The more the scheduled February 2019 date for Nigeria’s presidential election draws closer, the more it seems the meaning attached to government becomes diverse, at least in the context of the key actors, or their supporters. Thus, government and what it stands for has become relative to what meaning attached to it by each speaker at the particular time.
No matter the meanings attached to it, however, one meaning that seems to have been commonly accepted is that governance in Nigeria is synonymous with corruption: whether or not the one is corrupt, and to what extent the corruption runs deep. This has become the crux of what 2019 is all about.
Government is no more the widely held belief that politics has to do with positive activities relating to influencing actions and policies of a government, or getting and keeping power in a government.
While the emphasis laid on discrediting each other with corruption smear may also amount to an activity seeking to influence people against the opponent, whether this could be seen as ability to govern, and the extent to which it actually convinces potential voters does not seem to matter. There doesn’t seem to be any thought as to the consideration that to a reasonable extent the believability of what is sold to the voters will depend on the antecedents of the accuser.
However, since the norm has become focusing all energy on adorning the opponent with as much corruption costume as possible, rather than truly convincing the populace on practical and empirical abilities to better their lot, it has become pertinent to seek to answer two key questions:
First, between Abubakar Atiku, the Presidential flagbearer of the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), and incumbent President, Mohammadu Buhari, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, who is truly clean of corruption?
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary, among other meanings, describes corruption as “dishonest or illegal behaviour, especially by powerful people (such as government officials or police officers)”. In other words, while dishonesty can be individualistic and in-house, in this discourse it is as it concerns public interest by a public office holder.
If the afore-stated can be used as a parameter, the question, therefore, is who between the two prominent 2019 presidential aspirants (Atiku and Buhari) can genuinely say he is not one way or the other corrupt in public office?
For Atiku, he had made the headlines in two key public offices: first as Area Comptroller of Customs in charge of the Murtala Muhammed Airport in 1984 with General Mohammadu Buhari as military Head of State. This was when the infamous “53 suitcases” saga occurred.
The 53 suitcases saga arose during the currency change exercise ordered by the Buhari junta when it ordered that every case coming into the country should be inspected irrespective of the status of its owner.
In defiance to this order, as the Vanguard of March 21, 2011 puts it, “the 53 suitcases were ferried through the Murtala Muhammed Airport without Customs check by soldiers allegedly at the behest of Major Mustapha Jokolo, the then Aide-de-Camp, ADC, to General Buhari”.
Several eyebrows were raised over the issue, but as has become the norm in Nigerian politics, the matter died a natural death. Insinuations were made to the point that the 53 suitcases belonged to Atiku, but it did not go further than that. The widely held belief was that it ended the way it did because since the ADC to the Head of State was fingered, the Principal may not be out of the picture at the end of the day. By Nigerian mode of governance, it is apperent that the Commander-in-Chief let the matter go to avoid opening a can of worms.
Atiku’s alleged involvement in corruption again made the news headlines in his reign as Vice President to President Olusegun Obasanjo from 1999 to 2007. Since then, the Jada, Adamawa State born politician had been severally tagged corrupt at a higher scale, but none of the allegations seem to have gone beyond what many christen as “the rantings of a scared opposition”.
However, the allegation that truly got concerned Nigerians, and indeed close watchers of Nigerian politics at the global level, bothered was the one made by his then principal, President Obasanjo.
Ifeanyi Maduako summarised the Atiku corruption saga under Obasanjo in his piece titled, “How is Atiku Very Corrupt?” published in the Daily Trust of December 14, 2017:
“The allegations of corruption against Atiku solely by Obasanjo have not been substantiated since 2007 when they left office to date. It is instructive to note that Obasanjo has a very big problem of human relationship management. He had issues with the five Senate Presidents, most governors, party leaders etc during his regime. The tag of a “deeply corrupt person” on Atiku by Obasanjo was borne out of the same human relationship management and domineering attitude of Obasanjo.
“How is Atiku very corrupt? The only constitutional role assigned to the office of the Vice President is the Chairmanship of the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting made up of the 36 Governors of the Federation, CBN Governor, Minister of Finance, etc.
“The National Economic Council plays an advisory role just like National Council of States forum as its decisions or resolutions are not binding on the President who is the Chief Executive of the country. Except the chairmanship of NEC, every other role the Vice President plays is at the mandate or discretion of the President.
“Atiku also chaired the Council on Privatisation on the express mandate of President Obasanjo with Nasir el-Rufai, who is the present Governor of Kaduna State, as Director General. Vice President and Deputy Governors are at the mercy of the President and the Governors of the country. They do not have much constitutional roles to play unless assigned by their bosses. How then did Atiku control the economy between 1999 and 2007 and made more money corruptly than Obasanjo?
“Can a Deputy Governor make more money than the Governor through corrupt means in any state? It smacks of weakness and incompetence for a President or a Governor to accuse his Deputy of controlling the economy and making more money through corrupt means than him”, Maduako concluded.
