The administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari was subject to a very slow start; it took the president about five months to appoint his ministers, took seven months to present first budget, 16 months to shift grounds on the naira and two years to show the Nigerian people an articulate economic plan.
Two years into the administration, the president is still constituting boards of agencies, which could have been done more than 16 months ago. But a slow start is not really a problem to many Nigerians, who have been victims of the many decades of “misrule” which has characterised leadership in Nigeria. All these people want is eventual victory over the hydra-headed monsters of corruption, insecurity and poverty threatening the Nigerian existence.
In all fairness, Buhari has done a marvellous job in quelling the Boko Haram firepower, a sect determined to compromise the territorial integrity of Nigeria. Under Goodluck Jonathan, we knew the kind of troubles we had concerning security in the northeast.
In 2015, I visited Adamawa, and saw for myself the decimation of Nigeria’s military integrity under the last administration. Early 2017, I was also in Borno, the centre of Boko Haram activities in the region, and I also saw for myself that peace is possible. Though there are a lot of problems in the northeast as regards infrastructure, but security is probably at its best since 2010. So yes, Buhari has security in the northeast locked down. Let’s not talk about Southern Kaduna, herdsmen and other pockets of insecurity today.
Another section of Nigeria lauds Buhari heavily for his battle against corruption. These people say; if not for Buhari, we would not know how badly the last administration looted our common wealth. Millions really no longer make sense to us, if you want to say millions in a conversation that would interest Nigerians, be sure you are talking about million dollars or million pounds — not million naira. With whistles all over the place, we are making amazing discoveries in hard currencies.
THE OSBORNE-BORNE DISEASE
Over the past week, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) found $43 million at 16 Osborne street, Ikoyi, Lagos. No individual came forth to claim the money. It was initially said to belong to Adamu Mu’azu, former chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but Mu’azu has since denied.
The rumour mill moved to Mo Abudu, the 52-year-old entrepreneur and brain behind Ebony life TV. She also denied such humoungous sum. In search for the father of nearly N15 billion, Nigerians moved over to Rotimi Amaechi, the former governor of Rivers state and current minister of transportation. Like a disease, Amaechi washed himself off the billion-naira allegations and is seeking legal redress.
Cut the long story short, National Intelligence Agency (NIA) stepped up to assault our intelligence that the monies were for covert operations. Now to the ultimate question; what next?
Let us assume someone steps up to say the money belongs to her or him, the government prosecutes, and EFCC at its best secures forfeiture of loot, and the person gets clever lawyers to get her or him a slap on the wrist for looting our commonwealth; then what next?
HOW NOT TO FIGHT CORRUPTION
On October 3, 2015, barely five months into the new government, Buhari unveiled his biography, written by John Paden, a Harvard scholar and professor who wrote “Ahmadu Bello: Sardauna of Sokoto”, a biography of Ahmadu Bello.
In the book, “Muhammadu Buhari: The Challenge of Leadership in Nigeria,” Paden raised so much dust, but ultimately wrote that “Leadership is clearly the key to the success of the Nigerian project which is a quest for prosperous and unified Nigeria”.
Paden went on to say Buhari had incriminating evidence to put Jonathan in jail, but he would not use it because his interest is to retrieve stolen funds and change Nigeria’s political culture
“Buhari had letters in his possession showing Jonathan’s requests for off-budget funds. But Buhari’s larger purpose was not to put former high-level officials in jail. Rather, it was to retrieve stolen funds and to change the political culture of the country,” Paden wrote in the 320-paged book.
Eventually, when news broke that Buhari had plans to go after Jonathan and Tom Polo, oil pipelines also began to break in the same pattern. This shows that the system has built untouchables, touch them and bring Nigeria to a halt. So to fight corruption, we really cannot go after the big boys who governed corruption, we can only retrieve funds — how sad!
And that is where the problem is. If we keep fighting corruption by retrieving funds, naming and shaming, we would not get anywhere. If Buhari exits office in 2019 and corrupt king takes over, we would have made no gains!
Some say the Buhari-Magu model will deter people from stealing. I laugh, and say “hundreds of people die at sea, travelling from Libya to Europe almost every month yet Africans still travel by boat to Libya almost every weekend”. It is not enough to deter people from stealing, make it near impossible for them to steal.
STRONG INSTITUTIONS NOT STRONG MEN
Jonathan was wrong on many things, but he was not wrong on the need to build a system which cleanses itself of corruption, a system driven by technology not bureaucracy.
Take the Nigerian customs for example, who knows how much goes into private pockets in clearing and forwarding? People man this system and collect mind-blowing bribes, which no whistle can find. It is bad manners to blow whistle while eating.
Even in the EFCC. Ibrahim Magu was asked a rather simple question at his senate screening; how much has the EFCC recovered. He said he does not know at the moment. So, who knows how much EFCC has recovered? where is the transparent system collating these recoveries? If EFCC recovers N2 trillion and declares N1.8 trillion, we would applaud them, oblivious of what is behind the scene?
I may not have the answers, but I know the questions, I see the problems; if Buhari does not build a system that fights corruption, the strong men and women fighting corruption today will vacate their offices in four to eight years and we would be back to where we were.
I fear that at the end of the day, Buhari’s years in office may end up in another biography: How not to fight corruption by Muhammadu Buhari.
Again, let us build strong systems that fight corruption, not strong men who fight corruption.