Alive and kicking

By Yakubu Mohammed   |   19 November 2015   |   1:23 am  
Buhari

Buhari

It is good to hear from President Muhammadu Buhari’s mouth that the war against corruption is not dead. It is alive and kicking. But so is the hydra-headed monster itself. Corruption, by whatever name you choose to call it, is also very much alive and kicking.

Self sustaining and venomous, corruption, like appetite which increases by what it feeds on, is doing very well for itself and for those who choose to worship at its alter. Its adherents, like those of earlier religions – Christianity and Islam – are spread all over the globe, elegantly positioned at the highest level of the society, sitting as it were on the Peacock of throne either in government as the prince of power or in the private sector as the captains and oligarchs of industry and commerce.

Corruption has been the scourge of all societies in all ages seeing to the rise and fall of empires and more recently of the rise and fall of governments in Africa. If the truth must be told, it is the dividends of corruption, more than any other altruistic motive that is the most compelling allure for those venal political elites in Africa who seek and get to public office today. In more enlightened societies, those who seek public office need tons and tons of money to do marketing and media campaign to sell themselves to the electorate.

Self sustaining and venomous, corruption, like appetite which increases by what it feeds on, is doing very well for itself and for those who choose to worship at its alter. Its adherents, like those of earlier religions – Christianity and Islam – are spread all over the globe, elegantly positioned at the highest level of the society, sitting as it were on the Peacock of throne either in government as the prince of power or in the private sector as the captains and oligarchs of industry and commerce

In Nigeria as in other African countries, awash with petrodollars, the case is different .Public office seekers amass tons and tons of money to pay for or buy their way into office. And when they get there, then do what? The public would be lucky if an official who got into office through corrupted system would give the people up to 10 per cent of his time. The man would have to recoup the money he spent to get there and make profit before he can think of what to do for the people.

It is precisely because of the pernicious influence of money and corruption that President Muhammadu Buhari, the new Sheriff in town, vowed, when he was getting his certificate of return from INEC after his election this year that his administration would not allow people to buy their way into public office. His utterances and his now legendary body language have since then combined to give Nigerians the impression that he would not go back on his words. He has been pursuing cases of corruption or perceived corruption almost with single-minded dedication. Those in the know have said that his body language alone has forced a number of people in the old dispensation to cough out some of the money they have illegally taken from the public purse. We have no reason to doubt this.

With the full complement of his cabinet in place, the public space has been widened and new fronts have been opened in the fight against corruption. It is expected, therefore, that his numerous disciples and foot soldiers would from now on help to spread the gospel.

The message must be clear enough, (not the one that goes through the muffled drum,) for even the hard of hearing to hear, for the councillor or local government chairman, for example, to hear and understand that it is no longer business as usual, that they cannot continue to collect their allocation from Abuja and share among themselves and other stake holders, both the living and the dead, to the detriment of public good.

e story was told recently of an erstwhile job applicant who now mercifully landed a good job in Abuja. After working for three months and collecting salaries for those months, the man returned home to his village. Instead of returning triumphantly like newly minted big man, he came home stealthily, in the manner of a thief, to his benefactor who had connected him with his employer to lament thus: ‘ my brother ( showing or feigning respect), thanks for your assistance. As you can see, I am doing the job and I am being paid for it. But apart from the salary there is nothing else in this job.’ Meaning? Where he is working is not juicy enough.

No opportunity to steal. Before he left the university, he had heard the fairy tales of some young men who worked in the banks and used their positions to steal the bank clean without any consequence. He had also known of others who worked in pension offices and stole the pensioners’ money as if they were paying themselves pensions every day till they had their fill. And they all came home to flaunt their illegal wealth with egregious impunity. That was the kind of job he looked up to on graduating from the university.

When corrupt officials like this do not get punished or they get shielded by laws made by their fellow travellers, which laws protect them up until they are proved guilty, they help to manure the seeds of corruption and they help in turn to recruit into the large army of corruption. Corruption then develops fangs and begins to fight back with ferocity.

In Nigeria as in other African countries, awash with petrodollars, the case is different .Public office seekers amass tons and tons of money to pay for or buy their way into office. And when they get there, then do what? The public would be lucky if an official who got into office through corrupted system would give the people up to 10 per cent of his time. The man would have to recoup the money he spent to get there and make profit before he can think of what to do for the people

When you perceive selectivity in the fight against corruption, it is corruption hat is fighting back. When you begin to see sacred cows moving about with impunity, it is corruption that is fighting back. When those who should be languishing in jail, get the people’s mandate to contest election and they appear to be coasting home to victory, to the applause of the deprived who are victims of the corrupt system, it is corruption personified that is fighting back.

When corruption fights back, leaders begin to speak from the two sides of their mouths. Their explanation for allowing clear culprits to go scot free begins to sound hollow because they have sacrificed their own integrity on the altar of exigency.

Buhari came into office highly recommended by his personal principles of integrity and scrupulous adherence to the values of probity and accountability. But now he has to watch his back because there is a clear and present danger. His high moral values risk being compromised by those who feel gravely threatened by the War Against Corruption.

The removal last week of Ibrahim Lamborde as chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and his replacement by Ibrahim Magu, is, we hope, a signal of the increased tempo in the fight against corruption. Personnel changes are not enough. As they stand today the laws regarding corruption should be overhauled to make them more effective and, therefore, make the war against a winnable war.



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