The visible involvement of people in high places in matters of corruption was seen clearly in the manner the anti-corruption agencies were tailored to try some cases and look the other way on some others. This discrepancy and lack of standard has to a large extent cast serious doubt in the minds of citizens regarding the capacity and ability of anti- graft agencies to discharge their responsibilities without fear or favour.
The point being made here is that the interferences from people high up in authority on matters of corruption did help deepen the roots of the anti-social behavior within Nigeria’s public and private life. Cases where private aircraft were intercepted by officials of EFCC, especially, and big people in power ordering the commission to look the other way were multiple in the last administration.
I’m of the view that the current regime will be impersonal on matters like that. Every citizen will be required to carry his or her cross while interference from people high up in matters of theft and corruption will definitely stop. This is change and the change that will be useful in waging war against corruption in the country.
It will appear that one major handicap to war against corruption is the nation’s legal system. The procedures and technicalities that are involved in routine prosecution have not helped matters since justice is delayed, aside the accusation of corruption against judicial officers is justice denied. It was former president Obasanjo who was reported to have said that judges go into the courts with two judgments in their pockets. One in the right and the other in then left pocket. Whoever pays higher or the right price gets positive judgment. A judicial system that is so defined by one of the nation’s most senior citizens is indeed a system in crisis and calamity. The issue being raised here is that the nation’s judicial system did not offer the required assistance to tame the horrors of corruption in Nigeria.
I want to see the nation’s judiciary shade itself of this toga of lack of confidence that it is suffering from. A nation where the judicial system is in crisis is truly a nation in ruins. This is the reality that this government has taken over from the last. I agree with the thesis that every structure and institution in a society is only a reflection of that society. Now that Nigerians have worked for change and they got it, what must be done is simple. The judiciary must align itself with the aspirations of the people and change for the better.
Failure to adapt to the new reality will endanger the judiciary, the desire for change and the nation as a whole. The judiciary must reform itself otherwise the social structure will have to reform it and that will be dangerous to those who man the sector.
War against corruption is one cardinal objective of this government and the party that brought it to power. We have identified unwillingness to do the job and the excessive meddlesomeness of those in authority as responsible for the low attainments in the war in the last years. Now that the leadership is trusted to be free of corruption, Nigerians must take a cue in order to excommunicate those who partake in it.
The difference between Nigeria and other climes is that while it is very expensive to be corrupt in other societies, it is so cheap in Nigeria because the stakes are not as high. We must make corruption a capital crime whose reward should be very costly so that very few may indulge in it. If the punishment is high and the possibilities of escaping are low, few people would dare get involved.
I want to believe that the president will not interfere with the process. I also want to believe that the vice will not. Those powerful people near the president and his vice must therefore desist from getting involved with matters relating to corruption. The nation is watching and I believe the whistle will be blown in the event that anybody close to the seat of power decides to get involved through interference with matters of corruption in the country.
The change that Nigerians asked for is to move away from impunity to law and order; from corruption to a free society where allocation of resources by those who enjoy our legitimacy is done and done with prudence and in the interest of the nation and its people; from backwardness to progress; from chaos to order; from crisis of conflict magnitude to peace and stability among many other things. What is necessary is that those in authority must realise that the Nigerian people have invested tremendous confidence in them and cannot afford to disappoint them.
So far, the war against corruption has had so much impact on the polity even before the government is fully formed. Government officials are up and doing and I’m happy that the president has so much confidence in the bureaucracy as the engine of growth and development in the society. Getting the buy-in of the bureaucracy will go a long way in stemming the tide of corruption in public life. Government activities would be done and value would be added for any penny spent.
Certainly, there is a close relationship between change, democracy and war against corruption. This paper is of the belief that the new era has lots of promises that are capable of advancing the course of the Nigerian people. Corruption is a global phenomenon but the intensity with which it exists is dependent on many factors among which is the level of institutional capacity, the role of the decision making class and relevance of the rule of law.
It is our belief that the war against corruption would be successful under the current order. What is needed most is the courage on the part of the leadership and support and understanding from the followership.
Thank you very much for the opportunity. God bless.
This paper was presented at a seminar to mark President Muhammadu Buhari’s first 100 days in office at Arewa House Kaduna on September 19