Nigeria is one of the most corrupt nations in the world. Transparency International as at the last reckoning gave us a score of 26/100 and ranked us 136/168. In other words, out of 167 countries analyzed, only 32 countries are more corrupt than us. Recently, the British PM called us ‘a fantastically corrupt nation’. That’s a serious problem. A very serious one. Look at the poor economy, the infrastructural decay, everything. Roads are death traps. Hospitals are glorified mortuaries. Schools are nothing to write home about. Electricity is no longer epileptic: it has finally died nowadays. Large chunks of public workers all over the country are being owed salaries of unprintable number of months. As far as security is concerned, Nigeria is one of the places where you can die anytime. If you don’t get bombed by Boko Haram, the Fulani herdsmen are coming for you. If not, a group of angry Muslim youths can behead you for blaspheming. If you escape that, a gang of bandits can visit terror on your streets. Or abductors and ritualists can whisk you away on the highway. Don’t let’s go to the Naira exchange rates with the $ and the £. We’re an oil-producing nation where the citizens can’t get gas at an affordable price. There’s no present for the elders and there’s no future for the youths. Every single one of these evils can be traced to corruption and if there’s anything we should all join, it’s the government’s anti-corruption fight.
In Nigeria, public officials use their positions to enrich themselves with impunity. From the ministers through the DG’s of parastatals and legislators to the governors and local government chairmen, corruption is ubiquitous in our system. Large sums of money continuously move from the public coffers into private bank accounts without any major repercussions. This devastating trend has been on for decades and has accelerated in the latest democratic dispensation that started in 1999. Several organs of the government were saddled with the responsibility of executing the anti-corruption fight — the Police, the DSS, ICPC, EFCC, and the judiciary. But nothing concrete happened. Those who have looted the nation dry are still walking around freely and even looting more. In terms of corruption, the 16 years of PDP rule (1999 – 2015) in the history of the country are better described as ‘…the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm…’ (Joel 2:25 KJV).
In the build-up to the 2015 general elections, anti-corruption fight was one of the major points of Buhari and APC’s campaign. A large section of the voters (including myself) voted Goodluck Ebele Jonathan out and voted Buhari in. We wanted corruption stamped out of the system. We wanted someone that would prosecute all the offenders. A vote for Buhari was a vote for anti-corruption fight.
It’s over a year now that he became the president and many people believe that nothing has been done in the area of anti-corruption fight. I disagree. Something has actually been done. Arrests have been made. Prosecutions have begun. People have returned funds. However in my own reckoning, we’ve not done much. We’ve not even begun to scratch the surface. What we’ve done is too little to be considered.
And I also feel that Buhari and his government are handicapped. That’s why we’ve not achieved much. And that’s why we might not move in the appropriate speed concerning this issue. Why is it so? Why is Buhari’s anti-corruption fight never going to be easy?
For starters, the process that produced Buhari is a corrupt system in itself. I’m not talking about the election which was averagely free and fair. I’m talking about the structure of the party that produced him. Certain governors in the party illegally diverted their state funds into the campaign. Certain elements that worked tirelessly towards the emergence of the president should be answering corruption charges as we speak. Fashola had the website scandal around his neck in the buildup to that election. Till today, nobody has done anything about it. Aregbesola, Osun State Governor, has misappropriated funds so much that workers are being owed for eternity now. He’s yet to face EFCC. No serious person can say that Tinubu, Rotimi Amaechi, etc, are clean guys. How can a law enforcer emerge from the midst of criminals? He has two options: either he fights the corruption within the system that’s supporting him and he collapses or he leaves them alone and he remains strong. And he needs to be strongly supported to fight corruption. Here lies the vicious cycle. How do you break it?
Someone argued that if we’re to fight corruption, we need to face the 16-year misrule of the PDP. In other words, while the present administration keeps going over the misdeeds of the past administration, they can only prosecute those in the former ruling party since they were the ones that mismanaged the country. But there’s a fallacy in there. I can’t provide the exact figures now but a sizeable number of the present APC members were in PDP in those ‘locust’ years. How come none of them has been brought to book? And while the PDP was ruling at the centre, a few states were being ruled by the APC (or AC/ACN). Were they all clean too?
I don’t support the allegations of selective persecution. I believe that even though the people presently being prosecuted belong to the opposition, they actually deserve to be prosecuted. I’m just arguing for the scenario in which the president, the chief anti-corruption fight executor, needs support to succeed but unfortunately, he can only be supported by folks who are guilty themselves.
Let’s talk about Saraki and Fayose for instance. News reaching us says that Fayose’s bank account has been frozen by the EFCC, Buhari’s anti-corruption machinery. Yes. Fayose needs to be investigated. But when will Aregbesola’s account be similarly frozen? As we speak, Saraki is standing trial separately for two issues: for forging documents that made it possible for him to emerge Senate president and for doctoring his asset declaration papers. Simple question: would he be in this quagmire if he had not previously stepped on the toes of the big boys in his party?
These are the hazards of democracy in an underdeveloped nation like ours. It’s terrible but I’m optimistic that it’s only a matter of time before things settle properly. I’ve not regretted voting for Buhari. I’m just analyzing the enormity of the task ahead.
Now to the masses. The ruled. The governed. We ourselves don’t know the gravity of corruption. We’ve not shown any signs of readiness to join in the anti-corruption fight. Femi Falana was on radio in Osun State last week (Rave 91.7 FM, Osogbo) where he confidently told us about how money exchanges hands between the lawyers and the judges handling all these corruption cases in court. According to him, it’s like a bazaar. The side that offers more money to the judge wins the case. When the judiciary is also corrupt, where’s the hope of the common man?
Estate agents receive offers from clients, offers to purchase properties in different parts of the country. A level 8 public officer wants to acquire a landed property worth ₦500m and the estate agent doesn’t raise an alarm. Are we ready to fight corruption? Same goes for bank managers who observe large sums of money entering their customers’ accounts without carrying out background checks on such customers. Some of the bankers even actively participate in money laundering and other crimes. How do you want Buhari to succeed in his anti-corruption fight?
I’ve spoken about the politicization of the anti-corruption fight, how one political party accuses the other of selective prosecution. APC did it when PDP was in power. Now PDP is doing the same as APC is in power. While it may be true that the prosecution has been selective, shouldn’t we be asking ourselves whether those being prosecuted are actually guilty or not? What should matter to us all: that members of our political party are being persecuted or that the thieves among us are being prosecuted?
The thing is not only politicized. It’s also ethnicized. Did you see how Ilorin indigenes filled up luxurious buses and besieged the court premises in which their illustrious son, Saraki, was being tried? Picture yourself as the judge sitting over a corruption trial and looking over the window, you’re seeing thousands of the accused person’s townsfolk in ankara uniforms singing and chanting his praise? Isn’t it pathetic that the masses whose lives are being destroyed by the gluttonous behaviour of the corrupt leaders are the same ones that give blind political and ethnic support to the thieves? We’re not ready to end corruption.
I’m sorry for Buhari and his anti-corruption fight. And I don’t envy him at all. The way Nigeria and its citizens roll right now, there’s very little that can be achieved.