BY sheer providence and People Power, the progressive camp is now at the helm of affairs in Nigeria. For sixteen years, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) ruled Nigeria
like a party that was principally inspired by the ideology of corruption.
Like a disaster destined to happen, the ‘Power’ party embarked on a ‘Voyage Of No Discovery’ and it was as if the gods were angry! Now, the rest as far as the derailed, tired and expired party is concerned, is history!
Everything considered, the ruling All Progressives Party, APC’s festival of champagne-popping and glasses-clinking is not misplaced even as war on corruption as one of its cardinal promises is not unwelcome. But everything in life has a price attached to it; meaning: for the next four years, APC will be in the eyes of the storm. Which also means that the party may choose to make things better or leave the stage even worse. With the former option, President Muhammadu Buhari has got a lot on his plate. No doubt about it! He’s had to do a lot within a very short period of four years to bequeath to Nigeria a country that works. So much might have been achieved by the president’s ‘body language’ but, as we know, assumptions don’t count in governance, especially, in a situation where schemers whose corrupted hearts have lost the capacity to cry are not prepared to give up. However, discerning minds will admit that APC is, as it is, marked by a very delicate political composition. From Olusola Saraki’s legislative ambush; to the palpable fear of the president and his Northern colleagues possibly running Bola Tinubu out of political relevance, the ruling party is in for some interesting times.
In any case, it is music to the ears that the president has promised to wage a real war on corruption, that “impairment of integrity and an insidious plague” that has already driven the country from the position of decency into the abyss of normlessness, “thereby causing a lot of suffering, deprivation and death.” But Buhari’s capacity to tame the lion has never been in doubt. He is a man of impressive intellectual gifts, extraordinary moral courage and profound spirituality. As things stand, the president is the symbol of progressive politics in Nigeria. He is the new wine in a ‘Change’ wineskin who comes into presidential office with characteristic modesty, moderation and the ‘primacy of public interest.’ Unlike his first shot in power which was marred by ‘with immediate effect’ and ‘it is decreed’ policies, the Buhari of the 21st century Nigeria is a witness to the marvels of democracy, one who has been healed of the deafness of dictatorship and the muteness of being closed in on himself.
In his Goodwill Message to the 2nd Plenary of the 2015 Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Buhari describes corruption as the “main reason why a potentially prosperous country struggles to feed itself and provide jobs for millions.” Needless to repeat that corruption is symptomatic of Nigeria’’s nationalized malaise and epitomizes with merciless severity the physical decay and the loss of innocence bedeviling her geo-political, socio-economic and ethno-religious contiguities. It affects our daily lives, lowers compliance, distorts the level-playing field and can affect how we interface with the people. When corruption takes over the affairs of a country, standards get compromised and values become eroded easily; quality of service and infrastructure is reduced and budgetary pressures, both on public and private establishments, increase insanely. This monster drains a country’s tank of joy, prevents initiatives, stifles growth, harasses destiny and transports problems to a tomorrow that is even far away.
Corruption is as generic in dimension as it is legion in operations. Civilian sleaze! Spiritual morass! Executive deception! Legislative graft! Electoral treachery! Judicial trickery! There is geriatric corruption (as in government being piloted by old and tired hands); and there is psychological chicanery (like the providentially endowed Niger Delta region where indigenes produce more but eat little). We have monarchical deceit (as in the case of a former president trying to unconstitutionally perpetuate self in power); and there is ethnocentric speciousness. We have professional corruption and there is public service venality. The list is endless!
We can indeed talk nineteen to the dozen at synonymizing, synchronizing, replicating, rationalizing, even politicizing meanings, extra-meanings, anti-meanings, or counter-meanings for this cankerworm. The bottomline is that it is a global disease which dates back to the Adamic Age. Remember Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Abraham and Hagar the Egyptian, Esau and Jacob, David and Bathsheba, Ananias and Sapphira, Sanballat and Tobiah, and Judas, to name but a few. Former President Alberto Fujimori of Peru was forced to go on exile after Vladimiro Montesinos, Servicio de Inteligencia Nacional boss and Fujimori’s ally, was implicated in corruption-related scandals.”
