Nigerian columnist, Majeed Dahiru argues that until conflicts of interests arising mainly from sectionalism in high places is not only frowned at but discouraged and criminalized, the war on corruption has not even started.
The increasing number of corruption scandals rocking the Muhammadu Buhari administration has further exposed the dishonest integrity of a man, many love to describe as Mai gaskiya but who to the disappoint of most, have progressively turned out in a reality to be Mai kariya. The latest revelation about the re-instatement Abdul Rasheed Maina, a fugitive public servant accused of stealing billions of naira from the pensions of senior citizens only adds to the sad tales of corrupt practices in high places under the Buhari administration. In order to keep his crowed of devoted Buharideens in the line of devotion because of a visible expression of dissatisfaction and audible murmuring among the rank and file, President Buhari, a master of the game of minds, gave his followers the usual opium. He belatedly ordered the sack of Abdulrasheed Maina and asked for explanations surrounding the entire saga and like the SGF Babachir Lawal grass cutting affair and the Ikoyi cash dump controversy, case is closed. Once again the President has succeeded in shifting the blame for this scandal to the cabal whom everyone blames for every wrong while crediting him for everything right.
While campaigning to be president, Muhammadu Buhari rightly identified corruption as one of the causes of Nigeria’s stunted growth and arrested development. He was so passionate about anti-corruption that Nigerians gave him a chance to prove his credibility by voting out the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, under whose watch, corruption took a hydra headed monstrous dimension and proportion. Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief and hoped for a new beginning with a leader whom they believed was going to be incorruptible, just and fair to all in the discharge of his responsibilities as head state and duties as head of government.
Once in government, it becomes abundantly clear that President Muhammadu Buhari lacks the understanding of the theme of his most passionate electoral promise, corruption. Through his body language, association, public speeches, appointments, policies and programs, Buhari has revealed his lack of adequate knowledge of the proper definition of corruption and the wisdom to tackle it holistically. Otherwise, the President should have known that at the root of corruption is sectionalism; a most unfortunate practice that he has elevated to a near state policy.
Unpatriotic practices such as cronyism, nepotism, ethno-geographic chauvinism and religious bigotry, collectively known as sectionalism is are corrupt practices that are condition precedent for economic and financial crimes [stealing of public funds] . Sectionalism elevates mediocrity above merit because the yardstick is not what you know but whom you know. Sectionalism creates separates states of ethnic nationalities within a nation state with each group strengthening their positions to compete with each other to secure a bigger share of Nigeria’s meagre national resources by every means possible including subversion of the rule of law and undermining of the laid down rules and regulations that is due process to favour cronies, friends and family. Consequently, law and order enforcement agencies like ICPC and EFCC are prevented from bringing to justice offenders who owe their positions in government to sectionalism. By elevating sectionalism in his administration to unprecedented levels in the history of Nigeria, Buhari has succeeded in deepening the roots of corruption with the grave consequences of increased stealing of public funds by members of his administration to satisfy personal and sectional interests with impunity because they are well protected by a system that has elevated every associate, appointee and family member of the President above the rule of law. If Goodluck Jonathan provided shade for corrupt cronies, Muhammadu Buhari sweeps corruption allegations against his cronies under the carpet.
The hinging of its war on corruption on Ibrahim Magu’s EFCC by the Buhari administration is an unfortunate display of arrogance of ignorance. Neither Magu nor his EFCC can fight corruption because the agency in question is not set up by law to be an anti-corruption agency. EFCC was established to tackle economic and financial crime, both of which are just two of the consequences of corrupt practices like cronyism, nepotism, ethno-geographic chauvinism and religious bigotry that are collectively known as sectionalism. So long as these practices are entrenched in government, economic and financial crimes [stealing of public funds] will be inevitable. Reasons why Magu’s chasing of corrupt individuals have not abated the stealing of public funds within the system. The measure of the success of Buhari’s war on corruption can easily be measured in the day to day life in Nigeria. Police men still mount illegal road blocks and extort money openly from helpless citizens while bail is still not free at the station. The procurement process is still riddled with over pricing, over invoicing and multiple repetitions of same items in capital budgetary provisions throughout government establishments. Hoarding of contracts in exchange for kickbacks ahead of award by public servants is widespread under this administration. Top jobs are closed to the children of the ordinary Nigerian while secretly opened up for the powerful men and women in the Buhari administration, in high paying government Ministries, Departments and Agencies such as CBN,NNPC, NCC, FIRS,LNG,NIMASSA, NPA etc.
From the foregoing, the president is not immune from corrupt practices as his defenders would want people to believe. The attempt by his devotees to shield his person from the now complex level of monstrous corruption under his watch by blaming it on the cabal is ridiculous. More ridiculous is when his ministers are blamed for obvious acts of corruption while leaving out the real culprit, Muhammadu Buhari, hitherto venerated as Mai gaskiya but who is fast gaining notoriety as Mai kariya. Ministers of government are merely acting on delegated authority by the president or his clique of ‘’influence peddling’’ [an act most corrupt] close and absolutely trusted associates, through his Chief of Staff who is their loyal protégé in the administration. The fact that nobody in his cabinet gets fired for such brazen acts of corruption is enough proof of complicity on the part of the president. Therefore, as president and commander in chief, Muhammadu Buhari should always take responsibility of for the actions of his appointees.
Until conflicts of interests arising mainly from sectionalism in high places is not only frowned at but discouraged and criminalized, the war on corruption has not even started. The basis for appointment into public office should not be premised upon loyalty to the person of the President but to the government of Nigeria, in this case the people. The presidency of a republican constitutional democracy such as Nigeria is far different from a hereditary dynastic monarchy wherein personal loyalty to the sovereign is mandatory. The President of the federal republic should at all times lead by good example of fidelity to the dictates of the letters and spirit of the constitution whose underlining philosophy is the security and welfare of the citizens while applying the principles of justice, equity and fairness to all irrespective of place of birth, ethnicity and faith. Once these principles are sacrificed on the expediency of satisfying sectional interests, as is the case with the Buhari administration, the seeds of corruption are sown and continuously watered by the intense struggle for Nigeria’s meagre resources by competing ethno-geographic groupings.
Written by Majeed Dahiru