A closet of new corruption

Alabi Williams

The major reason many Nigerians staked their fortune with the All Progressives Congress before and during the 2015 general elections was because the party promised to do things radically different from the other party and its government, which for 16 years had it so good, but left the country gasping for economic and spiritual breath. It was such that many could not wait for that election to hold, so that a new government will commence the task of rebuilding the country.

But now, in just two years, and the people are already looking elsewhere for another government. Were ours to be like government types in Japan and Italy, Buhari would have been asked to go home. He seems to have lost verve and the government he heads is running too low on the energy that brought it into office.

In the months before that election, Muhammadu Buhari was the lone star in the APC firmament. He was the one who had not tasted democratic governance after three previous attempts. His stint as military ruler was his major reference point, when he displayed rare attributes of a revolutionary, along his non-smiling deputy, Tunde Idiagbon, who was Chief of Staff, Supreme headquarters. Many yearned for that old, stellar performance they did not have enough of between 1983 and 1985. Many were curious, but not so mindful that, the majority of those who partnered to make Buhari president had all participated at one time or the other in government between 1999 and 2015. It was an era when some governors and political appointees spent recklessly.

Ministers superintended over budgets that did not work, and until the tail end of president Obasanjo’s second term, when the anti-corruption started, not too many asked questions. Yet, these were the persons who footed the bills to bring Buhari to Office. How was he going to deal with the monster of corruption if he was to surround himself with these old players? That was the fear.

But the man gave assurances, that once he comes in, he would draw a line between sins that his fellow APC members committed while they were in the wilderness, and ensure they sin no more. Onlookers were wondering how that was possible, knowing that politicians are like fish, they drink corruption for oxygen, and when you cut off that lifeline, how were they going to survive? How will Buhari tame corruption and at the same time run a good economy that will provide viable alternatives for those whose only source of livelihood is thievery?

The process soon rolled out after May 29, 2015. But the blueprint did not take a comprehensive look at the origin of corruption in the public space, as well as equipping institutions to deal with it. It became a one-man fight against corruption, as Buhari failed to understand that every man in government has an agenda. A few voices outside government tried to explain that the malaise of corruption in the country has a far deeper root than what this government admits. It has its roots deeply in the foundations of the country, which thrives on nepotism and injustice. The sharing formula of resources is so unjust that access to government has been interpreted to mean access to public resource, rather than service of country.

That is why political appointments did not take into consideration factors of competence and capacity, but persons got recommended into offices because big men in power favoured them. That was the old template Buhari and the APC promised to change. But they did not. Rather, the president himself dug into the crevices of his lineage to bring onboard men and women into public service. The same nepotism that first military coup espoused as part of national afflictions is still around. And this government is so brazen and reckless with it, such that every set of appointment into public offices, agencies and parastatals is riddled with nepotism, a variant of corruption that is not seen to be so its operators.

Since the president did not ask for inputs into these appointments, Mr. President seems restricted in dealing with them, because he either feels sympathetic towards these men and women, or he is too busy with his personal issues to notice.

When they came into office, they promised there will not be office of First Lady. It was a categorical pledge to Nigerians. Since Mrs. Patience Jonathan was alleged to have operated that office as tollgate where she obtained benefit from visitors, they will sanitise that office so that there will be no scandal of any sort. Yet, tell me what difference we have seen in two years this government has operated that office of Mr. President’s wife. Monies are spent here and there, on IDP camps, girl child issues and so on. Noble projects. But we have not seen any publication where sources of revenue that fund that office are displayed, with names and locations of donors and how much they donated. With copies sent to the revenue services and EFCC to crosscheck where the funds are coming from, and the taxes paid.

The Inspector General of Police, an appointee of Mr. President, can tell all the stories that catch his fancy, but what is clear is that allocations (personnel and resources) are being channeled to an office of First Lady that does not exist in the Constitution and was promised not to exist. When the IG defended his 2017 budget before the National Assembly he did not tell such stories.

That is what the maxim of going to equity with clean hands is all about. Personally, I believe the office of First Lady is a very useful one and should be accorded official recognition. That will make it more accountable and answerable to petitions. That office has been very visible since the Babangida days. Every first lady, in Abuja and in 36 states, runs a pet project or foundation, and huge sums are spent, yet, there is no accountability of any sort. Even daughters of presidents and governors now own foundations, but without details provided in the public domain. And any president who promises to fight corruption will continue to get embarrassed if such little details of probity and accountability are not factored into the fight.

Buhari should spend more time plotting what he would be remembered for after four years. He should pay more attention to his team and those he has brought onboard to assist his government. He has recorded enough embarrassment in two years. How does he explain Mainagate, as situation where someone who had been announced globally as a financial crimes suspect was brought back into the country and reinstated in office right under his nose? The men who are named to have facilitated this effrontery are still addressing conferences and feeling unperturbed? Have we not seen enough impunity under this government, yet Mr. President is languid, showing scant attention?

We are yet to hear anymore of the Ibe Kachikwu/Maikantu Baru saga. Nigerians want to know what transpired so that the resolution of it will be added in our convention books as lessons against a likely future occurrence. Why is it so difficult to disclose findings of the David Babachir’s matter and that of the recovered loot in Ikoyi? What of that bag of money abandoned in Kaduna airport? Are we not going to hear anymore of it?

Discerning Nigerians are wont to have the impression that these are insiders’ jobs whose perfidious acts are too embarrassing to shame in a hurry. That is why the files are piling untidily. And that does not help the fight. As 2019 takes over, Buhari will get more sidelined, distracted and confused. The infighting among his men will get more intense until APC decides what to do with itself. It might pay the party to disperse early!



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