In 2002, Germany’’s Defence Minister Rudolf Scharping was replaced for taking payments from a Public Relations “consultant with links to the arms industry. In 2004, Alain Juppe, former French Prime Minister, was barred from holding public office for a decade after he was found guilty of corruption. Geoffrey Robinson was suspended for three weeks from the House of Commons over a £200,000 payment from a company owned by Robert Maxwell, a Labour tycoon. And, Illinois’ former Governor George Ryan was “convicted over contracts deals leases.” Yasser Arafat, Lee Kuan Yew, Rolandas Paksas, Saddam Hussein and Jacob Zuma did not escape the cruel fangs of this heinous crime. In Bangladesh, security and judiciary are costly policies; education is at its ebb and provision of social amenities is as scarce as water in the desert, courtesy of the ‘all-pervasive’ level of corruption.
On the home front, Nigeria, as we speak, competes favourably with less-endowed countries like Guinea and Guinea Bissau on the Corruption Perception Index. Incidentally, she also ranks as one of the eight countries in the world with the highest rate of trafficking. That is why former President Olusegun Obasanjo deserves commendation for his achievements in his anti-corruption campaigns, notable among which was the establishment of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC, (with old, tired and unsung hands in charge); and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, (with youthful-but-now-stigmatized technocrats in control). But, a more important arm like the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, is in sleeping mode, the passive seriousness with which EFCC has been discharging its duties has no doubt left quite a lot of Nigerians with conflicting emotions on how the Commission has suddenly become a presidial assemblage of weak and willing tools in the hands of a cabal. That is how bad the situation has become and one can only wish Buhari well in his efforts to give the anti-graft body a new lease of life.
Life is cheap in Nigeria! Incidentally, her ‘your-god-shall-be-my-god’ judiciary has become so bastardized that only the rich and the powerful can access justice. The poor and powerless can go to blazes! Have we for once asked why Obasanjo’’s ship of anti-corruption war didn’t get to the dock before berthing? As a matter of fact, it is not that Nigerians are sinners or that civilized countries are saints. The difference however rests with the rewards and sanctions. For instance, the way China deals with corruption certainly leaves nobody in doubt as to where the country stands in its anticorruption war. But, in Nigeria, it is a different ballgame. In the world we live, when a president told a stunned people that he’d not fight corruption by putting the people behind bars, the people could only marvel at their leader being a poor student of history and International Relations.
The onus therefore lies on APC and Buhari to learn from history and be methodical in preventing Suharto, Marcos and Sese Seko from resurrecting as Nigerians. And, in doing this, that war must –and must be (seen to be) total, not selective. As the party in power, APC must avoid the corruption of “lopsided” appointments but must courageously and creatively identify solutions that reinforce peace and justice. In particular, Buhari must neither play politics to the detriment of policies nor consider doing the needful as a crime. He should understand that posterity, not any transient powers, will hold him responsible for the success or otherwise of the enormous responsibilities bestowed on him by providence.
As a ‘converted democrat’, Buhari may also need to be reminded that a society without values is a sterile society. Put bluntly, one way of measuring the competence of a progressive party is in its serving as an apostle of laughter where sorrow seems prevalent and succour where soreness appears imminent. Unfortunately, however; and sadly so, majority of Nigeria’s political actors are unfeeling in attitude and perfidious in disposition. They are none but mere jutting men camouflaging as democratic heavyweights. They smile with unequalled certitude but revolt inwardly with unenviable exactitude! That has been our lot in Nigeria! Of course, that is why we always gauge the worth of our religious leaders only by the sonorousness of their voices, the flashiness of their cars and the fatness of their Bank Accounts.
The friar of Burnous Aires was said to ‘forgive too much’ because “Jesus Christ has set a bad example”! A successful and an effective war on corruption demands sanctions that can serve as deterrents. It demands retraining, retooling and re-kitting of our law officers. It involves a reform and a review of relevant laws which must not see government only barking but also biting. Where the existing laws are weak, let them be strengthened; and where they are currently inactive, let them be activated. With the recent stripping of Otto Perez’s immunity and his eventual detention, Guatemala has also set a good example for others to follow.
May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria!
*KOMOLAFE writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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