On Public Assets’ Declaration By Buhari, Osinbajo
NIGERIANS are justifiably dismayed that President Muhammadu Buhari and his deputy Yemi Osinbajo who rode into office on the back of their promised adherence to transparency are soon nibbling away at their own credibility by their failure to make public the details of their assets’ declaration.
It is a good development that they submitted their assets’ declaration forms to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) before they began to perform their official functions as required by the Nigerian Constitution in Chapter VI Section 140.
But, even though the law does not require them to publicly disclose the contents of the assets’ declaration forms they have submitted to the CCB, they on their own should have willingly done this.
If before now they did not see any reason to make the details of their assets’ declaration known, the citizens’ legitimate agitation for it now compels them to do so. Nigerians are demanding this because
Buhari during his campaign promised to publicly declare his assets when elected into office. And beyond this promise, Nigerians believe in Buhari’s avowed integrity and thus they do not find his public declaration of assets’ incongruous with what he would readily do in the service of his nation.
Making his assets’ declaration open is for the public he is serving, and he should even go beyond this by publicly declaring the details of his assets yearly as a way of making himself accountable to the citizenry.
Regrettably, how much the culture of corruption has become entrenched in the nation, beginning with the leadership, is seen from the fact that the late Umaru Yar’Adua remains the only president of the country who has publicly declared his assets. Because he did this, his deputy then, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan also publicly declared his assets. Thus by asking Buhari to make his assets’ declaration public, Nigerians are not demanding anything that lacks historical precedent in the country.
It was in a clear recognition of the fact that public service in the country has been ridden with corruption because there has not been transparency among its leaders that Nigerians trusted their votes with Buhari and Osinbajo when they promised to fight this menace. They would thus signal their readiness to fight corruption by opening up to Nigerians. Once they make theirs public, every other public officers they would appoint to work with them would be obliged to also declare their assets and make the details public.
It is, therefore, high time Buhari and Osinbajo ended the unnecessary and time-wasting debate on this. Why are they dithering? What are they hiding? After all, during Buhari’s campaign, the impression he gave to Nigerians who trusted and voted for him was that he was just like one of them struggling to eke out a living. He even disclosed that he borrowed money to pay for his party form for the expression of his presidential ambition.
Thus by not readily making the details of his assets known to the public, Buhari is doing his government a great disservice rather than good. Now, he is leaving room for Nigerians to suspect that he is not as credible as he portrayed himself while campaigning for office. Worst still, he leaves the citizens with the impression that he would either be personally corrupt or he would condone corruption around him. And Nigerians would be sorely disappointed should there be any hint of corruption in his government.
Before and after the election, Buhari has been popular among the citizens because he is seen as capable of charting a much-desired trajectory of transparent governance in the country.
As it is clear from the expectation of the citizens, one major way he can retain the people’s support for his administration is for him to continue to keep to this path of credibility.
Hopefully, Buhari and Osinbajo would avail themselves of the 100 days allowed public officers to declare their assets to make the details of theirs known to the citizens. Nigerians who are persuaded that the president and his deputy must make the details of their assets public may have to wait for this period to elapse. After this, they may invoke the Freedom of Information Act to get the information from the CCB.
But Buhari and Osinbajo should not allow the citizens to take the initiative; they should willingly oblige Nigerians of the details of their assets. This is the right course for them to re-assure Nigerians that they have not made a wrong choice by reposing their confidence in them and that an era of greed and profligacy in government would not be reenacted.
All other public officials should equally make the details of their assets known to the public. Anyone who cannot do this should reject such appointments.
Nothing less is expected from the government whose mantra is change – from corruption and profligacy to transparency, accountability and prudence.