By Afam Ikeakanam
It is undeniable that corruption constitutes a clog in the wheel of Nigeria’s development. This phenomenon is no foreigner in our shores. One of the often recycled justifications for every change of government in Nigeria during the dark nights of military dictatorship was the deep rooted corruption in our public space. Such has been the history of Nigeria’s politics that the word, corruption, has morphed into a national lure.
According to the Corruption Perceptions Index of 2014 released by Transparency International, Nigeria was ranked as the 36th most corrupt country out of 175 nations that were assessed. Thus, President Muhammadu Buhari’s promise to tackle corruption, one of the cardinal pillars of his change agenda, resonated with Nigerians and paved the way for his victory at the polls. Buhari was perceived as one who would neither play to the gallery nor be afraid to call anyone to account, unlike previous governments before him. But a year after, Nigerians seem perplexed about the selective fight against corruption by their president.
Sambo Dasuki, the former National Security Adviser, was accused of diverting US$2.1 billion which was meant for the purchase of arms. Despite being granted bail by three judges, the Department of State Security (DSS) rearrested Dasuki in November 2015. Since then, he has been in the custody of the DSS. Irked by this blatant disregard for court orders, Dasuki approached the Court of the Economic Community of West African States, which earlier this month, berated the Nigerian government for the unlawful manner in which Dasuki’s house was searched and his lingering detainment.
Critics of this administration have accused this government of employing media trials and propaganda to stifle dissenting voices. It appears in the eyes of Buhari, one is deemed guilty until proven otherwise. Thus, subverting the basic tenets of legal jurisprudence, that it is better for many guilty persons to go free than for an innocent man to suffer the indignity of injustice. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) recently detained the wife and baby of Femi Fani-Kayode, one of Buhari’s strong critics. The EFCC in its usual style alleged that there was about N2 million in Femi’s wife’s account. To the surprise of many, the said account had less than N300, 000 as revealed by a screenshot of the account statement.
Patience Jonathan, former First Lady, made headline news when the EFCC accused her of corruption. The agency claimed it had discovered US$31.4 million in Mrs. Jonathan’s account which it immediately froze. However, some days later, the same EFCC recanted its earlier claim to say that Mrs. Jonathan only had US$8.2 million. This change of course was due to the threat handed down to the EFCC by Mrs. Jonathan’s attorneys. In this line, Ugochukwu Osuagwu, a lawyer, said the fight against corruption “must not be seen as unleashing vendetta, vindictiveness and carefully planned and rehearsed witch-hunt.” The selective anti-corruption fight of this administration has seen other People’s Democratic Party (PDP) stalwarts like Olisa Metuh and Raymond Dokpesi being charged for receiving part of the US$2.1 billion alleged to have been stolen by Dasuki.
Buhari’s “boys” are not only in the executive; he has his puppets in the judiciary. One of them is Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, who has been acting the script of the APC. Buhari, through Justice Abang, has used the machinery of justice to silence the main opposition party, the PDP. It was Abang who nullified the election of Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State. His judgment raped the law and if upheld, would have snuffed life out of our nascent democracy. All these were subtle ploys to decimate the opposition by Buhari.
Lagos lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, who has been very critical of Buhari’s government, was arrested by the EFCC for allegedly obtaining money to the tune of N61 million under false pretence. He was accused of conspiring with others to lease a property in Lagos; despite knowing that the property was under interim forfeiture by a Lagos State High Court. This allegation is fictitious as it was hurriedly dished out some days after Adegboruwa’s firm represented Chief Government Ekpemupolo (alias Tompolo) and Mr. Azibaola Robert, cousin of former President Jonathan. This and many other infractions only signal that this government is out to silence dissenting voices.
The disregard for the rule of law makes a mockery of Buhari’s anti-corruption war. Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, has been detained and denied a fair trial. Also, the EFCC froze the account of Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State without obtaining a court order as prescribed by Section 34 of the EFCC Act.
While apologists claim that Buhari is fighting corruption without fear or favour, this government harbours people with questionable reputations. The President finds it difficult to even consider a petition on any of his appointees. Buhari’s Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, has been accused by the Rivers State government of squandering N3 trillion while he was governor of the state. Recently, two justices of the Supreme Court accused Amaechi of trying to manipulate them in order to influence the outcome of the Supreme Court’s ruling in certain gubernatorial appeals. Buhari has also turned a blind eye to the accusations leveled against Tukur Buratai, Abdulrahman Dambazau and Abba Kyari, his pals.
It is convincing that Buhari’s fight against corruption is lopsided. We are currently experiencing a reincarnation of the bible story of the Passover; when the angel of anti-corruption sees the broom, he shall pass over you. I am not averse to the fight against corruption as I am suffering from the mass looting of our common purse. However, the government should fight corruption with decency and all sincerity. The war should not wear a human face; it should be total irrespective of whether one is holding the broom or beneath the umbrella. Indeed, the much spoken about change should begin with Buhari. By doing that, he would prove that he belongs to everybody and to nobody.