Tuesday, 21 May 2013
GEJ: How Not To Fight Corruption By SOC Okenwa
Few weeks ago there was a report online whose caption "The World's 'poorest' President" instantly caught my attention as I navigated the global village via the Internet. In it we were told about a certain President who should be 'canonized' as a saint in a world inhabited by executive animals, jesters and serial sinners. According to the report the President of Uruguay, Jose Mujica, is doing what no president in history ever did: donating his official salary to the down-trodden of his country! No Jonathanian hypocrisy, no razzmatazz, no publicity, no exibitionism: the man of power is doing it all from his heart! A very good man indeed!
Elected President in 2009, Mujica spent the 1960s and 1970s as part of the Uruguayan guerrilla movement called Tupamaros -- a leftist armed group inspired by the Cuban revolution. He was shot six times and spent 14 years in jail! Most of his detention was spent in harsh conditions and isolation, until he was freed in 1985 when Uruguay returned to democracy. Living a remarkable austere (frugal) lifestyle President Mujica donates about 90% of his monthly salary, equivalent to $12,000 (£7,500) to charity.
Only two police officers and a three-legged dog keep watch outside his wife's farm-house residence outside the capital city Montevideo. His only personal car is a 1987 Volkswagen Beetle! According to him: "I’m called ‘the poorest president’, but I don’t feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more....This is a matter of freedom. If you don’t have many possessions then you don’t need to work all your life like a slave to sustain them, and therefore you have more time for yourself....I may appear to be an eccentric old man. But this is a free choice."
After reading the striking compassionate story I was enveloped with righteous indignation as I compared and contrasted it with what is happening in my home country. Just imagine how Nigeria would have fared if we had a President of Mujica's patriotism and solidarity with the poor! You see two things 'bother' me here as regards this extra-ordinary uncommon President: his salary and his disdain for affluence and megalomania! The President earns the equivalent of twelve thousand dollars monthly and he graciously uses the bulk of the pay towards servicing the poor and the needy in the society! Wonderful!
Mr Mujica would probably 'die' of heart attack if he were to be told about a big country in West Africa where presidents make suffering of the masses a state policy! He would melt into insomnia when he would be informed that Nigeria's leaders had stolen the people's money for generations, graft upon graft, fiscal scandal upon fiscal scandal running into billions of dollars without any one of them ending up in any jail anywhere or even arrested for interrogation! He would be forced to think about the veracity of the black continent being labelled by detractors as a dark enclave where Lucifer must have elected home.
The true statesman would shudder when he becomes aware that some pseudo-statesmen in Nigeria like Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida had stolen huge amounts of money -- much more than the annual GDP of Uruguay! He would be filled with bitterness upon getting to know that the late Gen. Sani Abacha alone stole billions of dollars that are still being tracked all around the world today! He would marvel at our collective helplessness to 'cure' ourselves of the graft ailment afflicting our politicians. The graceful President would definitely feel sorry for Nigerians if he knows about one smart crook named James Onanefe Ibori and his dismantled network of monumental fraud.
The likes of Jose Mujica are hard to find under the African sky. With the exception of a very few good men like Nelson Mandela and the late Julius Nyerere Africa has produced the very worst leaders any sane country could ever get. In Nigeria there will never be any Jose Mujica because of who we are and how we do things. Even if one manifests himself he may likely be cut down by forces hell-bent on maintaining the disastrous status-quo.
Last Sunday as I woke up in the wee hours of the night to put finishing touches to the article that was bound for publication later in the day I went online and was greeted by a mind-boggling news story culled from a local newspaper (The Punch). According to the investigative report under the Goodluck Jonathan administration Nigeria has lost a whooping US$31 billion to fraud and corruption! Not that one was shocked by that revelation but the sheer amount involved somewhat knocked me off my feet for a while! Dazed as it were and fuming with patriotic rage I had reached for a glass of whiskey to knock 'sense' back into my faculty and continue with the literary exercise.
Thirty one billion dollars stolen in a space of just two years of the Jonathan presidency? Holy Jesus! Just imagine what a billion dollars would do when channelled towards the rehabilitation of the death-traps called federal highwares. Just think about what one billion dollars can do to upgrade the 'mere consulting clinics' without qualified doctors and expired drugs. Just dream of what a billion dollars would do when deployed in the education sector to curb poor quality academic output and input. Just consider what a billion dollars can do in the employment schemes aimed at engaging the teeming unemployed youths being 'employed' and recruited by Boko Haram and kidnapping kingpins and PDP godfathers.
