What is wrong with this anti-corruption war?

Despite all that may be taken as gains from the President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s anti-corruption war, there are good reasons to believe that the whole campaign might be a journey to nowhere. Uncharitable as this may sound, the fact cannot be denied that to date there is no concrete and irreversible achievement to the campaign’s credit.

We have seen arrests and detention but hardly any conviction. Many of those arrested are walking free on bail. The ones still in detention are locking horns with the government in various courts, stalemating prosecution in several cases. And all of this in the midst of divided public opinion as to the propriety of these arrests and detention .

The only case of conviction that might have added some feather to the government’s cap was that of Mr. Bala Ngilari who bagged a sentence for some financial impropriety. But this was, just as soon, rubbished by a bail granted him by the same court through some legalistic abracadabra.

Yes, we hear of monies that have been recovered from looters, but where is the money? Nigerians can’t see or feel this money anywhere. Yes, we were given some figures some months back by the Information Minister, but we don’t know how much the money is now, where it is being kept and who is our book keeper. You know, sometimes these recovered loots flash so fast in our faces that we quickly lose track. And if we could wake up one morning to hear that part of what we may have counted as recovered loot has been taken off the table by a court judgement, how can we tell how much of the entire recovery will remain on the table by the end of this administration.

Yet, there is still the big question as to how much this anti-corruption war is costing the nation. It’s not likely that any Nigerian outside government knows what amount of money has been spent on both investigation and prosecution to date. So, we cannot really tell whether we have all the while been only a few pennies wise, and loads of pounds foolish; or otherwise.

This is why one is not quite excited by the hoopla over the reigning whistle-blower policy. Yes, it seems to be driving everybody wild now, but it is early days yet. It may well be another red herring that would only take us to the very spot we took off from. Let’s watch and wait.

Also, for the most part, this government has been busy discovering and recovering what was stolen during the administration of Goodluck Jonathan and they have not even gone halfway. Certainly, there are things to be discovered and recovered under the current administration too. Because, going by a recent news report, even the acting EFCC chair, Mr. Ibrahim Magu himself has lamented that the looting of the nation has continued in spite of their efforts. And it better be left to imagination what would be going on at various levels in the current dispensation; especially in view, on the one hand, of the structural limitation of the Nigerian entity, which necessarily constrains the battle to within federal establishments; and on the other, the obvious limitation of the EFCC ( the fladship of the anti-corruption war ) which has kept the impact of its arsenals within a small radius of federal jurisdiction. One can only wonder how much of that could be uncovered before 2019 rolls by.

Basically, the situation report with the anti-corruption war mid-way into the term is not impressive. No one can say with confidence that the exercise is taking us forward in anyway. Most of the goals that team EFCC has scored in the course of the game are being disallowed before our very eyes. Corruption has neither been eliminated nor tangibly reduced in the public sector; and impunity has taken a new dimension in the private sector. Everyone seems to be doing everything against the interest of the ordinary Nigerian – product adulteration, forex scam, sms fraud, price inflation and so on. And there is nothing on the horizon that gives one hope that the picture would change before 2019 if we continue to do things the way we have carried on so far.

Definitely, there is something wrong about this anti-corruption war. Or else by now we should have more to show for the sweat, scarce money and valuable time. Could it be the diagnosis of the problem, the treatment prescription, method of drug administration or even the milieu of the therapy? Or maybe some combination of all the factors?

Whatever it may be, it cannot be too early at this time to re-open the box and find out what junk we are carrying with us in the journey, if any. Or for that matter, too late to admit wrong judgment , if at all, and make the necessary detour.

The suspicion from this end is that the diagnosis of the problem was wrong from the very start. The Buhari government did not seem to have taken off from a position of sound understanding of the problem. In both words and actions this administration has not demonstrated a deep understanding of either corruption as a subject, Nigerians as a people or the peculiar dynamics of the Nigerian polity. The government’s premise is clearly in contravention of the timeless wisdom captured in the saying : Seek first to understand, and then to be understood. That would explain the topsy-turvy manner in which the anti-corruption vehicle is traveling so far.

During the campaigns of the 2015 presidential elections, candidate Muhammadu Buhari had promised to wage a war against corruption when he gets to power. Corruption by his own definition then (and maybe also by our common perception ) meaning stealing, embezzlement and all manner of fraud in public office. Anyway, the central theory seemed to be that corruption was the albatross of the nation and it had to be combated frontally. And almost immediately after he got to power, he set about his task of killing corruption with all zest. Since then the anti-corruption war has assumed a life of its own and today, we are where we are.

The government could still score remarkable points before the end of its term. Inevitably, this government would have to give account to Nigerians at the end of the day. If for nothing else, they owe it to their political future to tidy up their acts now before that moment of decision.

– Mr. Sulaiman Akinosho, a marketing consultant, wrote from Lagos.

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