By Bola Akinterinwa
The political environment in Nigeria might truly be ‘fantastically corrupt’ as suggested by some foreign friends of Nigeria. The issue here is not simply that Nigeria is corrupt but the qualifying word, fantastically. Why fantastically? One possible explanation is to espy it from the perspective of societal disorderliness that has come to characterise political governance at all levels of national life.
First, how does the Government think in Nigeria? What is the philosophy of governance in Nigeria? Has the Government any philosophy guiding the protection of the national interest? Has the Government any philosophy on the protection of Nigerians abroad? Why would a whole Ministry of Foreign Affairs be remiss in its duties and it would require the faculty of a Senior Special Assistant to the President, Abike Dabiri-Erewa to courageously perform the duties of the Foreign Ministry, especially as regards saving the lives of Nigerians wrongly put on death row in Saudi Arabia?
We strongly believe that, under the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, political governance is said to be predicated on the pursuit of national security, vibrant economy, and corruption-free society. It is most unfortunate that the general public’s perception is negative on all the three areas and this is simply because of untruth in political governance.
Regarding corruption, the objective of government to neutralise corruption is quite commendable but the approach is transparently dishonest, self-serving and embarrassing. As such, corruption cannot be nipped in the bud in the Nigeria of today and this is why the description of Nigeria as fantastically corrupt has some elements of truth.
In terms of the economy, it has truly been witnessing growth, but the growth has not been allowed to dovetail into development. Nigeria’s potential resources have not been allowed to be made manifest. In other words, Nigeria is wealthy potentially but not in real life. In fact, many businesses are on record to be leaving the country for reasons of an inclement environment, especially increasing insecurity and challenges of power outage. The challenges at the domestic level are such that the Government has been constrained and prevented from signing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, as well as signing the European Union’s Economic Partnership Agreement.
As for national security, this should not be simply seen in the context of carrying battles to the door steps of the Boko Haram and other groupings, such as the MASSOB (Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra) and MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta). National security, should a priori be explained in the context of ‘stomach infrastructure’, wellness and happiness of the people. The first focus of national security should be the defence and protection of the Nigerian wherever he or she may be found. Most unfortunately, the contrary is most often the case.
You may wish to recall the reported statement of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, on the platform of the Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Wednesday, 24 April, 2019, regarding the situation of unemployment and brain drain in Nigeria. The general public was showing concern about the increasing exit of medical and paramedical practitioners from the country. As reported in The Punch of Thursday, April 25, 2019, Dr. Ngige declared as follows: ‘No, I am not worried about doctors leaving the country. We have surplus. If you have surplus, you export… Who says we don’t have more than enough? We have more than enough. You can quote me. There is nothing wrong in them travelling out. When they go abroad, they earn money and send it back home here. Yes, we have foreign exchange earnings from them and not just oil.’
From the perspective of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), the Minister does not appear to understand the requirements by the World Health Organisation. Dr. Francis Faduyile, the President of the NMA, has said ‘that is an unfortunate statement, which shows that he has done nothing in medical practice. The WHO stated that (for) the optimal health care to be achieved, we need doctor/patient ratio of one to 600. In Nigeria, we have 40,000 doctors taking care of 200 million people. It is unfortunate we do not have enough doctors.’
Two points are noteworthy here: What is the place of the WHO in the medical calculations of the Minister of Health of Nigeria? If 40,000 doctors currently attend to 200 million people, this means that the ratio is one doctor to 5000 (five thousand) patients, whereas the prescription by the WHO is 1 doctor to 600. In this regard, can it be rightly said that medical doctors are in excess in Nigeria? If a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria does not have the appropriate data to work with in policy making, why should anyone expect any policy objectivity of purpose in outcome?
The second point is how to reconcile the WHO’s request for optimal health care and the current healthcare situation in the Country? Is Dr. Ngige also suggesting that the optimal level of healthcare has been attained and therefore there is no problem with brain drain? This is an expression of untruth in political governance.
