By Oguchi Nkwocha
When he brags about his much vaunted prowess in “jailing corrupt public officials,” Buhari only exposes his lack of full understanding of what corruption is. Corruption is not all just about embezzled money.
Corruption is also about power, and even more so, one can argue. By that yardstick, Buhari is the most corrupt himself: he usurped and misused power in Nigeria to perform dreadful and even criminal actions.
A symptom of power-corruption is using illegally obtained power with utter disregard for constituted law and order and elected government. When Buhari carried out a military coup to sack an elected government, he indicted himself as power-corrupt.
In bragging about it, he makes the second point about power-corruption—arrogance. Years after essentially raping and destroying an elected government, Buhari insists to the hapless peoples residing in Nigeria that he will continue to try to seek the office of the president of Nigeria, no matter how many times he has to try! The subtexted message is that if military coups were still possible in Nigeria, he would have used that avenue once again to achieve his goal.
Military decrees are not laws: they are in fact military orders that must be carried out by civilian-citizenry, on penalty of death. Buhari set about issuing decrees and ensuring their enforcement In Nigeria between 1983 and 1985.
During that period, due process, proper legal representation and process, presumption of innocence until formal trial and conviction, were trashed and would never be practiced as Buhari wielded the power of life and death over each single person and all living in Nigeria then.
The most unimaginable occurrence is when Buhari issued his military decrees and then made them retroactive. Based on such cruel and unconscionable act and display of abuse of power, Buhari ordered the execution of persons who had earlier been convicted of drug offences well before his “regime terrible” locked down Nigeria. The death of such prisoners as such is in fact an act of murder by a psychopath, Buhari. Corruption with power does not get much worse than that.
Buhari registered Nigeria as an Islamic nation with the OIC—the Organization of Islamic Conference, reserved for Muslim countries. There was no discussion with the rest of non-Muslim Nigeria who constitute over half of the population and who would have bluntly said “No” to that. But, Buhari “had the power” and exercised it, without qualms. How else would one define “power-drunk” and corruption with power?
Buhari had a chance to show remorse or at least render some accounting and accountability for his inimical activities as a Military ruler of Nigeria at the Oputa Commission, an event reminiscent of the much successful Truth and Reconciliation commission post-Apartheid South Africa.
But in sheer arrogance and contempt, Buhari refused to show up. Not quite satisfied, he went to court after intimidating the judge(s) and won an injunction successfully prohibiting the government of Nigeria from ever making the Oputa findings public.
A society is always threatened by corruption in any form, but power-corruption is invariably more frightening, devastating and lethal than money-corruption. Yet, there is even more danger when a society fails to recognize that power-usurpation and abuse is a form of corruption—and deadly at that. This failure results in the unthinkable: that given their records, persons like Buhari would actually show their faces to contest for public office, and that society would tolerate that.
Today, the peoples living in Nigeria will be tempted to vote for any candidate who claims that he is an “anti-corruption agent.” Characteristically gullible or otherwise influenced by other criteria, many will actually vote for such a candidate without even checking out the candidate’s past (and without learning from previous votes for such candidates).
When corruption is narrowly defined around money, the peoples are lulled into accepting such blinders and fail to realize that power-corruption is a more lethal form of corruption. Buhari is probably correct by claiming that he did not touch any public funds; that does not make him any less corrupt, however, considering how he acquired power and how he used it in Nigeria. All it proves is that money corruption and power-corruption can exist independently.
But, the greatest failing of the peoples living in Nigeria is the inability to realize that the main problem of Nigeria is not corruption. When a society has “meaningful options,” the incidence of corruption is low, and the chances of getting caught and convicted are high. Nigeria does not offer such meaningful options; it has actually worked very hard to restrict them, and Buhari represents one class of those who have made it so.
Predictably—and unfortunately—there is nothing coming out of the current elections that is going to change this picture. Unless, of course, the peoples living in Nigeria demand and get a restructuring of Nigeria along the lines of Self Determination: that’s when their options will open up and their potential, collectively and individually, will be fulfilled and even surpassed.
Oguchi Nkwocha, MD
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