“I believe the fight (against corruption) begins at the top.” - Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski
In 1984, the celebrated Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe in his book, The Trouble With Nigeria said “Keeping an average Nigerian from being corrupt is like keeping a goat from eating yam.” That was 1984. Today, corruption in Nigeria has deepened and widened.
President Muhammadu Buhari was overwhelmingly elected on his anti-corruption mission to save Nigeria from being killed by corruption. He came to office 16 months ago with a pledge of fighting corruption. But paying bribes to police and bureaucrats remains routine for ordinary Nigerians. Corruption continues to slide out of control.
President Buhari insists he's battling graft, but there is a complete disconnect between what he says and action he takes in fighting corruption especially when it involves his kinsmen who are his top aides. The atmosphere in which the president's men engage in corruption is on a grand destructive scale.
The government that prides itself on “change” has become a government of corruption, collusion, and nepotism. Corruption continues to make daily headlines in the Nigerian media as well as on the social media which attracts heated debates and fierce discussions. With entrenched corruption, Nigeria is being run and will continue to be run in the foreseeable future on accepted political, judicial, and corporate corruption.
President Buhari has become the apex of national political and economic system resembling the patrimonial power of traditional rulers in the pre-colonial past. Take a look at members of his intelligence and judicial apparatus: Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, the Army Chief of Staff Tukur Yusuf Buratai, the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, the Code of Conduct Tribunal Chairman Danladi Umar, the Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris, Director General of the State Security Service (SSS), Ibrahim Magu EFCC Chairman, Lawal Musa Daura, and the President's 4 or 5-member Daura-Katshina Kitchen Cabinet.
Corruption is primarily responsible for failed presidencies in Nigeria. The Jonathan administration – the immediate past presidency – sets an all-time high record in corruption. We've never gotten the prosecutorial aspect of corruption right in Nigeria. Corruption cases appear to outnumber successful prosecutions. Nigerian governments have never been as persistent or successful in prosecuting corruption. Justice has never been served. Grand corruption remains a big problem in Nigeria. Corruption affects all levels of the Nigerian state.
Whether on the street or in the courts of justice, our governments have never confronted corruption in a deliberate manner. If the names of the corrupt were recognized and immortalized, Nigeria's exhibition hall would be packed with fresh catches. Though our Constitution prescribes criminal penalties for corrupt elected and appointed public officials. However, our governments doesn't always implement the law effectively which is why our politicians and public officials relish in corruption with impunity.
Nigeria's corruption scandals are as numerous as they are noxious. The latest high profile corruption involves one of the top Aso Rock aides Abba Kyari the Chief of Staff to the President. October 20, 2015, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had imposed a fine of N1.04 trillion on MTN the mobile telephone giant for violations of the NCC regulations for registration of telephone subscribers. MTN was accused of failing to disconnect 5.1 million improperly registered telephone lines within the prescribed deadline. The fine was later reduced by 25 per cent or N780 billion. MTN later took NCC to court against the manner the fine was imposed describing it as “not in accordance with the NCC's powers under the Nigerian Communications Act.” However, in February 2016, MTN withdrew the case against NCC.
September 20, 2016, SaharaReporters reports that Abba Kyari Chief of staff to President Muhammadu Buhari took N500 million to help MTN reduce fine.“President Muhammad Buhari has received concrete evidence that his Chief of Staff (CoS), Abba Kyari, took N500 million from operators of MTN to help the communications giant mitigate the fine imposed by the federal government...” reports SaharaReporters. “Sources say the evidence,” SaharaReporters further reports, “was presented to President Buhari several times including during the Sallah holiday.”
Kyari is flamboyantly corrupt in ways that run to the very core of his identity and prospective position as one of the top president's men. With the allegation of the MTN bribe, he's already waist-deep in stench. Kyari now wears the dirty crown of cash-for-access. Kyari's corruption is so outrageous, so brazen, so breathtaking in its scope and character. His schemes to personally enrich himself, enrich his cronies, and use the power of his office to further his nefarious designs are unprecedented of a Chief of Staff to a President. He took money from Jide Omokore, a con businessman heavily influential and actively involved in the corruption ridden oil sector during the Jonathan years. When the opportunity of N500 million MTN bribe presented itself, it was too tempting for him to pass up.
It's time Aso Rock ends its bunker mentality – won't talk, won't listen, won't change. As usual, the President isn't talking. He's not bothered. He's not moved. He doesn't give a damn! Mr. Buhari's continue shielding of corrupt aides and members of his inner circle stinks of rank cowardice and hypocrisy. His Chief of Army Staff General Yususf Buratai was accused of using Nigerian Army funds to purchase homes in Dubai. It was alleged that his Minister of Internal Affairs, Abdulrahman Dambazau, bought home for millions of dollars in Boston, United States. Several aides of the President and officials of his regime have been exposed for their corrupt practices in illegal employment and forgery of ages and certificates.
It's time for the President to clear the air on Kyari. The President should come out and tell Nigerians what he knew, when he knew it, and how he knew it. He must confirm or deny the allegation. He must take corrective action by firing Kyari TODAY and let him face the full wrath of the law. Kyari and other accused top officials must be held accountable for their actions. Kyari should be charged with using his powerful position to amass fortune. If Mr. Buhari failed to take action against these corrupt aides, then it means he's profited from the ambiguity.
Mr. Buhari could borrow a leaf from the former South Korea President Kim Young-Sam. Young-Sam became South Korea President in 1962. He used his one-term presidency to clean South Korea of corruption. He arrested his two predecessors – Roh Tae-woo (1988-1993) and Chun Doo-hwan (1980-1988). Roh was jailed 17 years and Chun was sentenced to life in prison. President Young-Sam anti corruption crusade didn't spare his own son. In 1997, Kim Hyon Chol, his son known as the “Crown Prince” was indicted for bribery and tax evasion. He was jailed three years.
It should be conceded that the evidence against Kyari is explosively damning. Mr. Buhari's political and personal relationship with Kyari exposes the President to high radio active corruption contamination. Failure to act on Kyari's case, the damage inflicted by Kyari affair on Mr. Buhari's administration will kill his presidency. The wounds on Mr. Buhari's moral standing around the world will not be fully healed.