By Femi Aribisala
ONE month ago, the APC had whipped its supporters into frenzy in believing it is bound to win an election it really has no chance of winning. In truth, if the election had been conducted then for chairman of the EFCC, Muhammadu Buhari would have been declared winner by a landslide. However, with postponement of the election, a lot of water has passed under the bridge. Even Buhari’s self-styled credential as Mr. Integrity has unraveled.
Buhari’s entire campaign posture for the 2015 presidential election stands on two shaky grounds. He fashions himself as Mr. Integrity; the implacable enemy of corruption in Nigeria. He is the one who reportedly is going to ensure that corruption is a thing of the past in Nigeria. He is also the one who is going to destroy the Boko Haram in the twinkling of an eye; even though a number of months ago, he was negotiating for amnesty and golden handshakes for the insurgents, and they nominated him as their preferred middleman in any truce negotiation with Nigeria.
Things have not gone too well for the Buhari campaign since the postponement of the election. He did not help things by disappearing off the political radar for virtually two weeks. By the time he re-surfaced, Boko Haram was toast. We no longer needed Buhari’s vain promissory notes to deal with the insurgency. One after another, town after town were recovered from the Boko Haram. In many respects, they have been routed as the Nigerian army came into its own after having received its new consignment of weapons.
As a result, we are no longer hearing anything from Buhari about whipping Boko Haram. All he had left was his anti-corruption mantra. But that one also came to grief with the airing of AIT’s tripartite documentary entitled: “The Lion of Bourdillon.” This alleged that Bola Tinubu, the self-styled national leader of the APC, is steeped in corruption. It claims Tinubu is the biggest landlord in Lagos, and maintains he has acquired so much property through very sharp practices.
While the veracity of these allegations is yet to be ascertained beyond reasonable doubt, the documentary has brought to the fore the flies in the anti-corruption ointment of Buhari. The truth is that corruption in Nigeria is not the exclusive preserve of the PDP. It is also the chronic ailment of the APC. Neither is corruption only the malaise of the Federal Government; it is equally the malaise of state governments, including those ruled by the APC. Indeed, Murtala Nyako of the APC was impeached and removed as governor of Adamawa State partly because it was alleged that he had corruptly enriched himself with government funds.
The question then is this: Does Buhari’s so-called zero-tolerance for corruption extend to his APC colleagues? Will Buhari, in the unlikely event that he becomes president, go after APC thieves as well as PDP thieves? Or will he turn a blind eye to APC thieves and molly-cuddle them? Suddenly, the anti-corruption searchlight turned on to Buhari and his friends, and just as suddenly, we discovered what some of us have always known: that Buhari, the Emperor of Anti-Corruption, has no clothes.
Buhari’s response to the issue of corruption in APC ranks reeked with sheer hypocrisy and double-standards. Like charity, Buhari’s anti-corruption must begin at home in the APC if it is to be credible. However, Buhari is not inclined to prosecute his friends. Instead, he came up with a pronouncement that virtually rubbished his anti-corruption posture. He said: “Whoever that is indicted of corruption between 1999 to the time of swearing-in, would be pardoned. I am going to draw a line, anybody who involved himself in corruption after I assume office, will face the music.”
Insurance for corrupt supporters
This means as long as you steal money between 1999 and 2011, you have nothing to fear under a Buhari presidency. This is, of course, an insurance policy for his corrupt supporters, assuring them that they would have nothing to fear by giving him their vote. Buhari did not come out in strident support of Bola Tinubu. He did not come out to tell the world that, contrary to the AIT documentary, the Bola Tinubu he knows is a man of unimpeachable integrity. Instead, he told the world that if there are thieves among his friends, they can rest assured that he would pardon their thievery.
When President Jonathan pardoned the former governor of Bayelsa, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, a man who had been convicted of corruption and was a refugee from justice from Britain, Nigerians were incensed. This was rightly seen as the president condoning corruption. One would have thought this kind of thing would not occur with a man who talks anti-corruption day and night. However, in the case of Buhari, he would not only pardon one corrupt associate, he would pardon them all.
When asked how he was going to get funds to revitalise the economy, Buhari stated that he was going to get all corrupt past leaders and officials cough out their stolen money. This was nothing but a nonsensical policy. It is bizarre and odd for Buhari to think he can run Nigeria, revamp the educational system for example, by recovering stolen money. Where will he get this money from? Who will give it to him? Would such recovered money not amount to a storm in the teacup?
