THEWILL EDITORIAL: How Did We Get Here?

BEVERLY HILLS, July 24, (THEWILL) – The unfolding drama in the polity in recent times has sent both the official and unofficial public parole into a deep shock. Their response to the ugly and embarrassing revelations of the past few weeks has been that of silence of the graveyard.

It is a surprise that those who, ordinarily, would have fired back at some of the news coming out of the ongoing ‘show of shame’, describing them as ‘fake’, and coming from ‘the pit of hell’, are themselves now shocked to the marrow.

Mum is therefore the word now, from official quarters, as the only question begging for an answer by concerned Nigerians presently is: how did we really get here?

According to Transparency International’s Corruption Index, which compares nations against each other in terms of their level of corruption in the public sector, out of 100 points for low corruption, Nigeria averaged 20.98 points from 1996 to 2019, reaching an all-time best result of 28 points in 2016.

While the country’s ranking is usually above 150 out of the 180 countries surveyed worldwide, its average score of 20 is simply below the global average of 43. The bitter truth now is that, aside Guinea Bissau, Nigeria is the most corrupt country in West Africa. What an irony and an inglorious reputation for a country whose President, Muhammadu Buhari is the African Union’s first ever anti-corruption champion in Africa.

It is, however, heartwarming to note that Buhari has taken the fight against corruption seriously, once again, even in the face of damning allegations against top officials of his administration. At the regional level, also, he is harping on the need to give corruption a good fight.

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In a letter he sent to the Chairman of the African Union, Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also the South African President, on the occasion of the Anti-Corruption Day on July 11, 2020, Buhari called on his fellow leaders to re-commit themselves to the corruption fight and immediate actualisation of the Common African Position on Assets Recovery.

According to Buhari, “the massive corruption being perpetrated across our national governments has created a huge governance deficit that has in turn created negative consequences that have worsened the socio-economic and political situation in Africa.”

A good piece of advice, no doubt, but we believe that charity must begin at home. Nonetheless, we are glad that his Presidential Panel immediately swung into action to probe the allegations against the country’s anti-corruption czar, Ibrahim Magu. Though the initial findings were shocking, it was still a good start.

THEWILL, however, finds it worrisome that for the past few weeks, Nigerians have been treated to the most shocking, messy, disappointing and disgusting novela of sorts by those who are supposed to be their leaders.

The news coming from the Presidential Committee investigating the former acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Magu, were just the teaser.

Just about the time Nigerians thought they have had enough, the probe of the allegations of moral impropriety, financial recklessness and fraud against the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godwin Akpabio, as well as that of top officials of the Niger Delta Development Commission culminated into another free ‘Nollywood film’ for Nigerians at the National Assembly.

From the allegations and counter-allegations as well as the accusations and counter-accusations flying around, it became obvious that public officials in the country, with just a few exceptions, have not only taken corruption to new heights, but have, indeed, turned Nigeria into a full kleptocratic state.

Sadly, while the Federal Government keeps accumulating both local and foreign debts for generations yet unborn, with the intention of using those loans for developmental projects that would be beneficial to the masses, some rogues in government are busy stealing the country blind in what has now become a free-for-all and open looting of the nation’s common wealth.

While millions of Nigerians were locked down at home with little or practically nothing to feed for almost three months, a few government officials and top heads of agencies were busy helping themselves with humongous amounts of money as their own ‘palliatives’ running into billions of Naira.

As if the scandal at NDDC was not enough, another can of worms was opened at the House of Representatives’ probe of the National Social Insurance Trust Fund with massive looting by a management that could not pay workers’ salaries. The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, was so miffed that he publicly threatened to go to court over an allegation from a suspended Managing Director. What we have seen so far is arrogant, morally bankrupt and inept leadership in some critical agencies with those at the top turning looting of the treasury into a new normal.

The late Professor Chinua Achebe was right, after all, when he chose ‘There Was A Country’ as title for one of his books even as it is becoming clearer than before now, that things, as Achebe also said, are really ‘No Longer At Ease.’

It is indeed sad that there is no single organ of government that can raise its head above board today. While service to the people in the country is no longer selfless but selfish, the ongoing probes might also just end as a mere charade since the situation we have at hand now is that of the case of the pot calling the kettle black.

THEWILL however believes that the situation could still be salvaged if President Buhari is truly determined to walk his talk and fight the corruption that has become not only endemic in the country but has sadly transformed Nigeria into an almost comatose state, where virtually nothing works.

We advise that impeccable character, good moral and high integrity should take precedence over personal or party loyalty in consideration for appointments into public positions in the country. Also, corrupt government officials should no longer be treated with kid gloves under the guise of plea-bargaining but should be handled as economic saboteurs and given stiff penalties to serve as deterrents to others.