Corruption, poverty and instability evidences of bad politics

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May 3, 2018

By Chris Odinaka Nwedo

christonwedo@gmail.com

“Another twist to the anti-corruption fight is the APC detergent. For now, this detergent is the most credible device for exoneration and purification. The detergent is not magical but commonsensical. Here all who have low-hanging convictions, I mean those facing imminent and stringent chastisements on the basis of realistic evidences simply move to the ruling party for guarantee of automatic safety. In the meantime, the doors of APC are wide open for compassionate consideration of all that dare to seek the membership for safety. This fact is devoid of exaggeration and the ruling party has remained unapologetic of this scour for the felons.”

The disgusting contours of socio-economic and political development in Nigeria are objectively attributable in part to rebellious strains of corruption which has metaphorically forced national growth or development to humiliating genuflection. The miasma of corruption is believed to be the source sustaining active political instability, negative culture of governance, dysfunctional infrastructures and services and prevailing atmosphere of discontentment attributed to inexplicable economic hardship in the mist of plenty. Today, there is the predisposition to blame corruption for practically every situation adjudged out of order in Nigeria. The slow pace of justice delivery, the insecurity, poor infrastructures, education and health services, disorderly behaviour of politicians, opaque civil service, duplicitous operations of institutions directly involved in the management of national wealth and more recently the burgeoning almajiri population in the North has also be vetted as direct impact of corruption. Many scholars and public affairs commentators hypothesised that corruption is one of the countless unresolved problems that have critically hobbled and twisted the nation’s development out of shape. Corruption recurrently remains a long-term major political and economic challenge for Nigeria. It is a canker worm that has eaten deep into the fabric of the nation.  It evolved like meteor from inconsequential kickbacks to institutional diversion of billions of dollars into private accounts.

Corruption is a pervasive encumbrance to Nigeria’s national growth and development. The most audacious brand of corruption in Nigeria is the one by highly placed Nigerians who use national institutions to conceal, defend, fight or suppress probes. There is also the concept ‘plea bargain’. This is a brand new tactics that permits those who diverted billions of dollars to be discharged and acquitted after a benign spank. A case of John Yusuf was of the classical cases where a defendant who pleaded guilty for stealing billions of pensioners’ funds was asked to drop N750, 000.00 a guarantee for his freedom.

A new dimension at the moment that complicates the fight against the contagion is that public officials who steal tens or hundreds of billions use the money to obstruct, bribe investigators or wait for prosecutors at the court with clever lawyers. It is despicable that some unrepentantly corrupt ones are ready and willing to spend a comparative short prison terms than return the looted billions. For these categories of Nigerians it is more expedient to accept the levity of ‘special prison sentences’ and bounce back to affluence with the plunder intact. Another twist to the anti-corruption fight is the APC detergent. For now, this detergent is the most credible device for exoneration and purification. It is not magical but commonsensical. Here, all who have low-hanging convictions, I mean those facing imminent and stringent chastisements on the basis of realistic evidence simply move to the ruling party and have automatic safety. In the meantime, the doors of APC are wide open for compassionate consideration of all that dare to sick membership for safety. This fact is devoid of exaggeration and the ruling party has remained unapologetic of this scour for the felons. It is self-evident that the anti-corruption war has been weakened and endlessly vulnerable to dirty political projects of the ruling party. From the inception of Buhari’s government, anti-corruption fight has centred on the media trials and embarrassments of the former ruling party members and those close to the former president Goodluck Jonathan. It is an overt fact that the corruption war under Buhari is shambolic, capricious, partial, vindictive and an obvious distraction from a failing government with superfluous agenda.

