NIGERIANS AND ANTI-CORRUPTION POLEMICS
For the purpose of this article, it would be appropriate to offer a working definition of polemics and corruption respectively. This would no doubt, throw some light on the subject matters and help present a clearer picture and understanding of the topic.
According to Wikipedia, a polemic is a contentious argument that is intended to support a specific position via attacks on a contrary position. Polemics are usually seen in arguments about controversial topics.
On the definition of corruption, Wikipedia puts it this way: ''In philosophical, theological, or moral discussions, corruption is the abuse of bestowed power or position to acquire personal benefit. Corruption includes many activities, including bribery and embezzlement''.
There is no doubt, that corruption among political office holders in Nigeria, is the major bane of Nigeria since independence. It is responsible for the plethora of economic, social and political problems and woes plaguing Nigeria. This has caused and still causes untold hardship for millions of Nigerians, who live in abject poverty in the midst of 'immense economic resources' in their father's land.
There seems to be a unanimous agreement among Nigerians that corruption is the major problem facing their country. Unfortunately, however, there is no unison or agreement among Nigerians, on the meaning or definition of corruption; who is corruption and how to go about the fight against corruption. Put succinctly, corruption is a very polemic topic or subject among Nigerians. Its discussion as a topic, causes a barrage of altercations, recriminations, quarrels, debates and even physical exchanges among Nigerians along tribal, party and even religious lines. This is the thrust of the topic: Nigerians and anti-corruption fight.
Now, a very pertinent question that readily comes to mind regarding the question of corruption and who is corrupt in Nigeria, is whether Nigerians do not know the meaning of corruption and how to determine whether an individual is corrupt or not. This question becomes imperative in view of the consideration that many Nigerians deliberately refuse to agree on what corruption means and who should be prosecuted for engaging in acts of corruption and who should not. For me, like every other burning issue in Nigeria, the views of Nigerians on corruption reflect the wider disagreements and political, religious and ethnic divides among them on key issues and challenges confronting the country. The judgements of many Nigerians on issues of corruption are how to go about the anti-corruption fight, especially as it has to do with who to prosecute and otherwise, are influenced by sentiments and emotions based on tribal, party and even religious inclinations. This disagreement or polemics among Nigerians regarding anti-corruption fight in the country is a major reason the quest to win the war against the biggest monster facing Nigeria may be a mirage for years to come.
At this juncture it will be imperative to take a look at some popular allegations of corruption leveled against some political leaders in Nigeria and the polemics generated by them.
DR. GOODLUCK JONATHAN
It has been alleged by the All Progressives Congress, the APC, and some Nigerians, that the most corrupt government in Nigeria is/was that of former President Goodluck Jonathan. It is said that trillions of Naira were stolen by government officials under the watchful eyes of Dr Goodluck Jonathan as President and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from 2010 to 2015. For instance, the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, now Emir of Kano, Lamido Sanusi, after playing with various conflicting figures, told the world that the sum of twenty billion United States Dollars ($20, 000, 000, 000) was missing, stolen or was not remitted by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), under the watchful eyes of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as President of Nigeria. This is equivalent to the sum of four trillion Nigerian Naira, which is about Nigeria's annual budget for the year 2015.
As expected, this grave allegation of financial corruption leveled against the government of Goodluck Jonathan by Sanusi, sparked off a barrage of polemics among Nigerians. As it were, the APC as an opposition political party then, and millions of its supporters used the missing twenty billion dollars saga as an instrument of political and electioneering campaign against Jonathan as they were pretty sure, even before investigation, that such money actually got missing or stolen under him. It is trite to add that the missing 20 billion dollars saga and other numerous cases of corruption leveled by the the then opposition party, contributed in no small measure to the defeat of Jonathan in the 2015 Nigerian presidential election.
On the contrary however, responding to Sanusi's allegation, the then Peoples Democratic government of Dr. Jonathan had argued that the allegation of missing 20 billion dollars was baseless and unfounded. It had maintained that Sanusi was confused as he had presented various conflicting figures, before settling for 20 billion dollars. Supporters of the PDP nationwide were not left out in the fray generated by the alleged missing 20 billion Naira as many of them had aligned with their party's position that no money was missing.