For President Buhari, as far as majority of the Nigerian populace (widely called common people) are concerned, another name for him is “hardship”. The first thing they easily recall is what they call his love for increase in fuel price. Some recall that when he came into power in 1983, fuel pump price rose from #45. In fact, many Nigerians see Buhari as the originator extra odinary of fuel racketeering in Nigeria.
“Immediately he came to power in 2015, fuel price rose from #89 per liter to as much as #350 and more in some states, before finally settling at #145. You cannot compare the level of suffering before 2015 and now, most especially in foodstuffs”, some said.
These and other forms of hardship are credited to one form of corruption or the other perpetrated in Buhari’s government, “and he said he is fighting against corruption. Yet they (APC) say PDP brought Nigeria to the hardship we face now. Meanwhile, most of the key people in APC were people at the helm of affairs in the 16 years of PDP leadership in Nigeria, from 1999 to 2015”.
While allegation of corruption against Buhari as a person is easily explained away as a deliberate attempt to tarnish his good image, the President also seem to be complacent when people around him are involved in what he terms corruption, and hence can hardly exonerate himself from Nigeria’s travails since he assumed office in 2015.
A former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Comrade Timi Frank, encapsulated the entire picture in an article he titled “Buhari’s government stinks of corruption”, and published in the Daily Trust of September 11, 2018, in which he described the administration as a stinking can of corruption:
“We know that the allegation of false National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) exemption certificate against the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, has since been swept under the carpet.
“The grass cutting scandal involving the immediate past Secretary to the Federal Government (SGF), Babacheer Lawal, remains a no-go-area. The bribery allegation against the Chief-of-Staff to the President, Abba Kyari does not warrant investigation and prosecution by a government claiming to fight corruption.
“Need I talk about the large-scale corruption being perpetuated by officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) who have elected to operate varied exchange rates regime to defraud the country with the active connivance of their collaborators in the presidency.
“The corruption in the NNPC rightly exposed by the Minister of State (Petroleum), Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, does not warrant investigation because the presidency is involved in it.
“Only recently, N100 billion tax evasion scam by Alpha Beta, a tax consulting firm owned by a chieftain of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was exposed. Yet the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) does not deem it fit to commence investigation into the activities of the company simply because an APC chieftain would be put in the eye of the storm.
“The Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, has severally petitioned the EFCC with a call on the anti-graft body to investigate corruption allegations against the immediate past Governor of the State, Rotimi Amaechi, the Minister of Transportation under the Buhari’s administration, yet apart from acknowledging that it indeed received the said petitions, the EFCC has since turned a blind eye to the allegations,” he lamented. He stated further that “while the government has been on asset-freezing-and-loot-recovery-spree, especially from the members of the opposition political parties or those considered to be anti-Buhari accused of corruption, the real looters in government and politicians with corruption allegations against them within the ranks of the APC are sitting pretty at ease enjoying under served amnesty.
Beyond the above, another issue that has put a huge question mark on the Buhari’s fight against corruption is the issue of his certificate. There had been so many inconsistencies, right from when he contested for the presidency in 2015. But, somehow, it has always been explained away.
To be cont’d.
APC, PDP Bandy Words Over Buhari’s Fresh Loan Request
The ruling All Progressives Party (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have argued over President Muhammadu Buhari’s request for approval to borrow $4 billion and €710 million to fund the deficit in the 2021 budget.
Recall that the president made the request in a letter he addressed to the National Assembly on Tuesday.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in reaction to the development, cautioned the NASS against approving the request, saying it could set the country’s debt profile skyrocketing without a feasible repayment plan.
With the approval to borrow $8.3 billion and €490 million loans by its legislative body barely two months ago, Nigeria’s debt profile risks reaching over N40 trillion.
“More alarming is that the debts that APC is hanging on Nigerians are for nebulous projects whose scopes, utilities, locations and contractors are largely vague; a development that validates apprehensions of a huge swindle on our nation at the expense of innocent Nigerians, including generation yet unborn.
“Our party holds it as an act of wickedness that individuals who know that they will be leaving office in less than two years will be accumulating debts instead of seeking ways to reduce the liability they have brought upon our nation.
“The APC knows it will not be around after May 29, 2023. That is why it is pushing our nation into a deeper economic quagmire with foreign loans, which are largely diverted to the personal pockets of their corrupt leaders,” the opposition PDP said in a statement signed by its spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan, on Tuesday.
But responding to the PDP’s criticism, the All Progressives Congress (APC) on Wednesday, said the loans are for “the good of the country” and well-being of the citizenry.
The ruling party also accused the opposition party of looting foreign loans obtained during its 16 years rule rather than spending on infrastructure and economic growth as, according to it, Mr Buhari-led government is doing.
“It was in PDP’s era that loans to fund power generation, purchase arms and ammunition to fight a raging insurgency were misappropriated and diverted to fund PDP activities; and the borrowed money ultimately found its way to the pockets of cronies, friends and family members of administration officials. Nigeria is still servicing a $460 million loan taken from China to fund a phoney Abuja Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) contract awarded in August 2010.
