For many Nigerians, the quest to internalize, deepen and permanentize the present efforts to curb corruption will be a priceless legacy this government will leave at the end of its stewardship. While the unflagging war to tame corruption is very commendable, many feel that the fight should go far beyond the tenure of this government and be etched as a way of life, which Nigerians must, of compulsion, adopt and adapt to if we are to rescue this country from the asphyxiating clutches of corruption and its deleterious effects on the country. Beyond the rabid inclination to politicize and aim to take political advantage of every policy, Nigerians must realize the need to learn to live straight and thereby consign the allures of corruption to the relics of our wasted past. Nigerians must learn to internalize the credo of a corruption-free state where things are done without recourse to the corrupt benefits they stand to give to us. Nigerians must imbibe the belief that all that glitters is not gold and that we can really do without corruption.
Granted, the present regime is showing the way as to the right and proper way to do things in this country. We are no longer assaulted by the same culture of byzantine sleaze that saw to the flowering of a huge corruption complex while the nation rotted away in crying decadence. We are no more treated to the obscene visage of rabid purloining of state resources as if there was no tomorrow. We are no longer abused by the scene of public servants and politicians diverting resources that should be used for all to service their personal greed. We are no longer treated to politicians and civil servants treating yearly budgets as resources to be shared out amongst them, their lackeys and political associates. We are no more assaulted with the experience of those who should guard our coffers turning out to be goats that devoured the yam barn while the citizens wallow in preventable want and hunger. Yes, it was unimaginable that we will come to a point where all these that luxuriated several decades of gargantuan filth and buried the country in the process, will no longer be ways of life. The stoppage of this bizarre culture of untrammeled corruption is responsible for the bitter, deadly, uncensored and angry umbrage the present regime is retching up from those that have known no other survival means apart from corruption.
It is to be expected that any effort to tame corruption will breed a rash of desperate multifarious efforts to fight back by those who know no other way to survive than feeding freely from the common through. I believe that President Buhari did not pretend that in stopping an ennui that had so gored at the soul of Nigeria, he would be showered with confetti. He could never have feigned ignorance that corruption and its armada of soldiers will fight back with the deadly ferocity they are unleashing now. So I believe that Buhari was prepared for the long haul in electing to be the first Nigerian leader that took a frontal battle against corruption and was prepared for what we are seeing today. He must have sacrificed the urge to be a momentary champion who opened the treasury to unrestrained free-loading by his subalterns and political allies as we had before he came. He must have decided to bear the brunt of capping the many rat holes through which the nation’s purse was bled. He must have readied himself for the violent expression of disappointment and shock some of his friends express at not being allowed to feed fat from the treasury.
President Buhari must have come prepared to weather the array of ceaseless tirade, the hordes of hysteria and false alternatives that have been marshalled to bring his government down just because he is not allowing the continuation of the byzantine licentiousness that wrecked this country. So all the strident syndicated outbursts against him, couched in many formats, must not have surprised Buhari as he demonstrates an uncommon single mindedness in ending the scourge of sleaze that destroyed Nigeria’s potentials to rise above the mediocre status it had been weighed down with since independence.
Above all these bulwarks on his way to ending the culture of corruption and stealing, what should concern Nigerians and Buhari today is whether there would be a continuation of this battle if and when Buhari rounds up his tenure; whether in 2019 or in 2023. Nigerians should concern themselves about getting a committed leader in the mould of Buhari who will withstand all cat calls and doomsday desperations to insist that things must be done properly, that accountability must assume prime position in the conduct of governance. Nigerians must take more than a passing interest in who eventually succeeds Buhari, the records and credentials of such persons so as to ensure that we are not returned to the same ghoulish paths he had been doing everything to steer us away from. The alternative is too scary to even consider.
So how can Buhari help ensure that the foundation he is fighting many decibels to erect in Nigeria outlasts his tenure? How can he ensure that none of the soiled share-reapers that brought Nigeria to the present sordid state returns when he has rounded up his cleansing regime to visit the country with a worse rot than he met? How can he build a permanent, indelible structure that will withstand the kind of deliberate fightback the forces of corruption are giving him under many guises? How can Buhari ensure that the existing structures he is working with are firmed and made impregnable against the deadly fangs of those who live off the lifeblood of the masses? These are posers that should engage both Buhari, his supporters and all patriots that wish the country to continue on the present fumigated system where corruption no longer rules the conduct of statecraft.
The most attractive answer to these posers is building institutions that can withstand the kind of pressure that is being brought on him now by those that feel short-served by the present war against corruption. Another solution is identifying strong-willed and determined persons that can take the gauntlet from him whenever his commission ends and ensure the nation doesn’t suffer a relapse in the present effort to institutionalize credible ways of doing things. The snag with the first, which understandably is the most credible option, is that compromised and soiled persons can make a mess of the best institutions in the world. That is the factor holding the country down. Nigeria has very elaborate institutions, expansive statutes and laws but implementing these are different things altogether. Nigeria is a reference case of how to turn great and noble institutions and laws into noxious instruments and that is why the country never made any impression in either the fight against corruption or even upholding the rule of law before now.
So cognizant that Nigeria is a weird country where the best intuitions that should guarantee the peace and progress of nations are turned to monsters that prey on the people, it is my candid opinion that Buhari needs a revolutionary review of these institutions so as to make for the entrenchment of credible Nigerians that can be trusted to uphold the general wellbeing of the people no matter whose ox is gored. An instance is the country’s judiciary where obnoxious wheeling and dealing by judicial players had not only reduced the judiciary to a cesspool of corruption but a scourge on the progress of the country. This is just an instance as almost all sectors of the country are ravaged by the same malaise. For Buhari to protect the legacies he is presently building, it is my honest feeling that he should ride roughshod over the decrepit structures we have now to ensure that credible people are recruited in all sectors to infect them with the needed credibility to sustain the anti-corruption templates he is instituting today. Allowing the various sectors to still carry on in their decrepit structures will only make the present cautionary attitude to public treasury a temporary approach that is suffering Buhari patiently. There should be radical re-setting of the structures and conducts of the sectors, especially the judiciary and the anti-graft bodies to ensure that the present war survives the Buhari regime. A deliberate effort to entrench people of reputable character and conduct will help a long way to ensure that the war on corruption survives the deadly claws of the deeply entrenched corrupt interests who, as has been shown in recent times, can do anything to regain power and the national treasury for the purpose of salting the wealth of the nation to their private barns.
So, I would like President Buhari to start working on entrenching the present cleansing of the age-old elephantine Nigerian Augean stable and the present accountable order that is ruling the public service. To do this, he has to bring back some qualities of the 1984 Buhari. He has to walk out of the old, compromised, corrupt and dawdy system to do this and this demands a radical deliberate effort to ensure that the country does not relapse into a state of generalized rot once President Buhari finishes his tenure.
Peter Claver Oparah writes from Ikeja, Lagos. You can reach him at [email protected]