Why Buhari’s anti-graft war may fail
CORRUPTION is very pervasive in Nigeria. Other than the Boko Haram menace, corruption is about the most challenging ills to the growth and development of the Nigerian state. Indeed, Boko Haram’s insurgency and other violence in Nigeria are likely caused and/or escalated due to corruption in the delivery of public good or addressing minor social ills that morphed into serious national crises and emergencies. Public, private and civil society sectors all reek with the odious stench of corruption scandals.
Within the six years of the Goodluck Jonathan administration, allegations of corruption and abuse of office pervade his administration. Former Ministers of Aviation, Petroleum Resources and Interior among others were at one point or the other fingered as abusing their offices. Many of these high profile corruption allegations either went on without being tried or were waived aside after committees upon committees cavalierly investigated such allegations and submitted their reports to the former President. Unfortunately, there was no single trial of any politically exposed personality (PEP), even if done to witch-hunt political adversaries.
Many of the cans of worms under the Jonathan administration, we are told, are now being exposed to President Muhammadu Buhari. One must hasten to add also that corruption does not take place only with the high profile cases as there are a legion of corruption cases that are never or under reported by the media or exposed by the so-called whistle blowers. These corruption cases occur on a daily basis in, for example, hospitals, where health related documents are forged for tips; schools and academic institutions, where students pay bribes including exchanging sex for grades; immigration and prisons, where services are rendered not on first come first serve basis but on the basis of one’s relations or how well one is able to grease greedy palms. Frankly, very few common or ordinary Nigerians do not get entangled in the complex web of widespread corruption in Nigeria.
The pervasive nature of corruption thus largely accounts for why many Nigerian voters voted out the Jonathan administration, opting for President Mu hammadu Buhari (PMB) with the hope that he would not only fight and prevent corruption but also divert such funds to developmental purposes. PMB, presenting a personal posture of integrity and willingness to conduct a clinical surgery on the nation and purge it of corruption and other such practices, promised during his electoral campaigns to fight this monster head on and channel such recovered funds, often looted for personal use, for national development. It may, however, be said that PMB’s war against corruption may not only fail to create the impact he anticipates, but fail to address the issue of entrenched corruption in Nigeria. The reasons for this are not farfetched.
While high profile corruption has become the staple of many in the ruling class, those cutting across politicians, professionals and senior government officials, ‘low profile’ cases, especially those in areas where governments hardly beam adequate searchlight should not be ignored in this anti-graft campaign. Away from holding forth for why those at the lower class in Nigeria practise corrupt acts, it should be understood that fighting engrained corruption in Nigeria requires the government to meet the basic needs of people.
A situation where extreme poverty and hapless hopelessness are the case is not likely to see corruption drastically reduced in a reasonable time. Police ‘officers’ that cannot afford to feed, clothe, and pay rent let alone ride in their cars may never be convinced to be free from corruption. Similarly, academics that live from hand to mouth are more likely to succumb to the manipulations of private institutions to be used as staff in private institutions desperate in need of accreditation by academic institutions’ accreditation bodies, especially the National Universities Commission (NUC).
It is important to note that high profile corruption cases that are already in the loop must not be left under whatever guise. Furthermore, one must recall that there are still more cases to be vigorously pursued for everyone to realise that this administration is genuine in its bid to fight corruption without paying lip service to the issue. Recently, PMB stated that he was yet to appoint his ministers because many Nigerians that could have filled these exalted and coveted positions have soiled their hands. Who are these Nigerians? What have they done wrong? How grievous are these misdemeanours to Nigerians and national development? The President needs to put these on the fore as well and as soon as possible.
Anything short of this will be seen as a deliberate ploy to sweep germane corruption issues under the carpet and make criminals walk freely, and even celebrated, in Nigeria. The admission of good Nigerians whose hands have been soiled, according to PMB, should make these prominent individuals answer for their deeds. While it is yet to be seen if any action has been taken on this so far, naming, shaming, trying and implementing judgments are some of the numerous ways Buhari can convince Nigerians that he is not an accomplice to the looting of Nigeria or a shield for these high profiled criminals.
Furthermore, it is often said that he that wishes to come to equity, must come with clean hands. There are accusations of corruption around PMB’s party patrons and members. While this should not come as a mean task, given that going after your benefactors may be interpreted as biting the fingers that fed you, PMB has to realise that his loyalty lies always with the Nigerian state and its people who gave him their mandates and not some thieving power brokers within or outside his party whose empires are through the sweat and blood of Nigerians. Therefore, as he has rightly spoken at his inauguration that he belongs to everybody and at the same time to nobody, Nigerians expect PMB to match those words with action. Independent and fair prosecution of those around the president whose characters are questionable are, therefore, not negotiable. Mr. President, there should, and must, be no sacred cows!
• Fasakin writes from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria.