By Rotimi Fasan
THE raw anger that one felt about the virulence of corruption under the Goodluck Jonathan administration has somewhat abated in the last three years. Then it was a free-for-all race to win the corruption medal among officials, cronies, associates and family members of those connected to the government. And President Jonathan just didn’t know what to say much less do about how to end the epidemic-like level of corruption going on under his watch.
Towards the end of that administration, it was clear that something was bound to give, that Nigeria’s ship of state was headed for disaster all due to uncontrolled corruption. Coupled with the poor level of security, the government led by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was as good as gone.
This was in spite of the best effort of that government to buy its way back into power by opening the financial vault to anyone which was anyone who could guarantee its way back to power to help themselves to it. Thus, the PDP government made no pretence that it was fighting corruption. This was the reason many Nigerians could not wait to see the government go.
But this is not the same thing as saying that corruption now is a thing of the past. Yes, it’s no longer an in-your-face thing, and there is every reason to believe that it has been reduced. By how much it has fallen is however anybody’s guess. But the Buhari administration would want us to believe that corruption is now something that occupies the realm of memory save for its many opponents in the opposition parties (the wise ones among them having defected and still defecting to the governing party to evade prosecution) still struggling to challenge the All Progressives Congress, APC, claim to power.
To be clear, I personally cannot see what is redeeming about the defections from the governing APC. The defectors are mostly motivated by self-interest and are not in any way poised to make any meaningful or major change from what is happening presently. Which is the reason the APC can still grandstand as the party of integrity and label the PDP defectors and others like them corrupt.
President Buhari therefore returned from his so-called ten days vacation that looks like two full weeks (it is a testimony to the dissembling ways of this government that even the number of days the president spent on his latest vacation looks confusing to an observer- where did the counting begin from, where did it end?), promising to send corrupt people to jail. Our dear president like Donald Trump sure knows what appeals to his electoral base and he continues to repeat it like a recorded message. While I would insist that the President needs to do more about tackling corruption by getting down to it while expanding his scope and definition of what constitutes corruption (this has always proven a challenge to our leaders: Jonathan infamously said stealing is not corruption!), I would not want to stymie his effort in this regard by calling it selective and by that definition ask that it should stop.
There is no doubt that this administration has turned a blind eye to many acts of corruption as they involve individuals and groups close to it, but nobody has yet said those being prosecuted have been prosecuted without cause. Where cases of corruption have been established, prosecution through due processes of the law should logically follow. We must start from somewhere. We all accused President Olusegun Obasanjo of being selective in his anti-corruption fight. But he took on clear cases of corruption and some of those being prosecuted today were among those overlooked by his administration. Let us therefore be patient and understand that for as long as Buhari continues to expose and put up corruption cases for trial, we should all support him while hoping he would do more to expand his field of corruption vision.
For let truth be told, I personally do not wish for us to return to that era of gross impunity when the PDP more or less declared and engaged in a free festival of corruption. The gathering tribe of PDP leaders and followers now running from known and unknown enemies in their former political homes to seek cover under the flapping umbrella of their party appears nostalgic about its past when massive looting was the currency of governance. What Nigeria needs is a third force of political leaders who are unfortunately hard to find (not even as independent candidates) as the political field is certainly rigged against them.
They are forced to join the existing political parties where they are hobbled by both financial and political hurdles that make their emergence as leaders near impossible. But we must soldier on until we are able to identify such leaders, some of whom might even now be hibernating in some of the existing parties for want of a better political home. In their absence, Nigeria must choose what looks like the lesser of two evils. Which is what still gives APC relevance.
While the APC administration has been protective of its supporters, disingenuous in its definition of corruption, it looks in my view better positioned and ready to fight corruption than the PDP was in the years it was in charge of the polity. And those groups and individuals rallying under the PDP umbrella having defected from the APC, I insist, don’t look ready to make any change much less that change the APC promised but is finding difficult to deliver. Defection cannot be for its own sake or for the selfish reasons of disaffected members of a corrupt oligarchy or political class. For all its anti-corruption rhetoric, the Buhari government continues to perform less than it could while trying to play smart.
Its supporters continue to hold unknown and unmanned groups and individuals responsible for the failures of the APC and the president in particular. Rather than saying it as it is, which is that President Buhari lacks the will to act where his associates and relations who are invariably responsible for the failures of his administration are concerned- rather than calling the president out for this, supporters blame others for standing in his way or shielding him from taking necessary action.
We are being told by some of these clowns, for example, that Buhari had wanted to dismiss Lawal Daura formerly of the Department of State Services, DSS, weeks before Yemi Osinbajo, in his capacity as Acting President, finally did. When excuses like the above are made for the president, those offering them only call attention to him in all his weakness and vexing lack of will. It is indeed better to be silent and be considered a fool than to speak and confirm it.