By Douglas Anele
Unfortunately for the sycophants who propped up Abacha as an “indispensable messiah,” death is not a respecter of persons: the leviathan died suddenly and Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar succeeded him.
It appears that right now sycophancy and its corrupting influence is gaining ground in Buhari’s government such that, despite the serious health challenges the President is facing, political chameleons and moral dwarfs are insisting that he is fit enough to contest for a second term of office in 2019. The cancerous growth of sycophancy around Buhari predated his election as President.
For example, in one of his campaign rallies, Buhari who had earlier been described as representing “expired leadership” in 2011, was being compared with Charles de Gaulle of France, Winston Churchill of Britain and Dwight Eisenhower of the United States, a clear indication of the belief that Nigeria needed a general to save her from disaster.
Based on this utterances and “body language,” it appears that Buhari actually thought that he is the messiah Nigerians ignorant of the lessons of history were expecting: he repeatedly claimed that his government was on a rescue mission and that, by the grace of Allah, he would succeed. But Buhari and those cheering him on are mistaken because no one is divinely ordained to do anything in this world: people just allow their religious fantasies, fears, dreams and aspirations to distort their interpretation of phenomena and events.
Why is sycophancy a dangerous form of corruption? Answer: because it tends to alienate leaders from reality through deliberate distortion and falsification of facts that would induce them to take wrong decisions. Professional sycophants exploit the emotional vulnerabilities of leaders by telling them what they want to hear, by overpraising them even for inconsequential deeds. A leader who swallows the opium of sycophants cannot be trusted to make reasonable choices based on dispassionate analysis of available information because he is insulated from the way things really are, and progressively craves for more adulation the way a drug addict craves for cocaine or heroin. Thus, sycophants promote corruption by corrupting the mind-set of leaders.
In as much as a plausible case can be made that some level of sycophancy is inevitable in governance given the frailties of human psychological architecture and the complexities of political leadership, it gets out of hand when those surrounding President Buhari relentlessly exaggerate his modest achievements or repeatedly blame his immediate predecessor for all our economic and security challenges without humbly acknowledging that the bad situation he inherited has been worsened by his errors of judgment. Given that there is no solid reason for believing that the existential condition of Nigerians will improve this year, assurances from government officials and apologists that the country is pulling out recession is insincere, a mere expression of wishful thinking.
Sycophantic buharimaniacs have lowered the standard for judging the performance of a sitting President, such that they praise to high heavens anything Buhari does no matter how undemanding or tangential.
They showered encomiums on him ad nauseam just for the belated suspension of Babachir Lawal, and clapped and danced when he wrote to the National Assembly that he was going on another medical vacation, as if these were fantastic achievements. Probably, deep down in their minds, these buharimaniacs are embarrassed by the discouraging performance of President Buhari whom they had projected as the messiah of our time.
Therefore, like a drowning man clutching at straws, Tinubu, Sagay, Lai Mohammed, Garba Shehu – even Prof. Wole Soyinka – are hanging on to anything, no matter how inconsequential, to make Nigerians believe that Buhari is working. Of course, gullible Nigerians and self-appointed activists and guardians of public morality will jump and clap if Buhari farts or sneezes.
However, as long as some of the most allegedly morally despicable Nigerians are involved in his government, as long as spiralling inflation, unemployment, epileptic electricity, insecurity, poverty, disease, feeling of alienation and hopelessness continue to terrorise millions of Nigerians, some of us would continue to remind the President that he might end up with a Pyrrhic victory against corruption because he is fighting corruption with corrupt ammunition.
We have reached the point where we can harvest the main points of our discussion. Point one: corruption is not just giving and taking of bribes or stealing of public funds and assets; it also includes all forms of perversion, decay or degradation.
Consequently, although some of the actions taken by this government against several highly placed corrupt individuals are appropriate and encouraging, the presidency should stop its protectionist preferential treatment of loyalists and friends of the President, which is a dangerous form of corruption, and minimise undue selectiveness in fighting it. Harassment of judges and refusal to obey court orders are perversions associated with dictatorship that must be avoided so that the judiciary can contribute meaningfully to the war against corruption.
Two, the EFCC should stop creating scenarios which suggest that some of its discovery claims of money-without-owners are stage-managed to deceive the gullible that the commission under Ibrahim Magu is working. Fighting malignant corruption is a very serious task that requires tact, strategy and superior intelligence; it is not a Nollywood drama.
The excessive public dramatisation of EFCC’s loot recovery efforts is worsening our already dented image across the world such that foreigners now look upon Nigeria as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. There is no point destroying the country’s image any further just to prove that Magu and his subordinates are really fighting corruption.
President Buhari’s obdurate refusal to replace Magu after the Senate had decided against his confirmation is unwise since no one is indispensable and there is a prima facie case of improper conduct against him. Besides, members of the National Assembly might refuse to cooperate with Magu and use their legislative powers to cripple the EFCC.
Therefore, the President should re-examine Magu’s case dispassionately and avoid unnecessary confrontation with federal legislators. Three, as long as a sizeable percentage of alleged morally depraved politicians are in Buhari’s inner sanctum of power, the war against corruption will not significantly improve the polluted moral ecology that pervades the country.
The APC does not have a corruption-retardant ideological framework or paradigm that would guide the current effort against corruption – that is why the party is harvesting some of the “morally undesirables” from other political parties, notably the PDP, who see the ruling party as a sanctuary to avoid EFCC’s dragnet.
Meanwhile, the federal government is not serious about drastic reduction in the cost of governance due to the dominant philosophy of “Do as I say, not as I do” in Aso Rock. Prominent buharimaniacs both in government and outside it continuously ask Nigerians to be patient with Buhari and bear the pains of recession now for a better tomorrow, but are unwilling to take concrete measures against profligacy in government.
Appropriating public resources to satisfy the bulimic appetites of the presidency and National Assembly when the vast majority are suffering is corruption of the worst kind because it perverts the fundamental principles of democracy defined by Abraham Lincoln as government of the people, by the people and for the people.
President Buhari’s manifest northernisation and Islamisation of top federal appointments especially in the security agencies has taken nepotic corruption to an unprecedented level that he seems to be the President of the Islamic Republic of Northern Nigeria. As an Igbo, I feel alienated from my country because Buhari has not been fair to Ndigbo notwithstanding their unequalled contributions to the development of modern Nigeria.
Now, the south east has the least number of federal projects in the 2016 and 2017 budgets, and in the projects to be executed with foreign loans. Fairness is a powerful antidote against corruption and separatist agitations, which means that the APC government should recalibrate the way it is treating different parts of the country to ensure justice and equity in the distribution of federal appointments and national resources.
In conclusion, there are several weaknesses in the on-going war against corruption due to the fact that the corrupt is fighting corruption with corruption. Corruption might be fighting back; but if the President and his team are consistently honest and sincere in fighting it, by 2019 there will be a noticeable reduction in senseless stealing of public funds and perversion of the system. Time will tell. Concluded.