By Ibrahim Abbas
The successful transition of political power from the ruling to an opposition party on the 29th May, 2015 in Nigeria marked a significant step in the nation’s democracy. It at least juxtaposes the theoretical assumption that “democracy begins to mature only when electoral outcomes are uncertain as they are unpredictable, i.e. when today’s winners are tomorrow’s losers only then can we begin to talk about democratic consolidation in any society”. In essence, it further affirmed the commitment of Nigerians both at elite and mass level that democratic systems and structures must be respected behaviourally, attitudinally and constitutionally and that democracy becomes the “only game in town”.
The question that one may ask is that, why did the Peoples Democratic Party, the self-acclaimed largest party in Africa lost in the 2015 election? The answer is obvious to many Nigerians given the last 16 years of PDP’s regime which produced nothing but hunger, poverty, unemployment, insecurity and above all corruption. Professor Achebe remains right till date when in his 1984 book he pointed out that the trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership to lead by personal example. Interestingly, since the return of democracy in 1999, Nigeria’s development was practically stunted by corruption perpetrated by senior public officials with impunity thereby threatening the nation’s fragile unity, peace, security and overall national development.
Under Jonathan’s administration alone, there have been frightening scandals including; Oduahgate (N255 million), Police Pension Fund Fraud (N32.8bn), Oronsayegate (N163bn), Mainagate (N195bn), Oritsejaforgate ($15 million), Security Contract to Niger Delta Militants ($250 million), Abacha Reloot ($330 million), Malabu Oil Scandal ($1.1bn), Crude Oil Theft (£1bn lost monthly), Fuel Subsidy Scam ($6bn), NNPC Missing Fund ($20bn).
Former CBN governor and current Emir of Kano HRH Sanusi Lamido Sanusi became the first whistle blower of a grandeur theft in the country having reported a missing 20billion dollars. What later followed was an affirmation that “if you fight corruption, corruption will fight back” and in this case it was both a disappointment and a blessing as the rest is now history. Don’t ask me how.
It was evident in the immediate past administration that stealing was not corruption and therefore eyebrows must not be raised even for the disappearance of $20bn. Such ridiculous situation in the country unfortunately developed a political culture of impunity, recklessness, indiscipline and overall abuse of power as corruption and corrupt practices were basically condoned and even promoted by the government in power without any recourse to the rule of law.
Despite all the alarming evidence there were no prosecutions as some were even handsomely rewarded by the then government. Oduahgate till date remains a clear example that corruption was celebrated in Nigeria as Madam BMW was later rewarded with a Senate seat by her kinsmen. This is not fair.
It was therefore not surprising that in its recent 2015 report, the Transparency International rated Nigeria among the most corrupt nations in the globe positioned at 136th out of 175 countries. Interestingly, despite its claims of being the biggest African economy more than 70% of Nigerians currently live below the poverty line. In terms of security, by March 2015 the ABC News Point rated Nigeria as the 3rd most dangerous nation in the world only safer than Syria and Somalia. On governance scale, the 2015 Ibrahim Index of African Governance rated Nigeria 44.9% as it could not even score the African average of 50.1% also far below Mauritius (79.9) and South Africa (73.0). It is no longer a point of contention that corruption in Nigeria is directly responsible for its multifarious problems today.
Indeed President Buhari understands that corruption incapacitates social, political and economic development and therefore renders public institutions impotent to deliver yearnings and aspirations of the citizenry. Baba Buhari as most Nigerians fondly call him is often quoted as saying “we must kill corruption, before corruption kills Nigeria.” To affirm his commitment, on 22nd December, 2015 while presenting his budget speech at the National Assembly President Buhari reechoed “we will recover everything that belongs to the people of Nigeria no matter where it is hidden and no matter how long it will take”. Banking on his promise, President Buhari also declared that “Nigerians will not regret that they have entrusted national responsibility to us.”
—Abbas is a Ph.D scholar of Politics and Government at the Universiti Putra Malaysia