SANUSI LAMIDO SANUSI
Another allegation of corruption that generated a barrage of polemics among Nigerians was that against the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Lamido Sanusi, who is now the Emir of Kano. In March, 2014, the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, had released a damming report accusing Sanusi of financial impropriety while in office as the head of Nigeria's apex bank. The 13-page report by the FRCN had revealed a far reaching allegations of financial impropriety against Sanusi. The report accused him of committing numerous acts of financial recklessness and misconduct that are/were inconsistent with the vision of the apex bank. The report had it that several millions of Naira either went missing or was appropriated and spent by Sanusi with due process and without approval from the Federal Government of Nigeria. The direct and immediate outcome of the this was the suspension of Sanusi from office as governor of Nigeria's Central Bank and his replacement by Sarah Alade, by then President Jonathan.
Sanusi's suspension and replacement from office by Dr. Goodluck Jonathan led to serious polemics and cacophony among Nigerians. The APC and its supporters as well as many Northerners saw it as witch-hunting of Sanusi by the Jonathan government. This was also made more serious by the fact that Sanusi's ordeal coincided with with his whistle blowing that 20 billion dollars had gone missing under Jonathans watch. So, for many supporters and sympathizers of Sanusi, Jonathan was only out to humiliate him out of office because of his whistle blowing of corruption against him. However, many supporters of the PDP were of the view that Sanusi's removal from office was justifiable as they believed that he actually committed monumental financial malpractices while in office as CBN governor.
Another Nigerian, whose alleged case of corruption has generated and still generates rancorous noise and polemics among Nigerians, is the former Governor of Rivers State, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi. The PDP in Rivers State and its supporters have accused Rotimi Amaechi of looting several billions of Naira belonging to the state while in office as governor. The then governor of Rivers State, Mr. Wike Nyesom, whose election as governor of Rivers State has been annulled by the state election tribunal, has alleged that Mr. Amaechi stole over 57 billion Naira from the state treasury among other cases of corruption leveled against him. In his response, Mr. Amaechi has denied and still denies ever stealing a dime belonging to the Rivers State government while in office. Responding to a question on this at the Senate chambers, during his screening as minister, Amaechi said this to the world: ''Believe me, if there is anyone who does not like corruption, its me....... I have never taken bribe in my life''. Some may say this is a political answer and statement. It is up to anyone that feels so strongly that he likes corruption or has ever taken bribe to provide evidence to that effect. As expected, Amaechi's supporters in Rivers State and other parts of Nigeria are of the view that Amaechi did not loot Rivers treasury, arguing that anyone that feels strongly otherwise should provide evidence to that effect or go to court to establish his case. Amaechi, on his part, argues that his enemies are behind his ordeal, maintaining that even the panel of inquiry set up by Mr. Wike to probe his alleged case of corruption in office, did not indict him of corruption. Amaechi's case of corruption became more controversial than any other one in Nigeria following his nomination as minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, by President Buhari. Following this development, the polemics over Amaechi's corruption case shifted to Nigerian National Assembly, where legislators disagreed sharply along party lines whether he should be cleared or not. However, at last, precisely Thursday 29/10/2015, the Nigerian Senate under the leadership of the All Progressives Congress, confirmed Amaechi as minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, even after senators from the PDP staged a walk out, following inability to resolve their differences with their counterparts from the APC, over Amaechi.
Having taken a cursory look at some instances of allegations of corruption against some Nigerian leaders, lets briefly examine the current anti-corruption fight by the APC-government of President Buhari and the polemics being generated by it.
PRESIDENT BUHARI'S ANTI-CORRUPTION FIGHT
We now have a new government in Nigeria headed by President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress. President Buhari was voted into power by over 15 million Nigerians based on his promise to fight corruption, bring an end to the Boko Haram menace rocking Nigeria and fix power and the economy, amongst other things.
President Buhari's anti-corruption fight so far since assumption of office on May 29, 2015, seems to be generating monumental polemics among Nigerians even more than before. In the course of his election campaigns, Buhari had promised Nigerians and the world that he was going to fight corruption and bring corrupt persons in Nigeria. However, his tone changed after he was voted into office when said he was going to limit his anti-corruption probe to only Dr. Jonathan's government. This did not go down well with a cross section of Nigerians, the PDP and sympathizers of Jonathan who saw and still see it as an attempt to witch-hunt Jonathan and his former government officials. On his part, former President Jonathan had said it a few days before leaving office as president that there was nothing wrong with the intention of his successor to look into the books of past governments in Nigeria with a view to seeing if there were cases of corruption on the part of those in such governments. He added that he was in support of probe of past governments in Nigeria but that it should not be limited to only his government as every past government in Nigeria since independence had soiled it hands in corruption.
