Can Buhari Multitask: Develop the Economy and Fight Corruption Simultaneously?

The Nigerian nation is not smiling right now. The state of economy and infrastructure is at an all-time low. Even the PDP’s 16 years that ‘…the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm…’ can’t be compared to this. We can barely pay salaries under the APC. And this is not the change that we voted for last year. It seems like Buhari’s government has stood still on everything else just to fight corruption. Can’t he multitask? If I can upload a picture on Instagram and still chat on Whatsapp at the same time, why can’t Buhari carry out developmental projects at the same time as he’s fighting kwarafshin? Well, the answer is ‘No!’. He can’t. When your laptop is about to crash because of a very bad virus, you can’t be browsing and still be trying to remove the virus at the same time. You can’t multitask this time around, can you? And when your car A/C is bad and the car engine is knocking, do you repair the engine and the A/C at the same time?

Because of the malignant nature of corruption in Nigeria, Buhari will need to fight corruption before having any realistic chance of moving ahead.

Because of the malignant nature of corruption in Nigeria, Buhari will need to fight corruption before having any realistic chance of moving ahead.

There are things you can’t combine at the same time. You can’t talk and swallow at the same time. You can’t sleep and read at the same time. You’ll have to leave one for the other. And you can actually choose or leave either. You can choose to talk and forget about swallowing. Or swallow and forget about talking. You can read and forget about sleeping. Or sleep and forget about reading. But there are situations where not only you can’t combine things, you must compulsorily do one before the other. This is the situation where you want to uproot deep, severe corruption and you want to develop the economy and build infrastructure at the same time. It’s impossible. You’ll have to fight corruption first.

Is Nigeria the only country in the whole world fighting corruption? No. Have they stopped doing other things just to fight corruption? Once again, no. All countries fight corruption. And lots of them still do other things alongside. But you can’t compare a country like UK to Nigeria. In those places, fight against corruption is already part and parcel of governance that it goes without saying. Sense of responsibility has been inculcated into the genes of every politician and citizen over the centuries. Impunity is alien. The anticorruption institutions are too powerful and the anticorruption mentality is the default setting. The government doesn’t have to commit so much emphasis on fighting corruption. It can concentrate on areas of development. They have no or very little corruption to uproot. Their main duty is to prevent corruption from invading the system. It’s not the same as ours where we have a lot of corruption to uproot. Theirs is more of prevention while ours is cure and you know curing is more laborious than preventing.

Imagine you’re the president and you’re planning to commit a large sum of money to develop the power sector. Equipment will be purchased. Professionals will be employed. All these will go into contracts. There’s a long chain of people involved, from the ministry (different directors and heads of departments) to the contractors, to the engineering companies. Imagine every single one of them being deeply corrupt. How do you think you’ll successfully execute the project? The folks in the ministry are ready to inflate the figures. The contractors are ready to use half of the funds to settle certain individuals. Before you get to the companies who are ready to use substandard materials for the job, having spent on the project only a fraction of the funds that finally trickle down to them at the end of the chain.

That’s why it’s difficult to think you will have concrete plans and not fight corruption first. With established, systemic corruption like we have in Nigeria, nothing tangible can be achieved. You can close your eyes to the corruption like the past PDP administration did. You can try to paper the cracks and dress the sepulcher. You’re simply setting a time bomb that keeps increasing in explosive power the longer it stays set. If you need any proof that refusing to fight corruption but mounting guady attempts of generating superfluous data to inveigle the whole world won’t work, just look at the past Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s government.

And let’s talk about this time bomb whose explosive power keeps increasing with every second it stays in the standby mode. You’ll agree with me that the earlier you detonate it, the better. And that’s what Buhari’s government has done. The earlier we realize how precarious our situation is really, the better. The longer we float in the bubble of false invulnerability, the worse it will eventually get for us. Note that the bomb will surely explode. It’s something you can’t prevent. Just like the university core course without which you can’t graduate.

But is Buhari really fighting the corruption? If he’s excused for not doing much elsewhere, can we say his government will fight corruption? Well, I can’t say for sure but it appears so. Arrests have been made, investigations are in top gear, and prosecution (or ‘persecution’ depending on who you talk to) is ongoing. People are returning funds but the democratic dispensation and corruption in the judiciary contribute to the delay in judicial execution leading to next-to-none convictions being made already. APC stalwarts like Governor Rauf Aregbesola are walking around free yet to be rightly investigated while PDP members like Ayo Fayose are being rightly investigated already. There are so many problems militating against whatever desire Buhari has to fight corruption. And I wrote a whole article on that. Click here to read it.

But we’ve only spent one year and it’s too early to conclude that this government hasn’t succeeded in its promise to fight corruption. The amount of activity that has taken place in this regard in just one year is already more than what Jonathan did in five years. Deride the effort if you like. Disparage it for all you care but it doesn’t change the fact that given the present circumstances that we find ourselves, I doubt whether anybody else could’ve done any better in just a year.

So how many so-called prosecutions have they achieved, you ask? You need to realize that prosecutions aren’t the only way to fight corruption. There are systemic policies that fight corruption in ways that may not be obvious to the naked eyes. The TSA and IPPIS are examples of such policies. Strict pursuance of due protocol in all government activities is another one. Empowering the media to report and inform the public about ongoing corruption cases is another one. Call it ‘media trial’ but it works.

All these are to create anticorruption consciousness in every citizen of the country. These kinds of fight start from a paradigm shift in mentality and if there’s anything the Buhari government has done in one year, it’s that it has successfully sounded the alarm to all and sundry. Now we all know that as far as corruption is concerned, it’s no longer business as usual. If there’s a way by which you can survey the usage of the word ‘corruption’ in social media and real life conversations of Nigerians, you’ll notice that it has reached an all-time high in the last one year. That’s an achievement already if you know what I mean.

But is Buhari doing anything else apart from fighting corruption? If he can’t do full multitasking, can’t he even try ‘chinkini’ multitasking? Well, I think he is doing something. Remember that the budget has just been passed this year. That’s their own first budget, the one through which their own plans and programs will be executed. So let’s wait for one year after the budget and reappraise our position as to how he’s been able to combine other things with his efforts to fight corruption. But remember that when your PC is moribund due to a very serious virus attack, you can hardly do anything else apart from trying to remove the virus. Perhaps you can reply an email or something but you can’t download movies or run your Autocad and Adobe Photoshop while removing the virus. Similarly, no government in Nigeria might be able to do any major rehabilitation in the areas of economy, security, and infrastructure while trying to fight corruption at the same time. One just has to come before the other.

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