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The trouble with fighting corruption at the retail end

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By Kabiru Muhammad Gwangwazo

I am all for the fight against corruption. It is why we have been on the Buhari chorus team since 2002. That image of mai gaskiya, the “tested and trusted,” no nonsense but humane General is what got us sold on him.

President Muhammadu Buhari addresses the delegation after his Investiture as grand Patron by Nigerian Red Cross Society during a courtesy visit held at the Council Chamber State House in Abuja.

In his first outing as military Head of State in the dying hours of 1983, those of us who are of the progressive Rimi PRP splinter group were all for him. In fact, a few days before GMB struck along with his colleagues, we were all at Bayero University Kano, BUK,  where the late Muhammadu Rimi delivered his epochal lecture: Democracy or Demon-Crazy?

Rimi whipped the civilian government of NPN, the precursor of PDP and its sisters of these days, the political party that started the race to degeneration of Nigeria. He swore an oath that he’d never speak to any soldier again if by New Year they hadn’t toppled the Shagari administration. Yet, when the soldiers came, Rimi was one of the first set of politicians to be arrested, detained and jailed on some flimsy excuse.

That is the way of power. It is said, those who have a hand in installing a Government are its first victims. From the military constituency of the Buhari/Idiagbon Government, those who were at the forefront of installing it also fell victim of its power fangs.

IBB, who was to later lead the coup that toppled Buhari and Idiagbon was to lose his chief co-conspirator, General Aliyu Muhammad Gusau to the GMB anti-corruption wars. Yet, it is that Ali Gusau who did the leg work sourcing funds for the putsch through all sorts of back door deals in the toppled Shagari government.

Then Commerce Minister, Bello Maitama Yusuf’s import licence bazaar was to provide the slush funds of the NPN. It was the main route to campaign finance. It was also the lucky dip of the coupists from where they sourced the funds for logistics to oust the Shagari government. The moves to unravel the intricate maze of the import licence bazaar was what led to unraveling the Buhari government after only 20 months in office.

The dynamics of power are much the same in civilian governments as under the military. That was how those in the Army who led to set up of that administration became its first victims. But as they were sharp and pretty organised, they quickly dumped it. Such are the ways of power.

GMB back as President on the ticket of APC as mai gaskiya, has become famous for his brave challenge of the Obasanjo PDP government’s maladministration, in particular, debunking of the lie that Sharia had been scrapped and returned to status quo ante at the National Council of State, NCS.

This time as usual, as is the way of power, many who have worked for government to win elections at many levels are victims, many left out of the power loop. This is despite the fact that they may still be of  relevance in the 2019 equation. Be that as it may, in this dispensation as was the case in the first GMB government, top victims are politicians as a collective whole. That is the way of power.

It is politicians who provided the platform for GMB. It is politicians who are now required to work the platform again for GMB to return. Yet, of the many GMB battles against corruption, the main fare in his governance menu, focuses on political and party campaign finances. Such a focus ignores the reality of history. That it was the fallout of issues from such finances in NPN days that did the GMB military government in. To tackle corruption, the focus should be at the source, from those who facilitated and dispensed money from the treasury.

These days, the main reason why there is so much anger in the land over the corruption of the PDP is not because of campaign funds. It is a universal fact that funds are necessary for political mobilisation. Much as they are essential for mobilising the troops when it was fashionable to use the gun to change power by force. That, we thank God, is behind us now.

The anger of Nigerians over Dasukigate and the Armsgate is due to use of the Boko Haram as the excuse to take money from the treasury. It is fine and expected to trace and trail where the money goes. But it is only reasonable to track back to who did the paper work and more importantly, who gave the order to take the monies; not receivers.

Such a focus on the end-users would indicate a deliberate targeting of politicians and they may band together to save themselves and return us to the bad old days of the PDP bazaar of unlimited looting in every sector. They could well do it too. After all the electoral upset in 2015 that shoved Jonathan and PDP out is proof that change can come by the ballot howsoever the people want.

The worry today is while we are all happy with the fight against corruption, we are bothered that the untactical approach of the APC Government may open the window for Changing the Change.

Only last week, at the Kano Federal High Court, PDP’s Sardauna Ibrahim Shekarau, former Kano Governor and Jonathan’s Education Minister, was docked by EFCC over N25 million he was alleged to have received for the 2015 elections. For the same election of 2015, PDP’s Olisah Metuh, Kano PDP boss, Ambasssor Aminu Wali, and many others, are now on trial because they received money allegedly sourced from NSA Col. Sambo Dasuki’s office. These, I repeat, are the retail ends of this aspect of corruption. It is the wholesale end, the source that needs tackling.

The PDP Jonathan Government used the ONSA as its source of slush funds like NPN used import licences that led to all kinds of sharp practices. That the PDP took money out of the treasury with the tag it was for fighting Boko Haram is the principal reason why Nigerians are angry at that “corruption.” Previous PDP governments had used other headings to source money for funding politics. To fight corruption, we must tackle it at its roots.

Corruption in party and campaign funding should be holistically adressed. We need to review political party management and funding. It is unreasonable to leave parties to the mercy of sitting governments at all levels.

The parties as the battleground for recruitment of leaders should be adequtely funded and monitored by a Political Parties Commission. That was a submission this writer as a politician and former state party chairman made to the Justice Uwais panel on Election Reforms in 2007/2008. This should put paid to unwarranted commercialisation of the political process that forces candidates to seek funds to pay ungodly sums for forms to contest various posts including party posts. And also pay for all logistics for campaigns and elections in addition to paying all officials on election duty.

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