“Buhari must be reminded that the power centers’ “pilgrimage” to the “Rock”, most probably to wrest concession from him not to go the whole hog, or at
least give some people, if not some on the entourage, some slacks in his war against corruption, are among a group of very powerful people that tried in his previous attempts—even in the last presidential election—everything humanly possible to shut him out of the presidency, even by foul means. The president must not lose sight of the fact that these people hardly wish him and his administration well, because his presidency happened in spite of them”. – Femi ODERE (Media Practitioner, as published on Sahara Reporters online, August 16th, 2015) in “Buhari and his August Visitors”
This is a very pithy and apt reminder for General Muhammadu Buhari on the one hand and Nigerians as a whole who voted him to fight Corruption. Corruption has been identified by Buhari since 1983 as the nation’s major problem. Since his transmutation into a civilian politician he has all of the past 13 years continued to wage an unrelenting war against the scourge whenever he got the opportunity to speak to Nigerians.
His anticorruption stance is explicit and has always been in full public view. He has always tried to be on the side of honesty, truth and fairness; and protection of the underdog, protection of those placed under his charge, and standing up for Nigeria. That was what got him into trouble with the Shehu Shagari government when as GOC, he personally, flew in a helicopter from his Jos base to Maiduguri’s extreme border and lead his troops to chase away rogue troops that had crossed into our borders at the northeast most axis and killed some five soldiers. For him, “loyalty is two-way”. For Buhari, the archetypal military General, his troops who believe in him and go to war whenever he orders them to, must enjoy his 100 per cent loyalty too when they need him to “have their back”, to protect their backs as it were.
That stance of standing by truth and fairness is what got the attention of Northerners, especially Muslims, riveted on him when he denied the lies that the PDP Government of President Olusegun Obasanjo asked Vice President Atiku to tell the world. The Obasanjo Govt had claimed that all members of the national council of state (NCS) were unanimously agreed to revert to a supposed “status quo ante”, to reverse application of Shariah, a legal and constitutional right of Muslims, for Muslims alone.
That sense of fairness was what almost got him in trouble again when the 1983 coup plans leaked. He had agreed to the putsch to throw out the drifting Shagari government that had forced itself back to power in a rigged 1983 landslide against all odds, a government that was so patently corrupt, a status only surpassed today by its successor, the PDP Nigeria has suffered for 16 years. Such distaste for corruption was also said to have earned him the boot from the post of head of state. His colleagues threw him out and dumped him in jail when he insisted on applying the rules even when it was revealed to him he needed to soft-pedal on a particular case at hand, of an officer who allegedly used the proceeds of corruption to help finance the coup that brought him in. He had not consolidated his hold on the levers of power, allowing other more sophisticated and less scrupulous colleagues to undermine him.
At a very mature age of 72, despite having nothing to lose on account of his advancing age, this time around as President, General Buhari has mellowed down considerably. In dispensing the rules he is more tactical. Much as he apparently still has the same distaste for corruption that he has always had he was more circumspect about his plans for the anti-corruption war in the work out for the 2015 polls.
This is quite unlike the build up to the 2011 elections. I do recall the bombshell he dropped in his hometown of Daura when we accompanied him to pick his CPC party card. He told the hundreds of thousands of us massed to watch him pick the card that he will get all stolen monies returned to Nigeria’s treasury. It was such a bombshell because we felt he had become more electable with the greater national spread the Buhari movement had then attained.
Along with members of our team, the Coalition Committee for Buhari Groups (CCBG), I was worried that he would be stopped by the team of Nigeria’s corrupt and looting politicians having stated his mind yet again in public. We thus appealed to him to change his tune and in fact extend a hand of fellowship to all types so as to get to the Aso Rock Villa, first. We appealed to him to suggest that he would draw a line and ignore issues from the past when he wins the elections.
And thankfully he agreed. On this, we appear to have been in good company with many other good governance activists on his trail in the CPC and many more who have been rooting for a return Buhari presidency since his time in ANPP and his tenure as head of state in 1983/85 beautifully amplified by his stint at PTF as chairman. The merger of the three political parties, ACN, ANPP and CPC ahead of the 2015 polls used the Buhari appeal to rally all anticorruption forces to form APC and finally provided the pan national platform for a more realistic chance to get the General into Aso Rock.
Looking at the General’s votes in 2015 and recalling the extent of commitment and consistent support of the Nigerian people it is obvious Nigerians decided to entrust General Muhammadu Buhari with management of their lives for the next 4 years simply to fight corruption. He became President exactly 30 years after he had been ousted from power, for the simple reason that most voters are comfortable with his one consuming passion. To kill corruption before it killed Nigeria.
For Buhari to fight the HYDROPUS (“. . . a hydra-headed monster and octopus combined aptly coined by Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka” as quoted by Femi Odere) that corruption has become is the one and only task Nigerians ask of him. It is all they need to set their affairs right.
