Sunday, 9 August 2015

BUHARI CAN’T KILL THIS GOLIATH WITH FIVE STONES

Muhammadu Buhari
Biblical Goliath from Gath was a monstrous, terrorising being with an intimidating curriculum vitae. He came to war standing over 13 feet; weighing over 900 pounds, and brandishing a heart-wrenching arsenal from helmet, sword, breastplate, spearhead, and other paraphernalia of war bawling and bragging. Goliath was a monster! A rescuing, relatively teensy-weensy David didn’t stand a chance. He was armed, we are told, only with a sling and five smooth stones. But boldly he drew a battle line between himself and the perfidious Philistine. Then, the son of Jesse, with audacity, pulled back on the sling, letting loose through the aiding wind one smooth stone which struck the monster right in the forehead. The monster slumped; and the monster died.

There is a comparable monster that eyes cannot see, hands cannot touch, but ears have heard since I was born. Its hazardous and crippling effects have always been felt by all since the nation came into existence as a convolution. The Goliath that President Muhammadu Buhari is about to wrestle; the nasty and nauseating monster which has millions of demonic agents dispersed everywhere in Nigeria, is called corruption. My friend, if my conclusion is right that corruption is a Goliath, I must forewarn those stocking up on arms and ammunition for the coming war that this version cannot be killed with just a sling and five smooth stones.

During the last presidential campaign, Buhari didn’t hide his agenda that he was set to kill. He said: “If we do not kill corruption in this country, corruption will kill Nigerians. I assure you, we will plough back the funds for good infrastructure…”

Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, focusing on the haemorrhage taking place at the main conduit of corruption called the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, echoed the booming voice of Mr. President recently at a public event: “If we do not kill (the) NNPC, it (NNPC) will kill Nigeria. Any organisation that takes 50 per cent of the federation revenue for itself and gives you the change has no right to exist. It is evil, it must die; it is just the manner of the death that we must talk about.”

I will not focus in this treatise on the Nasty Nauseating Petroleum of Corruption (NNPC); what I know is that the Goliath at this port will never be killed with a sling and five smooth stones. In all crevices of our daily lives, we have all allowed the monster to thrive that many now erroneously think he is one of us. Is It? In the Nigerian civil service, for example, corruption has become like a ventilator that its members can’t disconnect from if they want to stay alive; it’s like a life-sustaining medicine that they can’t wean themselves from. No nation develops beyond the capacity of its public service.   There are many of our civil servants who make us proud and work hard daily. They take strong stances against profligacy and corruption; and they detest unpatriotic elements in their midst. But a chunk of the cuddlers of corruption in Nigeria are in the civil service.

Put in place over time had been many reform endeavours from the Morgan Commission of 1963; the Adebo Commission of 1971; the Udoji Commission of 1972-74; the Dotun Philips Panel of 1985; the 1988 Civil Service Reorganisation Decree promulgated by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, and the Stephen Oronsaye reforms of 2009. In spite of all of the corrective and sanitising measures, Nigeria’s civil service remains inveterate under an ambience of corruption and recklessness. Many of its members are adamantly incorrigible, irremediable, incurable and dangerously delinquent. Some of them are unlearned and without credentials as evidenced by a recent verification and revalidation of credentials which reportedly began in Abuja in the month of May. Many of our civil servants are crafty, cruel and callous   pathfinders who wriggle through the matrix of purloining of public funds without trace. I call them the almighty with mind-boggling mastery in methodical manipulation of facts and figures. They are a bunch of flourishing florid of excrescence which has plunged Nigeria into the river Styx. Like lizards, they operate in the corruption corn-field that if you sunder the tails; they grow longer ones.
                                  
We run into some of them visiting the United States. From New York to New Orleans; from Houston to Honolulu, they purchase mansions, Bentleys and Bugatti cash down and you begin to wonder how a man who earns the equivalence of $2,000 per annum is able to perform that miracle! The bad boys and beastly girls have splattered the mud of shame and suspicion on the few good ones in service. These rotten eggs must soon be fished out and flushed off the system. But five smooth stones and a sling cannot kill this Goliath!

When el-Rufai was the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, 3,000 “ghost” workers were tracked out of the initial 26,000 headcount, and an additional 2,500 people did not show up when the biometric ID and centralised, computerised payroll was introduced. About 3,000 “ghost” workers were also recently discovered in the Police pension scheme. “Ghost” workers are in every state aided and abetted by one powerful civil servant or evil servant as some prefer to call them. For every “ghost” worker discovered, there is one breathing, living human being civil servant behind the veil illegally collecting the remuneration.

Nigeria has enough stringent laws in the books that can kill corruption even if it has nine lives; but the penalties attached to infractions are dismally inconsequential. A Global Integrity Report 2010 stated that the Nigerian legal framework for addressing corruption is “very strong”, but the rule of law and law enforcement are nothing to write home about. A civil servant stole N32.8bn in pension funds; and after months in court, he was sentenced to two years in prison with an option of N250, 000 fines. The judge couldn’t do more than what the law prescribed. In the summer of 2014, our government struck a deal with the son of the late Gen. Sani Abacha in return for the repatriation of stolen assets which belonged to Nigeria. The assets we have no trace of till today. Sweet deals with dealers who have dealt Nigeria a blow of death must stop. If more severe penalties are not in place, if those loopholes created deliberately as escape valves from justice are not sealed, corruption in Nigeria will become immortal and invisible.

However, we need an army of fighters who have the will and determination to kill corruption. We now have that. Aggressive enforcement of existing laws and prescription of commensurable penalties must be brought to the fore; our bought-over and polluted judiciary must be sanitised. With all of these and probably some more, the Goliath called corruption will die a death of shame.

Corruption has always been talked about in Nigeria even before I was born. But it’s been all talk, and no work, and it’s time for the wheat to be sifted from the chaff. Nigerians want to see one big fish in the net of justice; and the net must not break letting the “he-fish” or “she-fish” back into the waters of status-quo plundering odyssey. We hear every day in hushed talks that the noise about killing corruption by the Buhari administration is all it is: Noise. A South-West governor was also reported to have said that the President is only many-barks-and-no-bite regarding corruption. I hope the governor is not right. (As seen in Punch).