Nigerians and foreigners alike are agreed that corruption is a cankerworm that has eaten deep into this country’s fabric. In fact, the Presidency of Muhammadu Buhari came to power riding the crest of an anti-corruption crusade. The new president is not only seen as Mr. Clean but also as someone who will fight the monster of corruption.
The slogan now is: “Kill corruption before it kills Nigeria”. It would appear as if the problem of corruption has got so serious that virtually all Nigerians are on the same page – feigned or real – on the need to tackle it head-on. Even the Peoples Democratic Party, which lost power on account of its temerity in the fight against corruption that even bordered on acquiescence or open romance, has signed up for the anti-graft crusade.
Its voice has been as loud as that of anyone else on the need to fight and defeat the monster that, since Independence in 1960, has been the recurring decimal that has, to quote the leader of the first coup, Major Nzeogwu Kaduna, “made this country look big for nothing”.
Opinion is, however, divided on whether APC and Buhari are well-positioned to fight corruption to a standstill. For one, the party appears to have lost its internal cohesion as it has, so early in its sojourn in power, been riddled with divisions brought about by in-fighting over the spoils of office that have weakened rather than strengthened it. For another, corruption surely fights back when you take the fight to it. More dangerous is that it acts proactively, anticipating and moving fast to secure itself and safeguard its interests before any attack. And so it was that while Buhari was still gloating over his success at the polls, making soap-box oratories that are now returning to ensnare him, corruption had moved far ahead of him to corner a critical section of the platform needed for the prosecution of the anti-graft war. In his first six months in office, it will be right to say that those opposed to the anti-graft war have not relented in the strenuous efforts to diminish this president.
Witness how such forces are masterfully engaging the president and drawing his attention away from pressing state functions, including the war against corruption! Spanners are deliberately being thrown into the works for him. The on-going fuel scarcity, said to be artificial, could be one of such spanners. Someone called it the flying of kites by those testing the waters; another described it as testing the resolve or will of Mr. President. The presidency itself has used the word “sabotage”. Care must be taken or else this president will be demystified in no time. The Buhari presidency, which embodies the hope of the citizenry, especially so the downtrodden, may unravel before it has had the opportunity to make a dent in the country’s sky-high mountains of problems. And that will be sad. It will also be futile not to expect that despondency and frustration, with all its attendant shenanigans, would then take over and set the pace.
Opportunities that must be seized upon by this administration to demonstrate that it will match action with words or, as they say, walk the talk, must not be allowed to pass it by. One such opportunity broke last week. It will be shocking if it passes the Presidency by or if anyone in the corridors of power regards it as trifle. It has to do with an agency of government, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, a quasi-military formation which, recently, was given the legal right to bear arms. Under its former Commandant-General, Dr. Ade Abolurin, the NSCDC or Civil Defence was highly rated as a disciplined force but the incident in question has called its integrity into question, rating it even lower than the much-reviled Nigeria Police Force on the integrity ladder. The story, as it was told in a national daily, was that the Lagos State government engaged some operatives of the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Air Force, Nigeria Police Force, NSCDC, among others, and promised to pay each officer N1, 500 per day.
When it was time to pay, only the Air Force came out clean, paying each of its men that took part in the assignment the accumulated amount due to them, which was N90,000 (100%). The Army came second as it paid each of its officials N75,000 (83.333%). The Police Force paid each of its own officials N60,000 (66.666%) while Civil Defence paid each of its own officials N20,000 (22.222%).The agencies are all government agencies involved in security operations and, therefore, very critical to national security and the security of the life and property of the citizens. We therefore expect a high level of integrity and responsible behaviour from them. To ensure that they did not compromise, the Lagos state government that contracted their services decided to remunerate them. The remuneration was channelled through superior officers but, along the line, the right amount failed to reach the right source, except in the case of the Air Force.
