There are many reasons a sitting President Goodluck Jonathan (as he then was) lost the 2015 election. Most of those reasons might be debatable. Not so the one bordering on the near-impeccable integrity of the man who gained from his loss. In the 20 months that (then Gen.) Muhammadu Buhari, ably supported by Tunde Idiagbon (now of blessed memory), ran Nigeria during the military years, even the blind saw, even the deaf heard, that the no-nonsense duo abhorred corruption. Nobody can argue that this wasn’t a major consideration when Nigerians were confronted with comparing and contrasting between Jonathan and Buhari. It was this that made the “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody” line in the latter’s May 29, 2015, presidential inaugural address to resonate globally as some sort of anti-corruption allegory. We knew that the hallmark of a Buhari presidency would be to “kill corruption before corruption kills Nigeria.”
However, on the eve of the second anniversary of his second coming, can we honestly say that this President has fought corruption the way we thought he would? That might be a gotcha question, for which I apologise; but it underlines nationwide discomfort with the very ‘unbuharic’ approach to a democratic Buhari’s fight against the vice. Placed side by side with his headlong style during his military heyday, there’s the temptation to think that the problem this time round is democracy. So, I ask: in the matter of fighting corruption, has democracy hindered, hampered or tamed President Muhammadu Buhari? Or is it his age, or the absence of an Idiagbon? Just what accounts for this nigerianised war, which on a normal day would have been a buharic anathema?
I concede that while age, democracy and inadequate vision-supporting personnel subtract from or water down the President’s anti-corruption energy, the credit or blame for the knockout blow that has completely taken the wind out of the anti-corruption sails should go to politics or political correctness. It is politics that has messed up the entire thing. Agents of the federal government miss the point big time, almost always, when they explain away reactionary vibrations by those on trial as corruption fighting back. Corruption never fights back. What does is selective justice or injustice, or favouritism, alias different strokes for different folks. That is the tragedy of the Buhari anti-corruption mission.
To be sure, there are a couple of silver linings in the cloud. For instance, hate it or love it, the introduction of the whistleblower law is a smart innovation that cures our hitherto incurable nonchalance while simultaneously satisfying our greed. All the other laws in Nigeria, which remain perpetually ignored or ineffective, must be retouched with the whistleblower anointing. Nigerians want a carrot-and-stick law, one that rewards them with a piece of the action. That is, our legislators must henceforth build into every law the proviso that 5 per cent of whatever revenue is generated or brought in or caused to be received by government shall be paid to the citizen that ensured it. This might be the tax talisman Nigeria has waited a century for. Get whistleblowers everywhere.
The other beauty in what the President is doing can be said to be the fear accrual or scarecrow element. Suddenly, in Nigeria, past and present public office holders are careful about stealing brazenly or vehemently displaying stolen wealth both of which were national idiosyncrasies before and after Buhari’s first coming. Yet, one can only be cautiously optimistic that the second post-Buhari era shall not see the country relapsing into more horrible corruption as happened after his first coming. This is a genuine fear, judging by the epilepsy that occasionally torments the current ant-corruption drive.
As ad hoc court verdicts upon verdicts have proved beyond every reasonable doubt, the defence of anti-corruption forces is quite weak and porous. There’s little or no inter-agency cohesion. I have read where other commentators think that EFCC and sundry agencies lack capacity. I think that judgment is rather harsh. What we should question instead is the poverty in strategy. We cannot and should not in the 21st century engage in jungle-justice media trial when the law insists that every accused person, let alone a suspect, is innocent until proved guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction. This is as bad as it can be. It is even worse and shameful when this is deployed selectively. You wait for months after malfeasance has been alleged before you suspend some and set up a committee to look at allegations against them but for others, you break into their homes, ridicule them publicly and, as it were, adjudge them guilty in the court of public opinion only to lose to them judicially at the end.
It is the bad blood pumped by this glaring injustice and lopsidedness that is fighting back. If EFCC et al continue their popularity ultimate search via pre-court media trials, media displays of money hauls and such other puerile antics, even the most honest citizens would begin to join the gathering band of thumb-downers. We should note that while the current approach might impress the world, it hurts our people who are out there on the global stage. Losing your citizens and winning the world is not how you fight corruption.
I fear that if we keep to this narrow path, these crude tactics (especially the insane display of monumental raw cash) might backfire to the point of a revolt by the very poor of the citizenry who struggle to eke out a living. EFCC & Company must not allow politics, ethnicity, religion or the craze for popularity damage the Buhari war against corruption. That indeed is how to fight corruption: selflessly, equitably and noiselessly. God bless Nigeria!
Gov. Umahi didn’t say that, did he?
Last Wednesday, Leadership newspaper promoted on its front page a story that left me completely flabberwhelmed. A sitting governor, who would probably seek re-election, was quoted to have declared that he won’t vote for his party’s presidential standard-bearer in 2019. I hope Mr. Dave Umahi didn’t say that.
But, since strange things happen every day in our political space, it is not too-over-the-bar to work with the possibility that the state chief executive might have committed that verbal political abomination. If true, no matter what reasons he advanced, I would say that the PDP man simply crossed the line.
People like Mr. Umahi should stop teaching our children and future leaders bad manners. Or doesn’t the Ebonyi state governor know that it’s sheer ingratitude and gross infidelity to sit on one platform and speak ill of it? Are these traits that compelled then Gov. Martin Elechi not to support him?
By the way, PDP should rise up and do ‘the ungovernorship needful’ since the man has clearly served notice that he’s either on his way out or he would stay back and cause havoc from within. Parties must devise ways of halting this Made-in-Nigeria political nonsense!