Friday, 30 January 2015

Goodluck Jonathan or Muhammadu Buhari...My Take (Part 2)

2. Corruption

Goodluck Jonathan: "Ordinary, common stealing Nigerians will start shouting corruption", "If I arrest all corrupt Nigerians,who will run the government?"...these are rather hilarious quotes attributed to GEJ but which I personally cannot verify as true. However, they are in tandem with GEJ's ideology as it concerns fighting corruption.  GEJ believes that corruption is best fought,not by prosecuting and treating corrupt officials harshly but by making it difficult for them to derail.  To do this, he has touted the use of Information Technology and changes in the way the Government engages in businesses. Examples are the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme which provides direct support to farmers thereby cutting off middlemen who may steal from it and Project Aquila which is an e-loading process of petroleum products that has been introduced in order to prevent the diversion of loaded products by truck drivers. There are also changes in pension schemes and salary disbursements such that sharp practices are curtailed. According to GEJ:

“We have also modernised the system of salary disbursement through technology. This is one of the ways we are fighting corruption in the system. You do not fight it by locking people in Kirikiri and closing down their businesses..."

As an ardent fan of e-government and e-governance, I am totally in agreement with GEJ that Information Technology should be used to change how Government-to-citizens, Government-to-businesses, inter and intra government businesses are run...if properly executed and managed, this wouldn't only save costs in the long run but improve fairness, openness and accountability. However, I disagree with his lack of political will to prosecute government officials and top business men who are found wanting. Even with ICT, people will still try to circumvent the system...the Government shouldn't just reply by making the system more difficult to break through but should also make sure that such criminals are punished. Without any punitive dimension to it, the system becomes a mere game where the winner takes all and the loser only needs to keep trying until luck smiles on him. For instance, it was reported that last December, some civil servants were not paid because the Salary payment system shut down due to fraudulent attempts by some unscrupulous elements for which GEJ apologized. Whilst this is nice as the system prevented fraud, it shouldn't end there. Efforts must be made to identify and prosecute those involved.

Although the problem of corruption did not start with GEJ's administration, it has become very pervasive that it is now resident even at the Presidential Villa if one is to believe the Former President Obasanjo, who himself is not exactly a paragon of sincerity. Obasanjo recounts and I quote:

“A Chinese national once told me that he was taken to Aso Villa and was asked to pay one million US dollars to enable him to see the president. When he refused, he was permanently denied access to the president,even though Nigeria would have benefited from such access.  
Having heard many rumors in the past but now with concrete evidence from a victim, I was incensed enough to bring it to the knowledge of the president, who asked, ‘Who can that be among my staff?’ I replied, ‘You know those responsible for your programmes and visitors.’
That was the last I heard of the issue. On several occasions in the past, and based on Transparency International reports, what I have observed and heard, I have made public comments on Jonathan’s lack of political will to fight corruption. I was called names and pilloried".

I am irked by the fact that GEJ counts as part of his achievements the additional number of Prisons built yet he doesn't think corrupt officials who stole and still steal billions of Naira should be prosecuted and sent to prison...who then are the Prisons for? The hungry boy down the road whose only offense was stealing a loaf of bread? What a joke!!

With Nigeria in a dire state of deeply rooted corruption,via presidential pardon, this same GEJ had the audacity to declare Diepreye Alamieyeseigha - corrupt man extraordinaire - as free from all corrupt practices for which he had been tried, convicted and punished both locally and internationally. As it stands Alamieyeseigha is as corrupt-free as my unborn babies and can actually get involved in governmental activities which prohibits ex-convicts. Talk of Femi Otedola and the bribery issue...the man till date is usually part of GEJ's entourage; talk of Stella Oduah the former Aviation Minister who was let off the hook just by asking her to resign from thepost...she even contested but failed to win the primaries for Anambra North Senatorial Constituency under PDP. What about the case of the ‘missing’ $20Billion which has been swept under the carpet like so many other misdeeds? Are these good signs that GEJ really wants to fight corruption? Are they not rather incentives for close friends and allies to do as they please? 

Some may say that GEJ isn't the Judiciary and neither is he EFCC nor ICPC; some may argue that he has given these establishment and arm of government the leeway to carry out their activities without interference from the Presidency; but we clearly know that such leeway is only possible where the Presidency has no interest. I really don't see things changing if GEJ wins this election as it concerns corruption.

Muhammadu Buhari: Buhari's ideology as it concerns corruption fighting is plain to see: prosecute and jail anyone involved. In fact, one key selling point GMB has is his 'cleanliness' and 'disdain for corruption' which most Nigerians really believe. In my opinion however, the jury is still out on that especially taking into consideration some of his past decisions and present stance on issues. 

I am not a historian I must confess, and presently I have my time split between studies, work and the Shrine. With the elections at hand, I am aware that propaganda has been taken to a whole nother level by members and supporters of the two major political camps...so I am pretty much skeptical about what I read and hear concerning politicians these days...and I have read a lot about GMB. Perhaps some digging around will help me arrive at the truth...but that I simply do not have much time for now.

However, some facts are so glaring that it makes me wonder if Buhari is really that paragon of sincerity he claims and we believe he is.One of these facts include his opinion and insistence that Abacha never stole from Nigeria despite the amount that has been recovered and continues to be recovered over the years. It then means that if he were to become President, any effort to reclaim funds that Abacha stashed in different bank account around the world would be ditched. Ibrahim Babangida is also of this same opinion and has described Abacha as an honest man. Is this some sort of esprit de corps?Are the generals protecting their own at the expense of the glaring truth?Anyway, the same Abacha who was not only corrupt but brutal during his reign received a centenary award from GEJ albeit posthumously.

Again, Buhari has surrounded himself with people who can hardly be described as corruption-free...talk of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar and all those PDP thieves who claim to be saints just because they have joined the APC. Would he use them to get into power then turn round to prosecute them for their corrupt past? My thinking is that these men must have considered this and for them to carry on supporting Buhari nothing dey happen.What about the 53 suitcases saga? His tribalistic fight against corruption which resulted in a coup that saw Alex Ekweme in jail as dethroned Vice President and Shehu Shagari under house arrest as dethroned president? And yeah, the certificategate which is lingering much longer for an honest man who only has to ask the Cambridge University to declare the said results to the shame of his adversaries...why he hasn't done so beats me.

The Verdict: These men both have ideologies that need to work together if corruption is to be tackled head-on. Changing the way Government runs its transactions and provides services to citizens will help block channels through which people steal but the best deterrent will be punishment for those who eventually succeed and are caught. But if they are to stick to their guns,who will I pick? I will Pick Buhari because GEJ...no matter who may disagree with me...is as uncharismatic and as weak as they come.  He may be reasonably clean himself but he allows his aides and members of his government to do as they wish. To me, the sole reliance on the use of ICT is just another excuse from a President who has constantly failed to'punch to his weight'. With Buhari, I cannot see corruption getting any worse than it is now...but leading a country requires much more than fighting corruption unfortunately.

To Be Continued...

The Oracle has Spoken!!

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