Posterity and Buhari’s fight with corruption
For over one year now, Nigeria has been caught in the whirl of the battle between President Muhammadu Buhari and corruption. Even his most ardent critics recognise this confrontation as necessary, albeit the dispute over the modus operandi. Anyway, a fight against anything as wryly duplicitous and malignant as corruption was never going to be widely welcomed. But despite the promises and claims by Buhari’s cavalry, posterity will be the only judge of this momentous fight.
No nation thrives under corruption, and so, Buhari’s contest against it should be commended, especially, when assessed against his predecessors, who didn’t show such militant ardor in their perception of corruption. It won’t be so strange if Buhari’s cap is beginning to look like a saint’s halo in the light of the performance of previous administrations. For example, why didn’t previous leaders pay more than a lip service to the fight against corruption, this malfeasance that has been blamed for every other thing wrong with the country?
Hopefully, every forward- looking Nigerian knows that the challenge of Nigeria as a nation is not in generating revenue given the abundant collective resource, both human and material, but in the management of the resources to the benefit of the citizenry. In this instance, has the teeming population been cursed with less visionary leadership? Successive leaders, at all levels of government, have been indicted in the court of public opinion for having gone into “service” to empower themselves, families and cronies, while impoverishing the rest of the citizens! Apparently, we have rich leaders, not visionary leaders. Do our leaders lack the sheer competence to lead, or the character to see Nigeria’s interest above theirs? Leadership, is not seen as a moral opportunity to serve the country, a chance to join the global acclaimed Class of Indestructibles.
The late Nelson Mandela won freedom for his people by choosing to stand by them in South Africa rather than enriching himself. Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia, UAE and others have taken immense benefit from visionary leadership. When will it happen in Nigeria? Which of our past leaders can we collectively celebrate as a great, visionary leader? Recently, a Nigerian president was ranked by Forbes, the American business magazine, on the list of the wealthiest heads of states.
Faithfully managing resources remains a daunting national challenge, raising the question: What did our leaders do with our money? Inflation is in high double digits; industries are retrenching workers and winding down; workers are owed salaries. Conversely, the convoy of our elected leaders is not shortening; the apparatus of government is not in lack.
In July, when the nation marked the 50th anniversary of the military intervention, the point was widely made of how the military leadership dragged the nation through two tribally- based coups d’etat into the pit of a civil war, the quest for tribal supremacy and dominance and the vicious quest for national leadership. The resonating consequence has been the itch by emerging leaders to seek personal aggrandizement and fuel wanton corruption. This has remained the bane of the nation, 50 years after, as every leader has refused to learn the lessons of history.
We blame the military for yesterday and today we blame our elected leaders. Who will rescue the nation and the people who bear the brunt of the unlearnt lessons? And this is where Buhari’s fight is significant. Can he, as a former military of head of state, who participated not only in the July 1966 coup, but also led his own coup in 1983 to supposedly topple a corrupt government, redeem the mistakes of past leaders, and in the main, initiate the process to make amends. As an elected president, who in 1983 made his statement on war against social decay, will Buhari find the high moral ground to salvage this nation? Providence has been kind to Buhari; he, therefore, has a point to prove. Posterity will be harsh on him if he bungles it.
Buhari might not be towing a lonely path. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo also recognised the destructive tendencies of corruption and signaled his fight by establishing the Economic and Finiancial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices (and other related offences) Commission (ICPC). How will posterity record Buhari?
The social reality today is an irony for a country so endowed. Nigerians are politically angry, economically hungry and socially militant. Millions of hapless Nigerians are wallowing in abject poverty, existing under primal standards of living. No jobs for teeming youths and graduates. Individual and ethnic interests reign supreme. In these difficult times, Buhari excites the optimism with his change mantra. So, the President must be told: posterity awaits.
• Daniel Ukwu is the Founder and Executive Director of Daniel Ukwu Leadership Foundation