Corruption: Learn From Other Countries, Muslim Group Tell Nigerians
Although the current war against corruption is sanitizing the military as an institution and compelling politicians to adopt transparency, dark clouds continue to gather in the horizon as allegations of vendetta and lopsidedness are being leveled against President Muhammadu Buhari.
We of the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) dismiss these allegations as attempts to blackmail the president. The aim is to force him to soft-pedal or halt the ongoing trials of powerful politicians thereby giving corruption undeserved victory. We insist that the trials must continue to a logical conclusion. The law must be allowed to take its due course. Any goat that desires freedom or peace must keep the people’s yam at arm’s length.
Alleging vendetta or lopsidedness is just like ignoring the tangential to address the phenomenal. The question Nigerians should be asking is: were the offences committed? The offender’s political party, his religion or tribe should be ignored once this has been established. What we need to face is the substance in the allegation and not shadows or primordial sentiments.
There is an urgent need to learn from other countries. How were they able to stem the tide of corruption? Did they revert to claims of vendetta, partisanship, ethnicity or religion? Did they defend the thief because he comes from their city or state? Did they defend the indefensible? Let us look at a few examples.
In the United States, Robert McDonnell, former Governor of Virginia, was indicted on charges of accepting illegal gifts and convicted in 2014. John Rowland, former governor of Connecticut, spent ten months in jail in 2004 for diverting public funds to pay for his vacations and other extravagances. Alabama governor, Don Siegleman, bagged an 88-month jail term for mail fraud and obstruction of justice in 2006. Ex-Congressman Frank Balance was sentenced to four years in prison on October 12, 2005 for conspiring to defraud taxpayers.
In Britain, David Chaitor, former member of the British parliament, got 18 months in 2011 for false accounting. In Greece, former defence minister, Akis Tsochatzopoulos was jailed for 20 years in 2001for receiving bribe. The court also jailed his wife, Vicky, and daughter, Areti, for 12 years each. His former wife, Gudrun, was sent to prison for six years. In Ukraine, former president Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years imprisonment in 2011. In China, former security chief Zhou Yongkang, was recently sentenced to life in prison for bribery and abuse of power.
In all the above examples from the United States, Britain, Greece, Ukraine and China, nobody raised the issue of vendetta, vindictiveness, ethnicity or religion. The concern of all was whether or not the crime was committed. The focus was to safeguard the national treasury. The offenders were punished. Other public office holders and the rest of the citizens learnt the rules of probity and accountability and the countries moved on to greatness.
But in Nigeria political parties allege vendetta and lopsidedness. Agents of corrupt politicians, members of their families, people from their states and those who benefit from stolen funds are allowed to have a field day. This is not the road to El Dorado. We must face the war against corruption squarely and shun partisanship, ethnicity, religion and self-interest. Our focus must be our country and how to move it forward. Let us ignore the thief’s tribe and religion. Let us look at the crimes committed by them against the masses. Let corrupt politicians go to jail and stop using lame excuses to defend them.
A socio-economic scenario whereby 1% of the Nigerian population has arrogated 85% of the resources to themselves leaving a paltry 15% to the remaining 99% of the population is unacceptable. It is serfdom. It is economic deprivation. It has caused stampede among the poor. 99% of the Nigerian population runs after 15% of the nation’s wealth. It has caused acute poverty. Corrupt politicians have siphoned away all the milk and honey in the land. We must stop defending them.
How can a single military officer store billions of naira in a water tank in his private house? How do we explain a single woman using stolen public funds to purchase a whole ship (an oil tanker for that matter)? Where is the conscience of a state governor who siphoned about N1.6 billion within six months of getting into office and uses this fund to amass personal properties via fronts.
How can any civilized citizenry overlook the crime of army generals who allowed the massacre of thousands by Boko Haram by pocketing billions of naira meant for fighting the insurgency? So what is there to defend in the face of indubitable evidence and admissions of guilt in many cases?
As we round up, we charge the international community to ignore the false alarm being raised by the opposition party in Nigeria. The claim of vendetta and lopsidedness in the war against corruption in Nigeria is baseless. It is a war against ‘fantastically’ corrupt leaders.
We call on Nigerians to learn from other countries and to eschew partisanship, ethnicity and religion in the war against corruption. This is the time to renew support for the war against corruption. There lies the survival of future generations of Nigerians. This country is doomed if we allow corruption to defeat transparency.
Finally, we appeal to the press, columnists, civil society and opinion leaders to remain focused and avoid the company of corrupt politicians. Looters are influential people and they are capable of exploiting the widespread poverty (caused by them ab initio) to buy publications, sponsor articles and influence opinions. The masses are watching and the integrity of the press is at stake here. For the sake of Nigeria, therefore, let us resist the ephemeral temptations offered by these heartless plunderers. Let us unite against the monster called corruption and speak with one voice. A people united can never be defeated.
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