A probe for all
NO magical prescience is needed to arrive at the fact that in the next four years, Muhammadu Buhari’s success as the nation’s president would be determined to a large extent by how much he fights corruption.
At the last general elections, many Nigerians who voted for him did so because he declared that a fight against corruption would be a central objective of his administration.
Such support was driven by the disturbing awareness of corruption as an implacable incubus that has perennially stalked the development of the nation. To be sure, one cannot by any stretch of the imagination project corruption as Nigerian.
Even the history of the so-called advanced nations of the world is replete with cases of corruption. When their political and business activities are probed, only a few persons escape a rebuke for corruption.
In the 16th century Britain for instance, Francis Bacon, lord chancellor, philosopher, statesman and scientist, after postulating about the capacity of education to make the complete man, and being hailed as a revered custodian of the laws that upheld justice in his society, was found guilty of corruption.
On April 17, 1621, he was charged with bribery offences; and this ended his public career. It is the same predilection for corruption that propels the businessmen of these so-called advanced nations of the world into colluding with Nigerian public officials and swindling the nation of billions through bogus deals.
But a troubling character of the corruption in Nigeria is its seeming atavistic sovereignty that has transformed it into an ubiquitous culture in contradistinction to tremulously occupying a tangential space in the polity as one passing social-cultural aberration. And its adherents are by no whit abashed as they publicly profess their allegiance.
While aligning with the culture of corruption easily lends one access to the inner sanctum of the exclusive group of the controllers of the levers of the socio-economic and political fortunes of the society, a resolve to be transparent inevitably makes one an outsider, an endangered species.
Thus when Buhari said he would tame this monster, it never demanded an epiphany to realise that a successful prosecution of corruption would be a much-sought vista to the release of all the trapped potential of the country and its development.
But Nigerians now need to move out of this laudatory mould and subject the proposed anti-corruption fight to scrutiny. Buhari has explained why the anti-corruption campaign would be limited to a certain period of our national life.
He has stressed the need to avoid a wholesale anti-corruption project that would stretch backwards to decades before his second coming into government.
But this position opens him to the charge of attempting to persecute some people while protecting his benefactors and minions.
Or, how can Buhari sincerely justify his limiting the anti-corruption fight? To demonstrate that he has set out to prosecute an anti-corruption crusade that is sincere and that would redound to the common good, Buhari is obliged to review its scope. It must not be limited to the immediate past administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
It must embrace all the administrations that this country has known since independence. It must even include his own past government and the offices he has held before.
After all, he is serenaded as Mr. Clean. This is the only way Buhari can validate his constantly refrained transparency on whose back he was ferried into the presidency.
A nation whose history from its political independence is streaked with egregious cases of corruption has not known equity when it is said that only some people have been punished for their financial misdeeds.
Here, one is not making a case for the aides, ministers and even the president of the past administration; they must be made to account for their stewardship and if they are found guilty, they should be appropriately sanctioned.
Despite the unremitting protestations of their incorruptibility, the leaders of the country in other periods are not freed of corruption.
Let the anti-graft officials begin their work from the 1960s and progress to the contemporary times. What would be unearthed is how the proceeds of corruption have sustained business and political empires over the decades.
We cannot all pretend as though the Nigerian National Petroleum Corruption (NNPC) which is now a poster boy for institutional corruption only lost its fiscal responsibility moors in the last five years. Past governments officials benefitted from the rot of the corporation and these should all be duly punished.
But Buhari’s anti-corruption should not be limited to financial profligacy. Let him extend it to high- profile murder cases that have serially jarred public consciousness .
From 1999 when the current democratic dispensation began up to the presidency of Umaru Yar’ Adua, there were several unresolved high-profile murders.
Who killed these people? How could they perpetually escape the radar of security officials? The security officials have no excuse.
They must get to work as their counterparts in other nations of the world and ferret out those who committed crime no matter how long it takes.
When the anti-corruption campaign assumes these ramifications, it is easy for the government to hector the public about the prospect of the time and the energy it would consume.
Yet, this is the only way the Buhari government can justify the confidence of Nigerians in his ability to successfully fight corruption. After all, he is not the one that would directly prosecute the campaign.
All he would do at the beginning is to set the tone, define the framework and set the officials to work. Just in our recent history, the Justice Chukwudifu Oputa Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission was set up to investigate cases of human rights violations including assassinations and attempted assassinations.
It was not limited to a certain political epoch; it covered almost the entire gamut of the nation’s political history, from January 15, 1966 to May 28, 1999. And former President Olusegun Obasanjo was not involved in the investigation when he set up the panel.
Nor was the late Nelson Mandela involved in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of 1995 which he set up as president to investigate violence and human rights’ violations that resulted from the apartheid regime that humiliated the blacks.
And since the Buhari government needs all the stolen money to revamp the failing economy and infrastructure, it would boost its revenue if it widens the scope of the anti-corruption campaign and validate his sincerity. • Dr. Onomuakpokpo is a member of The Guardian Editorial Board