Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index calls so many social maladies to mind that ravage society and this borders on bribery, nepotism secret dealings that deplete state treasuries, abuse of official power which roundly remains an ill wind that blows no one any good the world over. In Nigeria, for instance, we are not exempted from this scourge. It has become endemic in our national life. There is no denying the fact that billions of Naira have been lost to corrupt practices and to what extent has prosecuting and jailing of offenders helped to deter potential culprits?
For starters, political leadership and corruption go pari passu and this did not start with the present ”Abuja regime” if the gospel must be told. It is not in dispute however that we are richly endowed with natural resources and high-quality human capital but the phenomenon of corruption, if you ask me, has contributed immeasurably to our socio-economic stagnation which extends beyond the Gowonist days. That is to say, that the political class can not exonerate itself from the ongoing travails of socio-political under-development of Nigeria. No single regime since independence can assume the role of a saint whose time was aimed at ever righting the wrongs of the past.
Corruption in Nigeria must not be blamed solely on government or its leadership but also on the totality of the political class who often watch behind the scenes exerting undue influence on machineries of government or their stooges at the helm. You know as well as I know that many political grandees in Nigeria are guilty of this and going against their diabolic whims and caprices remains an ”irredeemable mortal sin” which is more than enough to bring you down from your Olympian height. Every means is employed to achieve this including vicious attacks, deception, propaganda, heinous lies and Jihadist insurgency as we experience in Nigeria today.
Gowon ruled Nigeria at a time we experienced unprecedented wealth from the oil boom of the 1970s which was characterised by gross mismanagement; in fact the billion of dollars that flowed from our oil wells disappeared without traces and that government as luck would have it was overthrown. The coup that ousted him was openly welcome, but that regime was short-lived following Murtala Muhammed’s assassination in Lagos via coup d’ état. Spine-chilling as it was General Obasanjo as the most senior military officer took charge and it will be recalled that Obasanjo engaged in Naira trafficking up to the tune N2.8 billion which is equivalent to $6 billion in today’s money. These monies reports have it was seized by the Ugandan government of Idi Amin from the aircraft. This incident was never revisited since then. He went scot-free with this crying misdeed against the Nigerian people and no authority in the land has called him to account for the missing billions. Nigerian money has also been trafficked in many other ways during the civil war through the agency of Bernie Cornfield employing aircraft for arms and depositing the ill-gotten gains in foreign bank accounts with the aid of Nigerian kleptocrats.
Comparatively, President Jonathan , we have it on good authority, engaged in a botched arms deal scandal last year up to the tune of $9.3 million which was on the lips of the mainstream opposition who averred that it was an illegal arms deal that violated defence trade protocols until ample evidence was tendered to the contrary. Thus, the President was absolved from blame when South Africa promised to refund the money.
This writer is not unaware that Nigeria as the 8th largest exporter of crude oil in the world has more than 70% of its population living on the breadline but all that has changed now under President Jonathan who has made so many inputs by cutting corners, sealing up every loophole to reposition Nigeria on the path of socio-economic development. In no time for the first time this is yielding dividends. It is on record however that a formulation of good economic policies and implementation by an experienced team of economic managers Nigeria rose to become Africa’s largest economy after a re-basing calculation of our GDP and early this year Nigeria was also rated as the third fastest growing economy in the world. These ratings were carried out by supranational financial institutions where the president virtually has no influence or control.
To what do we owe this astonishing feat? Paradoxically, the propaganda on the ground by the mainstream opposition is that President Jonathan is running the most corrupt government in Nigeria’s political history. This, if I dare say, is ridiculous taking a cursory glance at Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index. Have Jonathan’s bigoted critics ever made any attempt to assess the impact of our new status vis a vis our social and economic well-being?
Going by CPI in 2006 at the tail end of former President Olusegun’s administration Nigeria scored 2.0 and this borderline places us then as a country with serious corruption problem. Today there is no denying the fact that Nigeria under President Jonathan has significantly improved its rating since then from that abysmal position. In 2013, Nigeria scored 27 out of 100 and improved tremendously to the 39 position in 2014. In terms of rating there is simply no comparison here if the truth must be told, yet one finds the senile and loquacious General severely criticizing President Jonathan in the fight against corruption when the later has done comparatively better. However, let me make one important clarification here that President Jonathan does not control or influence CPI’s ratings. Transparency International is a German-based non-governmental organization.
In civilized societies fighting corruption is not about arrest, prosecution, and conviction; it requires a multi-prong approach. Modern technology is employed and this has been yielding amazing results which the government in Abuja under President Jonathan has taken his cue from. The fight against corruption needs one’s expertise, skills and experience, passion for social justice unlike the use of brute force which is no longer tenable. Information and communication technology have indeed become essentially modern tools to fight corruption and this is what President Jonathan has been doing taking his cue from the West rather than the use of brute force which his contender for Nigeria’s plum job is known for. That is barbaric. Nigeria is made up of 170 million people and this is a country where this social malady has become deeply rooted. How can you successfully wage this war by brute force?
