The Resurgence of Corruption

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The Transparency International verdict corresponds largely with the perception of many Nigerians

Since we were almost certain that the anti-corruption outing of this administration was bound to unravel under the weight of its numerous contradictions, the result of the latest Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index came as no surprise to us. There was no ‘war’ going on because wars have underlying doctrines which inform battle plans. It was not even a campaign, either in a political or PR sense because campaigns aim to carry a mass audience along. More distressingly, it had no foundation in public morality or ethical good governance. All that some officials have been waving is the tattered flag of the integrity of President Muhammadu Buhari.

According to the latest Transparency International report on corruption perception index, Nigeria ranked 148 out of 180 countries assessed in 2017. Meanwhile, in 2016, Nigeria ranked 136th. Within the continent, Nigeria was ranked 32nd out of the 52 assessed countries in 2017. Yet, Prof Itse Sagay and other officials can continue to deceive themselves rationalising what the TI report means.

Indeed, such is the hypocrisy of the current administration in the so-called war against corruption that even President Buhari, as the prime mascot, has increased the size of the question mark around his own integrity. For instance, he has not decisively shown discomfort in the company of questionable characters while a number of close officials, like his former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), have been fingered for acts of corruption with scant repercussion.

To worsen matters, the president has allowed the high authority of his office to be invoked in seeming protection of high state officials like the lingering cases of the recalls of former Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina and the head of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Prof Yusuf Usman; not to mention the questionable appointment of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) head. The treatment of these cases violates all known rules of due process and respect for basic public decency and accountability. With this administration, no one can say with certainty whether nepotism and clannish nativism in federal appointments qualify as evidence of corruption.

What is, however, never in doubt is that for targets, this ‘war’ has repeatedly homed in mostly on former appointees of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Curiously, some of the former leading lights of the PDP who happen to be the arrowheads of the Buhari ascendancy have been immune from the investigative searchlight of both the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB). With such a hazy definition of target, the administration committed an unpardonable political hubris and travesty of natural justice in its declaration of war on corruption.

Admittedly, the PDP administration under President Goodluck Jonathan was an untidy mixed bag of good men and women overwhelmed by gangsters and a mob ethic. But it was not the exclusive club of corrupt elements as recent experience with the All Progressives Congress (APC) government of Buhari has shown. Therefore, the TI verdict is no rude shock. In fact, what should worry the incumbent government is the reality that the verdict by TI corresponds largely with the dominant perception of informed Nigerians.

The drama and media showmanship that Nigerians have witnessed in the name of fighting graft, especially by the EFCC will worsen corruption in the future. It has taught corrupt people new ways to evade the radar. All you need to do is join the ruling party and all sins are forgiven, if not forgotten. Yet, selective application of targets in the fight against corruption is in itself corruption. Using corruption to fight corruption may be Nigeria’s contribution to the global anti-graft crusade. But so far, it does not seem to be a workable proposition. Private sector and institutional corruption remain intact. Not to talk of the sociological- ‘way of life’- corruption in our daily lives.

The summary of the foregoing is stark: the anti-corruption war was not thought through. It was just a knee-jerk and populist gambit that will remain the butt of jokes long after Buhari may have left office.

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The drama and media showmanship that Nigerians have witnessed in the name of fighting graft, especially by the EFCC will worsen corruption in the future. It has taught corrupt people new ways to evade the radar. All you need to do is join the ruling party and all sins are forgiven, if not forgotten