By Austine Uche-Ejeke
One of the cardinal programme/manifesto of this All Progressive Congress government of President Buhari is predicated on the anti-corruption mantra that they sold to Nigerians during the 2015 general elections.
Virtually not everybody is happy with the looting and corruption of not only previous administration of Goodluck Jonathan but that of Obasanjo and indeed other military regimes. Hence when President Buhari said it was not going to be business as usual many people queued behind him and in fact based on that Buhari garnered some sizeable votes from that singular stance. But the question on the lips of many pundits now is whether the president is sincere in prosecution of the war against corruption. Is the war a full blown attack on the monster called corruption, dealing with it in all fronts or is it selective choosing people/institutions to focus on while doing volte-face to other glaring cases of corruption.
This was brought to the bare recently with damning report of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) on the misappropriation/looting of bailout funds doled out to governors to settle accumulated unpaid salary arrears of civil servants.
The report of the ICPC clearly mentioned how the states spent the N338 Billion bailout funds given to them by the federal government.
In an unmistakable term the report passed a damning verdict on 16 state governors who stole or diverted a substantial part of the funds.
Expatiating further on the report it was gathered that Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, Samuel Ortom of Benue State, Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State, Abdul-Azeez Yari of Zamfara State are the major culprits in the squander mania of the bailout funds. For instance Rochas applied for N26 Billion but it was found out that some transfer were made into some phony accounts that did not have anything to do with salaries and emoluments of Imo State workers. As if to authenticate this, Economic and Financial Corrupt Commission (EFCC) collaborated the report by arresting some principal officers of Governor Okorocha. Same scenario played out in cases of Benue, Zamfara and Osun States.
In all these President Buhari has not done anything fuelling speculations that he is indirectly encouraging corruption through his action or inaction. On the other hand many keen observers believe that he at best is been selective in his prosecution on the much hyped war on corruption. To them if the report were to involve the other opposing political party or perceived political foes may be we would have seen some people being harassed, arrested, detained and handcuffed to appear in court.
Perhaps it is on the strength of this that some notable Nigerians are voicing out their skepticism about the sincerity of President Buhari war on corruption. In the words of radical lawyer Femi Falana (SAN) , he said that he is cynical about the corruption fight as he thundered recently” while federal government was making attempt to fight corruption, it has remained business as usual in the states and local government council”.
Putting aside the corruption ridden bailout funds that nothing has been said or done by President Buhari is the issue of election campaign funds.
To the chagrin of many Nigerians who are wondering whether if it was only one political party that campaigned, spent money in the 2015 general elections. For quite some time now many political stalwarts of the opposing Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are having rough times being molested, harassed, detained, arraigned in court on account of the funds they spent during the election. The big question is, was it water that the ruling All Progressive Congress spent in the same election or did their campaign fund fall from Heaven through the benevolence of an arch angel.
Unable to stomach this any longer, former Aviation Minister and campaign spokesperson of former President Goodluck Jonathan Femi Fani-Kayode voiced out his displeasure when he said” Instead of using EFCC to try and rubbish me and my colleagues and smear our good names, those that are in power should tell us where they got their campaign funds from and how much of it came from the government of Lagos and Rivers states.’’
Another glaring area where corruption is begging to be tackled is the area of loading and distribution of fuel. Since the assumption of office by President Buhari it has been business as usual as nothing has changed. In fact the brazenness of the corruption on petroleum matters is unprecedented. The president cannot tell Nigerians that he does not hear or that report report doesn’t come to his desk on the graft, corruption that goes on at various loading depot. Some of the marketers openly say that corruption of bribery and extortions goes on in the depot before one can load fuel. As that is not enough managers of some filling stations also confess of various degrees of extortions and corruption by law enforcement agencies and that security agent openly demand as much as Two Hundred Thousand Naira from them in order to enable them sell above normal pump price.
The worst aspect of it is that majority of the filling stations not only sell above approved pump price, but they use fraudulent dispensing pumps. What is this if not corruption? Must corruption start and end when an opposing political party takes money that he is not supposes to. Corruption pervades virtually all the strata of our society.
One would have expected a difference with the coming on board of a new Sherriff in town. The much vaunted body language of President Buhari should have instilled a kind of morbid fear to every Nigerian that if anybody involves in any typology of corrupt practices such a person will be dealt with. From all indications there is a general apprehension that the current war on corruption is one-sided, selective and vindictive. All attention is focused on one particular party, person, institutions whereas other glaring cases of corruption are glossed over as normal way of life.
The fact must be stated here that we all abhor corruption in all its ramifications. Left to most Nigerians drastic measures should be meted out to proven cases of corruption. At the risk of sounding very extreme, it may not be out of place to even recommend death sentences to proven cases, confiscations of properties, frozen and takeover of bank accounts, public display/disgrace of convicted persons and banning of such individuals from participating in future election or holding any public office.
Something drastic must be done to eradicate corruption completely or at least reduce it to the barest minimum. But we cannot achieve this if we don’t apply a holistic approach to the prosecution of the war. If I were the president I wouldn’t mind starting from the members of my household by making mince meat of any proven case of corrupt enrichment from any of them. After satisfying myself and conscience that I have cleaned up my household, I will then move down to my own constituency, my political party, political allies and friends.
The president in doing this will not mind in dealing with the so called godfathers, even those that brought him to power will not be spared. There should not be any sacred cow or goat. Once a case is proven against you, you are done for. In trying to achieve this President Buhari should endeavour to remove all bottlenecks that may impede speedy prosecution of visible corrupt cases.
It will be a great assurance that if one or two political heavy weights from the side of the ruling party is successfully prosecuted, that will serve as a deterrent and morale booster. It is only then that Nigerians will know that President is serious on war against corruption and that he is not being selective, one-sided and vindictive in its prosecution.
So as president attends a summit on corruption in London he should have in mind that while he is pontificating that he has not put his house in order. He should have at the back of his mind that there are crystal and outstanding cases of corrupt enrichment back home that has not been successfully and satisfactorily tackled. It may not make much sense to deplete the scare poor Nigerians tax payers’ money junketing all over the world to sermonize on corruption whereas the president has not conscientiously addressed the issue back home.
Austine Uche-Ejeke, a Public Affairs Analyst wrote vide firstname.lastname@example.org
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