Have we all forgotten Ibori’s case? Paradoxically, Ibori was acquited in a Nigerian court room under President Olusegun Obasanjo but jailed in a British court room. Will the judiciary be disallowed to be independent under Buhari presidency? Would that not be definition of tyrany? Nigerians must remember that Buhari can no more rule by decree employing his whims and caprices to jail corrupt public officials and can not interfer in the judiciary conduct of its business. Hence an action replay of Ibori’s scenario could never be ruled out again in Nigeria, part of the resaons why President Jonathan decided to cut the head of the snake by employing modern techniques to fight corruption in Nigeria. Wait a minute! Many of our country’s leaders that rendered selfless service to Nigeria like Pa Adekunle Ajasin, Prof. Ambrose Alli, Sam Mbakwe never owned property during their tenure as Governors in Ondo, Bendel , Imo and a host of others were unduly incarcerated by Buhari whose implication in a 34 suitcase airport saga left a serious blot on his character. This incident is still very fresh in the minds of Nigerians. These suitcases filled with money were being carted away to an unknown destination which caused quite a stir at the airport of Lagos and in turn bred ill-feeling between him and his late second-in-command, General Tunde Idiagbon, upon whom peace be . May Heaven bear me witness this day!
Buhari who again aspires to occupy the highest office in Nigeria did expressly tell Nigerians that late General Sani Abacha did not loot Nigeria’s treasury. Did he not say this with all the emphasis at his command? Buhari’s apologists, could you please answer me? Wait a minute! Is this not a contradiction in terms considering the billions of dollars that was recovered and sent back to us by the Swiss Government? For shielding, the late dark-goggled General from official graft makes him a collaborator in no small measure.
Fellow Nigerians I have neither come here to discuss fiction nor spread falsehood. These are verifiable facts and I have only come to represent the facts to you as they are. My services were not retained in this regard; in fact I swear by everything I hold sacred. I am often taken aback by the injustice of some people’s remark who remain glued to tribal and political affiliations at the expense of truth. Nigeria is one indivisible entity and so I pray we remain. If we are ever to move forward it is for us to encourage and give honour to whom honour is due amongst our leaders and chastise any erring leader when absolutely necessary. From the foregoing it is very obvious that Buhari is certainly not the Messiah of which Nigeria urgently stand in need – I adjure Nigerians to look beyond their noses in order to see the face behind the mask.
If Buhari is sincere in his crusade against corruption why is he unequally yoked to the likes of Atiku, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Rotimi Amaechi, to mention but a few. Have we all forgotten the sexcapades of the randy ex-VP under former President Olusegun Obasanjo from which Nollywood actresses became emergency millionaires and some billionaires while a good number of hard-working Nigerians thrive in dirt and dirty surroundings? Today Atiku has joined forces with the league of anti-corruption crusaders against President Jonathan when he and his boss ran a government which was one vast empire of corruption. The duo of Atiku Abubakar and Obasanjo never thought it desirable to build a tertiary institution for Nigerians while in office, but sad to say today that they are proud owners of universities in their respective states of origin. $16 bn, we reliably gathered, was spent by their administration on Nigeria’s epileptic power sector with yielded none other than negative results, a colossal waste doubtless. This is a government that was enmeshed in deep-seated corruption!
Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the national leader of the All Progressives Congress, another self-styled anti-corruption crusader and government backbencher acts as a conduit for money from his stooges in Alausa, Ikeja, Oshogbo, Ibadan, Abeokuta, Port Harcourt, Benin City as funding agencies thus spelling out a corrupt and inefficient order. A demi-god in his own right, Bola Tinubu, we have it on good authority under delusions of grandeur spent a whopping N2bn on celebrating his birthday in the not too distant past in a state that suffers infrastructural decay and where more than 85% of Lagosians live on the breadline. N40bn Naira, the writer reliably gathered, was spent on acquiring three aircrafts by the Bourdillon overlord and another N43 billion was used to fund Buhari’s presidential campaign in return for oil wells if the latter comes to power – a consuming ambition and desperation for power doubtless taken too far!
The self-acclaimed Asiwaju of the Yoruba race having taken the whole of Lekki axis further foisted his daughter on Lagosians who is something of a harsh taskmistress ill-treats traders in her capacity as President-General of Nigeria Market Women & Men thereby creating a mega business empire for himself and members of his immediate family while helpless Nigerians in the state feed from the crumbles that fall daily from their tables. His power game failed woefully in Ondo State following his inability to fell the great Iroko of Ondo politics after bankrolling the gubernatorial campaign of Mimiko’s strong contender under the platform of the defunct ACN. How much was this man take home pay in the eight years he presided over the affairs of Lagos State? This is the man Buhari, the self-styled anti-corruption crusader is unequally yoked to! Are they not birds of a feather? These hypocrites would be better advised to ‘first take the log out of their eyes, and then they will see clearly to take the speck out of Jonathan’s eye’.
