March 15, 2015

Buhari: The face of anti-corruption

Buhari: The face of  anti-corruption

Gen. Muhammadu Buhar

•••How he will ‘whip’ APC members into line

Apart from his promises to end insurgency, create jobs, restore the dwindling economy and generally evolve a new Nigeria, one other elaborate campaign promise General Muhammadu Buhari, the presidential candidate of All Progressives Congress, APC, has repeatedly made is to stamp out corruption from the shores of Nigeria. But there seems to be an albatross on his neck. This deals with a widely held impression that a horde of persons who share an affinity with him in and outside his party are also corrupt. But even at that, is Buhari, himself, corrupt free? Will he achieve the purpose should he eventually win the election? Read to know the audacious move of, perhaps, the next president of Nigeria.

By Levinus Nwabughiogu 

Even though Nigeria’s problems may be conceivably ubiquitous, to him, it is summed up in one: corruption. Get it right in that area, then Nigeria would have been on its way to reclaiming her lost glory. And this is the message he has never hesitated to tell Nigerians since the very first day of his campaign that, if elected the next president of Nigeria, corruption would be a thing of the past.

Those who are very familiar with the presidential candidate of All Progressives Congress, APC, General Muhammadu Buhari, would not bat an eyelid to establish his integrity in this direction. Though some Nigerians, especially ardent supporters of his foremost political opponent, President Goodluck Jonathan, had dismissed this and accused him of enriching himself and his people while serving as Petroleum Minister in his military days, available records on Buhari’s stewardship have obviously numbed those accusations.

The same situation greets his days as former Head of State and, later, Chairman of Petroleum Trust Fund, PTF. Buhari has been serially accused of being corrupt. But for a man who stood against corruption in any guise, introduced War Against Indiscipline, WAI, after inheriting the reins of power from a military junta in 1983, prosecuted and jailed drug traffickers, planned the capture of a former Minister of Transportation, the late Umaru Dikko, on allegation of corruption, from London; one, then, finds it nauseating to hear Buhari being associated with corruption. In fact, to some people, it gives infantile convulsion that a man many people would be quick to say still lives in penury, when compared to his privileged contemporaries, could have enriched himself while in office.

But the people’s testimony on Buhari’s saintly stance has only got louder and louder as the years went by.  Now, it has been 30 years since Buhari exited office. Obviously, things have changed. Times have changed too that even if it could be taken that the man lived above board then, he would be tempted in today’s Nigeria and could fall. But   here comes the big question: Has the man changed? Perhaps, not to everyone’s knowledge yet.

The hate corruption message

•Buhari: Decked out


For one, Buhari, who will be squaring up to Jonathan of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, would better not contest the elections than halting his crusade against corruption. In fact, in some quarters, he has come to be known as the face of anti-corruption.

From Lagos to Chatham House in London, back to Kaduna, Port Harcourt and, indeed, all the states of the federation, Buhari has been unequivocal about stamping out corruption. At the moment, the canker worm is believably pervasive in the country and the APC presidential candidate has not stopping asserting his position on that.

Upon his declaration as the winner of the keenly contested primary election on Thursday, December 11, 2014, in Lagos, Buhari, who had just emerged the presidential candidate of APC while reading his acceptance speech, stated his stand on corruption.

His words: “On corruption, the government will enhance EFCC’s powers to investigate independently. Moreover, we intend to plug the holes in NNPC accounting. There will no longer be two sets of books, one for public consumption and another for insiders who profit from this slick fraud. In an APC government, the public will know how much NNPC makes and where all the money goes.

“No longer shall illegal flows of massive sums leave these shores to finance other economies. While our people languish in poverty, we effectively give financial aid to nations that is not justified. I am sick of this. It must stop. The money saved will finance jobs, health care and the provision of social safety net for the needy, weak and vulnerable of our land.

“We will be a compassionate government, for out of compassion arises the truest forms of wealth and progress a society can attain. We shall open the door to tertiary education to excellent students who otherwise could not afford it. Pregnant and poor women and children shall be entitled to basic health care.

“This is a Nigeria that I envisage but it is a far cry from the Nigeria that is now. Change is imperative if we are to avoid the impending national failure. Poor leadership placed us in the ditch. Continuation of poor leadership will only dig a deeper trench for all of us to fall in.”

The retired old soldier wouldn’t stop at that. While the first phase of the electioneering campaigns before the postponement lasted, Buhari’s message on redefining Nigeria never went out without a re-echo of a deep seated loathe against corruption. He was to later make louder as his commitment before the international community and indeed the entire globe. While speaking at the  Royal Institute of Internal Affairs, popularly called Chatham House, London, on Thursday, February 26, the unrepentant Buhari further affirmed his stand on corruption.

He said: “On corruption, there will be no confusion as to where I stand. Corruption will have no place and the corrupt will not be appointed into my administration.

“First and foremost, we will plug the holes in the budgetary process. Revenue producing entities such as NNPC and Customs and Excise will have one set of books only. Their revenues will be publicly disclosed and regularly audited. The institutions of state dedicated to fighting corruption will be given independence and prosecutorial authority without political interference.