As it is now, the PDP is the current opposition party in Nigeria, having lost power to the APC in the last general election. The PDP has released several statements accusing the APC-federal led government of Nigeria of engaging in selective anti-corruption fight. The PDP alleges that the Buhari government is rewarding corrupt APC leaders and members with ministerial positions and other offices while intimidating, arresting and charging their counterparts in the PDP with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and other government agencies charged with the responsibility for fighting corruption in Nigeria. The PDP in a statement, mentioned the rewarding or compensation of the former governors of Lagos and Rivers states, Fashola and Amaechi respectively, with ministerial positions by the the Buhari government as well as the compensation of former governors of Bayelsa and Kogi states, Timipriye Sylva and Prince Abubakar Audu with APC governorship tickets of their states for the 2015 governorship elections in the two states. However, the ruling party has dismissed PDP's claims as baseless, arguing that any Nigerian that feels strongly that any APC member is corrupt should provide evidence or go to court to stop such a person from being appointed into an office. In all this, the reactions and arguments of many Nigerians are been influenced by their party, ethnic, regional and religious sentiments and emotions; and the polemics continue.
Corruption is the major bane facing Nigeria. It is responsible for the country's underdevelopment and the numerous social and economic challenges bedeviling Nigerians. Corruption is corruption and a spade must be called a spade, not shovel. Drawing from the definition of corruption earlier given in this article, it is clear that is largely a moral and ethical question or issue. It therefore follows that any Nigerian political leader that is involved in corruption is committing moral and ethical sin against fellow Nigerians. Wikipedia offers bribery and embezzlement as some of the instances of corruption. It is not arguable that some, if not most Nigerians in government (pas and present) were/are involved in acts of bribery and embezzlement of public funds. This is very common among government officials that approve contracts and procurement. They are fond of inflating contract sums and accepting bribes from contractors.
If corruption could be reduced to bribery and embezzlement, it is logical to assume that majority of government officials are corrupt as many of them cannot be said to be free from taking bribes and embezzling state funds. It is my personal opinion that any government official (past or present), that is worth over a billion Naira is corrupt. Some many not agree to this position of mine and I do not expect anyone to. The highest number of years any political office holder could spend in power under the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution is eight. Though we have had few cases of some legislators and others spending up to twelve years in governments. No Nigerian political leader, be that person president or whoever should earn more than one billion (legitimately) from salaries and allowances even if he or she spends more than eight years in power. My assumption here that any Nigerian political leader that is worth over one billion Naira after leaving office does not fail to take into consideration what they spend on various things and areas, including luxuries, while in office.
The major challenge therefore about fight against corruption in Nigeria is that many Nigerians themselves have deliberately refused to agree on who is corrupt and who should be prosecuted for corruption and otherwise. Political, regional and ethnic sentiments and emotions have blinded many Nigerians from standing for the truth as far as anti-corruption fight is concerned in the country. More so, Nigeria is a country that worships materialism and wealth. This explains why many Nigerians are biased when it comes to issues of corruption as some of them are beneficiaries of corruption one way or another. Furthermore, the high rate of poverty among millions of Nigerians does not help matters as some Nigerians rely on the remnants they receive from corrupt political leaders and are therefore ready to fight anyone that dare talks about corruption on the part of their benefactors. The saddest part of the the story is that ordinary Nigerians are divided along party, tribal, regional and even religious lines when it comes to issues of corruption, who is corrupt or not and who should be prosecuted for corruption of not. On the other hand, the political class is united when it comes to looting/stealing Nigeria's wealth, irrespective of their party, religious and ethnic affiliations. The masses of Nigeria are the ones who bear the brunt of corruption in form unemployment, hunger, poverty, poor socio-economic infrastructure, poor power supply and more. This is one of the major banes and paradoxes of Nigeria.
I wish to concluded by positing that Nigerian political leaders play politics with corruption along party, tribal and regional lines. However, the fact remains that they are united in looting Nigeria's resources through their bogus salaries and allowances and involvement in corruption through bribery and embezzlement of public funds, among others. Nigerians MUST put an end to the polemics among them and unite in their opposition against corruption and corrupt leaders in the country. We must take our destiny in our hands and insist that the theory of Social Contract must stand. This is the only way our leaders can be made accountable to us, shun corruption and use state resources to fix the country for the benefit of her citizens. The essence of government is to use power in the deployment and application of state resources for the welfare and security of citizens of state; not for those in power to loot state resources and keep the citizens in perpetual penury and hardship.