Friday 24 April 2015

One Battle Buhari Must Begin And Wage Fast - by Fola Ojo

His adherents and tub-thumpers have very high expectations that he will perform and deliver. Friendly nations around the world also hope that he will be the answer to Nigeria’s many malaises ills. Betwixt and between these, when Muhammadu Buhari takes charge of the affairs of the nation on May 29, plenteous will be the battles he must not only have to fight, but win handily.

The Mother-of-all-the-battles that Buhari will fight from Day One as President will be the battle against CORRUPTION. This battle will be dirty and daring; it will be valiant and valorous, and it will hit him like a ferocious, surging head-wind because he will not be fighting it in an Army General’s uniform and authority, but as a civilian who must be civil and sensitive to people’s fundamental human rights. The unfurling gutsy and gusty battle will make casualties of friends and foes, and of family members and unfamiliar spirits. This war and its scope will not be a respecter of persons; some of the fatalities may be those who have helped the General become President.

Throughout the campaign for change, I battled it out in my head trying to figure out how Buhari will pull the plug on this monstrous Godzilla of corruption that has become a well-grounded landlord with many annexes in our nation. Nothing can work in any nation where corruption thrives; security will forever be lax; rejuvenating the power sector will be a pipe dream as long as corruption is oxygenated. A nation’s many difficulties will continue as long as corruption is breathing. Ending corruption in Nigeria may be like ending a swirling, raging cyclone by human tactics; only the Creator can put a cyclone to sleep.

Where will the General begin from? Does he kick-start from among his men and women, his backers and praise singers, his moneybags during the campaign or his teeming millions who are ready to die for him? Does he begin from his foes who wanted him to die of prostate cancer, his enemies who stealthily withdrew his credentials from the Nigerian Army’s records, or his sworn-haters who took out advertorials on the pages of some national newspapers that he must die in two years? Where does Buhari begin from? From the federal or state civil servants who many believe have become the most uncivil gathering of geeks and killers of Nigeria’s economy that President Goodluck Jonathan once described as “having more wealth and houses than Dangote”? Maybe, Buhari will start from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the heart-and-soul of Nigeria’s existence that is still struggling to account for billions of dollars in its care as it bleeds money hourly through many egregious egresses of pilferage?

Buhari will probably begin from the governors’ mansions by removing immunity from the current occupants and unleashing red-hot against those who served in the past and who are now flaunting selves around in flowing regalia of stolen funds. That’s a good place to start. But, what about the church? Since my Bible says that judgment will begin from the House of God, Buhari should probably begin from the Church of the Living God, especially from the “God-of-Men” saluted as Men-of-God who got Jonathan in trouble; those men and women who seized my President’s crown in a slew of prayer-vigils and inadvertently gave it to Buhari on the back of prophetic lies and Pentecostal deceptions. Hah! There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth in that constituency. Even the holiest places and saints’ sanctuaries are now wholly immersed in the baptistery of crippling corruption. I cannot think of any government ministry, department, agency, parastatal, or any arm of government that Nigerians are cocksure will not be hit after the Buhari cleaning-crew is inaugurated.

The world laughs at Nigeria every day as a result of the unrelenting vice of corruption. The Washington Post Foreign Service Correspondent, Keith Richburg, said this about Nigerians in 1992: “Welcome to Nigeria, world capital of the business scam. Shake hands, but be sure to count your fingers”. The US General Colin Powell (retd.) had once publicly referred to all Nigerians as “crooks”.

The late King of Oil, Swiss March Rich, a man adjudged a symbol of corruption himself called Nigeria, “… the global capital of corruption”. T.V Queen, Oprah Winfrey, had once said: “All Nigerians — regardless of their level of education – are corrupt”. Dianne Abbot, a British MP wrote an opinion in the Jamaica Sunday Observer, April 9, 2006, entitled, “Think Jamaica is bad, try Nigeria”: “When it comes to corruption, Nigerians make Jamaicans, and every other nationality in the world, look like mere amateurs. Billions of pounds have been looted by politicians. 70 per cent of private wealth has been taken out Nigeria.”

Nigeria is the 136th most corrupt out of 175 nations according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2014. From 1960 to 2005, an estimated $1tn had disappeared through the conduits of unfettered profligacy according to a new estimate by the Business Council for Africa. The World Bank had aforetime concluded that $400bn had been stolen between 1960 and 1999. Those who suggested that Buhari should begin the house-cleaning from his party got it wrong; he should begin from everybody. Government actors and actresses who are now pleading for cover by switching political parties should be asked to give account of their stewardships. Many of these switch-freaks have heavy slings of corruption cases dangling across their shoulders. They believe that party membership card is an official sufferance to steal and live to steal some more. They must be shocked! Those who have been fingered in dirty deals across the board must be dragged before the gavel of judgment to answer questions. Buhari must begin from everybody, at the same time, with the same zeal, under the same applications of law, and let the chips fall where they may.

If Buhari wants to be taken seriously about fighting corruption, if he wants us to believe that getting down dirty with those who are killing Nigeria is not by mouth or by mime alone, things must be done differently.

The enabling Act of 2002 which established the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission gives the appointment of the Chairman of the agency directly to a sitting president. One man, who may get dirty down the road or have filthy apparatchiks as lieutenants, shouldn’t be in oversight of such an arm of government.

Nigeria is the only nation that wraps so much secrecy around the remuneration of its public officials. If Nigerians are truly, not just rhetorically the employers of the President, governors, senators, and public office holders, why are we not privy to their remunerations? What are these guys hiding? Let Buhari’s transparency drive begin from here.

A governor once described the state security vote as a smokescreen for governors to divert funds. Nigerians knew that before he said so. Between 1999 and now, billions of dollars have filtered into private wallets from the public treasury in the name of security votes. In Nigeria, supervisors of billions of dollars are not accountable to anyone or any law about how they disburse funds in their safekeeping. Why then wouldn’t men kill men to be governor? The lock and key around security votes must be thrown away.

In conclusion I ask; will this battle against corruption make some people sacred and others sacrileges? When you tamper with a man’s pocket-book, the resistance is always hellacious and blistering. Buhari is in for a big brawl. The only thing he has going for him is that ordinary Nigerians are standing right behind him and with him. Nothing gets started if it is not begun. Buhari does not have to end corruption; he was elected to start the fight against it. Others who will come after him will continue what he begins. Someday, in my lifetime, Nigeria will win.

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