Prior to his assumption of office as president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari outlined the blueprint for his government. His campaign strategy was principally anchored on the fight against corruption and the massive looting of Nigeria’s wealth by political cabals.
As he moved from state to state, he told Nigerians that his government would not condone corruption but would confront it with the last drop of his blood.
And so it was that as Buhari stepped into government, he again re-echoed to Nigerians that he is for everyone and for no one. His statement gave hope of a united fight for all Nigerians irrespective of the individual’s tribe or religious affiliation. Even his party bigwigs were agitated at the statement, which threw them off balance as it was perceived that Buhari would confront anyone undermining whose ox is gored, all for the unity of Nigeria.
And as he stepped into office, he began a systematic war against the corruption he campaigned against. For once, his government stood by a promise made during the election campaign.
This is very uncommon among Nigerian politicians, most of whom make promises only to win over the gullible and throw the promises into the trash can as soon as they clinch the seat of power. But this is not so with Buhari.
Buhari said: “Corruption is a hydra-headed monster and a cankerworm that undermines the fabric of all societies. It does not differentiate between developed and developing countries. It constitutes a serious threat to good governance, rule of law, peace and security, as well as development programmes aimed at tackling poverty and economic backwardness,” hence it must be fought on all fronts.
Osinbajo did what?
Even the selection of his running mate, Vice President Yemi Osibanjo, was said to be a result of the fact that Osibanjo shared Buhari's hatred of corruption and looting.
Osibanjo himself told a gathering of Nigerians that one significant factor that brought the two of them together was Buhari’s understanding of his view on corruption and ill-gotten wealth. He said his nomination to be vice president in 2014 was unexpected but his views on corruption played a significant role in his teaming up with Buhari to make Nigeria a great country.
Osibanjo expressed optimism over Buhari’s single-minded fight against corruption and indiscipline in government. He said Buhari fought a serious war against indiscipline in his days as military head of state. For the first time government held corrupt officers accountable.
But 30 years later, providence brought them together to pilot the affairs of a nation at the precipice of economic destruction occasioned by massive looting of the national patrimony by cabals in government.
Osibanjo explained that in government corruption was always so outrageous as it made the majority poor and development impossible. Law and order was always a problem, as there were usually no consequences for wrongdoing and the nation was drifting in the wrong direction, with the rich and corrupt becoming richer while the poor and less privileged pined away.
‘’We recognized that our country needed a different set of values; a new way of doing business; an economy that is able to give opportunity to young people to work in their chosen professions and to build strong and profitable businesses. We knew that we had to provide social protection for the poorest and the most vulnerable.
“We recognized that innovation and change will be key, and that we must implement and not just talk about diversification of our economy. So we led our party’s campaign on that single, simple, but profound word: CHANGE! We have a country that is tired of corruption, tired of leadership without values, tired of an economy that is neither designed to accommodate enterprise, nor to create opportunity and wealth for the majority.
“But in President Muhammadu Buhari, we have leadership and a leader that is prepared to challenge the rotten status quo, one who has said that he is prepared to kill corruption rather than letting it kill us as a nation,” Osibanjo stated.
And less than three months into his government, Buhari began hauling perceived corrupt government officials into detention.
When the sleeping giant suddenly awakes
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which was almost moribund in previous administrations, woke up as if from a drunken slumber and began prosecuting, some with a minimal trial while a number of others were hauled into EFCC cells without trial. Anyone who receives an invitation from the anti-graft agency knows that he must be in detention whether guilty or not.
Among the many Nigerians who have been prosecuted for corruption are Sambo Dasuki, who is on trial for abusing his office as the national security adviser to the former president Goodluck Jonathan and for squandering $2.5 billion meant for the purchase of arms for the Nigerian army to prosecute the war against Boko Haram insurgents in the north east of the country.
From the Dasuki trial, the Dasukigate scandal emerged; a coinage by the media to portray the gravity of the alleged looting of funds by Dasuki.
From the trial of Dasuki, others suspects emerged. Alex Badeh, the former chief of defence staff, was quizzed by the EFCC over $930 million in contracts he allegedly awarded as chief of defence staff. Under his leadership, Boko Haram dealt a severe blow to the Nigerian armed forces, partly due to the superior firepower the terrorists possessed.
Raymond Dokpesi, the chairman of Africa Independent Television (AIT), followed, accused of money laundering to the tune of N2.1 billion and breach of public procurement law.
Olisah Metuh, the former publicity secretary of the PDP, was arraigned for allegedly collecting N400m from Dasuki's office. Patrick Akpobolokemi, the former director general of the Nigerian Maritime and Safety Agency (NIMASA), was also arraigned on charges of diverting N3.7 billion meant for the development of the Maritime University in Okerenkoko, Delta state, into private pockets.
