I decided to adjust the topic from ‘Democratic Change: The challenges of Combatting Corruption in Nigeria’ to ‘Change and Democracy: The Challenge of Combating Corruption in Nigeria’ in order to put the discussion in its proper perspective.
Let me thank the organisers of this summit for the well thought-out decision to celebrate the 100 days of change in Nigeria. It is in my view the best thing to do in view of the fact that what the government will need most and in times to come will be honest analysis and interpretation of the state of affairs in the country. How the government is performing and the views and aspirations of the citizenry will be critical to the realisation of the change agenda, which no doubt Nigerians have not merely expressed it but willed, worked and got it in March and April 2015.
For this purpose therefore, I have decided that the paper deals in two or three sections viz- Change and Democracy, the second section will deal with the challenges of combatting corruption while the third and concluding part is dedicated to some commentaries on the imperatives setting benchmarks as a way to ensuring the actualisation in Nigeria.
Change and Democracy in Nigeria
Democracy is a process. It is not an end but a means to an end. I have consistently argued that Nigeria in the last 16 years has not had democracy but civil rule. Democracy has its attributes and the failure to abide and adhere to these rules or the major rules reduces the contents and character of the process and thus likely to impact negatively on the attainments of democratic dividends.
The elections in March and April are indicators of the fact that Nigeria is about to begin a journey into the world of democracy. By minimising the colossal fraud that typified four previous elections held between 1999 and 2011, the hope of leadership ascendency through the will of the people is beginning to emerge thus raising the hope that sooner or later, the technical term, ‘democracy’ will be part of the political, economic and social culture of Nigerians.
The government of President Muhammadu Buhari and APC, have arisen out of the thirst of Nigerians for a better life. They came with the slogan of change and thus captivated the minds and souls of citizens who despite all attempts by the government that just left, forcefully brought in an opposition party and candidates into power. This by no means was a great achievement that took the entire nation, the continent and the world at large by surprise. The import of this action by Nigerians clearly underscores the meaning of change and what it entails.
There is a dialectical relationship between democracy and change. While democracy is a government that is put in place by popular will, the government on the other hand places primacy and emphasis on what the expectations and aspirations of the people are as its cardinal principles and objectives. Change connotes a positive movement from a lower to a higher state.
In this regard, democracy and change simply are defined here as the deliberate will of the people to advance the course of governance and participation from a weak or lower state to a much higher one. The expectations and actions of the citizens invariably brought about the change that Nigerians are celebrating its first 100 days.
The focus of this paper is not on the achievements of change in the last 100 days but it is important even if for a mention to briefly comment on some of the indicators that suggest positive redirection in the ways of doing government business and its impact on the lives of the citizens.
In the last 100 days, Nigerians have seen signs of improvement in many areas among which is power or electricity supply, restoration of law and order in government businesses and the war against insurgency in the North-eastern flank of the country. Nigerians are attesting to the fact that electricity supply has greatly improved and the service more efficient than in previous times.
Since the focus of this paper is on the challenges of fighting corruption, it is necessary that sufficient time is allotted so that what in our view has been done is brought out and highlighted and what we believe ought to be done are streamlined for the attention of Nigerians and especially those in positions of political authority.
Corruption in Nigeria and the Challenges of Change
No doubt, corruption is one central issue that has kept Nigeria down for a while. The problem of corruption has never been as endemic as during the 6-year reign of President Goodluck Jonathan. No wonder the former president would vehemently argue that stealing is not corruption.
The quantum national resources that have been stolen by officials of state and their collaborators is unimaginable, that is why every day the news of one discovery of mass theft or another are received with shock by the citizens. The hypothesis by the Brooklyn Institute that said Nigeria was likely to collapse in 2015 was mainly based on the massive theft by officials of state and other serious national challenges ranging from social to political failures.
The agencies tasked with the responsibility of fighting corruption were reduced to toothless bulldogs in view of the fact that those who sponsored corruption were at the highest level of political authority. Impunity became the rule rather than exception and thus stealing, mass looting of public treasury at all levels of government became the rule rather than the exception. In the view of this paper, this more than any other factor was responsible for the failures of both the ICPC and EFCC in handling effectively cases of corruption in Nigeria.
(Continues next week)
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