Fighting Corruption with Corruption
By Bashir Kabir
In the ideal sense, nothing will ever change if the conditions that warrant its coming into existence have not changed. The slogan of ‘change’ that saw the ushering of the current administration was a valid, justifiable process of turning things around in Nigeria and corruption was understandably the first place to begin.
Identifying corruption as the bedrock of all that is ailing the country and vowing to address it in all seriousness gave hope to Nigerians home and abroad. Many believed that perhaps the scourge has finally met its match. Even more so, that affirmative transformation and reform are within reach.
The general euphoria of at least tackling corruption that everyone knows and believes is the culprit in the dilapidation and dereliction of everything in the public sector; education, roads, healthcare, pension, security, in fact, everything that entails bad governance, was almost contagious. Salvation from the shackles of public rats was within sight.
Expectations of the populace on how to go about the processes in the most pronounced ‘change arena’ of the so-called waged war against corruption were numerous. To begin with, the expectation was that from then on, the era of public sector corruption has come to an end. As it is, the best anti-corruption strategy, the world over, is preventing it.
Corruption prevention cannot be tackled effectively unless several measures are entrenched, among which are the strengthening of institutions. Weakness of the public institutions in form of lack of standardized operational procedure and frameworks or keeping them secret from the public, disdain for code of conduct and due process, unethical behaviors of the officials and low integrity are among others what facilitates committing corruption en mass within the public sector.
In the process of squelching corruption as promised by the administration, people were expecting mass crackdown on the identified corrupt persons. Nigeria has an endless list of public trust embezzlers from top-down and only the merciless prosecution of corruption embezzlers will go a long way in setting an example and absolutely serve as deterrence to those who are nursing the idea to take part in it in the future.
This prompted the zeal of whistle-blowing where the likes of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, former Emir of Kano and governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria took part in exposing parts of the illegal oil deals during the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan involving billions of dollars, perhaps believing in the sincerity of the anti-graft course.
In May 2018, the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) announced that 603 Nigerians had been convicted on corruption charges since 2015. The EFCC also announced that for the first time in Nigeria’s history, judges and top military officers including retired service chiefs were being prosecuted for corruption. Despite the seeming achievement by the agency, many are of the opinion that the anti-graft war was selective and said so on several occasions.
Beginning with the arrest of the former administrator, Sambo Dasuki who allegedly masterminded the $2 billion arms deal, hope was high about the sincerity of the administration in fulfilling the promise it took on dealing with corruption. However, The EFCC was criticized for being selective in the people it ‘witch-hunted’ while turning blind eye to the administration’s darlings having field days engaging in shady deals and living flamboyantly beyond their means.
Obviously the EFCC was the turbine engine behind the waged anti-graft war. And the captain behind it was the deposed Ibrahim Magu who acted as the EFCC chairman from 9 November 2015, until his suspension on 7 July 2020.
A slew of allegations of fraud including the diversion of recovered funds and seized assets sent Ibrahim Magu out of office. This more or less validated and confirmed the allegation by the critics that the anti-graft war was biased; an apparent scenario of ‘corruption fighting corruption’.
The allegations of diversion or re-looting of recovered funds and seized assets pinned against the former EFCC boss might be a set up (according to an opinion) resulting from a vendetta with bigger bones, but that is beside the point here. Nothing could be made out of nothing. The concern however is; if the whole anti-graft agenda of the administration comes down to this position where suspicion of selectiveness in justice dispensation is undeniably substantial or more horribly so, the anti-graft prime moving power being accused of mass corruption, what is left to hold on to in validating the process and hence keeping the candle of hope among Nigerians that are hoping to see the effect of the crusade in better service delivery and easier living conditions as the ultimate objective?