By Buwa Meldrick Memeh
Precisely October 1st 2015, at the annual event tagged “Platform” organised by Pastor Poju Oyemade’s Covenant Christian Centre, Bishop Kukah stated that if the worst President that ever ruled Nigeria had the opportunity to be the President of the United States of America, it would be difficult to steal from their treasury and in all sincerity, this is one assertion I completely agree with.
In the same vein, you will agree with me when I say that if President Barak Obama became the President of Nigeria or the President of his ancestral home, Kenya, there is every possibility that he would have ended up like the average corrupt and selfish African leader whose only focus was to amass wealth at the expense of the masses.The statement made by Bishop Kukah further stresses the argument put forward by President Barak Obama that Africans should concentrate on building stronger institutions rather than strong men. Even though I might slightly differ with President Obama, it is important to stress that the existence of strong institutions can only be made possible by the availability of strong men.
The reality of present day happenings indicate that those morals and values that clearly distinguished us from peoples of other countries have been exchanged for the ills that come along with globalization.While growing up, I remember my mother constantly reminded me that in her days, people display their goods outside the compound and the buyer didn’t have to see the trader to purchase these items and it was certain that the trader will meet her money in tact whenever she came back. Nowadays this will practically be impossible astraders are at the mercy of hoodlums and armed robbers.
The display of the latest cars and flamboyant lifestyle of Hollywood stars as seen on television sets have completely altered our values and orientation which has consequently led to the desperation and craving of a new lease of life from both the old and young. Africans have successfully adapted to the lifestyle of their Hollywood idols but unlike developed countries, African nations have weak institutions and structures to tackle the ills and fallout of such contagious lifestyle. Societal standards have been set so high and it no longer takes a religious person but one with high moral standards to avoid the influence of society. Today even the clergy men have been caught in the web of affluence as they have successfully reduced the worth of private jets to that of mere taxis.
Institutions set up by the government to fight against financial crimes have severally been caught in a mess of their own financial crimes and institutions set up to deliver judgements can no longer be relied upon since corruption has built a safe haven in the hearts of some judges. Today, everyone is out to make money at the expense of someone else and while some blame the situation on the untold hardship faced in the country, we must not fail to identify greed which has eaten the heart of the average Nigerian.
If we must fix the issues at hand, we must see Nigeria as an electronic DVD player programmed to play CD plates. This electronic gadget plays any CD plates but there is a loud scratch when it identifies a faulty or scratched CD plate and it refuses to recognize it or play it any further. Unfortunately, Nigeria as an electronic DVD player has not been programmed to select its CD plates and this explains why every junk that passes through the device is successfully played and consequently inflicts its own damage on the device and regrettably like a virus crashes a computer, every sector of the Nigerian economy is heading for a crash except for the intervention of a quick fix.
President Muhammadu Buhari must understand that the only remedy to this impending disaster is to ensure the institution of harsh laws and capital punishments to deter public officials and other Nigerians from engaging in practices that are capable of crashing Nigeria.
Countries like China and Indonesia have been successful in the implementation of these punishments. In 2014, the former deputy chief engineer of China’s disbanded railways, Zhang Shuguang was found guilty of taking bribes of more than 47m yuan over 11 years. The courts sentenced him to death. In Indonesia, the drug laws are so strict that parents who fail to notify the authorities of their children’s narcotics use could face criminal charges. Recently several Nigerians have been executed in Indonesia due to drug related offences and these countries understand the fact that if these laws are not instituted, the country would pay the ugly price.
President Muhammadu Buhari has the opportunity to put his name in gold by being the strong man to create an environment that abhors corrupt practises such that when he leaves office, we have a system that is incompatible with corruption. Today it is difficult for any corrupt man to survive as United States President because he would be impeached and thrown in jail but in Nigeria we are not sure of the National Assembly members who will impeach any corrupt President. The onus lies on President Buhari to make the business of governance less lucrative. Those who occupy public office must be those willing to serve and not those interested in jumbo allowances. If the salaries and allowances of National Assembly members are reduced to the present wages received by school teachers, a lot of our legislators would tender their resignation and Nigerians willing to serve would be happy to replace them. Unfortunately the cost of governance has become a burden on Nigerians and a few are carting away with the wealth of the country.
While Nigerians embrace the present administration’s anti-corruption stance, President Buhari must understand that it will be regarded as no different from what we have seen under previous administrations if stolen funds are not recovered and no one is made to account for years of misrule. It will also be a waste of time if corrupt persons are not tried and sent to jail. Nigerians are used to hearing huge figures stolen but unfortunately our judiciary are yet to convict corrupt leaders. The same judiciary cleared James Ibori an innocent man but it took the UK courts only a short while before Ibori pleaded guilty to corrupt charges and today we have an ex-governor serving 13 year jail sentence for financial fraud. Unfortunately the Nigerian prisons are built for thieves who steal Maggie cubes while the treasury looters enjoy ex-parte injunctions.
We must admit we have work on our hands which include ridding the judiciary, the police and other public institutions of corrupt elements. If we must get it right we must strengthen our institutions but until then Nigeria remains at the mercy of corrupt leaders.
Buwa Meldrick Memeh is Public Affairs Analyst and Social Commentator on national issues.