By Rotimi Fasan
THERE has been so much talk and indeed assumptions made about the Buhari administration’s anti-corruption fight that it’s so easy for the President to slip into corrupt practices without owning up to them. The reason the President would be so eager to remove the crease of corruption in the eyes of others while ignoring the log of the same disease in his own eye is because of his very narrow definition of what constitutes corruption. This column has on several occasions pointed to the failure of the All Progressives Congress, APC, party-led Buhari administration’s hidebound perception of corruption in terms only of politicians’ crude accumulation of unearned wealth or, indeed, cash in holes dug in their backyard, toilets or local and foreign accounts.
Unlike a former president who does not see stealing as corruption, this column condemns in no uncertain terms such acts of corruption. While Buhari is by common assent generally perceived as not corrupt, especially when judged against the standard of some past and present Nigerian leaders, the point still remains that the president is yet to convincingly show that his babanringa carries no stain. The tiresome talk about Buhari’s aversion to unearned wealth is above everything else yet a matter of perception, no thanks to his refusal to publicly declare his assets. A man who has nothing to hide should not be scared of living up to the standard he demands of other people. And if we are to accept the say-so of long time Buhari friend but now estranged associate, Mohammed Galadima, Buhari may be amassing a lot of wealth and enriching himself through family and cronies than the world realises.
Otherwise, Buhari’s refusal to declare his assets like Donald Trump’s refusal to open his accounts for Americans to see may be suggestive of some rot too ugly to bare. That being said, there are other ways Buhari falls far below the standard of a leader with high integrity. His blatant subversion of the integrity of our institutions cannot be in tandem with the behaviour of an incorruptible man. And something happened recently, in the very heat of the ongoing campaigns for the February 16 elections that should elicit concern from all of us and not just opposition politicians. This pertains to the President’s blatant inclusion of foreign agents in Nigeria’s electoral activity. This is one very serious issue that should be viewed with much worry as it portends danger to the sanctity of our electoral practice.
President Buhari’s recent action of allowing two Nigerien governors to join his campaign train in Kano amounts to collusion with foreign elements to influence the outcome of the elections. It is of a kind with the crime that may yet cause Donald Trump his office. Issa Moussa and Zakiri Umar, the respective governors of Zinder and Maradi states of Niger, campaigned for Buhari during his electioneering visit to Kano where he once again, like the Chichidodo bird, demonstrated his curious hatred of corruption by consorting with it. The Chichidodo is the proverbial bird that the Ghanaian writer, Ayi Kwei Armah, tells us hates excreta but feasts on maggot.
President Buhari cannot forsake the company of corrupt politicians even though he is himself said to hate corruption. He is often blind to the corrupt activities of his associates in a manner that leaves one wondering if he is actually in control of his administration. But for as long as he manages to prosecute and brings to account persons guilty of criminal plundering of Nigeria’s wealth, one would pretend to be blind to his indifference to the corrupt activities of his supporters. We would hand them over to another Pharaoh that would not know the Biblical Joseph.
But we cannot and should not turn a blind eye to the President’s own acts of corruption, especially when such inflict violence on cherished institutions and traditions of governance. Nigerians only need to view Buhari’s conduct against the backdrop of past allegations that the outcome of previous elections has been unduly influenced by foreigners who have no business in the matter. What was the purpose of these two Nigerien governors attending the campaign rally of a Nigerian politician, particularly a president running for re-election, if not to influence voters? And who are the voters likely to be influenced if not those that share something special with the foreigners brought in to campaign to them? Whether in terms of population and vote counts, Kano has always been a sore point of debate.
Nigerians from other parts have often questioned the integrity of votes from that state given the participation of under-aged voters as we all witnessed in 2015. What shall we do now that foreigners have joined the fray? Yet, it is in this same Kano from which Buhari received his highest votes and Ganduje, the tainted politician caught in living colours stuffing bribe money into his clothes, has promised to deliver six million votes. Apparently now from aliens out to campaign for an incumbent president that should be the custodian of the whole election!
In the wake of these Nigerien governors’ participation in Buhari’s campaign, can the President in good conscience still claim not to be subverting the Nigerian electoral system? Can he honestly claim not to be open to employing underhand means to win the February 16 election as his opponents have alleged? What is the role of the Independent National Electoral Commission in all of this? How independent is this body in the face of its silence about the President’s violation of electoral regulations concerning aliens’ participation?
INEC could argue that unlike in America there is no section of Nigeria’s Electoral Act that has been violated. But if no such section of the Electoral Act expressly bans such violations as have been visited on our elections by Buhari, can such section not be identified by inference? If a foreigner cannot aspire to an elective position in Nigeria is it not commonsensical to assume they cannot participate in any way in our elections?
Just about the time Buhari and the APC were corrupting our electoral practice, Babagana Monguno, the National Security Adviser, was meeting with governors of the 36 states of the country, apprising them of plans by disgruntled politicians uncertain of victory to unleash violence on Nigeria. To what extent can the President’s behaviour make such potential threat of violence inevitable? In what sense is violence defined if it does not include violations like the one engineered by Buhari on the integrity of our election? Can anyone imagine what chaos we would have in our hands should every politician decide to import aliens to participate in our elections? We have lamented the infiltration of our borders by alien herders and bandits. How do the likes of Buhari contribute to this confusion?