By Nwabueze Akabogu
AS THE countdown for the 2019 general election has begun in earnest, the National debate on the rather controversial war against graft and corruption in Nigerian society currently being waged by the Buhari administration has once again being brought to the front burner of National discourse.
The so called war against endemic corruption which had eaten deep into the fabric of Nigerian society was one of the cardinal policies of the present administration on its assumption of office in May 2015.
The National discourse on the ubiquitous monster otherwise known as corruption has suddenly gained momentum consequent upon the recent publication by the federal authorities of the long awaited list of the alleged looters of our common wealth which has left the Nigerian State in a State of coma and near bankruptcy.
According to the media report, the gargantuan amount of the looted funds so far recovered which was put at over N800b (eight hundred billion naira) was most chilling and mind boggling to say at least. It was certainly the most grievous and unpardonable crime against the Nigerian state and her people.
Political watchers however, were quick to assert that the recent so called apology to the Nigerian people by the PDP leadership which held sway over the governance of the country for nearly twenty years had obviously prompted the current APC Federal Government to suddenly publish the list of the alleged looters of the Nation’s Treasury. The APC led Federal Government had earlier challenged the PDP to come out openly and confess the monumental crimes the party had committed against the Nigerian people while in office before they could be forgiven by the people.
As the PDP appeared not to be forthcoming or unwilling to genuinely confess for their alleged crimes against the people, the APC led Federal Government promptly came up with the list of the alleged looters which interestingly contained only the names of the opposition PDP ostensibly to score a cheap political point. Curiously, the said list did not contain the names of any APC member or the names of former members of the PDP who actually presided over the affairs of the nation during the sordid era either as former State Governors, Ministers, Senators, or political Appointees in critical sectors of the economy but who had since defected to the ruling party the APC and became “born again” or “instant Saint”.
The Federal Government’s spokesman, Lai Mohammed told the nation on his unveiling the list of the looters that all legal and due processes were strictly followed in compiling the list hence it could not be subjected to further legal scrutiny before its publication. In other words, all the names in the said list were already found to be guilty and culpable for looting the nation’s treasury.
It is instructive to observe however, that some of the names in the released list are currently facing prosecution in the various courts in the country which are yet to deliver judgments in their cases. Expectedly some people in the list had already threatened legal action against the Federal Government while some others had actually sued the Federal Government for defamation of their character. This is indeed most trying period for the country which is already confronted with myriad of socio-economic and security challenges demanding urgent solutions.
It is needless to emphasize the point that the APC Federal government obviously seem not to be sincere and serious in its avowed determination to fight the scourge of corruption to a standstill. Suffice to say that the current war against corruption is selective and not holistic as exemplified by the method or modus operandi of the Federal Government’s anti corruption agencies even as the release of the list of the alleged looters of our common patrimony could only be taken with a pinch of salt hence it was mainly intended to hoodwink the Nigerian Electorate as the 2019 general election is fast approaching. In other words, the list was only intended to serve as mere political gimmick and certainly not in the national interest as the government would want Nigerians to believe.
It is pertinent to observe also, that recent cases of unbridled corruption involving some highly placed public office holders serving in the present Federal Government and whose names were deliberately omitted in the said list of looters did not portray the government in good light hence it was only done in pursuit of political vendetta and witch hunting against its perceived political enemies.
It is worthy of mention that some State Governments had in the recent past constituted panels of inquiry to investigate cases of wanton pillage of their state treasuries by former PDP State Governors and other State Officials who had since decamped to the ruling party the APC.
The panels had since indicted some of the former State Governors and found them culpable for crimes against their individual states and further ordered them to return their looted funds to the State treasuries.
It is a matter of deep regret however, that the APC Federal Government did not deem it fit and proper to equally publish the names of the former PDP State Governors who had committed mindless looting of their State treasuries and had now found sanctuary in the APC.
It is most disheartening and disturbing that the anti corruption war had already assumed dangerous dimension as exemplified by the recent crude and commando style invasion of the residences of some serving judicial officers by the DSS (Department of State Security) during the unholy hours of the night under the guise of fighting corruption.
It was indeed most shocking and unbelievable that the authorities would adopt such crude and uncivilized method to raid the homes of these highly revered and respected Judges who were then having their deserved night rest after the arduous task of dispensing justice to Nigerians who often seek redress in the courts. It was alleged that huge sums of money both in local and foreign currencies were recovered from the homes of the Judges during the raids.
It is equally disturbing and worrisome that despite the sensational publicity on these raids and recoveries, no positive results seem to have been achieved on the grave allegations against the “accused” judges. Some of the judges who were earlier charged to court for corruption had recently been discharged and acquitted for lack of sufficient evidence.
The ill-motivated raids on the homes of these judges were clearly an unwarranted and brazen assault on the temple of justice and the Judiciary as an important arm of Government. And this unfortunate development was obviously a serious dent on the image and integrity of the Federal Government that often prides itself as a strict adherent to the rule of law and due process in its current war against corruption.
Furthermore, recent media report had quoted the loquacious Minister of Information and Culture Lia Mohammed as having stated that a whopping sum of over N800b had already been recovered from the looters of the nation’s treasury. Political watchers are however at a loss as to the desired impact which the recovered loots have made on the lives of the hapless and downtrodden Nigerian masses who are currently suffering under excruciating economic down turn unprecedented in the history of the Nation.
Political analysts are of the opinion however, that for the much publicized war against endemic corruption to succeed, the authorities must change its present method and adopt an entirely new and holistic approach to the rather intractable phenomenon as obtainable in civilized societies. The new approach must certainly involve beaming of search lights on the previous regimes and their principal actors who unarguably laid the foundation for corruption to thrive as a flourishing enterprise in the country.
Former heads of State and Presidents who apparently seem to have encouraged and personally engaged in corrupt practices must be made to account for their alleged misdeeds while in office. And it is only by so doing that the current anti corruption crusade would be seen and accepted by the people as truly a worthy cause that requires their total support.
Recent political events in some advanced democracies of the world had given credence to the fact that corruption could be effectively contained when the war is taken to the door steps of the high and mighty in society.
Few recent cases could be cited to buttress the above incontrovertible fact. The former President of South Korea Park was recently convicted and sentenced to 24 years imprisonment for monumental corruption.
Again, the former charismatic President of Brazil Lula Da Silva had recently been sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for massive corruption after he had lost his final battle at the Brazil Supreme Court. And coming home to Africa, the recent disgraced and ousted former South African President, Jacob Zuma is currently facing 14 counts criminal charges in a Durban Court for monumental corruption during his nine years reign.
The list which is inexhaustible is simply to portray these countries that had demonstrated uncommon courage, transparency and avowed determination to fight the scourge of corruption to a standstill. These countries are known to have strong institutions as the bedrock of democratic values and norms unlike in Nigeria where strong personalities tend to subvert and undermine State institutions purely for their selfish ends.
In conclusion, Nigeria should therefore borrow a leaf from the solid and entrenched democratic values and principles obtainable in advanced democracies of the world such as the above mentioned countries, if her current war against graft and corruption could be taken seriously by her citizens and the international community at large.