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13 August 2017
One of the cardinal campaign agenda points of the Buhari/All Progressives Congress (APC) is the fight against corruption. Indeed, Buhari was elected on the basis of his assumed integrity and anti-corruption credential. However, two years on, the anti-corruption war has unraveled with government unable to make any major headway, especially as regards retrieval of trillions of naira stolen from public coffer, jailing of public looters and stopping the hemorrhaging of the nation's purse. The recent acquittal of judges alleged of corruption, acquittal of Senate president, Bukola Saraki, various rebuttals of government's prosecution processes, exposure of high-profile government officials and the inability of the anti-corruption fight to lead to any improvement in the living conditions of the majority of the population are realities of the frailty of Buhari's anti-corruption war. All of these have shown the limitation of anti-corruption fight under capitalist system, especially a neo-colonial neoliberal one that prevails in Nigeria, nay Africa.
The much-touted anti-corruption campaign of the Buhari administration seems to be losing steam as many elements within ruling government and party are facing one scandal or the other. Furthermore, on the basis of intractable economic crisis that has affected the majority the more, the government is losing the popular goodwill which is needed to carry out the very limited anti-corruption campaign that has seen some high profile politicians from the opposition and the ruling party like the Senate President being prosecuted. More than this, the fact that the ruling APC party itself comprises corrupt politicians, a majority of whom have been part of the massive rackets of the past, has limited the moral authority of the government to fight corruption.
The fact that the anti-corruption fight has been largely limited to corrupt elements within the opposition PDP party or those perceived to be opponents of the presidency in the ruling party has further undermined the limited anti-corruption campaign. For instance, about a trillion naira purportedly released as bailout funds and Paris Club refund by federal government to state governments have largely been mismanaged, with workers and pensioners still being owed salaries and pensions. Yet, hardly is anyone being prosecuted for this. Worse still, the fact that the so-called corruption fight has not made any meaningful impact on the economic lives of the majority of the population has made the anti-corruption mantra uninspiring for the majority.
The crisis in the anti-corruption campaign of the Buhari/APC government is exemplified by the ongoing crisis over confirmation by the Nigerian Senate of Ibrahim Magu as chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Obviously, the corrupt politicians in the Senate are trying to take their own pound of flesh from the executive for the embarrassment they have suffered through the very limited anti-corruption campaign of the Buhari administration. Currently, aside the Senate president Bukola Saraki, more than 20 other senators and some former governors, are facing various cases of corruption. That a senate, whose president currently facing corruption cases and peopled by obviously corrupt elements, is the one confirming people to lead the anti-corruption agency, shows the rottenness of Nigerian politics. It is like saying hardened robbers should appoint the police.
However, this does not portray Magu or the executive arm of government as saints. Indeed, the senate is relying on the corruption tendency within the executive itself to hypocritically have its way. The decision not to confirm Magu was premised on a report from the government's secret police, the Department of State Services (DSS), which indicted Magu of corrupt tendencies and indiscipline. Interestingly, both the EFCC and DSS report directly to the presidency. It can be argued that the presidency or the president did not want to interfere with activities of agencies. But, if an agency within the presidency gave a report that indict an appointee of the same presidency, what moral standing does the same presidency have to forward the same name for confirmation? Interestingly, in the wake of the first rejection of Magu and allegation bothering on corrupt enrichment leveled against the secretary to the federation, Babachir Lawal, the president set up an internal probe headed by the Attorney General. The report of the probe was not made public. Rather than avail the public of the report of the probes, even if for formality purpose, the president only defended the two individuals – Magu and Lawal. That the same presidency that sent Magu name to the Senate was privy to the DSS report on Magu, shows that the whole anti-corruption campaign is a circus show.
But it will actually be illusory to expect the current set of capitalist political class to fight corruption genuinely, when the system they defend and their route to power are rooted in brazen and fundamental corruption. Subsequently, on the basis of public uproar over Lawal's involvement in the contract scam in the programme for Internally Displaced Persons, and several millions of foreign currencies claimed by head of Nigeria's National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ayo Oke, another committee was set up, headed by the vice president, to probe the two individuals. While both Lawal and the NIA boss were suspended, the report of the probe has not been made public neither has the officials involved prosecuted or cleared.
