By Omoh Gabriel
Nigeria is a country of ironies. Issues are not treated on merit. Every leader follows his fancy and Nigerians just tag along. There is no clear cut national policy or direction. Today, it is President Muhammed Buhari’s fancy that Nigerians are just kicking one another for. Buhari’s body and vocal language is war on corruption. As it now seems the APC and the President are making it look like everything about Nigeria is corruption.
Yes, there is corruption in the land. Yes, Nigeria needs to get rid of corruption. Yes, there is need to recover every kobo from treasury looters. President Buhari as a retired military General knows that war are not won by rhetorics. When all the monies are recovered and kept in the CBN, it becomes a mere stock of resources. What then happens after is the fundamental question that Buhari and his handlers have not addressed.
The war on corruption can be fought and won without the present noise being made about it. His harping on corruption as if it is the only problem in the country at every opportunity, is in fact de-marketing the nation, the economy and Nigerians. The President can fight the war on corruption by talking less and empowering the various institutions charged with this responsibility to do their work.
The President is making the world see that there is nothing in the country except corrupt people. It is not every Nigerian that is corrupt. Nigeria certainly has good people. The problem is that corruption assumed a larger- than-life status in the life of some administrations years ago. These men and women are those that will be spared the agony of the pending probe. This President must be courageous enough to ask the EFCC to look at every level of administration and life of key functionaries of government and wherever and whom so ever they found to be corrupt should be called to question.
Clear cases that have become a scar in the nation’s body politic should be visited and dealt with openly if this government is serious about fighting corruption. Every Nigerian knows for instance that the Halliburton bribe scandal left an open wound in the political culture of Nigeria. The wound is deep and hurting, yet, those in government and public offices then, their associates and collaborators are walking the streets and the government that is talking tough about corruption is not in any way willing to visit the matter.
In the international community, this is one case of corruption that more serious governments have punished those involved both at corporate and individual levels. No government and institution outside Nigeria that is aware of this issue will take the current talk about fighting corruption in Nigeria seriously.
Mr. President must rethink the entire strategy of this war and bring to book whoever has ever stolen one kobo from Nigeria’s treasury. No sacred cows. All Nigerians must be treated equally.
Besides, the President should talk less and allow those he appointed to do their job by identifying cases of corruption and bringing them to justice. It is time for action. The noise has become boring. In this war on corruption, it would pay the nation more to make room for those who can and are willing to come on their own to surrender what they have stolen.
The committee on recovery of stolen funds should actually encourage treasury looters to come forward on their own to surrender their loots. In this case, such men that will voluntarily come forward should be given opportunity to explain themselves and recover what they stole. They should be quietly asked to take one of two options – not to come close to any public office, contract or deal with government for 10 years or go into self exile for the same period. This will save the nation the trouble of going to court and the litigation expenses that will follow. The case of corruption could drag for years, and in any case, may be very difficult to prove.
The President must know for sure that curing Nigeria of corruption is not going to end the economic predicament the nation is currently faced with. It is no secret that a lot of damage has been done to the nation’s economy by these corrupt men. But recovering all the looted funds from them will not automatically fix the nation.
The money recovered will be a stock that can be used up in no time. By the time it is appropriated if recovered in two or three appropriation bills, it would have gone without any one knowing. What this government should be more concerned with is how to grow the economy in such a way that there will be continued flow of resources into government coffers that will boost expenditure and improve the general welfare Nigerians.
Buhari must rally Nigerians around him to rebuild the economy. He must use the nation’s population to create markets for what Nigeria produces. Nigeria must grow local, buy local and eat local. The President should today direct all Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs to serve local foods, especially local rice and cassava bread and other foods at all official functions of government. Tuwo shinkafa should be served in the State House.
The President must be aware that out of the 160 million Nigerians alive today, official figures put 112 million as poor. It is the purchasing power in the hands of the individual, the disposable income that constitutes a market. A large proportion of the adult and youth population are unemployed, this is why growing the local market is key to growing the economy. Rice and cassava farming in Nigeria today is constrained by access to finance and the smallholding nature of the farmers as well as the traditional technology applied to farming. Besides, the land tenure system and its availability make commercial farming a mirage.
The expectation is that the current government must identify out-of-the-box innovative technology options that would add significant value to smallholder farmers in agriculture by reducing inefficiencies in the value chains, especially the harvest and post-harvest value chain elements. The roadmap to transforming the economy is massive investment, local or foreign.
Globally, investors are interested in places where their return on investments is high. Nigeria certainly qualifies as investors have found out that they reap higher benefits if they invest in Nigeria. The few that have done so, despite the challenges of infrastructure, have found this to be true. Yet, Nigeria is not a haven to foreign investors. Many investors out there who speak privately to Nigerians at investment fora are quick to point out that in Nigeria, there is no sanctity of contract and property rights are not clearly defined.
They are not worried about the lack of infrastructure as is always claimed by those who explain away the Nigeria situation. Shell, Mobil, Chevron, MTN, UACN and others know too well the infrastructural deficiency in the country, yet they invested and are reaping the benefits. These are pertinent challenges that the President should settle down and address his mind on how to solve them rather than chasing shadows.