Ademola Babalola in Ibadan
Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah, has said that jailing people who have purportedly stolen money can never be the solution to fighting corruption in Nigeria.
Rather, he said building strong institutions around the fight against corruption; workable and functional educational system which could liberate people from ignorance that corruption ruins a nation and above all, good governance/functional society are the basis of corruption fight in a way that after these have been provided, anybody who runs foul of the law, should be made to pay dearly for it to serve as deterrent to others.
Kukah made this remarks as a guest of the Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP) when it organised a book reading club which according to the Executive Vice Chairman of the school, Dr. Tunji Olaopa, was aimed at reviving the dying reading culture especially amongst the younger generation.
The Bishop book which was drawn and reviewed by him to the audience, was the ‘Witness to Justice; an outpouring of emotions during the Oputa Truth Commission.
From it, he chronicled how emotions ran high from different ethnic representatives and people who suffered one form of injustice or another from past administrations and powerful individuals in the country during the military governments preceding the democratic administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999.
“Corruption is a symptom of a sickness. We might deal with the corruption by jailing people but as long as the system allows people to steal, it will remain with us. Fighting corruption is not only about jailing people or putting them in prison. The system that produces corrupt people would remain with us if we don’t address some fundamental questions that breed corruption because some people can say afterall, certain number of people who have gone to prison have come back to be president of this nation. Some may also argue that a number of National Assembly members have gone to prison yet came back and got elected. Same goes for a number of people who are today in Nigerian government houses who also have at one time or the other gone to prison and came back to be elected as governors and so on. So prison is not a threat to a number of people.
“President Buhari has been dealing with $2.1billlion security money allegedly embezzled from the Office of the National Security Adviser for close to one year now and yet he said between $150billion to $200billion have been stashed abroad by corrupt Nigerians, when are we going to actualise all that if we are still just on $2.1billion arms money till date.
“Curiously too, we are yet to start serious prosecution of the people so far alleged to have collected money from the office of NSA and ahead is a judicial trial of evidence of proof to ascertain the involvement or otherwise of the suspects. Fighting corruption is a question of thinking, rethinking and defining our objectives and should therefore not be seen as the job of one man.”
Kukah said Nigerians are even becoming confused that the promise made to them that the proceeds from corruption fight would be used to better their lives have not started yielding any gains.
He also admonished ambitious Nigerians to thread softly and accept God’s divining connection in President Muhammadu Buhari’s ascension to power, saying even though the latter may not be the best we can have now as a leader but ‘God knows why he made him the number One citizen.’
To those who might be interested in rocking the boat of governance, Kukah sounded a note of warning “stage coup and die’, stressing that God saw some others who could probably have done much more better than him but knew why he enthroned him as the leader.
Earlier in his thought provoking lecture on the way forward to Nigeria’s cohesiveness as one indivisible nation, Kukah said such national reconciliation can not be possible unless there is justice for the victims of past injustices; justice for the perpetrators and justice for the society and in the sight of God.
On the stand of some Nigerians that Oputa panel which he was part of as a key panelist was not a success, Kukah said the fact that it ended in raising more questions on the way forward for true reconciliation about the future of Nigeria was in itself a success.