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Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Femi Aribisala: Dear Buhari, you cannot fight corruption with corruption

by Femi Aribisala
This leopard has not changed its skin. It is asking much to expect Buhari to change his habits at the ripe old age of 72. Buhari is already caught in his own anti-corruption hogwash. Anti-corruption is likely to become a Pandora’s box of unanticipated wahala for the in-coming administration.
One of the myths about the 2015 presidential election is that it was a vote against corruption. Buhari and the APC did a good job of singing the anti-corruption mantra all over the country, and they gave everyone the impression that a vote for the APC was a vote against corruption. But this impression is neither supported by the character of the APC itself, nor by the manner by which it secured its famous victory.
Voters in 2015 were not confronted with anti-corruption choices. There were no new breed politicians in the APC class of 2015. The overwhelming majority of those who fought and won the elections were the same old, same old. If the 15.4 million people who allegedly voted for Buhari are now supposed to be anti-corruption, then Nigeria is in trouble because 12.8 million people voted against him. That would constitute an equally big vote for corruption.
The 2015 elections were attended by massive rigging by both the PDP and APC, contravening any pretensions to anti-corruption. Chukwuemeka Ujam was paraded around after being caught with 4,000 PVCs at Ozalla in Enugu State. Nevertheless, he contested for and won the post of member of the Federal House of Representatives in Nkanu East/West, Enugu. So much for anti-corruption in the elections!
Physician Heal Your Self
Buhari promised during the campaign to kill corruption in Nigeria. He said: “If we don’t kill corruption in Nigeria, corruption will kill us. So, the choice before us is to resolve to kill corruption and free our country from the firm grip of corrupt men and women.” Such hyperbole wins elections: but it does not solve problems. One thing is for certain: corruption will not be killed in Nigeria by Muhammadu Buhari. In no country on earth has anyone ever succeeded in killing corruption.
Chances are Buhari will not even make a dent on corruption in Nigeria. The proverb says: “Physician; heal your self!” The president-elect promises to fight against corruption. However, his party cannot be described as an anti-corruption party. Integrity is not a membership requirement of the APC. On the contrary, the party does not discriminate: it welcomes saints and sinners into its ranks with equal alacrity.
If Buhari were serious about fighting corruption, he would have started the fight within APC. The party made the payment of 27.5 million naira the prerequisite for contesting its presidential primaries. Buhari raised no objection to this. Instead, he claimed he was constrained to borrow the amount from his bank. Surely the president-elect must know that costly elections lead to corrupt governments.
APC corruption means the president-elect has no realistic anti-corruption platform on which to perform any magic. As a matter of fact, the APC fought the 2015 election with corruption. In many places in the North, APC votes were blatantly inflated. Its party-workers encouraged widespread under-age-voting. In Lagos, APC traded money for votes. In Oniru, the fee was 1,500 naira. It did not matter if you had no PVCs. PVCs were distributed to non-registered voters at polling booths by APC faithfuls. Only God knows where they got them from.
There was no reproof from our anti-corruption president-elect for these sharp practices in his own party. Neither did we hear anything from his vice-president-elect, Yemi Osinbajo; a pastor no less. Clearly, the anti-corruption panadol is only applicable to the Jonathan administration and the PDP. However, most of the so-called APC members were snatched from the allegedly corrupt PDP.
While APC supporters claim Jonathan spent 2 trillion naira fighting for re-election, without bothering to explain how they got the account details of his expenditure, they fail to tell us how much APC spent dethroning the PDP. For example, how much did APC spend defending Lagos? Every 10 metres on Lagos roads had a billboard or placard of Ambode. Every local website and newspaper was conscripted to sing his praise. Ambode clearly outspent Agbaje by at least 20 to 1. What exactly was the anti-corruption source of this over-the-top expenditure?
Legislative Bandits
The people APC is now sending to the legislative houses at the federal and state levels are not known for integrity. They belong to the same classical group of corrupt politicians who spend a fortune getting elected in the expectation of recouping their money when in office. Any plans Buhari might have with regard to reducing the hefty salaries and emoluments of our legislators first have to go through the same legislators. This means such plans are dead in the water.
It is significant, for example, that most of the chief APC contenders for the post of senate president were discovered to have outstanding cases with the EFCC. In embarrassment, President-elect Buhari is said to have indicated he would not support any of those still under EFCC indictment. While this stand seems commendable, it only serves to underscore the hypocrisies in Buhari’s anti-corruption posture. Timipre Sylva also has unresolved corruption cases with the EFCC. How come this did not disqualify him from appointment as the chairman of Buhari’s transition committee?