But now that he has dumped this anti-corruption charade in favour of a blanket pardon for the corrupt, it is clear that political reality is beginning to erode Buhari’s highfalutin campaign grandstanding. It is equally significant that Buhari’s new stance on corruption comes coincidentally after AIT documentary on “The Lion of Bourdillon,” where one of his most important allies was accused of corruption. Clearly, it is high time Buhari stopped deluding Nigerians that he is genuinely anti-corruption and that he can eradicate corruption in Nigeria by sending corrupt politicians to jail.
Buhari was Nigeria’s head-of-state for a period of 18 months in the 1980s. At the time, he ran so rough-shod over the Nigerian judicial system that the Nigerian Bar Association proscribed Nigerian lawyers from appearing in any of Buhari’s kangaroo courts. Buhari sent both corrupt and non-corrupt politicians to jail, sometimes for up to 300 years. Nevertheless, corruption was not eradicated. It continued unabated because it was not addressed structurally. Even the practice under Obasanjo of shooting armed robbers by firing squad in Bar Beach failed to stop armed robbery. All it did was to brutalise the Nigerian public.
Jonathan’s effective approach
Surely, the more reasonable and effective method is to remove the avenues for corruption. This is what Goodluck Jonathan has been doing. He has sanitized the payroll system by removing some 50,000 ghost-workers, saving the country a whopping N200 billion in the first instance. He has removed the fertilizer middlemen; saving Nigeria hundreds of billions of naira. He has sanitized the electoral register. Over three million ghost voters have been removed; one million in Zamfara State alone. He is going after corruption in the oil sector with the Petroleum Industry Bill.
In the vainglorious case of Buhari, it did not help matters that he fought corruption with corruption. He interfered blatantly in the judicial process. The judge who sent Fela to jail later went to apologise to him in hospital afterwards that he did it under government duress. Nevertheless, some members of the Nigerian public, baying for the blood of corrupt politicians, hanker back to the high-handed days of the Buhari era, when the human rights of innocent Nigerians were violated on the altar of anti-corruption, and some Nigerians were even judicially murdered under heinous retroactive decrees.
What Buhari is not telling them is that he has no power to do this under today’s democratic dispensation. Buhari goes on the stomp and says: “When we come into power, anyone who steals Nigerian money will end up in Kirikiri Maximum Prisons. We are going to make sure that Nigeria’s wealth belongs only to Nigerians.” But the truth of the matter is that, in a democracy, the president does not have the judicial power to send anybody to Kirikiri. If the EFCC does not prosecute, the president cannot become the chairman of the EFCC. If the judges do not convict, Buhari cannot transform himself into a judge.
All those who have been deceived into believing that Buhari will just become president and begin to lock up corrupt politicians left, right and centre are dreaming. In the unlikely event that Buhari becomes president, he will neither have the power to do so, nor the inclination to do so. The reason is simple: many of the thieves are his friends and allies in the APC. Buhari talks change, but he is running around with the old breed of politicians. You can always tell a lot about a man by the composition and character of his friends.
Buhari fashions himself as Mr. Integrity, nevertheless, he was not averse to serve under Sani Abacha, one of the most corrupt heads-of-state in the history of Nigeria. Even more significant, Buhari insisted that Abacha was not corrupt at all. On the 10th anniversary of Abacha’s death, Buhari told incredulous Nigerians that all the allegations of looting the treasury leveled against Abacha were “baseless.” He said: “ten years after Abacha, those allegations remain unproven because of lack of facts.”
Buhari held this position in spite of the millions of dollars of Abacha’s loot recovered from banks around the world, and in spite of the fact that the Abacha’s family signed a formal agreement to return over $1 billion of such monies to the Nigerian government. We can see therefore that, from the point of view of Buhari, only the PDP has the copyright on corruption. Every allegation of corruption leveled against his friends and financiers must surely be “baseless.”
It is this kind of double standard that prompted Buhari to jail Vice-president Ekwueme while only putting President Shagari under house arrest. Fela Anikulapo-Kuti poked fun at this in one of his songs. He said: “Driver commit accident Buhari lock conductor.” Given the many corrupt drivers that abound in Buhari’s APC’s, we can anticipate that he will only be interested in locking up conductors in the unlikely event that he ever becomes president.