For many Nigerians, Buhari and his ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) have no plans on how to rescue Nigeria from her economic malaise. Since they came into power in May of 2015, they have gradually reneged on all the promises they made to Nigerians and have used the anti-corruption crusade as a way of distracting Nigerians from the serious problems that the country is facing. The problem with Buhari’s anti-corruption tactics is that they are not sincere. Observers noted that it is impossible for Buhari to advance yourself as an anti-corruption crusader when the major sponsors of your campaign are among the most corrupt Nigerians. After his election, Buhari gave voice to these people by appointing them to his cabinet and other governmental parastatal. Their anti-corruption agenda has been reduced to a witch-hunt of the members of the opposition party, PDP.  Bekeh Utietiang raised the issue that since “Buhari was sworn in as President of Nigeria, no member of the APC has been arrested or prosecuted. Yet, a substantial number of the members of the ruling APC were formerly members of PDP who enriched themselves from the government coffers during the sixteen years that PDP ruled Nigeria”.  According to Utietiang, “if Buhari needs his war against corruption to be taken seriously, he needs to first clean up his own house, the All Peoples Congress. When is Buhari’s government turning its anti-corruption searchlight on members of the All Peoples Congress? Until then, he needs to stop distracting Nigerians with his anti-corruption war and focus on the economy that is falling apart under the weight of his ineptitude.”

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Conscientious compatriots including Senator Shehu Sani have in endless occasions castigated the anti-corruption war by the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration as driven by parochial political considerations. According to Sani, “it is only in Nigeria that one says because somebody has contributed to the success of the ruling party, corruption charges should be withdrawn against him. But if he falls out of favour tomorrow, then, EFCC will bring up the case.” Sani accused President Muhammadu Buhari of using double standards in fighting corruption. Sani made the accusation in response to a letter by the President dismissing a report by a senate committee indicting the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, for massive corruption in the North East relief fund. According Sani, “when it comes to fighting corruption in the National Assembly, the Judiciary and in the larger Nigerian sectors, the President uses insecticide, but when it comes to fighting corruption within the Presidency, they use deodorants,”  For Sani, corruption must be fought without bias. And therefore the attempt by Buhari to launder and shield some people is “a funeral service for the anti-corruption fight.” According to him it was pitiable that “we have a political atmosphere where you have a saintly and angelic Presidency and a devilish and evil society.” Sani has demonstrated exceptional courage in the proposition that massive corruption and looting of public funds is ongoing under President Muhammadu Buhari’s watch. The Senator compared the scale of the ongoing looting by political leaders to the arms deal scam allegedly committed by Sambo Dasuki, the former National Security Adviser to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.

There are enough signals to conclude that war against corruption by the corrupt elements led by the ‘incorruptible’ ruler will end in futility. For now, the effort by the Buhari’s government to decimate corruption has been largely pharisaic. It has been dismal failure by objective standards. For instance, “Nigeria ranked 148 out of 180 countries assessed” assessed in 2017 on the Transparency International annual Corruption Perception Index. This shows deterioration in perception of corruption in public administration in Nigeria compared to 2016” in spite of the frenzied skirmishes and boisterous propaganda lies of substantial progress.

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Propaganda of lies in the sense that the rebelliously growing corruption is a sharp contrast to the claims by the government that it is seriously tackling graft in the country. The nature of crippling corruption and the felonious people perpetrating it shows that it has become a repressive political weapon to impoverish, disorganize and cow the folks to surrender the right to good leadership. This explains in part the rationality behind the concept of stomach infrastructure and exchange of food for votes. Therefore, it is not completely true that ‘people engage in corrupt practices in Nigeria as a result of poverty, unemployment, under-remuneration and financial hardship. Corruption is a choice by the depraved, ones who have little value for honesty or integrity. It is exceptionally controversial as it is misrepresentative to censor the above factors for the disproportionate havoc done to the polity by fellow Nigerians. This because most of the Nigerians indicted for corruption related crimes are highly privileged public servants who usually have unlimited access to state funds. In most instances they are those who have the power of hire and fire, some of the most privileged Nigerians.

Since the start of war against corruption in 2000 state governors, heads of large government institutions, executive directors of Nigerian banks, senators and top national law makers for instance have been investigated and there are palpable evidences for their indictments. Some for the sake of their exceptional connections have their prison sentences abridged or given automatic state pardon. The former speaker of federal house of representative, Dimeji Bankole, has privilege of millions as legitimate monthly take home but he was unable to demonstrate integrity enough to save him from grave suspicion. Bankole was accused of fraudulently removing billions of state funds for private use. It is difficult to exhaust the many examples.

