By Douglas Anele
Last week, we observed that N970 million was budgeted for President Muhammadu Buhari to move around within the country and abroad this year. From that money, N739, 487,784 will be for his international travels and transport alone. Of course, the escalating cost of governance at the federal level also applies across the presidency, from the Vice President, Prof. YemiOsinbajo, to the President’s chief security officer, together with the National Assembly dominated by APC members.
Now consider this: for the foremost anti-graft agency in the country today, the EFCC, construction of its new head office will gulp N7, 912, 502, 911 according to the 2016 budget, and the building will be furnished with the sum of N1, 100,595,088, and another N244.7 million to be paid for consultancy! In 2016, the EFCC’s budget for photocopiers was N3, 260,000; this year, it has leaped acrobatically to N13, 755, 000. Similarly, in the current budget, N4, 583,616,838 has been earmarked for completing the EFCC head office. This means that N13,840,714,837 would be spent on building the new headquarters for the commission, aside from the huge sums stated above for furnishing and procurement of photocopiers.
Lest I forget, despite the billions of naira budgeted for the clinic in Aso Rock Villa since this government came into office, the President has been going for medical treatment abroad, and he and his handlers have refused to disclose the nature of his ailment and the expenditure incurred thus far in treating him, which means that Nigerians who elected Buhari to serve them and are paying his medical bills do not know what is wrong with their leader and how much has been spent on his medical treatment.
From the foregoing, even making allowances for inflation caused largely by the half-baked fiscal and monetary policies of the federal government, it can be inferred that this administration has not been able to initiate a paradigm shift from wasteful expenditure to a more rational and prudent management of public resources. Besides, the unwholesome secrecy concerning the President’s health is a negation of the principle of transparency, which is an important pillar of democratic governance. It appears that Buhari is operating with the philosophy enunciated by pigs in George Orwell’s enthralling satire of hypocritical dictatorship entitled Animal Farm, to wit, that “all animals are equal but some are more equal than others.” No one who has read Orwell’s book would miss the corrupting impact of such a philosophy of leadership on the society.
For a government that ran on the platform of change and zero tolerance for corruption, President Buhari’s attitude to reports of corruption against some of his loyalists and appointees is hypocritical, to say the least. Earlier, I have alluded to the nepotic manner in which serious allegations against Buratai and Amaechi were handled by the EFCC. So now, the relevant question is: Why would a President who claims to be serious about killing corruption before it destroys the country insist on having Magu confirmed as chairman of the EFCC after the Department of State Services (DSS) had reaffirmed its initial negative report which indicated unequivocally that Magu was unsuitable for the office and the Senate, on the strength of that report, rejected him the second time? What was Abubakar Malami, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, thinking when he defended BabachirLawal, despite allegations of corruption against the latter contained in an interim report by the Senate committee on internally displaced persons in the north-east. The issue here is simple and straightforward: either President Buhari was seriously mistaken in thinking that Magu, Lawal and his loyalists and cronies are on a higher moral level than top officials of the much-inveighed immediate past administration merely because they have been supporting him over the years or he considers them almost irreplaceable in his government and, as a result, is willing to protect them and risk credibility crisis and loss of public support for his anti-corruption programme. Whatever might be the case, there is no doubt that an increasing number of Nigerians are beginning to doubt whether this President, this APC federal government, can deal effectively with bulimic corruption.
I must at this point raise some issues about the manner in which the EFCC has been carrying out its duties especially since Senate’s refusal to confirm Magu as substantive chairman of the commission. For some time now, Nigerians have been bombarded with very disturbing news, including pictures of millions and billions both in local and foreign currencies hidden in all manner of places by unidentified corrupt high-ranking public officials. In the eyes of gullible buharimaniacs, including those with high-sounding academic titles and positions, the nauseating public display of stolen money is incontrovertible evidence that Magu is performing magic, that Buhari’s war against corruption, now fortified with the “inchoate whistle blower policy,” is marching ahead triumphantly. In as much as I agree that corruption in all its ramifications is an evil that must be dealt with severely, I strongly believe that the Nollywood style of the EFCC is self-serving and unsustainable. To begin with, it is highly probable that some of the discovery claims by the commission are stage-managed. Based on information from reliable sources, some of those sermonising loudest in the media against corruption are hideously corrupt also. Consequently, why would a whistle blower prefer two percent of the fifty million, hundred million or even fifteen naira hidden in a burial ground, septic tank and so on, which is the percentage government is willing to offer, and the risks associated with whistle blowing, when he or she could get up to thirty percent or more by conniving with others to carry the money and share it among themselves?How are we sure that only N15 billion and not N15.5 billion or N16 billion was found in the luxury flat in Ikoyi, Lagos? What is the guarantee that the DSS, EFCC, and the police are telling the truth any time they declare publicly that x amount of money was found in location y? In my opinion, nothing stops greedy officials of these law enforcement agencies from pocketing some of the cash before making public their so-called discoveries. After all, the federal government is not paying living wages, and it takes rare moral courage developed and nurtured over time for a poorly paid employee to resist the temptation of easy huge money when the possibility of detection is very low.
Sometimes I wonder why the EFCC is making a public show and drama in the performance of their official functions. Maybe the APC government is obsessed with proving that Buhari is fighting corruption more effectively than Jonathan, which, to my mind, is childish and counterproductive. It is like running an important race and always looking behind to ascertain whether one’s rival is too close for comfort. What is the benefit in repeatedly washing our dirty linen in public and worsening further our negative reputation as the Mecca of corruption in Africa, thereby discouraging foreign and diaspora investors who might be willing to do business in our country? To be candid, just like executions by firing squads there is no real benefit in EFCC’s public displays, and the ones paraded by buharimaniacs are a mirage.
Another subtle form of corruption that has gained ground since President Buhari came to power is the distorting influence of sycophants. Historically speaking, sycophancy is coeval with the emergence of civil society and political leadership, and its prevalence and negative impact are largely dependent on the dominant moral consciousness in the community. In our country, sycophancy became so professionalised during the period of military dictatorship that respected politicians encouraged late General Sani Abacha to transform into a civilian President because, in their warped thinking, he was the only man that can save Nigeria from impending political calamity caused by the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
To be continued.