Corruption is a cankerworm that has eaten very deep into the fabric of Nigeria for decades. It is a disturbing state of affairs that forced the Catholic Bishop Conference of Nigeria, twenty-two years ago, to compose a prayer called Prayer Against Bribery and Corruption in Nigeria, which is said till date, in all Catholic Churches.
The alarming rate of the corruption scourge in Nigeria has so widely spread to the point of drawing international focus and embarrassing remarks. Recall that a former Prime Minister of Britain once referred to Nigeria as a “fantastically corrupt” county.
This shameful state of affairs has prompted Nigerians to be treated by other nationals as social pariahs. It has become so entrenched and complicated than fighting it seems like a near impossibility.
Leaders after leaders were afraid to deal with it, not only because of it’s complexities and the fear of it fighting back but also because of getting “in over their heads”. Some leaders came and paid lip service to it, while others came and decided to play to the gallery in the guise of fighting it.
So, it takes a leader with not only exceptional disciplined qualities but also one who is determined to dare to embark on the fight against the scourge. That is where President Muhammadu Buhari comes in and stands out as a dogged fighter of the corruption plague. President Buhari is one of the very few politicians who have all the trappings of leadership qualities of being genuinely sincere about fighting corruption.
He is one leader devoid of any stains of corruption hanging on his neck, despite the fact that he had held sensitive positions in the country in time past. Recall that he was a petroleum minister, a special task force chairman and a Military Head of State, all being positions that would have been avenues for him to corruptly enrich himself.
A man of decency and forthrightness, he was and still an embodiment of integrity. So when he presented himself again for service in 2015 and chose as one of his cardinal objectives, to fight and eradicate corruption, most Nigerians took him seriously and overwhelmingly voted for him.
Since the inception of his administration, the corruption fight has been doggedly pursued to the admiration of Nigerians and international communities who have openly applauded him for the feat he is achieving in tackling corruption in the face of obstacles and challenges. Yes, the corruption fight has not been without obstacles and challenges.
Recall that initially, the opposition parties employed different kinds of propaganda machinery to frustrate corruption fight. They accused the president of being selective in the corruption fight, and also said he was abandoning all other aspects of governance and focusing on corruption alone.
Again, the beneficiaries of corruption apply different kinds of underhand tactics to suppress the fight, using the procedure of their corruption to sabotage the institutions and compromise personnel of anti-corruption agencies.
Worrisome is the fact that the citizens do not seem to co-operate with and support the government in this fight as they tend to give undue recognition to unscrupulous corrupt rich persons, and most times sympathise with them when they are being prosecuted for corruption.
Another serious obstacle is the fact that some personnel in the ant-corruption agencies are themselves corrupt, thus making it difficult for them to give what they do not have. Even some people employed or appointed in other government agencies, some of whom were recommended by politicians, cannot be insulated from corruption tendencies.
Given the aforementioned variables, there is no way the president himself can recognise who is who in terms of being corrupt-free because he is not a spirit of God that possesses the third eye. He needs the co-operation and collaboration of his lieutenants and partners in government, to carry on with this battle.
All in all, despite the obstacles and challenges, President Buhari is very much on course in the fight against corruption. If anything, he has to be applauded for the fact that there is no room for a cover-up, no matter whose ox is gored. There are no sacred cows, as exemplified by the on-going investigation of Mr Ibrahim Magu, Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, who is an appointee of the president.
In the history of this country, this is the only time the anti-graft and other government agencies are being investigated in contrast to what obtained in the past. Exposing corruption is the first step in fighting it and getting the desired result.
Look at what was exposed about the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the Ministry of Nigeria Delta Affairs for example. Some people are quick to submit and erroneously too, that because these are happening under President Buhari, his government is corrupt or he is not fighting corruption.
How false! Have you asked yourself this question: why is it that, for the first time in this country, the NDDC is being put under forensic audit as well as being investigated? See the magnitude of corruption scam exposed in that agency by the current administration.
Again, look at the list of persons put out as beneficiaries of the contracts scam, the preponderance of whom are members of opposition parties. Is it not ironic that the same people accusing this government of being corrupt and inept in the fight against corruption are the ones in the centre of this corruption scam.
It is obvious that corruption is still with us, the reason the fight against it is still on because you can only fight what is in existence. President Buhari is the leader who has the will and commitment to confront corruption frontally. At least, the rate by which corrupt persons loot the treasury has diminished as they are now conscious of the fight and so are afraid to engage in it like before.
Given its endemic nature, it will be uncharitable to expect that corruption will be completely eradicated during President Buhari’s administration. What is expected is what we are already seeing happening now, exposing it, investigating and at the same time prosecuting the culprits as can be seen from the looted amount recovered so far.
What we also expect is for all and sundry to co-operate with and support the government and pray that President Buhari’s successor in 2023 will vigorously continue with the fight. That way, time will definitely come when corruption will drastically go down, if not completely eradicated. Vincent Uba, National Co-ordinator, (NATBO 2019)