Since assumption of office as the sixth electoral president of Nigeria on 29th May 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari and his Presidency have saturated the minds and consciousness of Nigerians and members of the international community with “fight against corruption” alarmist messages. While it is a truism that Nigeria’s major social problem since independence in 1960 is “bad political leadership” triggered by economic and political corruption leading to national loss of sums estimated at over $500Billion/$600Billion since independence to treasury looters; “anti-corruption” policies of successive military and civilian administrations in the country have undergone series of corruption and bastardization.
For the records, the major reason given by some military renegades that overthrew the parliamentary government of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (president) and Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Belewa (prime minister) 15th January 1966 was “corruption”, “favoritism” and “nepotism”. Same reasons featured in the bloody coup of 12th July 1966 led by Retired Gen Yakubu Gowon and that of July 29, 1975 led by late General Murtala Muhammed. The military government of General Olusegun Obasanjo (as he then was), which came to power on 16th January 1976 made promises of “ending corruption and abuse of office”; likewise the military coup of 31st December 1983 led by Retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari (current president), which sacked the democratically elected government of Alhaji Shehu Aliyu Shagari.
The Buhari’s military regime’s slogan was “war against indiscipline and corruption”. When Buhari was overthrown on 26th Agust 1985 by Retired General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, “fighting corruption with human face and benevolence” was given as an excuse. When late General Sani Abacha took over on 17th November 1993, he, too, promised to “fight corruption”. Same thing happened when Retired General Abdulsalami Abubakar took over 8th June 1998, following Abacha’s death in office. General Abubakar also made further promise to “fight corruption”.
The corrupted and bastardized anti corruption policy patterns continued during three civilian governments of Olusegun Obasanjo (29th May 1999 to 29th May 2007), Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (29th May 2007 to 5th May 2010) and Goodluck Jonathan (5th May 2010 to 29th May 2015). The Obasango civilian government went extra mile and created in 2000 and 2004 respectively the Independent Corrupt Practices & Other Related Offenses Commission (ICPC) and the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). This is in addition to over 20 existing anti graft or corruption legal instruments and bodies in the country.
The genesis of the present “anti-corruption” alarmist policy of the Buhari administration is dated back to his military governance days (1984 to 1985) when it was adopted as “a crushing State policy” by then Supreme Military Council (SMC) and tagged “war against indiscipline & corruption”. As a matter of fact, the major actor behind the dreaded anti-corruption policy and implementation was late Major General Tunde Idiagbon, leading to General Muhammadu Buhari (as he then was) being described as “nominal head of State”.
This popular belief paid off when the anti Buhari coupists waited for Idiagbon to embark on his official trip to Mecca before their military government was overthrown in a bloodless coup. Records revealed that Buhari who was in his Daura home, in Katsina State, Northwest Nigeria during the coup; was not the target, but his Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, Major General Tunde Idiagbon (as he then was).
Following the death of Major General Tunde Idiagbon some years ago, the associates of Retired General Muhammadu Buhari cornered and claimed the credit so called and labeled Buhari “a champion of anti corruption and incorruptible”. Owing to absence of a grounded governance blueprint in the Buhari and his Party’s campaigns, the “anti corruption slogan” of his military dark days was dusted up as “a major governance policy direction” of his new civilian administration. Some of his supporters have also recently called for abrogation of the 1999 Constitution and return to military decree era for the purpose of “fighting corruption”. The worst of it all is that President Muhammadu Buhari sees “fight against corruption” only in the prism of “sending people to jail” by hook or crook.
Apart from the fact that modern corruption has gone scientific, requiring scientific and institutional approaches in curbing it; there are many angles or dimensions to corruption. There are “political or government corruption”, “electoral corruption”, “legislated corruption”, “economic or financial corruption” and “civil corruption”. In all, it is shocking and alarming that those shouting “anti-corruption” in the Nigeria’s public offices as presently constituted are either do not understand its fundamental meaning or have chosen to use it to deceive and mislead Nigerians for purpose of achieving cheap popularity and obtaining mechanical legitimacy. Freedom from corruption or fight against corruption connotes impeccability of character, sound morality and cleanest mindset. Which explains our firm demand that the Buhari civilian government in Nigeria must avoid corrupting its anti-corruption policy and go to equity with clean hands. That is to say that President Muhammadu Buhari must live by firm example by not only being clean, but also be seen to be clean.
Sadly, minuses abound validly challenging President Buhari’s “anti-corruption policy and stance”. Some of these minuses are in the following questions: Can President Buhari and his Vice who declined to make their assets declarations public on moral grounds validly, successfully and conscientiously fight corruption? Who provided campaign funds for the duo’s presidential campaigns? Who are those that own private jets or helicopters with which the duo accepted to be flown during electioneering? What about electoral corruption and the electoral process that brought them to power? Were voters’ cards manipulated and corrupted in their strongholds? Were hundreds of thousands, if not millions of child or under-age voters not voted for them and their votes counted in their favor in defiance of the provisions of the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act of 2010? What about zero invalid votes in Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara States? Is it correct to say that one of their strongest supporters and sponsors stacked a whopping sum of $757 Million in US banks as reportedly reported on Amanpour’s Live TV Program?
Our concern is not about fight against corruption in Nigeria, but its corruption and bastardization by previous and past administrations in the country leading to steady confusion and misleading of Nigerians and members of the international community. Practically speaking, former President Goodluck Jonathan and his administration was corruption friendly and many, if not most of those peopling the APC’s federally ruling administration presently partook in the scourge, when they served as APC or PDP governors, ministers, board heads, commissioners, contractors, etc. The journey to “kill” the fight against corruption was also popularly believed to have been initiated by the Jonathan’s camp and his associates. A clear example was presidential ordeal that befell Malam Nuhu Ribadu as EFCC Executive Chairman, months after the swearing in of Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as the 4th civilian president and vice president.
The Ribadu and his EFCC’s presidential ordeal popularly believed to have been engineered by the camp of Goodluck Jonathan resulted in the appointment of corruption friendly persons to head EFCC and the office of the Attorney General of the Federation. From then till May 2015, fight against corruption under former President Goodluck Jonathan was related to the background. Yet, in theory, “fight against corruption” consistently featured under his administration.
Therefore, corruption as an integral part of white-collar or corporate crimes has multiple dimensions and remedial approaches. It goes beyond “sending people to jail”. The best universal approaches to tackling it lie on system change propelled by character impeccability and forthright, accountable and transparent governance leadership and institutional reforms including criminal justice overhaul. As ebulliently noted by Prof Edwin Sutherland (1949) of the Chicago School of Criminology, street crimes are far more easier to fight than white-collar crimes including criminal corruption (codified corruption). This is owing to the latter’s invisibility and difficulties associated with its detection.
In part two of this public statement of ours (Intersociety), the eyes of Nigerians will be fully opened on fundamental meaning of corruption and its agents as well as its remedial or curbing benchmarks. The overall idea of this important publication is to equip ordinary Nigerians measuring over 95% of the country’s population and put them in the primary knowledge of what corruption means, how to fight or control it, when to control or fight it, where to control or fight it and who to fight it or control it as well as qualities expected of those chanting “fight against corruption” in the country. These are to guide against further corruption of anti corruption policies and actions of the government as well as to avoid further confusion and misleading of Nigerians and members of the international community.
For: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety)
Emeka Umeagbalasi, B.Sc. (Hons) Criminology & Security Studies
Board Chairman (+2348174090052 (office)
Uzochukwu, Oguejiofor-Nwonu, Esq., (LLB, BL), Head, Campaign & Publicity Department