By Obi Nwakanma
Last week, my colleague, Dr. Dele Sobowale put to admirable light, the implications of the Auditor-General’s report in his “Frankly Speaking” Column, titled, “Authority Stealing.” It was a riff on the song of that irrepressible spirit and icon of the Nigerian counter-culture scene of the 20th century, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, who sang his voice hoax about corruption in public places. Fela’s music reminds us today, and very consistently that “kwaruption” did not begin with Goodluck Jonathan or the PDP as have been serially and falsely alleged by this APC government, but that the very fabric of corruption lies at the heart of a culture of elite impunity which has yet to be addressed. Among those Fela named yesteryears, are the men who still hold enormous power in Nigeria today, and we celebrate them too with blind ardor.
Nigeria’s masses, like the plebeians of Rome have very little memory. They sway whichever waythe winds blow. It seems so. But what about the intellectuals? There is very little substantial intellectual life going on in Nigeria. Nigerian newspapers have provided the modicum of space for the serious discourse of nation. There is of course the increasing on-line silos, where we now conduct our public life with virtual ardor. But a look at the quality of responses by the familiar trolls who comment and follow newspaper articles and columns indicate a shallowness so dreary that one is sometimes driven to tears by the current quality of the public consciousness as reflected in the quality of its reading public.
There is a mad fever of insults indicative of a terrible level of mental health, and very little worthwhile debate. People trade insults and veer off the issues, and color them according to their ethnic or partisan predilections. It often feels as though one is casting rubies to sows. Among these trolls that haunt the on-line platforms of Nigerian newspapers like Leprechauns, I have been told, are recurrent types who earn their daily keep working for a shadowy program of disinformation under a full directorate handling on-line propaganda under the budget of the presidency. The universities have no public voices of note. Many current Nigerian professors are mediocre intellectuals who have very little impact on the trajectory of the national discussion or debate.
Damaged by the culture of mediocrity that has eliminated serious contemplation and the kind of production that institutionalizes national memory, Nigeria’s national universities are no longer such places where serious discussions emanate or take place. University types in Nigeria today walk around like ghosts in the crumbling edifice of a nation held down by the very worst produced by its school system: public servants with forged certificates. Political leaders without the knowledge of systems. Elected officials who appeal to the “international community and the United Nations” about a national political crisis, with scant regard for the electorate that elected them in the first place, to whom they should make their fundamental appeal. These are curious characters on the National gallery for the scandalous. The most curious of this fellows are Obasanjo and Buhari, who have constantly made loud, moral, and high-pitched claims about their public service to Nigeria, and who have often claimed moral high grounds. Buhari has been properly scented, and given the mantle of “integrity.”
Some sceptics have said to us, “look at Buhari’s past.” Every milestone is marked by controversy, from the N2.8 billion scandal for which he was investigated by the Nigerian senate in 1980, led by the late Dr. Olusola Saraki, father of the current senate president, to the tyranny of his rule in 1984 with the skewered justice he measured out, and to his performance at the Petroleum Trust Fund, and so on. Even more recent events have raised our eyebrows. Now, this essay is not intended to delve into the biographies of these individuals. In time, clear-eyed biographers will put them appropriately in their places, long after they have gone. But for now, let us return to Dele Sobowale’s piquant look at the scandal that is this administration.
Ordinarily, it should have been enough said about the Auditor-General of the Federation’s report, but the weight and implication of that report needs to be very clearly repeated so that Nigerians, and those who may be blind supporters of President Buhari, and his claim about fighting corruption must see how riddled in corruption this administration is, and understand the agenda of this APC government trolls to sell chicken shit to Nigerians furled in damask. The Auditor-General’s report is the evidence before us, and it is damning. Among the highlights of the report is a pointed indictment of the Accountant-General’s office for its collusion in the non-compliance of the government ministries and departments with the financial regulation which requires them to submit their audited and management reports to the Auditor-General’s office by the end of the financial year very May 31st. Among the lapses noted by Mr. A.M. Ayine, the Auditor-General of the Federation, include non-remittance and non-disclosure of government revenue by major departments and agencies. According to Ayine, 65 government agencies have failed to submit their accounts for auditing as at the current report, a situation which has complicated, and continues to undermine Nigeria’s operational capacity. This lack of accountability is the source of national corruption and it is taking place right under this administration which continually mouths the shibboleth of “anti-corruption.”
A government that is decidedly non-accountable to its people, and which persists in manipulating national financial records is not only “suegbe” as Fela would say, “na kpako” too! Some of the key highlights which ought to concern Nigerians include this fact that among the agencies that have failed to give an audited account of their operations is the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the EFCC! The Auditor-General’s report also noted the discrepancy in payment reported by the Department of Petroleum Resources in 2016, the inexplicable and unaccounted diversion of Money from the Ecological fund by this government, the fact that the NNPC could not account for the Joint Venture Cash call made with oil partners on behalf of the Federation, and they are not traceable in the Federal Accountant-General’s book. And worse still, the NNPC returned only marginal sums to the Federation Account from the export of Crude oil and gas from January to December 2016, but there is no record of oil revenue paid by the NNPC to the account, and no explanation made for this. The president is the Minister for Oil, we must remember. These are just the main highlights. This report underscores the fundamental flaws of the Buhari administration that it is fighting corruption. How can a government fight corruption if it cannot account for its operation? Lack of accountability is the general and simple meaning of corruption in government!
The situation of lack of accountability, the Auditor-General noted, worsened under this government, which apparently since it came on stream, has failed consistently to provide a full audited account to the Auditor-General, who is required by the constitution to report government finances annually to the National Assembly. Nigeria’s public finance in shambles, this is the general, and disturbing implication of the Auditor-General’s report. This report must not be swept under the table. The reason why the National Assembly is the repository of government funds, and for which the Auditor-General reports to it, is so as to adequately prevent corruption in government by examining the financial operations of the executive arm of the day. Where there are discrepancies, the president must be forced to explain, and if he is found to have managed the finances of the federation incompetently, be forced to resign or be impeached.
These are not words we must take lightly. But they are also not words we must be afraid to put out there. This National Assembly, having received the Auditor-General’s report that indicts the government of the day, must take action as mandated upon it by law, and that is to probe this administration, and force it to either comply or resign in the interest of accountability to the public. If President Buhari wants to prove a point to Nigerians about integrity, he should, on account of this report, offer his resignation to the National Assembly. This is what happens in those climes where he went this past week to vacation and seek medical help. That’s why he could.