From Judex Okoro, Calabar
IT has become an axiomatic fact that corruption in Nigeria has reached its climax. This development has put the country in bad light, especially before the international community. No wonder that in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index released in December 2014, Nigeria ranked 136th most corrupt country in the world and the third most corrupt country in West Africa after Guinea and Guinea Bissau while Denmark is the least corrupt country in the world, as it ranked one out of 175 nations surveyed, with Somalia and North Korea as the most corrupt nations of the world.
According to Transparency International’s corruption perception index (CPI), this was Nigeria’s best ranking under President Goodluck Jonathan. The report further showed that Nigeria was ranked 144th in 2013, 139th in 2012 and 143rd in 2011.
Analysts have classified corruption as grand, petty and political, depending on the amounts of money lost and the sector where it occurs. To them, corruption corrodes the fabric of society; it undermines people’s trust in political and economic systems, institutions and leaders. It can cost people their freedom, health, money and sometimes their lives.
And to tame corruption, several NGOs and civil society organsations across the world have been pressuring governments, businesses and the powerful to take strong action against corruption.
In Nigeria, successive administrations seem to have treated the fight against corruption with levity, leading to the cry for reforms in all sectors of the economy if we must survive as a nation.
Perhaps, it was in the light of the above that the present APC anchored their campaign during the just-concluded general election. And on assumption of office, President Buhari has made the fight for corruption a sing-song. At home and abroad, the President has declared corruption as Nigeria’s number one enemy. And as an enemy, it has to be crushed to its knees.
But the current President’s stand has sent some tongues wagging. While some hail the declaration against corruption as a positive step that would restore the country’s lost glory and perhaps bring-back-our stolen wealth, others perceive it as a political witch-hunt and an extension of Buhari’s selective vendetta against those who have in one way or the other thrown spanner in his works especially in his tortuous march to Aso Rock since 2003.
Supporting the anti-graft war, Hon. Cletus Obun, an APC Vice-Chairman, Cross River Central, told DAILY SUN that the ongoing fight against alleged looters of our treasury should not be seen as selective, but rather as a commitment to fulfilling part of the campaign promises of Mr. President in recovering stolen money from past leaders to rebuild the nation.
Obun, a former lawmaker at the State House of Assembly described as cheap black mail and very irresponsive by mixing politics, electioneering and governance together.
He said: “All politicians think about the next election while all statesmen think about the next generation. Buhari is not thinking about the next election, but the next generation. Therefore, in cleaning the Augean stable, election should be the last thing on his mind. So, I give him kudos for summoning the courage to do what he is doing.
“Secondly, to say that he is looking into some activities of the past President Jonathan’s administration does not mean he wants to probe Jonathan. I think he was clearly misunderstood there. What this meant is that in other to clear this, Jonathan administration becomes that sign post of what transpired before him and that does not preclude individuals from approaching the anti-graft agencies to challenge the activities of men. Again note that crime and corruption do not have time limit. So, the present government has just given Nigerians impetus to challenge past administrations because it is not only the work of government alone to fight corruption or any form of crime. We are all involved.”
Supporting Obun, he Chairman of Elders’ Forum of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Cross River State, Mr. Eyo Nsa Ekpo, tsaid, “I think we are already being judgmental by saying he is selective. Again, do recall that during PDP era, it was always PDP ministers, Senators and former governors that were being tried. There is no one person from ACN that was tried.
“What we ought to now do is to give him total support to lead us to the Promised Land. The past to me is part of future, so, let us wait first and see how he delivers the dividends to the electorate. Buhari is an upright man with integrity and Nigerians had better support him now that he has the experience and capacity to fight corruption to any length.
But Mr John Okon Essien disagrees completely that Buhari’s anti-corruption war is not selective. Essien, a PDP stalwart in Southern Senatorial District of Cross River said the Presidency is once again up to the game he knows better and that is going after his perceived political opponents just as he did in 1985 by jailing people between 20 to 100 years on corruption charges.
Essein said: “Nigerians are not surprised because Buhari cannot change his style. He jailed people in 1985 and thirty years after he has come back to continue jailing his opponents. All the people he has been going after since he assumed office are people who have had one business to do with Jonathan admnistiration and all PDP members. I challenge anybody to point out real APC or even ACN or CPC member that is on trial. None.
“The talk that even APC members would not be spared is a smokescreen to deceive Nigerians into believing that he is on the right track. Definitely, not true. Do remember also that on assumption of office, he said he would not probe Jonathan, but what is happening now. Selecting a few of Jonathan’s aides to taste the waters but his final target is former President Jonathan to cripple the opposition.”
The PDP chieftain is of the view that the present administration has a lot to focus on rather than embarking on a witch-hunt of immediate past government that conducted one of the best elections in Nigeria and paved way for the opposition to assume office after 16 years and that alone is a feat that should be celebrated and not being castigated.
“If Buhari wants to probe corruption, let him go the whole hog and let us know that he used four years alone to recover stolen money from politicians and their collaborators. To say that he will only concentrate on Jonathan’s administration confirms the fears in many quarters that he is after the man and the party who handed over power to him.”
Also reacting, Mpabanga Eja, a youth leader from Etung, said “What Nigerians want now is for him to create jobs, start payments of allowances to unemployed and post-NYSC as promised and not the probe mantra that is making rounds.”
Mpabanga said: “It would haunt him if he continues to go after some people in the name of fighting corruption. I advise the Presidency and his team to leave Jonathan alone and face the APC programmes and perhaps lead us to the next level. Probe would not take him anywhere.”
However, some analysts argue that how Buhari handles his anti-corruption crusade would determine the fate of APC, the ruling party in the 2019 general elections