NIGERIAN authorities applaud themselves about fight against corruption. What has kept matters at the noise level is the exclusion of the high and mighty from prosecution. In Zambia it is different.
Former President of Zambia, Mr Rupiah Banda is on trial over an oil deal that was not transparent. Banda held a number of important posts under former President Kenneth Kaunda. After Kaunda’s long reign, Banda was one of the top figures that brought the Movement for the Multiparty Democracy, MMD, to power.
He was Vice President to Levy Mwanawasa, who was elected in 2006. Banda became president in August 2008 when Mwanawasa died of stroke. In the 2011 polls, Banda narrowly won the presidency.
When law enforcement agencies started investigating him for allegedly misappropriating over $11 million through oil he imported from Nigeria, with no record of its delivery to Zambia, the Zambian parliament stripped him of his immunity. He is on trial. He has pleaded not guilty, blaming his travails on his political opponents. It is now up to the courts to determine the case.
The Zambian story, and many others, where former leaders are called to account, demonstrates the true spirit of democracy. Governments are meant to serve the people and remain accountable to them in that service. It is an important point that Nigerian leaders often miss.
Nigeria is littered with many cases of alleged misappropriation of public funds, running in billions of dollars. Our leaders veil themselves with immunity and are never called to account for their conducts which promote corruption to a going enterprise.
Zambia’s grew over the years. It is one of few countries in Africa where the military has not intervened since independence in 1964. The only question mark was that Kaunda was able to perpetuate himself in power for 27 years before the first multiparty polls ousted him in 1991.
His successor Frederick Chiluba was tried for abuse of authority and corruption. In sharp contrast, corruption-riddled Nigeria has not been able to call a single ex-president to account for his stewardship, even with convictions abroad on the Halliburton and Siemens cases that named former Nigerian leaders.
Our presidents believe they are untouchable hence the atrocities they commit in office. Some of them named in several corruption cases strut majestically and sanctimoniously, calling other serving political leaders “thieves”. The air of immunity around them has bred other thieves who know they too would be spared.
Nigeria must re-rail her democracy, making sure that once leaders shed their immunity they should be brought to account. Without accountability in and out of office, our democracy would remain a travesty of justice.
Permanent immunity is unconstitutional and it breeds corruption.