Journalism of Courage

Nigerians and the anti-corruption war

By Sufuyan Ojeifo

It is time Nigerians took ownership of the anti-corruption war. I make this submission with all sense of responsibility.  We can no longer afford to invest our fidelity in President Muhammadu Buhari’s modus operandi of prosecuting the war.  The war has lost its integrity capital and we are left with a shambolic charade that the president deploys against perceived political foes through the instrumentality of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) headed by a proximate loyalist, Mr. Ibrahim Magu.

I further submit that, in reality, the anti-corruption war in Nigeria has not begun.  When it begins, we will all know.  The good and punitive actions to deter further indulgence by public officials and private individuals will be “clear to the blind and audible to the deaf”, permit the use of the oxymoronic expression. Presently, Buhari’s anti-corruption offering has been full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, apologies to William Shakespeare.

This is obviously one of the tragedies of the Buhari administration. It is tragic in the sense of the sheer mismanagement of the people’s expectations and hopes for a new Nigeria where corruption will suffer essential indictment and eternal stigmatization such that would make it a deficit anti-social capital in public administration and in the management of our public finance. 

That was the philosophical ramification that possibly made about 15 million Nigerians to vote for him in 2015. But funnily enough, the fanfare with which they heralded the triumphal entry of Buhari in the saddle has become muted in the administration’s acclaimed cacophonous commitment to the anti-graft war. The war is selectively and unconscionably politicized.

Membership of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) has not only become a mark of immunity to EFCC’s investigation of corrupt acts but also a symbol of sainthood.  On the other hand, members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have continued to suffer emblematic stereotype as the only corrupt politicians.

In the overall outlook of the architecture of the anti-corruption war, the Nigerian people have, sadly, been manipulated as though they are imbecilic.  Their sensibilities have been roundly and constantly assaulted in the one-sided narrative of looted public funds. 

Since Buhari assumed the reins of leadership, his administration has focused attention on the misappropriation of public funds under the past administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. There is nothing wrong about that as long as there is evidence to back up the allegations of looting.  The EFCC started well. There were feelings that a new era had come for national renaissance.  But hardly had the process gone far when the inherent insincerity started to unravel. 

Buhari’s anti-corruption war has untangled as a historic scam, targeting real and perceived foes in settlement of political scores. The validation is self-evident in the fact that most politicians, who held either public or party offices in the immediate past administration, are being persecuted, not prosecuted, in the courts by the EFCC.  Those in the APC who are known to have plundered the resources of their states as governors, those that funded the election of Buhari in the 2015 election, are either holding strategic positions in his government or shielded from investigation by the EFCC.

Once corrupt politicians move from the PDP to the APC, they are saved further harassment by the anti-graft agency. It has been a crude and cruel in-our-faces reality.  Unfortunately the vast majority of Nigerians do not, as much as, care about the inherent injustice in the operations of the EFCC.

Whereas there is lack of morality in the conduct of an administration that segregates along partisan lines in the grotesque issue of looting of public funds; whereas the administration has imprudently fallen into the muddle of impunity which was one of the banes of the past administration, the recent public spat between the administration and the opposition PDP has provided Nigerians with an opportunity to see through the chicanery of the political elites.

The elites are not committed to the social contract. Therefore, we must take our country back from them and begin to dictate the pace of the anti-corruption war.  The present administration has shown its incapacity for driving a wholesome anti-corruption war.  Protecting corrupt officials in its employ is antithetical to purity in the arduous process of cleansing the Augean stables of decadence and age-long corruption in the political economy.

The administration has just released the names of supposedly corrupt politicians in the PDP and the amounts they reportedly looted.  Many of them are already in court.  But in contradistinction, nobody in the administration and the APC was mentioned by the administration.  Deploying its extant power of incumbency, the litany of allegations of corruption leveled against its officials by the opposition party has been coldly ignored. 

It is needless to indulge in the exercise of reeling out the specifics of the allegations and the identities of the former public officials involved.  The thematic essence of this intervention is to urge Nigerians to subject both the APC administration and the opposition PDP to critical scrutiny as they have begun in earnest to jostle for votes in the forthcoming 2019 general elections.  All the ballyhoos in the polity are about de-marketing each other. They are birds of the same feathers flocking in different parties. 

Our political actors even move freely across party lines in episodic repudiation of their membership of one or the other party, depending on the personal reasons that motivate such defection. The bottom-line is that the rest of us are manacled by a writ-large elite conspiracy to criminally privatise our commonwealth at the expense of our wellbeing.  We must liberate ourselves from the elite domination and render it subservient to popular verdict.   

The Nigerian people, under the guidance and mobilization of civil society organisations, civil rights groups, national coalition movements, et al., should embrace the urgency of now to own the anti-corruption war through utilitarian advocacies, save our nation from the vice-like grips of rapacious looters and the heartbreak of a failed administration.  Let us resolve now that we can no longer subject ourselves to the Buhari administration’s shambolic anti-corruption war.

Since the administration has politicized the war against corruption, it behoves Nigerians to take on the battle, depoliticize and redirect it for national good.  We should pressurise the political elites to submit to essential accountability scrutiny. It is time Nigerians dropped the garb of imbecile (mumu) with which the political elites have robed us and begin to interrogate candidates aspiring for positions of public trust.

In 2015, Buhari shunned presidential debate and he was indulged to our peril because candidate Goodluck Jonathan must not be given an opportunity to exhibit his brilliance over him in the APC’s grand strategy to railroad the Daura-born new democrat on a tentative nation in search of redemption. 

A reconstructed antecedent as military Head of State from 1983-85 was turned into a beautiful narrative for the consumption of millions of restless youths who did not experience the Buhari era and who wanted a change from Jonathan to any other person. PDP’s caveat emptor, given pro bono publico, to reject him was ignored.

Tragically, today, we have an administration that is aiding and abetting those of its members who are corrupt; we have an administration that has failed in its promise to secure the lives of Nigerians and their property; we have an administration with economic policies that have taken the nation deeper into the woods and pauperized the masses. The time to practically indict incompetent leadership and the Frankenstein monster of corruption and its perpetrators, regardless of party affiliations, is now.

Sufuyan Ojeifo


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