The government claimed to have recovered close to N100 billion from anti-corruption fight, but this shows that the anti-corruption fight is seriously limited. Trillions of naira has been reportedly looted, yet the government in more than two years is unable to recover significant parts of these looted funds. This is because there cannot be any genuine anti-corruption fight under the capitalist system, especially in a backward, largely unproductive, rent-seeking capitalist system in Nigeria. On the basis of the rent-seeking nature of Nigeria's political economy, politicians and big businesses can only live off government. This explains why corruption scandals have dogged politicians and big business people associated with the ruling party, just like their counterparts in the PDP, albeit on a smaller scale for now.
There is no way there can be any genuine fight against corruption when the state policies are tailored towards handing over public resources, properties and enterprises to private hands to make profits at the expense of the people. This is the grand corruption. How can there be any serious fight against corruption when handful individuals who control the major sectors of the economy and politics are the same people perpetrating and perpetuating corrupt activities? How can there be genuine anti-corruption fight when those who prop the government up and control it are the same people to be fought? Furthermore, when capitalist government implements neo-liberal policies of privatization, commercialization and deregulation, it means public services and social sectors are underfunded. This thus makes the resources that should go to these sectors available to be mismanaged by politicians and big businesses.
This explains why the corruption fight in this kind of a system will always ground to a halt at one time or the other. Even the limited task of using some anti-corruption agencies such as Code of Conduct Tribunal to quicken the recovery of looted public funds could not be courageously undertaken by the government. This is because, as much as this may quicken recovery of funds, it will also unsettle the applecart of the current politics, as many public officials including those in the current administration or at various states can hardly legitimately defend their source of obscene wealth.
The results of Buhari's anti-corruption bring to mind similar anti-corruption war under previous governments. The Obasanjo administration between 1999 and 2007 also spearheaded a so-called "anti-corruption war" that saw many politicians, mostly from his ruling PDP dragged before courts. In fact, aside the fact that Obasanjo government established the current anti-corruption agencies such as Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), high profile elements such as the chief of police, Tafa Balogun, were publicly humiliated. Billions of dollars were recovered. However, the Obasanjo government turned out to be the pacesetter in systematic graft and looting of public funds.
Money seemingly recovered including close to a billion dollars from Abacha looted funds found their way back to the private accounts of political officers. Many of these political officers are now in the ruling party. Also, the Yar'Adua government carried out bank sanitization that saw the arrest and prosecution of fraudulent bank chiefs. Interestingly, the same Yar'Adua was not only propped up by corrupt elements but was sustained by them. Elements from Obasanjo's government who mobilized votes for Yar'Adua but were involved in the pilfering of public resources, held major stake in Yar'Adua government, while James Ibori, a major pillar of Yar'Adua was shielded from prosecution by the government. It took the intervention of British court to successfully prosecute and jail Ibori, while Nigerian courts and the anti-graft agencies were compromised.
All of these show that it is more than mere grandstanding about fighting corruption to stop graft. The whole system needs to be overhauled.
To begin to truly fight corruption, the labour movement should demand and fight for an open, democratic, working peoples' led investigation into corruption, which would especially involve workers in the finance industry and public service. This is to expose corruption, looting and find assets stolen in order to be used for the benefit of the Nigerian masses.
However, only a working people's government premised on the socialist programmes of taking into public control and democratic management the major sector of the economy currently under the control of big business oligarchs locally and internationally, can genuinely end corruption on a grand scale. It is when the resources of the country are used to meet the social and economic needs of the majority of the population that corruption can be successfully ended.
However, this will need a government that stand on clear socialist programmes. Such a government can only come through a political party that represents several millions of poor and working class Nigerians, as all the current ruling parties are part and parcel of the corruption that has wrecked the country.