To President Jonathan, we must now turn. A country can hardly make any progress under a leader that is enmeshed in deep-seated corruption. Has Nigeria indeed made any appreciable progress under his ”corrupt” leadership as the APC partisans often allege? However, empirical studies have shown that countries with better redistribution of wealth enjoy longer periods of economic development. Countries which suffer from corruption cannot implement sound re-distributional policies and thus are not expected to take benefit from sustainable economic development despite embarking on economic growth from time to time for some reason or the other. With sound economic policies put in place and undergoing effective implementation it stands to reason that Nigeria is on the path to economic recovery as she now battles for Supremacy Leadership on the continent. Is it still under contention that Nigeria is today Africa’s largest economy and the third fastest growing economy in the world?
Step after step, they say, the ladder is ascended. Bigoted critics of this present administration would sooner say to what extent has our new status on the continent reflected on the life of the average Nigerian. This is a question that borders on none other than redistribution of wealth. None of President Jonathan’s predecessors has been able to bring our economy this far with every sector working and producing amazing result. Auto manufacturing is now in full swing, under this ”clueless” administration, as they often say, we now enjoy a thriving agro-based economy that would soon turn Nigeria to a frontline food-exporting nation. The energy sector has improved tremendously as power plants are being commissioned all over the country. Even the blind can feel the transformation of this present administration truly at work in spite of the insurgency ravaging parts of the country. Service infrastructures are being built and developed throughout Nigeria thus repositioning us in the path of socio-economic development. The rest of the world doubtless sees the transformation that is taking place in Nigeria which gave her the new status as not only the new economic powerhouse of the West African sub-region but indeed on the continent.
Be that as it may, it is time re-distributional policies were put in place by the new PDP-controlled Federal Government to enable Nigerians start feeling the impact of this economic growth, but sad to say this might yet take a whole lot of time as those who want to teach their grandmother to suck eggs are irrevocably bent on frustrating the President all in a bid to return us to the proverbial vicious circle. Nigeria is made up of over 170 million people and every Nigerian, the self-styled evil genius rightly observed, has a price. Hence, how many Nigerians can you prosecute for corruption and throw in stir? If you choose to do that you are branded a dictator. President Jonathan having carefully made this observation developed a blueprint for fighting corruption by employing modern techniques which focused on the use of current and evolving money-laundering systems that can help prevent and detect both corruption and money laundering as obtains in advanced nations.
For starters, this is the gospel truth his haters will never tell you. President Jonathan’s government the writer has it on good authority detected and obliterated the names of over 11,000 fake pensioners from the pay list of the Federal Government thereby saving over N2.1 billion. Similarly, on October 22 last year it was widely reported by Nigerian mainstream media, Leadership Newspapers to be precise that over 60,000 ghost workers were uncovered which were siphoning over N160 billion as salaries from the Federation Account. These are verifiable facts. Folks you can now see the source of hate and hostility against the President by the perpetrators who were benefiting from these crimes. This massive fraud has been on since time immemorial before Jonathan got involved. What about the states’ civil service? Will the opposition parties co-operate for this purge to be carried out in their domain? This is a question begging for an answer.
A hungry man, they say, is an angry man. In the sale and distribution of fertilizers, the Federal Government fought doggedly to ensure the elimination of middlemen in the distribution channel, that is to say fertilizers are now sold directly to over six million farmers across the country amidst irrigation dams built by President Jonathan particularly in the semi-arid north thereby incurring the wrath of vendors who were doing a brisk trade.
President Jonathan in his unbending desire to stop corruption stepped on toes by ending subsidy fraud, selling off NEPA and ended fraudulent NEPA contracts. Hoarding of petroleum by a heartless oil cartel has become a thing of the past and this seems to break their spirit. It would also be recalled the President gave Nigerian Ports Authority Verification to a third party and by so doing eliminated port frauds, this caused the gladiators a deep pain in the heart. Auto manufacturing in Nigeria with government regulations that 70% raw materials must be sourced here at home was a crushing blow as compliance with that directive halted money laundering. This, of course, heightened their anger against a Messiah who has come to change the nefarious Old Order to regenerate Nigeria. Imposition of candidates on Nigerians via rigging and other electoral malpractices were stopped by the indefatigable President Jonathan by making sure election in Nigeria was for the first time free and fair. This was a clear departure from the infamous Old Order which was doubtless a slap in their faces. The Nigerian Railway which had become moribund was resuscitated thereby dealing a crushing blow to road haulage decadent aristocrats who had wished the railways consigned to the dustbin of history. Has there been anyone like GEJ as he is fondly called? A million times ”NO’ – not by any stretch of the imagination. Here is a Jonathan; whence comes such another?
Iyoha John Darlington, aka Lington Donovan, a social activist, political analyst and public commentator on national and global issues writes from Turin, Italy.