Ending the corruption scourge

The scourge of corruption did not start with ‘Oduahgate’, Jonathan presidency or indeed PDP, a ‘new breed’ political party that emerged after 15 years of military social engineering. It started with the NPC/NCNC coalition partners’ declaration of state of emergency in the Western Region, invalidation of the unfavourable British Privy Council judgment through a retroactive amendment of the constitution of the West and rigging of the 1965 regional election, all in an attempt to impose their ‘chop I chop’ vision to replace that of ‘the greatest good for the greatest number of people’ espoused by the ruling elite of the West. But for that fraud, we would not have had an Obasanjo, a great Nigerian who celebrates his ‘Nigerianess’ by insisting he is a Nigerian leader and not a Yoruba leader, being imposed from outside as president of Nigeria to fill Yoruba slot in the presidency; and but for that destruction of the structure of Nigeria, as distinguished as President Jonathan is, I am not sure whether he would have emerged to fill the Ijaw slot in the presidency.

Other symptoms of that initial fraud such as the ‘cement armada’ of Gowon era, when bureaucrats colluded with soldiers to clog the Apapa port with a capacity for 1million metric tons with 20 million metric tons of cement, Umaru Dikko’s rice scandal of Shagari era and NPN gluttonous consumption that wiped out our foreign reserve in four years, confiscation of the nation’s common wealth by Babangida and Abacha and their ‘army of anything is possible’. All happened before PDP emerged in 1998

If PDP is guilty of anything, it is that of creativity and openness. For instance they came up with an ingenious policy of ‘monetisation’ to enable privileged members of the party buy freshly built government properties in Abuja and other GRAs around the country. Similarly, some of their members and fronts forged papers to share part of N1.7trillion fuel subsidy. And in their intra-class gang wars, no weapon is forbidden. Presidents, vice president, governors, senate president, Speakers of the Lower House, and lawmakers have openly exchanged brick bats. In fact, today the war between new PDP and the original PDP is an open sore.

And to the credit of the party, members have been very frank and open about this national corruption, our national scourge. President Jonathan once ordered the arrest of the son of his party chairman for alleged fraud , a move Dr. Doyin Okupe , his special adviser, described as a ‘ courageous action of a politician still eyeing an elective office’ which Nigerians should applaud. Only two weeks back, before his pilgrimage to Jerusalem, he had set up a panel to probe the ‘Oduahgate’. And as if to further confirm our rating, as the eight most corrupt nation in the world, our own minister of agriculture Dr Akinwunmi Adesina recently confirmed during “Agbeloba’ AgroBusiness forum 2013 organised by Ekiti State government that Nigerian leaders stole N776 billion out of N873 billion released for fertilizer subsidy between 1980 and 2010 (PDP was in government for 11 of those 30 years).

The Task Team Leader of the World Bank in Nigeria, Dr. Tunde Adekola followed this up by confirming that Nigeria cannot benefit from World Bank financial assistance because of ‘profound level of corruption embedded within most of the institutions applying for aid in the country. To further drive the point home, Walter Omowale Carrington, our American adopted son recently reminded us that “corruption is the most terrible monster that confronts Nigeria, and that “virtually all the problems associated with governance would be removed if we can summon the courage to tackle corruption and banish it from our activities.” And From a man who should know better, the President of Nigerian Bar Association, Okey Wali came a sombre admission that “corruption is the number one problem of the country, whether by embezzlement of public funds, appointments in public and private sector or by selective justice (prosecution and conviction)”. His fear, he said is “not just the impunity with which corruption is practiced or that it is attaining the status of our way of life in the country, but that a “corrupt legislature may endure; a corrupt executive may thrive; but a corrupt judiciary will die”.

Like Wali who recommended “a strong political will and commitment on the part of the executive”, Sanusi Lamido, the CBN governor in a BBC programme last Saturday also insisted what is needed to fight corruption is the political will of the executive claiming that of the 164 fraud cases arising from his own war against banking sector frauds, only one indictment has been secured two years down the line.

But I think both Wali and Sanusi are wrong. They are not fair to the president. It will be expecting too much from a president who was not the source of corruption to demonstrate a political will that his godfather, President Obasanjo could not exhibit in the midst of vicious PDP hawks. I think if we are serious about fighting corruption, the first step is to change the structure that sustains corruption. This is because the forces in our society that insist they own society and must determine the fate of the less privileged are as desperate in Nigeria as they are in other nations. It was perhaps this reason, Awo who spent the greater part of his life studying Nigerian problems and proffering solution, came to the conclusion after a failed life-long struggle to sell his own vision of how Nigerian should be run, likened successive Nigeria governments since independence to “a cow held by some and milked by powerful, and ‘cunniest’ few”.

It has become clear to all the conflicting forces in our nation, including those who want sovereign national dialogue through the back door, that the only way forward is to revert back to our old structure jettisoned by ‘chop I chop’ politicians and legitimized by bungling military, with some modifications to replace the current one that oils corruption. With 30 million unemployed graduates and symptoms of deformed structure like fuel subsidy fraud, pension scheme scam and the recent ‘Oduahgate’, we don’t need an impersonal, all powerful federal Leviathan in Abuja that confiscates over 50% of our resources, unilaterally decides the education our children receive, the road we pass to our farms, the airline we fly, the support our local farmers need, the water we drink and the God we worship.

We don’t need a parasitic wasteful federal structure with 36 ministers, 105 senators and 360 lower house members earning, depending on whose figure we accept, Itse Sagay’s between N204 million and N250 million per annum, or the CBN governor’s 25% of the nation’s budget, or even the lawmakers’ N190 billion, in a situation where a US senator earns $174,000 and a British parliamentarian, $64,000.

We don’t need unwieldy 36 states where governors operate like emperors, with state owned or leased aircrafts, fleet of armoured cars, 720 commissioners and an estimated 700 lawmakers for all the 36 states houses of assemblies.

Of course it amounts to gross irresponsibility to sustain 774 Local Government Areas, whose creations were based on no known objective criteria, collecting handouts from Abuja every month to undermine the activities of the state governments with whom they have shared responsibilities to the people.

I am sure changing the political architecture, will allay the fears of the CBN governor about importation of dollars by politicians to fight the 2013 election as he had averred during his BBC ‘Hard Talk’ last Saturday. There is no doubt our award -winning CBN governor, who claimed with his knowledge of what goes on in government , he will not survive a year in Abuja as president, knows that the sources of the money politicians are using to import dollars in preparation for 2015 ‘do or die’ contest can be traced to governors security votes, or proceeds of contract deals by ministers such as the current ‘Oduahgate’ in which the minister of aviation was alleged to have approved an expenditure of $800,000 for a BMW armoured car whose market going price is $200,000.

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