“Nigerians should also reflect and recall that the PDP had in its 16 years of misrule pushed the country into a dark ditch of insolvency, and a period in which most state governments could not pay workers salaries, not even the minimum wage, or settle contractors’ bills and cater for patients in hospitals, to name a few,” the APC interim National Secretary, John Akpanudoedehe, said.
A’Ibom Gov Signs Anti-Open Grazing Law
Akwa lbom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, has signed into law a bill to prohibit open rearing and grazing of livestock and provide for the establishment of ranches in the state.
The Speaker, Aniekan Bassey, with the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Uko Udom (SAN), presented the bill for signing on Wednesday at the State Executive Chambers, in the Governor’s Office, Uyo.
The governor, after signing the bill into law, stated that the new law was no respecter of persons irrespective of status or calibre.
He instructed relevant authorities of government to ensure that the law was implemented and enforced to the letter with strict compliance, stressing that, culprits must be brought to book accordingly.
The new law will promote modern techniques in animal husbandry, prevent the destruction of farms by wandering cattle while reducing clashes and killings between herders and farmers in the state.
It will also promote international best practices in livestock administration, regulation and control in the state, among other things.
The state Assembly passed the bill on Tuesday, and the Speaker, Aniekan Bassey, directed the Clerk of the House, Mrs Mandu Umoren, to communicate the decision of the House to the Governor for his assent.
Also at the Executive Chambers, the Speaker who was accompanied by the Leader of the House, Udo Kierian Akpan, and the Clerk of the Assembly, Mrs Mandu Umoren, to the signing ceremony witnessed the inauguration of two C\committees by the Governor.
The committees are the Akwa Ibom State Gender Based Violence Management Committee, chaired by the First Lady, Mrs. Martha Udom Emmanuel, and Akwa Ibom State Road Safety Management Committee, chaired by the Deputy Governor, Mr. Moses Ekpo.
NASS S’East Caucus Moves To Reconstruct Federal System
Members of the South East Caucus of the National Assembly have resolved to join hands with other patriotic Nigerians across regional, religious, political, and ethnic divides to reconstruct a federal system where the rights, happiness, and prosperity and those of unborn generations are guaranteed.
Making their feelings known in a communique issued at the end of an extraordinary meeting held at the Apo Legislative Quarters, Abuja last Wednesday, the law makers said the topic of the meeting centered on review of developments in the South East, particularly the security situation in the region vis-à-vis the sit-at-home orders by members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra(IPOB) and the detention of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.
“We expressed solidarity with our people of the South East over the marginalisation of the region in the scheme of things within the Nigerian commonwealth. The Caucus feels the pains of our people and their quest for equity, justice, and protection of their lives and property in every part of the country. The Caucus, therefore, resolved to continue to fight for a level-playing ground and an enabling federal system where Ndigbo are able to develop their homeland at their own pace and equally pursue their happiness and actaulise their enormous potentials in every part of the country, unmolested.
Reviewing the sit-at-home orders by the IPOB and the mayhem some nefarious elements have seized the opportunity to visit on the lives, properties, and psyche of the people, the Caucus equally reviewed and rued the incalculable economic losses and hardships these have brought upon the region.
They, however, condemned in strongest terms the disruption of the ongoing Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination in some parts of the South East, particularly the incident at Comprehensive Secondary School, Nkume, Njaba Local Government Area of Imo State, where the English examination organised by the West Africa Examination Council, WAEC, on Monday, September 13, 2021, was ruthlessly scuttled by armed men, who chased away the students, teachers, and examiners before setting ablaze motorcycles belonging to the teachers.
“This is certainly not who we are as a people. On the contrary, we are a people, who have always cherished and encouraged learning from the ages. We are a people that fully appreciate the place of education in the liberation and enlightenment of the human mind and the socio-economic and political emancipation of a people”.
The South East legislators equally condemned in strongest terms the incessant killings in the South East, adding “This must stop immediately. We call on the security agencies to unravel the culprits behind these wicked acts and ensure that they are brought to book to serve as a deterrent to others.
“ Noted with delight that IPOB has called off the Monday sit-at-home order and resolved to ensure that nobody uses them as façades to bring ruination on Igbo land.
“ Call on our people to go about their lawful businesses and enjoin our governors and the security agencies to rebuild confidence in our people by not only ensuring the security of their lives and properties, but also ensuring that our people feel safe as they undertake their legitimate businesses.
”Elaborately discussed the issue of Mazi Nnamdi and resolved to intervene. To this end we resolved to set up a committee to constructively interface with relevant stakeholders, the Federal Government and its relevant agencies towards finding a political solution. We will keep Ndigbo abreast of developments in regard.
“Appeal to our people not to allow anyone to destroy the South East region. The post-war South East was not built through government patronage, but largely by the sheer determination and sacrifices of our people, who refused to resign to fate or bow their heads in defeat.
“It is in Igbo land that you easily find hospitals, schools, roads, and other social amenities built by individual or communal efforts of the people, home and abroad, through the instruments of the town unions and other community organisations such as the age grades, Umuada, etc.
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