But why is corruption now a way of life in Nigeria? Why are 'saints' very rare to come by? Why is (almost) everybody and everything corrupt? Well, the answers to these posers are as easy as they can ever be. In a culture that rewards malfeasance and honours the rich fool, in a clime where illicit money is celebrated without question values are bound to take flight. Another reason could be total lack of patriotism. Yes, patriots are no longer there to be counted in their millions or thousands; Nigeria has since become an 'orphan' and everyone is out to milk her dry. But who cares about how she fares anyway?
While IBB was reputed to have institutionalised corruption in Nigeria what we are witnessing today must have informed the "I-deh-kampe" attitude of both IBB and OBJ -- the two worst executive culprits of corruption in Nigeria. The 'grab-grab' syndrome has affected every sector and almost everybody is corrupt one way or the other. No one sane enough would ever elect to die for a nation whose fortunes keep plummeting while 'leaders', through their mischievous aides, regale us with tales of 'ogogoro', fish pepper-soup and cassava bread in the seat of power!
The decay in major sectors of the economy, the moral rot in the political sphere speaks only one thing to our mind: the endemic corruption in our country has gotten worse and if nothing revolutionary is done quickly then we risk surrendering our lives to the panjandrums who, like the drug cartels in Guinea-Bissau, Brazil and Mexico, are making governance look like a class thing or a secret organisation in which details of engagements are known only to the initiated!
President Jonathan's complacency in the fight against corruption is understandable but inexcusable. Understandable in the sense that he is not only a weak and uninspiring leader but he was foisted on the nation by a corrupt godfather who was desperate to cover his looting tracks once out of power. But inexcusable because the very life of the nation and millions of her peoples are daily being rubbished by the odious effects of high-wire corruption that has gone out of control. Inexcusable because GEJ has no reason whatsover to fail in this urgent task of booking and jailing those who, with manifest impunity, plunder and plunder the resources under their care and retire as sacred cows or 'stakeholders'!
A corruption-compliant leader, we are told, cannot successfully wage a war against graft. His best efforts therefore can be likened to some modest results obtained through the constant pressure and criticisms of anti-corruption crusaders. Flashes of fire here and there but no smoke, all bluster and no balls, all hype but no substance; comedy and drama in a trivial demonstration of cluelessness and emptiness! Yet the grim situational reality on the ground constitutes enough danger for the corporate survival of Nigeria as a country.
The President's pedigree and inner instincts do not give him away as one ready to confront the monster ravaging the lives of Nigerians; rather, he appears to be comfortable apparently partaking in the corruption bazar. Goodluck Jonathan's corruption-fighting strategies (as defective and languid as they are) remain in the eyes of discerning Nigerians a puzzling study of how not to fight corruption.
How can a government that claims to be seriously fighting corruption condone one by sending the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, to file a last minute motion asking the court trying to uncover how and why the former dictator Ibrahim Babangida embezzled the 12.4 billion dollars oil windfall to disqualify the claimants saying they lacked the authority to question the spending and fraud associated with the funds? I mean, so GEJ does not want IBB jailed to serve as a big example to others? Or he is mortally afraid of the consequencies?
That is why we are rooting for General Muhammadu Buhari, a hard man whose political antecedents suggest he is battle-ready to destroy the elements of corruption in our national lives. Any President who wilfully condones or tolerates corruption in whatever guise must be corrupt himself! Come 2015 President Jonathan must excuse us another four years of misery and mediocrity! While one recognizes that power has since intoxicated him and his wife (making wishful voluntary exit near-impossible) we think the 4-year 'good-luck' (sorry gridlock) he is currently serving should be enough worries in our lives.
Power must therefore change hands come 2015! The Peoples Democratic Party ought to be soundly defeated by the opposition bringing to an end 16 years of greed, graft and mediocrity. Nigeria deserves nothing less as unprecedented institutional corruption seeks relentlessly to snuff life out of the emaciated giant. Nigeria can never develop with the present half-hearted anti-corruption policy of hits and misses, the present unmitigated assault by forces of corruption.