ON PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI'S DECISION TO LIMIT PROBE TO FORMER PRESIDENT JONATHAN'S ADMINISTRATION.
Corruption has been the bane of Nigeria since her independence in 1960. It is largely responsible for her underdevelopment and the plethora of challenges confronting her as a modern state. Many successive governments of Nigeria have not muster the political will to fight this monster that has eaten deep into every facet of our national life and reduced millions of ordinary Nigerians to subhumans, who now live a life of abject poverty devoid of the basic necessities in their country of birth that is naturally endowed with sufficient natural resources with the economic and human potentials to be one of the wealthiest states on the face of the earth.
Many Nigerians, have for years waited for a government that would fight corruption and use resources of the country for its development for the benefit of every Nigerian. The current APC-led federal government of Nigeria was elected into power on the mantra of its pledge to fight corruption, amongst other things. The government of President Muhammadu Buhari has said it repeatedly that it would fight corruption and recover all stolen money by past leaders and political office holders in Nigeria. However, the Presidency, has in a statement, through its Senior Special Assistant on Media, Femi Adesina, said it would limit corruption probe to the administration of former president Goodluck Jonathan.
As expected, this decision by Buhari's government to probe only the past government of Dr Goodluck Jonathan is generating altercations, debates and heated arguments among Nigerians and shows how heavilly polarized and divided the country is on burning national issues. It suffices to take a cursory look at some of the opposing arguments and views with regard to this issue.
Some Nigerians are of the view that there is nothing wrong with the decision by President Buhari to limit probe only to the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan. Persons in this school of thought are of the view that current government of Nigeria headed by Muhammadu Buhari has ample evidence at its disposal to probe Jonathan's government. They argue that the handover notes presented by Dr Jonathan to President Buhari should serve as a platform for the probe. According to them, President Buhari's government should study the handover notes very thoroughly and determine if it is a clear reflection of the actual state of things in the country with a view to revealing where acts of corruption and financial malpractices took place in the last administration of Dr Jonathan. More so, persons in this group believe that the alleged money stolen by officials of Jonathan's government is stashed in local and international bank accounts and within the reach of the federal government of Nigeria. The crust of the argument of those in favour of probe of only Jonathan's administration is that former President Jonathan's government was stinkingly corrupt and should not be allowed to evade probe and justice at it would encourage and embolden future governments to engage in acts of massive corruption. By implication, a probe of Jonathan's government would serve as a deterrent to future governments to desist from engaging in corruption.
On the contrary, some Nigerians are of the view that President Buhari should not limit probe to only Dr Jonathan's former government. To them, Buhari should not engage in 'selective anti-corruption fight' as it would amount to witch-hunting. They further argue that corruption has been a part of Nigeria's life since independence in 1960, and any attempt to limit corruption probe to only Jonathan's government and leave other past governments would defeat the essence of the exercise. To those in this group, virtually all past governments in Nigeria partook in corruption and should be probed by Buhari.
For me, the two schools of thought regarding probe of corruption by Jonathan's government may have their strength and weaknesses. However, it is my candid opinion that the fight against corruption by President Muhammadu Buhari should be a total one. He should probe all past governments of Nigeria and not limit probe to only Dr Jonathan's government, as it would be interpreted to be witch-hunting, and capable of threatening national unity and security. His anti-corruption fight should not be selective. The president has told the world that up to $150 billion Nigeria's stolen money is stashed in foreign bank accounts. That the president has not said that this humongous amount of money was stolen only by officials of Jonathan's government should mean that other past governments heavily participated in looting Nigeria dry and stashing the loot in foreign bank accounts. More so, President Buhari has said he is working with the United States government and other western powers to help Nigeria in repatriating this money back home. This is a welcome development and we hope the West would help us as President Obama of the United States had assured President Buhari in his state visit to the former's country.
Corruption is corruption anywhere in the world. A spade should be called a spade, not shovel. In Nigeria, it is like canker-worm that has eaten deep into every fabric of our national life. It is responsible for the myriads of woes confronting Nigeria as a country and a key reason for her underdevelopment. The looting of our treasury by our political leaders since independence is the principal reason millions of ordinary Nigerians are impoverished and live in appalling /inhuman condition and abject poverty. Nigeria is a country that berths on huge natural resources. There is no reason for Nigerians to be poor, whatsoever.
President Muhammadu Buhari said it times without number in the course of his election campaign that it is ''either we kill corruption as a country or corruption will kill us''. Now is the time to kill corruption so that it will not kill us. We will not and must not allow corruption to kill us a nation. The fight must be a total, not selective one. There was never anytime the president said it during his campaigns that he would limit probe to Jonathan's government. It should not be the case now. Many Nigerians and the world will not take his anti-corruption probe serious if he limits it to only Jonathan's government and spares other past governments that indulged in monumental acts of corruption.
There are several instances of corruption and looting of Nigeria's treasury by past military regimes. It has been said that corruption became institutionalized in Nigeria during military rule. For instance, during the oil boom of the 1970s, when the price of oil was very high and Nigeria made so much money from oil export, the then military head of state, General Gowon, was reported to have said that ''Nigeria's problem was not money but how to spend the money'' By interpretation, this meant that Nigeria earned so much money from the oil boom of the 1970s but was squandered by the power that be then. It is on records that one of the sins of General Gowon's government that led to his overthrow by late General Murtala Mohammed , was corruption.
Nigeria was said to have made several billions of US dollars in the early 1990s during the First Gulf War between the United States of America and Sadam Hussein of Iraq. This was known as the Oil Windfall of the early 1990s and the billions of dollars Nigeria made from oil sales during this period have not been accounted for till date. This should be probed by President Buhari.
Many cases of corruption have also been recorded since the country's return to democracy in 1999. Prominent among them are the Halliburton corruption scandal, the Siemens's scandal, spending of over $16 billion US dollars on electricity without generating additional 500 megawatts of power, dubious privatisation of the power sector and many others too numerous to mention here. All these should be probed by current Nigerian government.
I wish to conclude that many Nigerians are in support of President Muhammadu Buhari anti-corruption fight. The president should make it an inclusive fight, not selective. He should probe every corrupt past government, not only Jonathan's government. This is the only way he can convince many Nigerians that he is serious with his fight against corruption. He is said to be a man of integrity. He should prove it to the world that he is truly a man of integrity by probing every past corrupt government of Nigeria. Ample evidence exists of acts of corruption by various governments in Nigeria since independence. It would be very good if President Buhari could confiscate the wealth of those who have looted our national treasury and use the money to fix the plethora of challenges facing Nigeria, thereby making the country a better place for every Nigerian to live life to the fullest and achieve their goals and aspirations as citizens. There should be no sacred cows as far as the fight against corruption is concerned. President Buhari should not allow Nigerians to believe that he is afraid of probing past military generals and heads of states like Babangida, Obasanjo, Abdulsalami and others. It is still trending in both conventional and social media General Ibrahim Babangida has threatened to reveal Buhari's records and expose his acts of corruption as Minister of Petroleum in the 1970s and as Chairman of defunct Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), in the 1990s if he attempts to probe him. It is been alleged in some quarters that this is the reason President Buhari had hurriedly said in a press statement through his Senior Assistant on Media, Femi Adesina, that his government would limit probe to Jonathan's administration. Time shall tell if this is true.