Under this same administration, rape, extra-judicial killings, as well as child abuse are also on the increase. The same is true of ransacking of communities and villages, suicide by young people, kidnappings, armed robberies, especially in Lagos and along Abuja-Kaduna expressway, and examination malpractices, to the extent that the JAMB has had to cancel many results. The situation of extra-judicial killings has prompted the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, to declare that he would sanction any principal officer whose subordinates abuse the use of firearms.
In the words of the acting IGP, ‘I have already ordered that a signal be circulated to all police commands and formations, warning of dire consequences against any personnel that, by their incorrigible acts, deviate from accepted police culture and values.’ More important, the IGP has it that ‘the line supervisors of such officer, including the Area Commander, Divisional Police Officer or sectional Head, shall be held vicariously liable for lacking supervision and shall be similarly sanctioned.’
Although the acting IGP has also revealed that President Buhari had also directed him ‘to immediately implement community policing strategy across the country,’ with the objective that such a structure ‘will enable traditional rulers to maintain an effective cultural and social control over their subjects,’ (vide https://www.thecable.ng), it is not yet clear whether the community policing will be allowed to be driven by honesty of purpose. This point is made against the background of the intention to have special constables provided for in Section 50(1) of the Police Act Cap P19 LFN 2004. In other words, ‘the Special Constables will be drawn from members of the community to serve as voluntary community police officers under the coordination of the Nigeria Police Force,’ the acting IGP further said.
The resort to community policing is not only an admission of the deteriorating security situation in the country but also a justification and righteousness of arguments of all those that have been calling for restructuring, not only of the police force, in particular, but that of the polity, in general. President Buhari never saw any goodness in the various calls before now, but has, for reasons of force majeure, now accepted to chart the path of national restructuring with his directive on community policing.
Without any jot of doubt, institutional corruption is serious business in Nigeria but everybody pretends not to know about it. It is useful to provide two or three illustrations at this juncture. First, institutional corruption thrives well at the domestic airport. It is coupled with disorderliness. I asked my staff to buy me a ticket on Sunday, April 28, 2019 to travel with Arik Airline, Lagos-Abuja. The ticket was booked by Maverick Travel Agency at the domestic wing of the airport. The amount of the ticket was N58,000 (fifty-eight thousand naira only). It was an economy ticket, not a business or First Class ticket. I queried my staff why such an amount, since the maximum cost of any economy class is by rule not more than N46,000 (forty-six thousand naira only). Why didn’t you buy directly from the Arik? I asked my officer. He responded that Arik claimed that there was no more place for 6am flight on Monday April 29. But the Maverick Travel Agency guaranteed him a booking.
I took the complaint to the Office of Arik in Abuja on my arrival there and was told that the Office knew nothing about the travel agency. One truth here is that the travel agency booked the ticket using the Arik platform. The travel agency deleted the correct amount of N45888,00 and issued a separate receipt for the payment. Without doubt, what prevents the Arik from operating very professionally by particularly compelling whoever wants to represent it to have a code of conduct? I called the travel agency to inform of my intention to get the matter prosecuted because I was not prepared to pay N12,000 as service charge for simply booking an airline ticket. No airport reception. No lounge. No tea or coffee service. No security escort. Absolutely no other benefit than just reserving a place. The travel agency did not want any police matter and offered to refund part of the money. With much begging, I accepted a N5000 refund. This is stealing by a corrupt method. The intention is ab initio to steal. One interesting argument of the travel agency is that Arik does not pay it any commission. Why enjoy services of a travel agency and refuse to appreciate? This is another expression of corruption.
In fact, at the checking-in counter, it is also disorderliness galore: touts are allowed in through business passengers’ corridor. Affinity Wings clientèle cannot lay claim to any privilege. Rowdiness and struggles between those who would want to go by 6am but scheduled for 7am flight, turned the area into another roaring market. Unfortunately, Arik flight hardly leaves at 6 am. On this very day, it taxied off at 6.27 am. I took time to monitor various acts of indiscipline and refused to beg anyone for help. But it dawned on one staff, who noticed that I was asking for names of some of them, to attend to me.
