BY JOHNBOSCO AGBAKWURU
ABUJA—FORMER British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw has said that corruption and lack of transparency among the political class have become a great problem that have permeated all cadre of administration in Nigeria.
Straw said that for the war against corruption in the country to be decisively fought and won by government and the people, there must be transparency in governance at all levels as well as incorruptible judiciary to give appropriate penalties to apprehended corrupt officials.
The former British Secretary who stated this yesterday in an interaction with Senators on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC, stated that though opposition may not be in government, they can use their voice in a democracy to bring about good governance.
He urged Nigeria to copy the British model by meting out stiffer penalties to corrupt officials, adding that allowing for transparency in governance and having clean courts to handle corruption related cases in the land, would go a long way in reducing corruption in the country
He said, “There’s need to raise the penalty for corruption in Nigeria. You have anti-corruption laws, you have great laws and you jail people on corruption and you ensure proper transparency; then, it’s safe to say that people would stop being corrupt. You’ve got to change the quality of your public administration.
“One of the encouraging signs about Nigeria is the fact that you have effective and viable opposition because democracy requires that there’s change. In democracy, there are alternatives.
“What message can I give you about opposition? Well, first of all, you can change the weather in opposition. Although you’ve not got the votes, you’ve got the voice. As you make the better use of the voice, you get public support, then you start to unnerve the government”
Straw however, challenged the opposition lawmakers to get quality manifestos and should not mistake the quantity of policies for quality of policies just as he described the 2011 elections as better than the rest but that it didn’t meet international standards.
He further stated, “The second thing is that you cannot just wait for the government to be unpopular…you have to fight crime, tackle health problems, deal with immigration and ensure transparency in government.
“Leadership is about character, but if you don’t have the right leaders, who have the right characters, the right backbone, then, it won’t work. He won’t have the qualities to bring out the best in people who would work with him.
“Of course, elections are fought through the prisms of leaders…don’t mistake quantity of policies for quality of policies”, he added.
Present at the interactive meeting were about five out of the 11 Peoples Democratic Party Senators, Senators Bukola Saraki, Danjuma Goje, Ali Ndume, Abdullahi Adamu and Umaru Dahiru, who had written to the senate to announce their defection to the APC.
They have maintained that they are already in the APC as they participated actively in the registration exercise of the APC and they proved this yesterday by openly aligning with the opposition lawmakers.
Speaking on behalf of the opposition Senators, the Senate minority leader, Senator George Akume said the country was under siege due to the rising wave of insecurity in the North East and some parts of the country.
Akume stated that lack of transparency was one of the major causes of insecurity and corruption in the country adding that the government had failed in its primary duty of protecting the citizens of the country
He told the former foreign secretary that as the nation was preparing for the 2015 elections, it was pertinent that the elections must be free and fair
The Senate Minority Leader said, “You are coming at a time when there are many problems in the country. On a positive note, you are coming when the country is celebrating its centenary, every country has its history, you are also visiting at difficult circumstances in our dear country.