Government Ekpemukpolo, aka Tompolo, has been on the run, wanted in connection with an alleged N49.6 billion fraud. He has been declared wanted by the EFCC for conspiracy and the illegal diversion of N34 billion and N11.9 billion belonging to NIMASA.
His account has been frozen for dishonouring the invitation of the EFCC for questioning. Alison Madueke, the former minister of petroleum, is also on the run. She has given various excuses as to why she is not in Nigeria. She was alleged to have stolen a lot of money when she held sway as minister of oil in Nigeria.
Steve Oronsaye, the former federal head of service, was also arraigned on a 24-count charge of allegedly obtaining money by false pretences, theft and money laundering to the tune of N1.9billion. He was charged with complicity in money laundering and a contract scam.
Abdulrasheed Maina, the former chairman of Pension Reform Task, was also charged with alleged embezzlement, misappropriation and looting of police pension funds. The former minister of aviation and director of publicity of the Jonathan campaign organisation, Femi Fani-Kayode, was also recently invited by the EFCC and eventually detained for alleged misuse of N800 million from the campaign funds of the PDP.
The former president Goodluck Jonathan’s cousin, Azibaola Robert, was recently arrested by the EFCC for an alleged $40 million pipeline contract scam. The contract was said to have been awarded by the office of the former national security adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki.
A total of more than 70 people have now been quizzed by the EFCC in connection with the Dasukigate scandal.
Analysis and breakdown
In an interview with The Economy magazine, Prof. Itse Sagay, the chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption, described corruption as a cankerworm that has paralysed the economic life of Nigeria.
He said members of the previous administrations turned the national treasury into a bazaar from where they traded and squandered every kobo in the national kitty. He said anyone who finds fault with the current anti-corruption war is an armed robber. According to him, the billions looted by members of the previous administration cannot be overlooked as every kobo must be accounted for by all concerned.
Sagay said he felt sad over the rate of corruption in Nigeria, and that the menace has made Nigeria a retrogressive nation. “I feel a deep sense of sadness; we have been retrogressive.
"There is no doubt about that. I have observed Nigeria’s politics from the First Republic. I was a young university student in the First Republic. People like the Obafemi Awolowos, the Abubakar Tafawa Balewas, were men who maintained ethics, principles and integrity in governance. You cannot compare any subsequent government with the First Republic politicians,” Sagay said.
For him, the Awolowos and Balewas are angels compared to the succeeding administrations. He said the only pleasure they derived was to serve the people of the nation. They wanted power only to serve Nigerians.
“The question of material gain just didn’t occur to them. They had honour and integrity. They were stately people in the way they talked and carried themselves. Now all these are gone. Morality is gone. Ethics is gone. Integrity is gone. Even parliamentarian comportment and language are gone. I’m sorry, this era is controlled by riffraff. It is a degenerating process. The type of politicians we have now are from the dark ages,” he lamented.
He further said top military officers who were supposed to protect the country shared all the money meant for acquiring weapons and paid billions of naira into accounts of their wives and children and sent their juniors to go and die on the battlefield without weapons.
He said they would collect $30 million for a helicopter and use $3 million to buy a rickety helicopter and soldiers would die in the air. “I don’t think we have human beings now. The barbarians have taken over,” he said.
Sagay said the quality of politicians these days is less than zero: “Otherwise how can you say that you are governing a country and then you become a company of rats eating all the resources of the country, sharing them among yourselves and not caring what would happen to your country,” he queried. For him, Buhari needed to be more combative in his corruption war against the mafias and bring them under control.
The French ambassador to Nigeria, Dennis Guaer, also said President Buhari is now popular with his anti-corruption war. He said Buhari is a popular figure in the international community. “Buhari presented the fight against corruption as his main priority objective and I think it is probably the main reason why he was elected.
“It is also the reason why he has become immediately so popular also abroad within the international community. Everybody is thinking this president is really willing this time to confront the problem of corruption. I think Buhari is really trying and trying very hard; it appears to me as a historical effort to fight corruption,” the French ambassador said.
Political and economic analysts have unanimously adopted Buhari as Africa’s preferred leader to lead a vigorous anti-corruption war to rid Africa of corruption. They are of the view that the present administration’s efforts at fighting corruption have earned Nigeria international respect and recognition.
They argued that corruption has been a major challenge militating against development in most countries of the world, undermining human rights, the provision of basic amenities and good governance, among other things.
Other analysts also claimed that the introduction of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) by Buhari is a policy that could guarantee transparency and accountability in governance. To them, the policy would block several leakages for corruption, though it may slow down implementation of government policies and programmes.
An economic analyst, Benjamin Ofoegbunam, said: “The implementation of TSA in my view is the best policy that will guarantee transparency and accountability in the country because by this, government ministries and agencies are made to remit their revenue to a single account. So, the era of a ministry or agency running several accounts leading to corruption is over because all government revenues are being remitted to a single account,’’ he said.
