By Chris Okotie
These, certainly, are not the best of times for the grex venalium (the venal crowd), popularly known by ordinary Nigerians as treasury looters. The ongoing battle by President Muhammadu Buhari against this corrupt cabal, who have held this nation hostage for years leaves no one in doubt that it is no longer business as usual for politicians of fortune. It is a mistake to assume that this is President Buhari’s private battle to clean the Augean stable. Rather, it should be seen as a determined effort to right the wrongs of the bad leadership, which has been the bane of Nigeria’s development for decades.
Previous attempts to fight corruption were somehow symptomatic but the present government has adopted a strong, pathological approach that aims to get to the root of the matter, which is why every Nigerian should give the president total support. What is being done now, if carried to the logical conclusion, would free the country from the labyrinth of a deeply entrenched tribe of Machiavellian politicians whose sole purpose for seeking power is to loot our common patrimony.
When former President Goodluck Jonathan emerged on the scene, he came across as a power-shy, harmless politician on whose shoulders providence placed the leadership of this great nation at a critical period in our political evolution. His moving story of grass to grace, with the memorable line that he went to school like many Nigerians without shoes, caught the attention of the electorate, who gave him the mandate in his first-ever quest to seek elective office in 2011.
Once on the presidential seat in that enclave called Aso Rock, we saw a different Jonathan altogether. Never has a President in this country come to power with such level of goodwill and blow it just as fast as Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. Perhaps, overwhelmed by the demands of office, or ill-prepared for its challenges, the first president from a southern minority exhibited poor governing capacity and inherent weakness unbecoming of the leader of a huge country like ours. He had to be goaded to act with firmness when occasion demanded, which was why he virtually lost control of his presidency to his cronies. His appointees and associates went about looting the public treasury with unprecedented impunity; not even the intermittent public outrage moved President Jonathan to sanction them.
And when he did, it was either too little or too late. Corrupt ministers were relieved of their posts with slaps on the wrist, while nothing was done about their loot.
With the current anti-corruption saga, we can now understand why Jonathan and his PDP cohorts spared no expenses to buy themselves back to power. This time, however, the fairy tale run of good luck failed them. The hapless President was sent packing. Serendipity was out of kilter! That era of impunity ended suddenly, but we cannot just sweep what happened during the PDP government under the carpet. Regardless of who is involved; justice must be done to send a clear message that leaders must be accountable even after they leave office. I perceive that this is what President Buhari is trying to prove, that is why I support him.
The charge of selective prosecution and the ethnic or religious card being played by some to discredit this anti-corruption war is nothing but a mischievous charade. Those arrested for suspected corrupt practices cut across the party, ethnic and religious divide. Nigerians must, therefore, not fall for the antics of the venal rich, who are fighting back, using media propaganda to win sympathy.
One is, however, constrained to raise this point because of a public statement credited to Anthony Cardinal Okogie in which the Catholic prelate expressed reservations about the government’s philosophy in prosecuting the anti-corruption war vis-a-vis the rule of law and his perceived thinking that other governance issues are not being addressed as should. The Cardinal is entitled to his opinion, but there is no factual evidence to support this claim.
The venerable Cardinal is unappreciative of the dialectics of change within the Nigerian context. The Nigerian scenario is indicative of an aberration embedded in our political genes. Whereas politics and economics are sociological kinsmen, yet politics maintains an ascendancy over economics in practical realities.
The hoi polloi determines the political leadership but economic superintendence is the prerogative of the elite. Nigeria’s existential bane is not lack of professors in mantled academia, nor is it a paucity of economic knowledge in the geo-political arena. Rather, it is leadership, leadership and yet leadership. Ad nauseam!
Leadership is the terra-firma upon which the citadel of progress can be erected. If the foundation be destroyed by corruption what can the righteous do? It is my founded expectation that the respected Cardinal would urge the government to probe the leadership of CAN, PFN and other pseudo religious organisations. who acquired their fabricated titles under spurious Christian nomenclature.
If Attahiru Bafarawa was the accredited agent of the Muslim prayers welfare package, who then collected on behalf of the multitudes of Christians? Who? Who is that Christian proboscis whose insidious suction availed himself of billions of naira on behalf of the followers of Christ? Who is that Judas? Maybe Judases? What about Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor’s one-plane airline becoming the surreptitious instrumentality for some covert military operations, involving over nine million dollars in South Africa? All sacred cows must become secularised.
Government must ascertain the scope of pecuniary inducement that informed their political alignments in the 2015 elections. What an irony, that those who should scrupulously guide the people are themselves poisoning the water from which the flock will drink.
Corruption is a hydra-headed monstrosity that must be confronted by the gladiators of righteousness. For indeed, he who dares to face his maker will not tremble before the Sons of men. Satis verborum!
We must understand that even if the law is an ass, corrupt folks must not be allowed to ride it out of the dragnet of the law when apprehended. The present campaign is a challenge to the integrity of our jurisprudence. Members of the bar and bench are Nigerians, and they must not sabotage the efforts of this government to restore sanity to governance in this country. There’s nothing the EFCC has done so far to suggest that it disrespects the rule of law. The president himself has said, “You cannot fight impunity with impunity.”