By Bashir Kabir
In the ideal sense, nothing will ever change if the conditions that warrant its coming into existence has not changed. The slogan of ‘change’ that saw the ushering of the current administration was a valid justifiable process of turning things around in Nigeria and corruption was understandably the first place to begin.
Identifying corruption as the bedrock of all that is ailing the country and vowing to address it in all seriousness gave hope to Nigerians home and abroad. Many believed that perhaps the scourge has finally met its match. Even more so, that affirmative transformation and reform are within reach.
The general euphoria of at least tackling corruption that everyone knows and believes is the culprit in the dilapidation and dereliction of everything in the public sector; education, roads, healthcare, pension, security, in fact, everything that entails bad governance, was almost contagious. Salvation from the shackles of public rats was within sight.
Expectations of the populace on how to go about the processes in the most pronounced ‘change arena’ of the so-called waged war against corruption were numerous. To begin with, the expectation was that from then on the era of public sector corruption has come to an end. As it is, the best anti-corruption strategy, the world over, is preventing it.
Corruption prevention cannot be tackled effectively unless several measures are entrenched in place among which are the strengthening of institutions.
The weakness of the public institutions in form of; lack of standardized operation procedure and frameworks or keeping them secret from the public, disdain to code of conduct and due process, unethical behaviours of the officials and low integrity is among others what facilitates committing corruption en mass within the public sector.
In the process of squelching corruption as promised by the administration, people were expecting a mass crackdown on the former corruptors. Nigeria has an endless list of public trust embezzlers from top-down and only the merciless prosecutions of corruption convicts will go a long way into setting an example and absolutely serves as a deterrence to those who are nursing the idea to take part in it in the future.
This prompted the zeal of whistleblowing where the likes of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, former Emir of Kano and governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria took part in exposing part of the illegal oil deals during the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan involving billions of dollar, perhaps believing in the sincerity of the anti-graft course.
In May 2018, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) announced that 603 Nigerian figures had been convicted on corruption charges since 2015. The EFCC also announced that for the first time in Nigeria’s history, judges and top military officers including retired service chiefs are being prosecuted for corruption. Despite the seeming applauded achievement by the agency, many are of the opinion that the anti-graft war was selective and said so on several occasions.
Beginning with the arrest of the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki who allegedly masterminded the $2 billions of arms deal, it immediately gave hope as of the sincerity of the administration in fulfilling the promise it took on dealing with corruption. However, The EFCC was criticized for being selective in the people it witch-hunted while turning blind eye to administration darling having a field day engaging in shady deals and living flamboyantly beyond their means.
Obviously, the EFCC was the turbine engine behind the waged anti-graft war. And the captain behind it was the suspended Ibrahim Magu who acted as the EFCC chairman from 9 November 2015, until his suspension on 7 July 2020.
A slew of allegations of fraud including the diversion of recovered funds and seized assets sent Ibrahim Magu out of office. This, more or less validated and confirmed the allegation by the critics that the anti-graft war was biased. An apparent scenario of ‘corruption fighting corruption’.
The allegations of diversion or re-looting of recovered funds and seized assets pinned against the former EFCC boss might be a set up (as belonging to a popular opinion) resulting from a vendetta with bigger bones, but that is beside the point here.
Nothing could be made out of nothing. The concern however is; if the whole anti-graft agenda of the administration comes down to this position where suspicion of selectiveness in justice dispensation is undeniably substantial or more horribly so, the anti-graft prime moving power being accused of mass corruption, what is left to hold on to invalidating the process and hence keeping the candle of hope within Nigerians that are hoping to see the effect of crusade in better service delivery and easier living conditions as the ultimate objective?
Kabir, a public analyst writes from Kano.