It is evident that overall culture of governance plays significant roles in the interminable nature of corruption in Nigeria. It is too, incontrovertible that the nature of Nigeria’s political economy, the weak institutions of government, a dysfunctional legal system and absence of clear rules and codes of ethics lead to abuse of public authority and endemic corruption. These are compounded by brazen adulation of the affluent and the arrogant living ostentatiously. Nigeria is, unfortunately, one of the very few countries in the world where a man’s source of wealth is of no concern to the society in general. ‘Once a man is able to dole out money, the Churches, the Mosques pray for him, he collects chieftaincy titles and hobnobs with those who govern. The message to those who have not made it is clear: just be rich, the ways and means are irrelevant.

The palpable lack of transparency, inadequate strategic vision and weak monitoring mechanisms make Nigeria a prolific environment for brands of corrupt practices. Some government functionaries such as the governors and local government chairmen seem so naughty and unsupervised.  They behave with impunity as if they are the immunities themselves. ‘Most of Nigerian leaders and top bureaucrats set bad examples of self-enrichment or ambiguity over public ethics thereby promoting the lower level officials and members of the public into corrupt practices. Informal rules are found to supersede formal ones, thereby making stringent legal principles and procedures to lose their authority. Hence, bribery and corruption are taken by many Nigerians as norm even in the face of anti-corruption crusades intended to support clean governance.

Corruption has not only permeated the government and oil fields of Nigeria, it is fatally attacking the entire nation. ‘Corruption and inefficiency are characteristics of service delivery in Nigeria, although private companies seem to perform more efficiently and less corruptly than public enterprises.  Corruption has become so blatant and widespread that it appears as if it has been legalized in Nigeria.5 According to a report attributed to Sunday Punch, ‘over N5tn in government funds have been stolen through fraud, embezzlement and theft since President GEJ assumed office on May 6, 2010. The paper noted that it arrived at the stolen sum after poring over the reports of the various committees set up by the President to probe some sectors of the economy, particularly oil and gas. In addition to this are disclosures by some senior government officials. According to this source,  the five trillion naira was the summation of government funds said to have been stolen, through such channels as oil subsidy, stolen crude, the ecological fund, SIM card registration and frequency band spectrum sale. By citing these allegations, I am not particularly critical of the administration’s integrity records because corruption is a factor so pervasive in the system that no one government since 1999 can be objectively and fairly be exculpated from the virulence. Our state governors irrespective of party or state are intensely corrupt.

In the local government councils impunities reign supreme. The particularly painful is that in many states, corruption and marginalisation on the basis of religion and tribe have become cultures sustained over time. There are states in this country where indigenes are denied of their rights and despised because of entrenched of culture of repression. This is where successive governments continued with procedural policy of barefaced deprivation of a section or sections of the citizens. Our leaders gave corruption and indiscretion such allowance in their lives that they have involuntarily forgotten that they have responsibility not only to the people they imposed themselves on but also to God. It is a duty of all well meaning Nigerians to rise up against vicious politicians, evil religious propagandists and avaricious government agents.

Mindboggling sums of money are expropriated from the undermined economy as the Nigerian nation staggers in pains of drastic energy crisis, poor funding for education and dysfunctional social and economic infrastructure. Today, many Nigerians desperately groan under the excruciating health challenges. Daily we are inundated with pathetic stories aimed at eliciting supports for Nigerians very sick and in need of millions dollars for operation abroad this is because few Nigerian hospitals have the capacity to effectively attend to these common illnesses.If healthy nations are wealthy nations, then Nigeria must be one of the world’s poorest countries. Two sobering revelations confirmed the critical states of Nigerian health institutions. The first came from the World Health Organisation which raised an alarm on what it called the worsening health crisis in the country, characterised by unacceptably high levels of infant and maternal mortality, low access to healthcare in the rural areas and truncated life-expectancy rates. Tertiary education in Nigeria is considerably in shambles as the lecturers have been on strike on allegations of poor funding and insensitively pitiable wages. It is a general feeling that corruption is principally responsible or contributory to Nigeria’s endless predicaments.

 

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