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Political amnesia in defence of corruption and the status quo

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By Tabia Princewill

IT has often been said that Nigerians, the political elite in particular, suffer from acute amnesia and a tendency to re-write history to suit the political exigencies of the day. It’s important to note the real reason behind this penchant for “repackaging” the past which is the defence of the status quo.


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

It’s cliché to say “corruption fights back”, yet how else could one describe the desperate attempts to excuse or ignore allegations of wrongdoing using religion and ethnicity?

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen once again shunned the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, encouraged by governors from the South-South.

Letter writing season

The architects and enablers of corruption in Nigeria have been hard at work, from time immemorial, attempting to convince Nigerians that corruption is neither much of a problem nor a national priority. It is letter writing season again, and Nigerians are being encouraged to forget the past so it can be conveniently re-written.

Abubakar Tsav, an elder statesman, commenting on former President Obasanjo’s most recent “epistle” said: “Your open epistles have outlived all usefulness; let me quickly remind you that whatever perceived loopholes in the administration of Nigeria today had the foundation solidly laid by your government for eight years.

“It does not make sense for a leader to create a problem and then query another leader for failing to solve it to his taste. The PDP government you headed raised an army of killers by arming youths and brigands who gleefully embarked on assassinations or elimination of political rivals”.

Have Nigerians forgotten the Bola Ige and Harry Marshal murders? There’s no point recounting the allegations of “dollarisation” of the National Assembly, or the removal of three sitting Senate Presidents.

Those who aren’t interested in scoring cheap political points will know that Obasanjo would never have stood for what Saraki and Dogara did in the National Assembly: the way Ngige, Rasheed Ladoja, Fayose and Alamieyeseigha were removed is enough to allow such a conclusion.

If one googles “Zaki Biam” one is sure to get a full picture of what it means for a government to attack and kill over 300 unarmed families.

It’s also nothing short of manipulation that the Niger Delta is still so enamoured with the PDP given the continuous human rights abuses in the South-South under PDP governments, as the PDP showed itself to be the civilian arm of the military establishment. As for the deadly way in which government dealt with the Tiv/Jukun clashes, the Bakassi Boys, South-South militancy, the “shooting” of OPC members, should we all pretend these incidents happened in a different country and under another President? Nigerians shouldn’t waste their time arguing with people who are determined to re-write history or to pretend as if certain things never happened.

Obasanjo’s allegation that the 2019 elections won’t be free and fair is ironic coming from him, given the many unresolved allegations over the conduct of the 2003 and 2007 elections.

Former President Yar’Adua himself admitted the election that brought him to power was “flawed”; even the Supreme Court judges doubted the outcome of the election at the time. Nigerians should consider candidates based on their strengths and weaknesses rather than the assertions of individuals who change their minds based on their own personal needs and calculations.

President Buhari must be the only major contestant in Nigeria’s history who has never been alleged to own a university, a presidential library, oil and gas shares and private companies, etc., which his military pension could not afford.

Buhari is often mocked for owning cattle by the same people who can’t explain their own source of wealth without going into endless confusing and self-indicting statements. Nigerians, remember everything: look to the past to understand the present actions and behaviours of the individuals on the public stage.

Robert Clark, SAN, commenting on the Onnoghen saga said: “I’ve been practising law for over 50 years now; I don’t think I have $10,000. Where did CJN get $900,000 if not corruption?” Those who can ignore this question or who prefer to answer it by saying “it’s an attack on the Niger-Delta”, are the same sort of people who’re impressed by Obasanjo’s letter writing; meaning, people who are unbothered by the double standards in Nigeria.

What some people ask of Buhari today, they didn’t ask of Jonathan, Obasanjo or Yar’Adua.

Political amnesia

The stakes were simply not as high: corruption has been our way of life for a long time in Nigeria, and those who benefit from it, by making excuses for why it is so, have always counted on Nigerians’ political amnesia and acceptance of the status quo. We need to make up our minds: do we truly want change, or are we fine with the status quo?

President Buhari: The President says corruption hiding under ethno-religious excuses is “bloody nonsense”. Hate him or love him, he’s right: why should wrongdoing be ignored because it is perpetrated by a Muslim or a Christian, etc? The law doesn’t recognise such excuses.

These remarks were made, according to his Special Assistant on Media, Femi Adesina, when the President hosted the staff who worked with him during his tenure as military head of state.

The President remembered his “electoral battles” in 2003, 2007 and 2011, emphasising that the rulings which didn’t go his way (he challenged the winners of those elections) were given by “Muslims from the North” but those who defended him, his lawyers in particular, where “Christians from the South”.

Public opinion needs to stop being selective when it comes to ethnicity and religion: why do we pay attention to it in some matters (when a corruption ruling is involved) then ignore it in most others?

The Chief Justices at the time of Buhari’s legal battles were Northerners and Muslims, yet they didn’t rule in his favour and his lawyers were Igbos, yet they believed in his case.  Until we stop allowing ethno-religious sentiment to cloud our understanding of right and wrong, we are going nowhere as a country.

Bola Tinubu

NATIONAL leader of the APC said former President Olusegun Obasanjo is an “expired politician” who is “known for his trade”. Tinubu reminded Yorubas in particular how Obasanjo “failed” by ignoring June 12, even though he had ample time and opportunity to recognise MKO Abiola, whom  President Buhari posthumously recognised as the winner of the 1993 presidential election.

If the military cabal who allegedly put Obasanjo in power didn’t want change then, they certainly don’t want it now. “Yorubas won’t forget in a hurry that Obasanjo could not actualise and recognise the mandate given to MKO Abiola. We waited in 2003 and 2007, but Obasanjo failed to recognise the June 12 struggle,” Tinubu said.

He added: “Who knows rigging better than him?” Nigerians must make up their minds and weigh the past with the present.

Campaign season

2019 SEEMS devoid of “juice”: “money is not flowing”. This is the typical phrase one hears around town. Many avenues to make “quick money” from the campaigns seem to have been blocked: the President refused to open the public treasury to politicians (foreign observers who read that statement were shocked to find the public purse is the primary source of funding for political parties) and the EFCC allegedly instructed banks not to lend money to politicians for campaigns.

In Nigeria, it has always been easier to get a bank loan for a political campaign than to start a business. Finally, we seem to be leaving such dysfunctional trends behind us. Nigerians should expect more complaints from those who benefit from the system. When the public complaints don’t work, they resort to violence. Let’s all be vigilant.

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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