The president-elect is still somewhat oblivious to limits of his powers under our democratic system. The senate president is chosen by senators and not at the discretion of the president. Goodluck Jonathan failed to get his candidate elected as chairman of the Governor’s Forum. With current in-fighting going on for the post of senate president among APC bigwigs, it is not unlikely for the person finally elected to turn out to be a PDP man. If APC can play this wayowhile in opposition, when it secured the election of Aminu Tambuwal against the wishes of PDP central; it can also be played against it while in government.
Separation of Powers
In expounding his bogus anti-corruption policy, Buhari promises that those who steal public funds will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. This is all well and good, except that the judiciary is not under the presidency. The Nigerian judiciary is corrupt; nevertheless, it does not have to dance to the tune of Aso Rock. The executive can send big-fish corrupt politicians to the courts. However, nothing prevents the courts from continuing its usual practice of protecting them from arrest and declaring even rogues not-guilty.
In Nigeria, justice is at the mercy of a handsome bank-account. It can be bought for the price of a good lawyer, or of the presiding judge. Even though Bode George was jailed on corruption charges, his conviction was retroactively nullified by the courts. Buhari cannot re-invent the judiciary without circumventing the separation of powers provision of the Constitution. Therefore, sooner, rather than later, Mr. President-elect would know the difference between a democratic president and a military dictator. In a democracy, a president does not determine the prerogatives of the judiciary.
Hot Air
Buhari also boasts his ministers will be required to declare their assets. If this is one of the cardinal principles of his anti-corruption policy, then he really needs to go back to the drawing boards. We all know his ministers will be chosen for him by APC bigwigs as paybacks for their electoral support. This hardly bodes well for anti-corruption determinants. The requirement for assets-declaration has been in the books for donkey years. It has not curbed corruption. Nobody bothers to query or confirm what is declared. Neither are public officers in the habit of declaring stolen money when they leave office. So there is nothing new or corruption-breaking about assets-declaration.
As presidential candidate, General Buhari himself failed to produce a bona fide school-certificate result, as required by INEC. Anyone who thinks we are done with the issue of the president-elect’s missing Cambridge/WASC result because he has won the election and the case was dropped in court needs to think again. When the time came, Obama had to produce his birth certificate in order to kill the brouhaha of his doubted citizenship because the issue would just not go away. Buhari’s anti-corruption posture will continue to be undermined as long as he refuses to fulfil the requirement of producing his original school-certificate result.
State Governments
Since winning the election, the president-elect has also bolstered his anti-corruption rhetoric by declaring that the amount of pension currently given to former governors in the states is too high. That is all well and good, except that there is nothing a president can do about this except talk. Governors’ pensions are passed by state legislatures individually; meaning they are completely outside the purview of the president.
To repeal the pension laws in the states would require two-thirds majority votes in each of the 36 states of the federation. The beneficiaries of the state pensions for governors are some of Buhari’s key allies, including Bola Tinubu, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Babatunde Fashola and Bukola Saraki. What this means is that the president-elect is just speaking to the gallery. He knows his lofty plans have no hope of seeing the light of day. Even if they did, they would amount to a storm in the teacup of corruption.
Selective Anti-corruption
Speaking to a delegation from Adamawa, president-elect Buhari said: “Imagine a situation where the former CBN governor, who by God‘s grace, is now the Emir of Kano, raised an issue of missing billions of money, not in naira but in dollars, $20 billion. What happened, instead of investigating whether it was true, they simply found a reason to remove him. So, these are the issues we are talking about.”
Who precisely are the “we” still talking about this? How come Buhari ignores the forensic audit done on NNPC accounts on this matter by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, which declared conclusively that no $20 billion is missing? Does Buhari doubt the credibility of PWC; one of the most prestigious auditing firms in the world? Who then is Buhari going to hire that will be more credible than PWC? How come Buhari believes Lamido Sanusi innocence implicitly without investigation, but disbelieves the investigation of the reputable PWC about NNPC?
The signal here is inauspicious. Buhari is back to his old familiar terrain of playing the ethnic and partisan card. Everyone knows Lamido Sanusi is partial to the APC. There were allegations during his stint as CBN governor that he even donated government money to Buhari during his 2011 presidential campaign. Buhari signals he would be probing the NNPC; declaring it guilty until proved innocent by his own probe. But he fails to tell us why the PWC probe is not good enough; and he fails to tell us if he would probe the sharp practices of the Emir of Kano at the Central Bank, for which he was summarily suspended. Would he also probe his new ally, Obasanjo, who was his own petroleum minister for eight years?
This leopard has not changed its skin. It is asking much to expect Buhari to change his habits at the ripe old age of 72. Buhari is already caught in his own anti-corruption hogwash. Anti-corruption is likely to become a Pandora’s box of unanticipated wahala for the in-coming administration.
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Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of NUJ Europe

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