By Josef Omorotionmwan
EVIDENTLY, President Muhammadu Buhari is torn between two worlds: if he gets too tough, people will easily conclude that he is back to his 1984 elements. But if he relapses into his “born again” stance of democracy, he will be seen as the Go-Slow President. The erroneous conclusion is already being drawn in some quarters that Buhari is fast walking himself into becoming Nigeria’s weakest President ever.
All the same, Buhari cannot be too careful, having chosen for himself, the path of the fight against corruption. This is a fight that understands only one language – the use of force!
The fight is coming at a time when corruption has virtually become a way of life in Nigeria. For instance, the Legislative and Judicial branches of government that should be major combatants in this fight are totally immersed in corruption.
What will Buhari be remembered for? This fight against corruption is a noble course. Given the tough terrain in which the fight is raging, the administration is doing its best in a difficult area.
The war against corruption is a catalyst for governance. Without it, development cannot take place, or at best, growth and development will remain stunted.
A country like Nigeria, which is known globally more for corruption than for anything else should be seen to be taking extra, visible and tangible measures to contain the menace.
The Buhari administration has shown the way to fight corruption. And this should be the minimum yardstick for measuring the success or otherwise of all future governments. Anything less will simply amount to scratching the problem on the surface.
He who stands for nothing will fall for anything. Buhari should have no apologies for standing solidly for anti-corruption. See how he has promoted the war against corruption to the level of our major revenue earner. With just a bit of transparency, it might soon become clear that Nigeria is now earning more money from loot-recovery than from oil in its heydays.
If it is true that the end justifies the means, every well-meaning Nigerian must encourage Buhari to pursue the war most relentlessly. In this age of plummeting oil price, loot-recovery has conveniently over-thrown King Oil – except that this is without the risk and rigour of oil exploration where people had to spend endless periods in the creeks of the Niger Delta.
Unplanted money is now sprouting up everywhere in the country. A few weeks back, it was Yakubu’s gift in Kaduna; and this past week, “EFCC uncovered $43.4m, N23.2m, £27,800 in an Ikoyi Apartment”. Who still doubts the success of the anti-graft war?
As it were, the Buhari Administration has lifted the new industry to the high level of compulsory savings from the past. And the horizon is even expanding more than the oil industry. See how an industry that started very small, trying to capture the looters of the immediate-past administration has now spiraled into the Malabu Scandal of yester-years and it is still expanding endlessly. This new industry is an enviable asset.
What we are seeing today in the accounting for the recovered loots may be the very nature of our general accounting system. In retrospect, in the era of King Oil, how much of the oil revenue was being properly accounted for? It has always been a science of dabbling through! But we hope the administration can improve on this.
What Buhari must quickly realise is that it takes a thief to catch a thief. In a war against corruption, there should be no sentiment; and there should be no sacred cows. The administration must distance itself from anyone accused of wrong doing. Corruption must fight back but it must not be allowed to win no matter how loud the nouveauriche may become.
Why should Buhari be clinging tenaciously on Ibrahim Magu as the EFCC boss? What could be so special about a man who has been caught in the worst conflict of interest situation? Here is a Federal Government that is buying whistles for all Nigerians and asking them to blow the whistles on corrupt people. Which whistle could be louder than the one the Senate has blown on Magu? In normal climes, the only place for Magu is the prison, having thoroughly violated the provisions of Part I of the Fifth Schedule to the 1999 Constitution. Such should be avoided while his place in prison is being prepared.
Again, the war against corruption cannot be prosecuted with kid gloves. Nigeria is perhaps the only place where people accused of corruption sit over the judgment throne of corruption. A good part of the Senate today is predominated by people who have one corruption scandal or the other hanging over their heads. Why would such want the anti-corruption war to succeed? Rather, they are there picking and choosing who should try them, padding the laws; and amending the sections they have violated to suit their clandestine motives. Instead of writing the law, they are writing themselves into the law.
Anyone accused of a crime must step aside for justice to be done. What we want to hear by now is that Buhari is working assiduously to rid Nigeria of her double-standard laws. Any civil servant who has a criminal case in court is interdicted – he steps aside. If he wins, he returns to the job; and if he loses, he goes to prison. Why should the case of the politicians be different?
Elsewhere, the Governor of the State of Alabama, USA, Robert Bentley, is enroute to the Montgomery County Penitentiary as we speak, having pleaded guilty to two misdemeanours: Failing to file a major contribution report and knowingly converting campaign contributions to personal use. Under the terms of the plea deal, Bentley had to resign from office within sixty minutes of the guilty plea.
In the more advanced democracies, these things happen every day – no mercy for the corrupt! Like Buhari, those people would rather kill corruption than allow corruption to kill them. This is the only way to go.