True, genuine people on the queue were unnecessarily ridiculed. How do we explain this type of assault on the integrity of honest people? Does the Minister of Aviation want to claim not to know about all these indecent activities in the airport? National image is tainted. This is a manifestation of institutional corruption and societal indiscipline to which we all acquiesce. Foreigners see all these and laugh, write reports back home, but deal decisively with erring Nigerians back home.
What about violations of simple traffic code? Let us begin with the case of Lagos State for example. The State of most spectacular societal indiscipline and disorderliness in Nigeria is Lagos State. It is a State that prides itself State of Excellence. The question to ask, however, is simple: in which areas should we be talking about situations of excellence? ‘Show me your friend and I will tell you whom you are’ is a common saying. It simply means let first appearance suggest further details about you.
Visible societal indiscipline in Lagos State begins with the lawlessness of the commercial vehicles, popularly referred to as ‘danfo.’ They do not have any respect for any traffic rule. They operate with impunity and are always in a haste to make money and, therefore, strongly believe that any road traffic offence could be settled by money giving. And true enough, whoever wants to verify this observation should go to Ikorodu road, and see how danfos ply the reserved BRT way in the glare of law enforcement agents meant to arrest them. Why is Government unable to discipline ‘danfo’ (the yellow commercial vehicle) drivers? The answer is well known: corruption, dishonesty, untruth at the level of government.
And true enough, road traffic wardens in Lagos State set traps for motorists. In many parts of Lagos State, there are no road signs, especially for one way but the traffic officers hide in a corner and arrest unsuspecting drivers. I was arrested in one area of Mushin by Oshodi-Apapa Expressway and I refused to settle anyone because there was no road sign indicating the street was one way only. I not only went with the officers to their office to invite their superior officers to come and show me where there was a prohibiting road sign. We went to the street to discover that the road sign had fallen down long time and that the writings on the very rusted metal any sign post has faded.
Perhaps, more interestingly, I noted that the traffic warden who took me to his area office also took the same one way for which he arrested me. I told the Head of the office that If I was guilty of taking one way, what makes it legal for you as road traffic wardens to also take the same way and you would not be guilty? This scenario clearly shows how political governance is carried out in the whole of Nigeria. Government agents can do anything and they are protected. If the abiding citizens do the same, the story is different.
Even though I was allowed to go free without penalty, I offered to give them N15,000 (fifteen thousand naira) for the acquisition of signposts to be put in transparent areas of the street as a special contribution to community development to guide other motorists, the truth is that after I left, a receipt was said to have been issued to me, not for buying a new sign post but for traffic rule violation. I made efforts to take the matter to court but my family vehemently prevailed on me. I was not happy that I was prevented from fighting societal ills. This is why corruption thrives on fertile ground and this is the nature of political governance in Nigeria. But who wants to bother?
For any right-thinking person, acts of indiscipline and particularly violations of traffic rules can be made a good source of revenue for the government and at the same time build a new society that will be completely free from societal ills, as well as create thousands of employment opportunities. For instance, the Government can recruit about three thousand fresh graduates, give them training on traffic code and station them on all Lagos roads.
The House of Assembly should be required to pass a special new bill on violations of road traffic rules, especially on driving against traffic or on the pavement meant for pedestrians, making it a more serious offence and punishable by, at least, one year imprisonment without any option of fine. For minor offences of beating the traffic light, let people pay nothing less than N25,000 (twenty-five thousand naira) at the time of arrest. Every day thereafter should attract one thousand naira daily. With this type of draconian approach, it is not only the danfo drivers that will first learn to quickly adjust, private motorists will also quickly begin to comply with the rules. And by so doing, discipline will gradually be instilled. Government will generate revenues from traffic lawlessness. Accidents on the roads will be reduced.
Without doing this, Lagos cannot rightly claim to be a State of Excellence. Lagos State is currently a State of lawlessness, where government agents take the law into their hands to terrorise the law abiding residents. Excellence of a State should not be simply defined by provision of road repairs. It is dignity of the people, compliance with the rule of law, decency and quality of government agents, as well as extent of the people in political governance that should be required to do so. This has not been so because political governance is largely predicated on untruth, dishonesty of purpose. And this brings us to the controversy over INEC’s alleged replacement of election servers and its linkages to the Mueller’s report in the United States.
