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Making excuses for corruption: The unholy alliance between religious leaders, political elite

By Tabia Princewill

THE Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo said at the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, NESG, that each time he attempts to sack a government official who is “found to be corrupt”, a mixture of religious, political and business leaders call him to “beg” and to ask him to go easy on the person.

Corruption

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This is a practice amongst the elite in Nigeria who despite waging war on each other on the pages of newspapers exhibit a high level of class solidarity when their illegally obtained benefits are challenged.

They routinely put pressure on those attempting to reform the system, insisting reformers drop the charges against their friends or give them one more chance to sin again, after all, others have done worse and gotten away with it. Interestingly, the question in Nigeria is never if a politician is guilty or if he or she did indeed commit the alleged offense.

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Weaponizationof poverty

Rather, the focus is “is he the first?” or “why him/her, what about all the other people who’ve committed offenses?” reasoning such as this keeps Nigeria in the dark ages and keeps a majority of people poor.

Unfortunately, the common man is yet to fully recognize the effect of corruption and due to the weaponization of poverty, often finds himself defending looters and excusing their crimes: from top to bottom, virtually every level of the Nigerian society is compromised and our religious leaders are no exception.

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Every election season, those who mean well for this country watch with trepidation as the same old compromised individuals with endless skeletons in their closets come out and attempt to rebrand themselves, despite a lack of resolution in regards to the weighty allegations still facing them.  Anyone can label themselves “Mr Job creation” without the media truly interrogating their record. Nigeria is a country where facts and history mean nothing, any idea if repeated often enough suddenly becomes the truth.

Sadly, because our judiciary is also compromised it is difficult to obtain convictions for corruption which allows tainted individuals to keep fooling the more clueless elements of our society into supporting their claims. In Nigeria, there is an unwritten gentlemen’s agreement between leaders not to probe past administrations for fear of bringing down the entire system. Nigerians are yet to demand real change. It isn’t enough to blame President Buhari’s government for the present situation.

We must ask ourselves what our response was each time the EFCC or the security agencies attempted to file charges or arrest individuals: did we push for a prompt resolution in accordance with the law which actually states judges of corruption trials should sit daily (instead of the constant adjournments and antics of defendants who come to court suddenly feigning all manner of illness) or did we embolden and encourage alleged looters to scuttle trials by stating: “why is Mr X being witch-hunted, is he the first to be corrupt?”

We need to remember people’s antecedents at every juncture. Nigerian commentators are so quick to forget the past. We refuse to analyze events within their proper historical context. Let us look at the religious leaders who went to the “peace meeting” between Atiku and Obasanjo. Sheikh Gumi, the Islamic scholar once “advised” President Buhari to “stop embarrassing politicians from the North” especially those who promote Islam: “we need to protect the reputation of these men, they fought for our religion, and if care is not taken we will all see them (northern politicians) carrying that placard (EFCC mug shot) with corruption charges. Besides, the money which they are probed for, even God will not hold them responsible for it,” he said.

What a strange statement, yet it won’t be the first time religion is used to obscure the evil of corruption. The idea of corruption investigations being “embarrassing” for powerful men and women is just too ludicrous to contend with.

 Collapse of public education

Boko haram is a direct consequence of the collapse of public education and infrastructure due to grand corruption. Religious leaders in Nigeria have always sided with the rich against the poor, no matter the evidence seemingly pointing to certain politicians’ guilt.  Many politicians simply pretend to be God-fearing or religious while breaking every rule set up to protect society from predatory moves: one only needs to build mosques or pay tithes to appear “holy” in Nigeria, while continuing to steal public funds.

Allegations of Muslim and Christian religious leaders benefitting from politicians aren’t new but it’s about time Nigerians prove their understanding of these issues by refusing to be manipulated on religious lines. We must begin to ask questions such as who stands to gain from associating with whom and stop being fooled by partnerships which aren’t to our benefit.

Balarabe Musa

A FORMER governor of Kaduna, said during a recent interview that Nigeria would be worse off if the PDP is allowed to return to power in 2019. “The party that created many problems for 16 years while they were in power? Things are not too good in the country at the moment, but I think the country would be worse if the PDP is allowed to return. We saw what they did for 16 years, they will definitely mess things up further” he said.

It’s one thing to say President Buhari underperformed, it’s quite another to absolve PDP of all responsibility by pretending it’s some new party which hasn’t been in power for 16 years. “PDP lacks the moral right to ask for a return to power. A credible alternative is needed to turn things around,” Balarabe Musa said.

Boko Haram was born under the PDP. It thrived and was allowed to blossom in part because corruption went unchecked in the North. What exactly about the PDP has changed since 2015? In fact, PDP completely ignores the many unresolved trials involving its top politicians: how can a party seeking votes be allowed to simply ignore so many accusations and cast them as “fake news”?

The Nigerian judiciary is a huge problem. So is the unwillingness to fully probe former leaders. Everything in Nigeria is needlessly politicized, there is always one excuse or the other for not doing the right thing. While Nigerians protect corruption, who is protecting Nigeria?

Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB

NNAMDI Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, is back and just in time for the elections. Every election season in Nigeria is preceded by varying sorts of conflict. Interestingly, things were quiet during the primaries (most of the alleged sponsors of violence were busy) but now that primaries are out of the way, politicians and their puppets can once again regroup to cause chaos.

Ralph Uwazuruike, the leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, has asked the Igbo to ignore Nnamdi Kanu. In truth, whenever Nigerians focus on sectarian ideas, which amounts to defending the right of this or that politician to loot the treasury, confident he will be defended or excused by members of his or her ethno-religious group, we fail to talk about the real issues keeping the average Nigerian poor.

Blaming the Federal government for poverty while refusing to strongly condemn corruption or to beam a search light on governors in the South-East and their use of public funds, points to insincerity. Who is Kanu to say no election can hold in the South-east? How can he, without going through the process of an election, give himself the constitutional power to decide such?

Uwazuruike believes Kanu is back “to deceive people and mop up money for himself”. After a 13 months absence (he was declared wanted by the federal government and inexplicably vanished) Kanu has nothing to offer the South-East to enable development beyond a vague concept of restructuring which in practical terms will only amount to providing more jobs for politicians and more avenues to steal.

Are Nigerians ready to free themselves from the mental slavery of ethnicity and religion and start asking tough questions?

Tabia Princewill is a strategic communications consultant and public policy analyst. She is also the co-host and executive producer of a talk show, WALK THE TALK which airs on Channels TV.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.