Looting in Nigeria is like a baton in a relay race, passed on from government to government; even when one government tries to paint the other black, they all end up being soiled. That seems a plausible explanation in the on-going war of words and naming (and not shaming) of the looters of our shared patrimony. The issue is no longer about which — between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) is more corrupt — the arguments now revolve around magnitude and audacity; it is also more of who does it better and cries foul more. The tragedy of Nigeria’s current political arrangement is that there is virtually no difference between the two major political parties. With the exception of APC leader, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu and President Muhammadu Buhari and a few of their ardent followers, almost all the APC top shots were at one time or the other PDP governors, senators, reps and what have you. In fact the Senate president, Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara were in the PDP in the last dispensation. That they are now in APC cannot erase their past association with PDP and indeed, deeds.
It is most disingenuous of the APC government, going by the latest outburst of the vice president, Yemi Osinbajo and the name-listing by the information minister, Lai Muhammed to trivialise and mock the anti-corruption war, pick and choose who to persecute and prosecute, leaving out even erstwhile PDP members standing trial for corruption, because they have now found sanctuary in the government. The star witness in the trial of Orji Uzor Kalu suddenly disappeared into thin air after his decampment to the APC; so also, former PDP stalwart and Minister Musiliu Obanikoro who was hounded until he saw the light and did the needful by moving to the ruling party. For the APC and its leadership, it is either you are for them or against them, and they make no fuss about that. It is even more disheartening that Lai Muhammed and his co-travelers only worry about the next elections, instead of nurturing democracy, which ought to be the forte of the opposition; hence it should not be an offence to be in the opposition.
Apart from the main matter of corruption, Lai Muhammed, a supposed government spokesman, has sloped downward in esteem and reputation by reeling out the names of people already standing trial, besides playing the roles of the party and the president’s spokesmen all rolled into one; yet for all one cares to know, he might have benefited one way or the other from the rot of the past. Is the minister not over-reaching himself by appropriating too many?
If after three years, the APC government is still updating the list of looters instead of counting the number of PDP stalwarts in prison and is yet to bring all the people in their list to justice, how can that government talk about integrity or the rule of law and still hope to be taken seriously. If the government had demonstrated sincerity in taking actions on the Ikoyi- and Maina-gates, the appointment of Magu, the N10 billion scandal at the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), etc; if the vice president could stop the blame game and if only the APC had not absolved the remnants of PDP, and emulated it in conduct, approach and practice, Nigerians would not have detested both of them.
Not to talk of the PDP’s sorry state and desperate attempt to coerce and convince Nigerians to take it back with its so-called apologies and list of APC looters too. The PDP’s opprobrium is sickening, but it amounts to taking people for granted for APC to show its bias in a so-called looters’ list. This is obviously Nigeria’s lowest moment.
Another snag in the anti-corruption war is its narrow purview (of only people who served in the Jonathan government), thereby reducing the fight to only happenings during the Jonathan era. While we all accept that Jonathan was weak, incompetent and clueless, such that he could not call his lieutenants, who took impunity and looting to the highest level, to order, just like the cabal around Buhari is doing anyway, the graft war should be beyond the tenure of one president. It should be all-encompassing. What about Obasanjo and Yar’adua’s regimes and their appointees? Why is no one talking about them? Are they immune to investigation or is it because Jonathan is a minority and does not enjoy the protection of one of the three major ethnic groups that have dominated the political space since independence. I hate to go regional, but I’m compelled to think that the persecution of minorities is state-sanctioned.
The situation is so messy, as beneficiaries of looting and successors, who are being sponsored to expensive schools, now debate and quarrel over whose tenure has been more useful to the people of this country. Is it when there was massive looting and trickles for the common man or now that there is looting by only a few who pretend about it and leave no crumbs for the people at the bottom rung? I was at one of the private universities in Abuja last week to give a talk on feature writing. That was shortly after the release of the Dapchi girls and the class was practically divided into two over the sincerity of government and whether ransom was paid or not, even when I assured them ransom was not paid. Because the students are children of the privileged members of the past and present administrations, they canvassed arguments for and against the governments that their parent served in – depending on which side of the fence they are located, and debated whether the looting that took place during the previous government served the people better than the present anti-graft war that has left misery, hunger and crime in its trail.
I later learnt that some of them were also children of some political appointees whose names have been mentioned in the graft list. These are young people who ordinarily should be ashamed of their parents’ roles in the theft from the nation’s coffers. But because we glorify corruption and no example has been made of those who had and still have their hands in the till, their children have the audacity to flaunt their parents’ stolen wealth. When I asked them what their passion was and why the choice of Mass Communication as a course, none of them actually talked of becoming a journalist. But by far the most ridiculous of the responses was that from one of the girls. With a straight face and unapologetically frank, she simply said she would work in either the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) or Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Talk about a life driven not by love of country or service to humanity, but by a quest for the primitive accumulation of ill-gotten wealth that only NNPC or CBN can offer in the estimation of the young lady.
These are the inheritors of looting from those who fraudulently acquired wealth through sleaze and illegitimate means. They are ‘worthy heirs’ to the throne; I mean those who will equally preside over the affairs of this country in the future. Who says stealing does not pay irrespective of the party in power?
So, Vice President Osinbajo’s grandstanding will not hold water until he causes Segun Awolowo’s reappointment at the Export Promotion Council to be investigated despite the petitions against him, nor will Nigeria take President Buhari seriously until he explains why he gleefully sustains corrupt people in his party/government; why the missing N10 billion in NHIS was never investigated, his role in the Maina- and Ikoyi-gates, and the appropriation of the MTN fines. How can the president also justify the appointment of his chief of staff onto the NNPC board?
These and other ills bedeviling the country, such as the yet to be defeated Boko Haram, abductions, general insecurity, the herders-farmers clashes all over the country, the internal squabbles in the ruling party, the infrastructural deficit, etc, are reasons that Nigerians are beginning to also distrust this government. They are also yet to be convinced about any difference between the corrupt-ridden PDP government of the past and the equally corrupt and noise-making ineffective leadership of the ruling APC government.