Is there corruption everywhere?
The accountant general of the federation, Alhaji Ahmed Idris, said the federal government recorded N3 trillion inflows to TSA in the first quarter of the year. He said that at the end of March 2016, total inflows into TSA amounted to about N3 trillion, while the number of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) on TSA has risen to 976.
According to him, successful TSA implementation rests on a tripod, which includes the collection of MDA's receipts, payment by MDAs and their budgetary control.
But while some hail the success of Buhari’s anti-corruption war, other Nigerians, especially the civil society groups, have punctured a hole in Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade.
Members of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) have said Buhari’s anti-corruption fight is one sided and hence he should extend it to all segments of the nation for it to gain acceptance by all Nigerians. The chairman of the Ogidi branch of the NBA in Anambra state, Samuel Chukwukelu, said he is in full support of the war but it should be all encompassing.
“There is corruption everywhere. The entire system is corrupt and that is why I am fully in support of fighting corruption but our concern is that it should be fought holistically. It should not be lopsided. I know and still stand to defend it that the corruption President Muhammadu Buhari is fighting is lopsided,” he said. He said that President Buhari’s fight against corruption should start from previous administrations before the former president Goodluck Jonathan.
Also, the rise of militancy in the Niger Delta cannot be divorced from the anti-corruption war of the president. It was learnt in an interview with stakeholders in the Niger Delta that the agitation in the region was occasioned by the Buhari’s prosecution of prominent people in the volatile region.
According to a community leader in the region, the militants are blowing up the pipelines because Buhari is prosecuting their leader, Chief Government Ekpemukpolo, aka Tompolo. For him, Buhari must look beyond Tompolo and fight a holistic war, develop the region, and then peace would return.
It has also been alleged that Buhari’s anti-corruption fight is only against politicians who served in the Jonathan administration.
Many Nigerians have called for the prosecution of Rotimi Amaechi, the minister for transport, Babatunde Fashola, the minister of works, power and housing, and others who are serving in Buhari's government, but Buhari has been accused of tactically turning a deaf ear to the pleas of Nigerians.
Also, there are allegations that Tukur Buratai, the chief of army staff, and Abdulrahman Dambazzau, the minister for the interior, are being shielded by Buhari against prosecution because of their alleged closeness to the president.
Many have alleged that their names should be on Buhari's corruption list, but inside sources say Buhari had shielded them to avoid the disaster which their prosecution may generate.
Buhari has been probing the use of the PDP's 2015 campaign funds, but calls for similar investigations into the APC's campaign funds were turned down.
Many Nigerians have said that Amaechi employed Rivers state funds to campaign for Buhari but Buhari has failed to probe the source of the APC funds while continuing to haul Nigerians who served in Jonathan’s government into EFCC cells, ignoring those who stole money to strengthen his campaign to win his presidency.
Nigerians are therefore of the view that Buhari has set a precedent which may haunt APC members for generations. They say he has divided the nation in two by his actions: the North against the South.
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Again, many enemies have been made which may take years to bring together and reconcile, even after the end of his government.
It was expected that the money recovered from the anti-corruption fight would be ploughed back into the economy to resuscitate the failing system but rather than recovering, the economy is plummeting on a daily basis. Hence, many Nigerians are now of the view that corruption should return so that life will be good for all.
Their call is not as strange as it may seem because in the days of the previous administration, in the midst of the corruption, the economy was good and Nigerians were never in an economic mess such as this. The naira never fell the way it has fallen against the dollar recently.
Most states in the nation are struggling to pay salaries to workers. Many owe workers months of payments and hunger has continued to afflict government workers who rely entirely on government salaries for their livelihood.
Local government workers in many states are owed over seven months’ salaries by their local government administrations. But this was not so in the days of Jonathan when the perceived corruption held sway.
However, many have expressed optimism that the pains of Nigerians will be temporary. This is because after the corruption war it is hoped the economy will bounce back to give life to the failing economy so that the living conditions of Nigerians will improve.
But when will this be? Is it when all Nigerians have died of hunger or when many parents have withdrawn their children from school for lack of money to pay school fees? Nigerians are waiting for the miracle Buhari will provide. But one thing is certain, for Buhari to win the confidence of Nigerians in his anti-corruption fight, it must be holistic, regardless of tribe, religion and party affiliations.
Nigerians are calling for the release of the recovered funds by the federal government, as it has been reported that some of the stolen funds have been returned quietly by those who took them.
There is agitation demanding the names of the looters who returned the money they stole from the government. As President Buhari continues to fight corruption, some citizens have criticised him for his failure to disclose the amount of money that has been recovered since he took over power from Jonathan in May last year.
For example, Diezani Madueke was said to have returned some funds to the federal government. It seems that she and others who returned money made the gestures to save themselves from public disgrace.