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And the Vice-President preaches on

If politics were medicine, the current Nigeria government would be facing malpractice suits that include murder and premeditated murder.   

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And while hypocrisy is not a crime under the nation’s laws, it is an issue in her politics, as the All Progressives Congress, the parent party of the government, demonstrated in prospecting for leadership in 2015.  

But politics often knows no shame and no honour.  Think about it: the Nigerian health sector is in chaos, crippled by a strike of an association of health workers.  

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That is: people are dying, babies are being born on roadsides and corridors.

But what does President Muhammadu Buhari-a perfectly healthy man-do?  Remember, he has just declared he will seek re-election next year, meaning he is prepared for the demanding campaign process.

What does this healthy man do, days after returning from a “technical stopover” in London to see his doctor?  He jumps into the executive jet and returns to London again to see the doctors.  He leaves to their luck the same people who pay his bills but who do not get told what they are paying for, or how much.  

One of the ironies, of course, is that it is the same president who, in April 2016, banned government officials from seeking medical care abroad.  In the starkest and most embarrassing of modern hypocrisy, President Buhari has violated his own ban five times.  He was scheduled to return to Nigeria yesterday on his latest in-your-face violation, by which time he would have spent over 170 days taking care of himself.  

Meanwhile, back in Abuja, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo was fleshing out the narrative that the predecessor-government headed by Goodluck Jonathan was really, really corrupt.  

That government, in his words was so bad it was guilty of “grand corruption.”  Among his allegations are these five:

First: $3billion dollars stolen under NNPC Strategic Alliance Contracts in 2013, in which the then former Petroleum Resources Minister, Diezani Alison-Maduekwe Jide Omokore and Kola Aluko were reportedly involved.  

According to Mr. Osinbajo, “The case is the subject of a trial in Nigeria, and criminal investigation in the US and UK, and the assets of all three individuals have been forfeited in Nigeria, the US and the UK.”

Nigerians paying attention would recall that in July 2017, the United States-not Nigeria-filed an assets forfeiture case in Texas against those three.  While there have been assets seizures against the former Minister since then, there is no known trial in Nigeria.   

Second: The “criminal diversion and theft” of over $2.5 billion meant for the purchase of arms to prosecute the war against Boko Haram, most of which “ended up in the hands of senior PDP members some of whom have returned parts of the loot.” 

The vice-president has spoken at various times about this.  In May 2016, at the presentation in Ibadan of the book, “Nigeria: The Challenges of Growth and Development,” he said Nigeria lost about $15 billion to fraudulent and corrupt practices in security equipment spending during the Jonathan administration.

Similarly, at the 7th Quarterly Business Forum at the presidential palace two months ago, he said N100 billion and a separate $289 million were embezzled by officials of that administration in one day just weeks to the 2015 elections.

Three: illegal withdrawals from the MEA Research Library Account between January 8 and 16, 2015, totaling N1.5 billion.

Four: N10 billion released in foreign exchange to the Office of the National Security Adviser by the Central Bank of Nigeria on September 15, 2014, as follows: $47 million, $5 million, 4 million Euros and 1.6 million Euros.

Five: The $20billion mission oil money for which Lamido Sanusi, then CBN Governor, was sacked by Mr. Jonathan for speaking up.

There is overwhelming evidence of acts of this nature not only during the Jonathan tenure, but since 1999, and within the ruling party.  Nigerians can substantiate the brigandage for weeks!  

In his first few months in office, notably during his meeting with the Nigerian community in Iran during his state visit in November 2015, Buhari spoke expansively: “We want to have everything back – all that they took by force in 16 years,” presidential spokesman Garba Shehu quoted him as saying.  

And yet, three long years later, all we continue to hear from the Vice-President is the listing engagement.  To allege is to fight corruption.  The Buhari administration wants to enjoy sainthood and heroism from merely proclaiming the corruption of its predecessor without the will to do something substantive about it.  

If Buhari and Osinbajo have lost the playbook, here it is: You were elected sirs, to act, not describe.  To the best of our knowledge, for instance, Buhari’s doctors in England, once they had diagnosed his ailment, proceeded to treatment.  That is: Buhari returns to London again and again not for repeat diagnosis, but in pursuit of treatment.

Here is some recent related history: Just last month, April 2018, the former South Korean leader, President Park Geun-hye, was found guilty on multiple counts of abuse of power, bribery and coercion.

At her sentencing, the judge said she had abused the power given to her by the voters and that a tough sentence was needed to send a firm message to the future leaders of the nation.  He jailed her for 24 years!

It was not South Korea’s first time in the neighborhood.  In 1992, after President Kim Young-Sam won the national election, he commenced an anti-corruption crusade that included putting on trial his two predecessors in office: Roh Tae-woo and Chun Doo-hwan, who had ruled for a total of 13 years.   Chun received life in prison, and Roh, 17 years.  

Young-Sam served only one term in office, but before he left office, he also saw one Kim Hyon Chol face the law for bribery and tax evasion offences, receiving three years behind bars.  Hyon Chol was his son!

Also last month, former Brazil leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva-during whose tenure over 20 million Brazilians were liberated from poverty, and who was bidding for a third term as President-began a 12-year prison sentence for corruption-related offences.  

In other words, combating corruption requires the character not simply to make perennial preachments, but to put on fair trial those who are alleged to have violated the law, no matter whom they may be.   Repeated diagnosis of Buhari’s ailment will not cure him any more than long preachments about the guilt of Jonathan’s government will put a dent in Nigeria’s corruption chaos.  

What is worse, in last week’s statement, the Vice-President introduced a new dimension, as he appeared to suggest that his statements do not apply to Mr. Jonathan himself.   

He accomplished the redefinition of corruption.  

“If you have a President who is not corrupt, at least 50 percent of your financial problems, especially in public finance, is over…If the President is corrupt, the entire financial system of the country is compromised, that is what we have seen from the figures.”

The truth is that it is corruption if all you do is cry corruption, particularly when your leader lavishes the nation’s resources on himself in another country leaving babies and pregnant women to fend for themselves!

sonala.olumhense@gmail.com

@SonalaOlumhense

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