Wednesday, 10 February 2016

RETHINKING GOVERNANCE AND THE CORRUPTION WAR

With the report the other day that about 55 persons looted N1.3 trillion in seven years, it is becoming clear that Nigerians, indifferent as they seem, to that report, are immune to the financially obscene and sensational. Nothing, after all, could have been more sensational at this period of a belt-tightening economy. Yet, there was no uprising, no industrial action; there were no outrages beyond commentaries in the mass media.

This perceptible national feeling of indifference is sobering much as it should induce reflection. It is a tell-tale sign that should instruct this administration on the way to move forward even in the fight against corruption.

In the scenic categorisation of this looting act which spanned three administrations of Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who made this disclosure, stated inter alia: “15 former governors allegedly stole N146.84 billion; four former ministers allegedly stole N7 billion; 12 former public servants, both at federal and state levels, were said to have stolen N14 billion. Apart from public officials, 19 persons in banking and business were indicted in this looting. Eight of these were banking officials who allegedly stole N524 billion, and 11 businessmen who helped themselves to the tune of N653 billion.”

As sensational as this piece of information is, the revelation to the general public is a duty which this administration has rightly carried out to the best of its ability. Every democracy, of necessity, needs information that would make citizens free and self-governing. However, the potential in the pieces of information rests on the value they have to effect actionable plans for a free and self-governing citizenry. In this regard, whilst this administration has, since inception, received commendation, and is still being praised, for its drive against corruption, it should not turn this exercise into shadow-chasing.

Since the Buhari administration came to power, it has bought the people’s confidence with its anti-corruption efforts. Nigerians have applauded the directive of President Buhari to inquire into arms and ammunition procurement and contract relating to military ordnances in the fight against Boko Haram. They have also witnessed in this dispensation criminal charges leveled against professional politicians, amongst whom are legislators. They have read of reorganisation of public enterprises that have inculpated public officials of corruption. The sad thing, though, is that despite this frenetic energy dissipated in fighting corruption, Nigerians are also wearily following the tortuous journey of the courts that leads to nowhere. That the anti-corruption crusade tends to nowhere is a justified position to take when one begins to ask critical questions: Why are incriminating allegations thrown at people without prosecuting them? Why are perpetrators of heinous corruption crimes being prosecuted and always permitted bail? Why has no one been convicted? What has Nigeria gained from all of this? Devoid of results, in terms of actionable prosecution, indications are that the anti-corruption moves might just be a flash in the pan.

Viewed as a needless rigmarole, the present state of affairs tends to create the impression that President Buhari’s regime is merely putting up a strategy to rustle the polity by playing the familiar old game of ‘governing by distraction’. This is the governance operative within the context of doing nothing: high profile corruption cases rent the airwaves and public spaces, high-falutin figures are earmarked for projects, budget sent from the Presidency is declared missing, and a scandalous piece of news is fed the public. And whilst the public manages to make sense of what is going on, another distraction is unleashed on them. This is the kind of shadow-chasing that prevents growth and development, and frustrates the proper function of governance.

Far and above the accustomed news of corruption, Nigeria wants to see equal breakthrough in other sectors of the economy. The corruption-chasing seems to have overshadowed whatever progress ministers are making because Nigerians seldom hear from them. The government must, therefore, conceive a plan of action that is tangible; one that Nigerians can wholesomely identify with. The focus and vibrancy of this administration should point to the possibility of beginning a Nigerian agricultural revolution through which growth and development can be stimulated.

If there is any value in the missive of the information minister, it is that the event of the alleged looting of N1.3 trillion has come to show that corruption is as enduring as the life of the nation, and that this administration would merely be scratching the surface of that Pandora box of corruption, if it carries on the way it is. This government must however, recognise that the situation on ground is more urgent than when former President Yar’Adua wanted to declare a state of emergency on certain sectors of national life.

Areas such as education, capacity building, power and even the administration of the local government are important aspects of the polity in need of attention. More than a barrage of corruption stories, which cases quickly fade as they came, Nigerians want to see growth in the economy demonstrated by progress in the quality of their simple lives. (Guardian)