Corruption is the enemy of development and of good governance. It must be got rid of, both the government and the people at large must come together to achieve this national objective”. Epochal socio-economic reforms are necessary in all aspects of Nigeria, and there is an urgent need to revamp true values in the judiciary. Now more than ever we need a “true constitution”. How that will happen — whether it will — is beyond me as an individual. It’s beyond most of us as individuals. We need collective action. We need, more now than ever, to organize. The past is behind us. Let it stay there, most especially in times like this that requires real unity.
I write as a hopeful Nigerian, who believes in the future of this great country. God bless Nigeria.