Now, the implications are really dire. If gold rusts, what will silver do? If higher authorities can cream off what belongs to lower ranks, what are they teaching these subordinates? And how can we expect the right attitude and conduct from those so callously cheated? How can they be expected to perform diligently the task set before them? And how will they not make efforts to cut corners to make up for the “losses” suffered through the disgusting and disgraceful act of their “Ogas at the top”? This incident must not be swept under the carpet! Fighting corruption is not only about running after ex-governors and the fat cats. Institutional corruption, as well as corruption in medium and lowly places, must also be factored into the equation.
Fortunately, this incident should be very easy to investigate. Let the Lagos State government disclose how much was due to each official; how much was so released by it; and to whom it was released. Let us determine who collected the monies; who made the payments; and who short-changed the officials concerned. The cheats must be punished! To fight corruption, we necessarily must get our reward system right. Those who offend must be punished while those who do the right thing must be appreciated. In this case, the Air Force authorities that came out clean must be saluted while the other agencies that cut corners must be shamed. The Army, Police, and Civil Defence deserve the stricture. The officials responsible for this must be fished out by all means and be made to face the music. The case of Civil Defence is especially shocking. The percentage creamed off was outrageous. This is a clear case of the monkey working while some nasty baboons somewhere creamed off their sweat. It will amaze many that even the Police came out cleaner than Civil Defence in this regard.
Reports also had it that the whistle-blower in the NSCDC Lagos state command was clamped into detention by superior officers for crying foul. Now, the victimization of the fellow is said to have continued unabated. The authorities, if truly they are desirous to fight corruption, must not allow this to pass unnoticed. It is trite that the success of any anti-graft operation rests squarely on the quality of protection thrown around whistle-blowers.
Without information, how can we fight corruption? That had been our bane, not only in the war against corruption but also in other wars, for instance, against insurgency. If whistle-blowers are left at the mercy of forces trying to suppress vital information, then, the war is dead on arrival. It is impunity of the worst order thrust in our face by the Civil Defence authorities responsible for this show of shame; rather than lower their heads in shame and silently return what had been stolen from the junior officers, they engaged in rigmaroles, cover-ups, and blatant acts of audacity. They must be brought to book! Let them know it will no longer be business as usual!
LAST WORD: It is getting messier in Kogi state as the election debacle there is fast turning into a maze. James Faleke, running mate to the late Abubakar Audu, is threatening hail and brimstone if he is not declared the governor-elect. He has not only joined issues with INEC and his party, APC, he has also threatened court action. Beware! Another rebellion may be afoot. The fire kindled in the National Assembly by a similar rebellion by over-ambitious APC chieftains is still smouldering! The late Audu’s supporters, on their own, are rooting for his first son, Mohammed, as the new flag bearer. It must have become what the Yoruba call “oye idile” or the Benin Kingdom\British succession system where the first son\child ascends to the throne.
On its own, PDP’s National Caucus is up in arms against the Minister of Justice and Federal Attorney-General, Abubakar Malami, SAN, for his legal opinion advising or authorising or directing INEC to let APC replace Audu through “supplementary” primary. PDP not only accuses the Minister of partisanship, it also dropped subtle hints that Audu might have been poisoned or assassinated. The latter, I dare to say, is weighty! PDP must have proof because an allegation such as this must not be flimsily made. But I agree that Malami should have been more circumspect in the circumstance and err on the side of caution.
Since INEC had a legal department headed by a SAN and also the opportunity of seeking independent legal opinion from other sources, Malami should have let the child die from the mother’s hands, so that INEC can truly be seen to be “Independent”. I, however, consider PDP’s logic of APC “legally crashing” out of the Kogi governorship election on account of Audu’s death as queer.
With the law forbidding INEC’s annulling of any election – except the law court so pronounces – we may have to recourse to the court to find a way out of this quagmire. Two simpler options, though: Allow the tickets as they were before the death of Audu, conduct the supplementary election, and announce the winner or return to Ground Zero!
*(firstname.lastname@example.org 070 5263 1058)