January 16, (THEWILL) – If we do not kill corruption, corruption will kill us (Buhari). With due respect, l consider this statement a bit shallow, lacking a serious understanding of how societies and human nature work in a semi-primitive society such as ours. My argument has always been, we should not be talking about fighting corruption, rather, we should see corruption as a symptom of something that is intrinsically wrong with our society, the loss of the moral centre of gravity of our society.
If corruption is so evil, how come we are so much at peace with it? If corruption is so rotten, how come we all seem to enjoy its company? Why has corruption become so easy and pervasive and why is it that, as MTN would say, it is everywhere you go? What makes it attractive? If we are so much against it, how is it that we cannot generate a collective sense of moral revulsion?
But if we are a serious people with a sense of history, how many wars have we won in this country-Nigeria? 53 years after the civil war, the lgbos still believe Biafra is alive, because those who govern us have refused to admit that, in all dishonesty, we have left a few windows open. Why did we not win the war against indiscipline? Why did we not win the war against illiteracy? Why did we not win the war against hunger despite ‘operation to feed the nation’ and the establishment of dams across the country? Why did we not win the war against armed robbery? Why did we not win the war against poverty? What makes us confident that we will win this war? Should it not be clear to us that there is more than meets the eyes?
The question we should be asking ourselves now is how and why is it that every coup plotter in Nigeria hung his colours on the mast of fighting corruption? How come that all successive governments have come in, accusing their predecessors of massive corruption only to turn around and do even worse or leave a similar legacy of rot?
Let me draw from a few speeches of the coup plotters to illustrate this tragedy and argue that we are all culpable and that we are also sinners, not a bunch of innocent people who have been sinned against. Let me very briefly trace this same trajectory to make a point. On January 15, 1966 (I was then three years old), Major Nzeogwu told a stunned nation that he and his colleagues had intervened to establish a strong, united and prosperous nation, free from corruption.
The high point of his speech was when he said: “Our enemies are the political profiteers…As we know; he and his men went on to commit heinous crimes against this nation by killing innocent men and finally triggering off the ugly events that led to a civil war. When the war ended, General Gowon was overthrown on July 29, 1975 (the year I entered secondary school). Brigadier Murtala Muhammed stated that the military had intervened because: “Despite our great human and material resources, the government has not been able to fulfill the legitimate expectations of our people.”
Nigeria has been left to drift, Nearly all the governors who served under Gowon regime were indicted of corruption except Brigadier Rotimi Oluwole of Western state and Brigadier Mobolaji Johnson of Lagos State. Even the charlatan, Lt-Colonel B.S. Dimka, greeted Nigerians on February 13, 1976, by saying “l bring you good tidings” and ended his speech by reminding Nigerians: “We are together.”
On December 31, 1983, the nation woke up to the voice of one Brigadier Sanni Abacha, who conscripted Nigerians into the witness box by arguing: You have been witnesses to the grave economic predicament and uncertainty which an inept and corrupt leadership has imposed on our beloved nation…Our economy has been mis-managed.
We have become a debtor and a beggar nation…in some States workers are being owed salaries of 8-12 months. Abacha concluded that he and his colleagues had intervened because it was their duty as promoters and protectors of our national interest. The new Head of State was announced as Brigadier General Muhammadu Buhari, who, in his opening address noted: The change became necessary in order to put an end to the serious economic predicament and crisis of confidence afflicting our country…This government will not tolerate kickbacks, inflation of contracts and over invoicing of imports …he concluded.
When Brigadier Dongoyaro announced the overthrow of the Buhari administration on August 27, 1985, he acknowledged that the government had been welcomed with what he called, “unprecedented enthusiasm.”
He complained that members of the Supreme Military Council have been sidelined and made redundant because only… a select few members were charged with the day to day implementation of the SMC’s policies and decisions…The concept of collective leadership has been substituted by stubborn and unadvised unilateral actions thereby destroying the principles upon which the military came to power. On the same day, General Abacha, in his own speech, complained that the Buhari leadership lacked the capacity and the capability to lead this nation out of its social and economic predicament.
It is most disheartening that most of the ills that plagued the nation during the civilian regime are still present in our society. President Babangida then stepped up and opened his speech by reminding a stunned nation that Buhari had come to power with the most popular enthusiasm accorded any government in the history of this country…He continued: Buhari was too rigid and uncompromising in his attitudes to issues of national significance… Babangida made the usual noises about the State of economy and the plans to end economic mismanagement and place the nation on the path of rectitude.
Then General Abacha came back a third time, this time to oust Chief Ernest Shonekan. This was a rather curious speech because it was like no other. General Abacha broke from tradition of denigrating his predecessor as a way of justifying his coup. Instead, he commended Shonekan for, in his own words, “showing the greater courage of knowing when to leave”, he promised to lay a solid foundation for the growth of democracy. He ended his speech by again lamenting Chief Shonekan, who again, in his words, “unfortunately, resigned yesterday”, stated that the government was a child of necessity out to enthrone lasting democracy!!
The civilian counterparts are not far better, check all the campaigns since 2003, the same song of corruption and bad governance. l know l sound like a bearer of bad news, a cynic or one who does not support Buhari’s war as my enemies have concluded, indeed, the opposite is actually the case. First as the American television series “Everybody loves Raymond “will say, Everybody loves Buhari “But that is the first danger. It is not in President Interest that everyone presents a face of love for him. The country is more than one person in the country.
President Buhari himself said that much. What the President needs is an army of non-partisan patriots committed and supporting him. To the Glory of God Almighty, probably l should be the only one or one of the Nigerians who wrote the President and stated why they would not support his government. I wrote to him in 2019,copied the late Chief of Staff to the President, Mr.Abba Kyari and NSA to the President, I took the letter to the Villa and acknowledged the copy given to me. In the letter, I stated reasons why I wouldn’t support the APC/Buhari government because of some characters around the President.
Building a nation as diverse as ours is a tough job and requires patience. If we have the patience and are ready for the sacrifice, then, the sky will be a footstone for us. Till then, we must learn from the likes of Mandela, that it is indeed a long, long road to freedom. This is why I’m pleased to leave you with the words of Jimmy Cliff, who titled one of his songs, Hard Road To Travel. l will sing it for you, so that you can know that if l had not went to school and study journalism now a human rights activist ( no regrets ) who knows , l could have ventured into music and made a living. Among other things he said: “I’ve got a hard road to travel and a rough rough way to go. I said it’s a hard road to travel and a rough rough way to go. But l can’t turn back, my heart is fixed My mind is made up, I’ll never stop My faith will see, see me through.”
*** Written by Comrade Olufemi Aduwo, the President, Rights Monitoring Group and Centre for Convention on Democratic Integrity (RMG and CCDI and Permanent Representative of CCDI to the United Nations).