It is obvious that the corruption that sent our hapless soldiers to the warfront without adequate arms and ammunition needed to be killed if we are to kill insurgency and see the back of BH. It is obvious that we need to have Buhari kill stealing that used to not be corruption under PDP if Igboland is going to have that bridge they had been clamouring for all of the past 16 years of PDP rule.
Killing Corruption before it kills Nigeria the more is the only solution to divert Nigerians monies from huge estates by former top political and service office holders, many of them serving or ex-generals to pay soldiers the living wage needed to secure our nation.
To kill corruption is a task that must be done if we are to give agriculture the monies needed to become the centrepiece for provision of jobs to the 60 million plus youth who are now locked in a hopeless state of anomie, with no education, or half education, no jobs, no hope for the future, no skills and for many no-sense as drugs have been introduced into their lives by the corrupt failure of the system to tackle the drug traffickers. With our porous borders and the corruption that keeps them open to all forms of evil imports the petty trades and things the youth get into are swamped by useless imports.
Now, is anyone in doubt that fighting corruption is all we need of Buhari for everything to be shipshape on our shores?
The thieves in the system should be thankful that Buhari appears to have softened from his previous incarnation. He is not insisting on jail for theft of Nigeria’s resources. Plea-bargaining, as detestable as it is, is now acceptable to him. That anyone who returned whatever he had cornered needed not fear jail.
In the past it was 100 or 200 or even 300 years for what many then considered a minor infraction. In those days corruption had not really matured. Many docked for allegedly cornering a few tens of thousands of naira got hundreds of years in jail from the military tribunals. Of course much later we got to learn that in his 1983/85 term General Buhari as head of state had to insist on jail rather than summary firing squads that was the general consensus of his colleagues among the military top brass.
The firing squad was Ghana’s preference that got to stabilize the country faster than Nigeria. With the current national consensus against corruption and Buhari’s more mellow approach to punishment merely seeking return of stolen goods as restitution we need a little more. That such a plea-bargain stratagem gets a built in legal framework to stop the bargainers from ever getting a chance to handle our national resources, again. Any that get caught with their hands in the cookie jar even under Buhari should have similar treatment.
Indeed in the case of future thefts, for corruption or whatever it is Nigerians and their leaders care to call it, a jail term needs to be factored in as standard procedure. That is in our law books, as it has always been. The current crop of spill-over thieves and corrupt Nigerians now littering our political landscape, with huge mansions, fleets of jets and bulletproof cars, many in prominent leadership positions with unaccountable tonnes of naira and dollars they can’t explain are a “lucky lot”. Why? Because they have the luck of neither jail, nor sanction.
They merely return what they stole to cause all the mess they force us to live with today. The mess that has made our education a mess. The mess that has made our economy a mess. A mess that has made our health services a mess.
A mess that has left us beholden to leaders we are forced to cheer for “granting” us “dividends of democracy”. Leaders who steal us blind and use such proceeds of crime to continue to recycle themselves back to power in sham elections within political parties that translate into general elections that prove much worse.
We now know that such types stole our money in NDDC, N180 billion plus of it, meant for amnesty payments for restive Delta youth and development of the Niger Delta. Such types stole our funds in multimillion barrels of oil and multi billion dollars and naira. And they sold off many, many of our national assets to themselves, from hotels that are so commonplace to sophisticated telecoms, to our national power assets; and all paid for with funds from opportunities they got by being our representatives, our servants; presumed public servants.
Buhari can afford to look all of his colleagues, our thieving top elite, in the face to say: “come, what madness possessed you, to steal so voraciously, so rapaciously”.
He can do this comfortably because he has always been comfortable with his cows and retired military general’s pension that we are told (true or false) he had even so asked to be reduced to a manageable level of N2 million plus, rather than the N30million plus other ex-generals and ex-heads of state get paid. He could stick to his fight against corruption in public and in private because he has always been comfortable with his people, the common-men, the youth whose lives, whose “tomorrows” they (the leaders, our leaders) eat up “today” while in charge of our affairs.
From the reaction of Nigerians to the war on corruption by General Muhammadu Buhari it seems he is on track. It seems the President is on the same page with a majority of the people who voted and stood by him all these past 13 years. He appears to be firmly fixated on the same page with Nigerians tired of the state of insecurity that has afflicted them because of corruption.
He is no doubt on the same page with Nigerians who forced the hands of our leading elite to break ranks from the established politics of the past 16 years and come join the anticorruption champion, the General. I can’t stop referring to him as the General. After all he is up there to fight the war we, the people of Nigeria, engaged him to lead as only a General can.
The amazing thing is that so far all the action and the operators wreaking so much havoc with the guilty are from stuff exposed by staff from ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s time. When our General gets going with his own appointees in charge of such fireworks how much more focused and effective the anticorruption war will be, and how exciting I leave you to judge.
One thing that is certain is: what we ask of the General is that he kills corruption dead, so that Nigeria returns from the dead.
Kabiru M. Gwangwazo (email@example.com) a journalist writes from Kano city. He is Publisher/CEO, Pyramid Media, Kano.