“But I must emphasise that any war waged on corruption should not be misconstrued as settling old scores or a witch-hunt. I’m running for President to lead Nigeria to prosperity and not adversity.

“In reforming the economy, we will use savings that arise from blocking these leakages and the proceeds recovered from corruption to fund our party’s social investments programmes in education, health, and safety nets such as free school meals for children, emergency public works for unemployed youth and pensions for the elderly.”

Assets declaration

For a leader, ready to lead by example, assets declaration is a worthy avenue of showing it. Buhari  in a document titled, “I pledge to Nigeria”, pledged to make public his assets and earnings before, and perhaps, after office.

And for others who would be appointed in his government, there would be no indiscriminate or self drafted salary structures. The  Revenue and Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission, RMFAC, a statutory body created to determine the salaries and allowance of all political appointees, would sanction what become the pay packages of all the government officials.

He said, “I pledge to publicly declare my assets and liabilities, encourage all my appointees to publicly declare their assets and liabilities as a pre-condition for appointment.  All political appointees will only earn the salaries and allowances determined by the RMFAC.”

Buhari side by side with “corruptible” allies and sponsors

Perhaps, one knotty question since the coming together of the hitherto, Nigeria’s three major opposition parties, namely, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) – and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in February 2013, to form the APC has been how to find a confluence in the ideals, philosophy and sophistication of the various leaders in the party.

The concern became more worrisome when Buhari emerged the presidential candidate as  many feared that there are some corrupt leaders in the party who may prevail and lord it over him to do their bidding should he win the presidency. In fact, this is essentially why many people have expressed skepticism on Buhari’s candidature.

‘How corrupt APC members will be treated’

A scenario confirming such fear played out in Kaduna on Wednesday, during a town hall meeting attended by the APC leadership, candidates and a mix of Muslims and Christian clerics from the North western zone of the country when a  member of the audience innocuously reminded Buhari about some secular impressions that members of his party and perhaps sponsors who share some affinity with him were also corrupt, meaning that he may be hamstrung in the fight against corruption.

But hardly hard he finished his question than Buhari, ably represented at the meeting by his running mate, Professor Yemi Osinbajo answered to allay the fears of the people. One, if Buhari could do it in his military days, he can do it again. What later followed as the second leg of the answers was, to be fair to Buhari, the most sought after and the modest answer anyone could ever give. Osinbajo declared that Buhari would not spare any corrupt APC member no matter how highly placed either in the party or the society.

“On the issue of corruption, what General Buhari has said categorically is that as far as he is concerned, the day he is sworn-in as president, he would have drawn a line. Anybody who runs foul of the law, anything that is been investigated before will continue as it is.

“If you are found to be corrupt, you will receive the consequence, no matter who you are. Whether you are his brother, sister, his friends there will be consequences. That is what he has said and I think that is in line with the position of the party”, the vice presidential candidate stressed.

In the same vein, the Director, Media and Publicity Directorate of the APC Presidential Campaign Organization, APCPCO, Mallam Garba Shehu who spoke exclusively to Sunday Vanguard on the issue, said that with Buhari as the leader of the country, old things will pass away and all things will be new. He stated that even his “corrupt” friends and political associates would have no choice than to change for good.

“Some people say Buhari cannot fight corruption because of the people around him, I can tell you that the man is determined. And to be fair to all the people around General Buhari, they have submitted themselves to Buhari’s leadership which means they have decided to lead by example, which means that even if they have not been good people in the past that they want to change”, Shehu stated.

“Isn’t that better than for somebody to stubbornly cling onto old habit and say that the country must not change? The country is presently paying a price for failing to change. So, in all our scriptures, Bible or Quaran, God wants the bad man to change and become a good person. And the bad man who wants to change to become a good person is entitled to that change. He shouldn’t be stopped. So, Buhari wants to lead change and the important area for him is the issue of corruption and he will lead by example as he said at the Chatham House.

“Most of them around him know whom their leader is. And he said it when he addressed the business community in Lagos. He said there is no magic about it. The day they say Buhari is the President of Nigeria, the entire business and governance environment in Nigeria will change. There are people who will say that even if it stealing, we have done enough and now it is over”, Garba said.

Last line

Many analysts believe that Buhari has been exhaustive in his promise to evolve a new Nigeria. Convinced by this, they, therefore, feel that it is indisputable that a man, who has shown so much commitment both in words and deeds to rescue the country from corruption, would eventually poo-pooh. In their reckoning, Buhari, by those revolutionary utterances, dwarfs the controversial theories of Jonathan who has been quoted as saying: “What many Nigerians refer to as corruption is actually stealing.  Stealing is not the same thing as corruption”, and “You do not fight it by locking people in Kirikiri and closing down their businesses.” But would that make any difference? The answer lies in the passage of time.  March 28  is the day of judgment which Nigerians are keenly waiting for.