PDP, INEC and US Mueller’s Report
Mr. Robert Mueller was the Special Investigation Counsel, charged with the responsibility of investigating the alleged Russian intervention or intrusion into the 2016 US presidential election. The investigation, which began in 2017 and was concluded in March 2019, was variously referred to as the ‘Mueller Investigation,’ the ‘Mueller Probe,’ the ‘Russian Investigation,’ etc,
Mueller submitted a report of 448 (four hundred and forty-eight) pages, but which the US Attorney-General, William Barr, summarised into only four pages and then submitted to some political leaders and the heads of various committees in the US Congress. Many observers found that there were inconsistencies between the summarised, and the original report, which prompted the Democrats to want to find out the exact truth about what was truly stated in the original report.
For this purpose, the House Judiciary Chairman, Jerry Nadler, organised a hearing and asked the Attorney General to come and testify there. For various reasons, especially that the Attorney General was also interviewed for more than five hours the day before by the Senate Judicial Committee, the Attorney General refused to attend and to reveal the vital information required by the Congress. This has compelled Mr. Jerry Nadler to request for the unedited, full report given by Robert Mueller without which Mr. William Barr would be held in contempt of the Congress, which is regarded as a crime. The time limit given the Attorney General was May 1, 2019.
In the words of the House Judiciary Chairman, ‘the Committee is prepared to make every realistic effort to reach an accommodation with the Department. But if the Department persists in its baseless refusal to comply with a validly issued subpoena, the Committee will move to contempt proceedings and seek further legal recourse.’ What is important about this point is the aspect of untruth and dishonesty in the US presidential system of government. There is freedom to do anything, including to tell lies, and especially for Government agents to deceive the people.
The truth is that the Special Investigation Counsel wrote a report, the summary of which the US Attorney General consciously distorted and presented to the Congress for information. But because the US institutions, has several levels of checks and balances, it has not been easy for the Attorney General to falsify information and escape. This is precisely the linkage between the Mueller report and its distorted presentation to the Congress of the United States, on the one hand, and the case between the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), on the other.
The PDP alleged last week that the INEC was replacing all the servers used for the collation of the presidential election results at the State and Abuja headquarters of the INEC. Why? the PDP is insinuating that the electoral body might be doing so to quickly cover up the alleged election rigging by the incumbent ruling party and government. The alert raised by the PDP is apt because the PDP has already referred the matter to the election tribunal to determine whether or not the APC candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, really won the presidential election.
There is no disputing the fact that the February 23rd elections were fraught with violence, logistics problems and rigging, all of which were a resultant of political dishonesty and chicanery. If it is true that the INEC is replacing the servers, it can only suggest one thing, INEC is precisely trying to obstruct justice in the very manner President Donald Trump is currently trying to prevent the truth from being told to the American public. The INEC is also by so doing making nonsense of its independence. The independent character of the INEC is called to question. The international responsibility of the Government of Nigeria is also at stake. In both the contexts of the United States, it is difficult for public officials to tell lies and go scot free, but the contrary is the case in Nigeria. Nigeria has now become a new terra cognita for untruth, dishonesty, and political chicanery and this is why the Government cannot successfully cope with the spate of ongoing violent killings in virtually all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria. The time for unconditional restructuring in order to preserve national unity has, indeed, come and President Buhari’s approval of community policing is the first pointer to this.
It is not known in political history where battles fought against the truth have ever been won. Truth is indestructible. No matter for how long the truth is kept under the cooler, sooner or later, archival records cannot but be released to the public. After all, the records of many centuries are now in the public domain. The illegal leakages through technological developments, especially as revealed by the Russian hacking of emails of Democratic officials in the US cannot be over emphasised. INEC can change servers but that will not prevent the public from still knowing the truth. The INEC will therefore need to be careful in precipitating the country into another civil war.