Nigeria has over time earned for herself the unenviable toga of being a corrupt nation. The determination of past administrations of the PDP-led federal government to tackle the menace led them to create special agencies including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) etc while others like the Code of Conduct Bureau and the Code of Conduct Tribunal were strengthened for maximum results.
The PDP did not carry about with the hypocrisy of claiming that they were saints but they were nevertheless determined to make the largely unknown attempt in our terrain to turn everyone to that saint, hence, the party created the aforementioned bodies and prosecuted as many Nigerians as it could within the 16 years it was in power. The prosecutions were not patronizing as both members of the then ruling PDP and the opposition parties were prosecuted. Like every new phenomenon, the corruption war needed to be improved upon regularly.
However, just one year after taking power from PDP at the centre, President Muhammadu Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress, have, instead of stemming the tide of corruption, graduated Nigeria from being just a corrupt nation to being a “fantastically corrupt” nation. This much was asserted by David Cameron, UK’s Prime Minister, one of the very few men who should know about leaders worldwide based on the reports regularly made available to him especially the sincerity of our own self-proclaimed saint and anti-corruption crusader-in-chief, President Muhammadu Buhari.
In a discussion with the Queen of England, the speaker of the House of Commons, and the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, Cameron had made scornful remarks about the hypocrisy of some leaders who would be attending the anti-corruption summit to be hosted by the British prime minister in England, describing Nigeria and Afghanistan as being fantastically corrupt. Put differently, Cameron was saying that Nigeria is hopelessly corrupt under President Buhari.
The question to ask is, with the much mouthed seeming fight of the Buhari administration against corruption, why would Cameron make such a regrettable but truthful remark, one which a British journalist has aptly described as “truthful gaffe”? We shall make some attempts to answer this question.
First, the UK Telegraph had earlier in its edition of April 12, 2016, unreservedly accused President Buhari of diverting UK aid to Nigeria to fight Boko Haram to the persecution of his political opponents under the guise of fighting corruption. This assertion might not be far from the truth as a majority of Nigerians believe it to be so. Since the avowed war on corruption as declared by the president, there is hardly any member of the president’s party including former governors and ministers who have been questioned not to talk of being prosecuted. But the PDP has suffered untold assault on its members particularly the vocal ones.
Then most recently, the UK Mail Online exposed Buhari’s hypocrisy when it made a series of startling revelations to the world, though already known to Nigerians, concerning the president’s much vaunted austere lifestyle in its newspaper. In that report, the newspaper stated that “Buhari sends his daughter to a £26,000 (N12m)-a-year English school”. This is in addition to the fact that his 16-year old son, Hanan, “had flown first-class from London to Nigeria, despite his father’s ban on officials using premium travel”.
As if that was not enough, the UK Mail Online went ahead to state how Buhari had spent a whopping “£150,000 (N67.5m) on educating his daughter Zahra, a Surrey University student”. The newspaper also accused President Buhari of failing to give a full account of his worth while referring to his partial admission of more than £1 million in the bank, five houses and two plots of land. Who is fooling who?
To think that this is the same president who was believed to have deceived Nigerians during the presidential election campaigns by claiming he lived an austere life and had no money to buy his presidential candidacy form and claimed he borrowed from a bank to do that is quite fantastic. It is even more fantastic that he allegedly succeeded in deceiving a lot of Nigerians this way and made some of those who could barely afford three square meals a day part with their savings under the pretext of supporting his campaign.
What about the certificate saga? Up till now, despite claiming to have written and passed his WASC exam, the presidency is yet to show Nigerians proof that president Buhari actually passed the exam despite the hue and cry, claims and counter-claims that followed the issue during the campaign. The last administration was accused of keeping the certificate away for political reasons but one year into his presidency, Buhari has still not been able to produce and show the world his certificate even if it is just to prove his claims.
Nothing else could qualify Nigeria more as a fantastically corrupt nation when our anti-corruption Crusader-in-Chief personally signed and presented to the National Assembly what can easily qualify as the most padded and fraudulent budget in the history of our nation; it stank to the extent that even ministers had to publicly deny their own document. The fraud in that budget as initially endorsed by our saintly president had a provision for everything corrupt ranging from the ridiculous to the mundane. The details have since been over-flogged and very well in the public domain.
When all these were happening and the Buhari administration went about arresting people who have been speaking out against their sophisticated corrupt practices, they forgot that not only Cameron but also Obama and other world leaders were watching and smiling wryly about how Buhari has taken corruption in Nigeria millions of notch further from being a corrupt nation to being a fantastically corrupt one.
When you criminalise members of the opposition in the media and before the whole world but you canonize well-known suspected criminals in ceremonies of atrocious righteousness and constitutionalism by rewarding them with “juicy” appointments in Aso Villa, the Camerons of this world are watching you. They will not tell you to your face because of their own interests in our country but behind the cameras they know that you have taken corruption far higher. They laugh at you most ridiculously behind you but still roll out the red carpet with the inscription: “Here comes the world’s foremost anti-corruption czar” when you go to their country.
David Cameron cannot reconcile how Buhari claims to fight corruption yet his government flagrantly and repeatedly disobeys court orders! That cannot happen in Britain or the USA. That is the worst form of corruption. A situation where judges are intimidated, harassed and reportedly compromised just to do the vengeful biddings of some government officials makes Nigeria fantastically corrupt.
The opinion of Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in that discussion matters little. He does not have the facts available to the Prime Minister, so the presidency’s show of appreciation to him is a reflection of the desperation of the APC-led federal government to receive accolades from anywhere it comes just to shore up its already irredeemably damaged image.
Lastly, rather than see David Cameron’s statement as inimical, the Buhari administration should take it as a wakeup call and do a reappraisal of its approach to the fight against corruption in our country. A situation where the anti-corruption crusade is only used as an instrument of official intimidation of critics of government is highly condemnable, where it has become the president’s tool of vengeance, vendetta and dictatorship is simply unthinkable.
When the anti-corruption war graduates from prosecution to persecution, the citizens are declared guilty in the media even before investigations commence and our president goes about the whole world criminalising members of the opposition while some of his own officials carry a burden of corruption so freely, our corruption level graduates to that of a fantastically corrupt nation.