by Raymond Eyo
“The most important ingredient in the corruption fight is the political will from the topmost leader.” –Chinedu Ekeke
To any honest and objective observer, that President Goodluck Jonathan sorely lacks the nerve to decisively tackle corruption is no longer in doubt. In his article titled Reducing Corruption: A Few Examples Needed, Tony Iribor, argues that “If for example, the aviation minister, Stella Oduah, got sacked as a result of the BMW issue, it will send a message to the other ministers in the president’s cabinet. If the president doesn’t tolerate corruption among his ministers, then tell me that minister who will boldly carry out acts of corruption and think he or she will get away with it. I do not believe that corruption can be eradicated but it can be reduced and this starts from the top.”
Corruption may be in every segment of Nigeria’s society but it is most pronounced and destructive in government. Any serious president, anywhere in the world, with the right political will, can achieve a lot in the fight against corruption. In fact, in Nigeria, the powers of the presidency, and the preeminence of the federal government which it superintends, give the president sufficient leverage to seriously tackle corruption. If President Goodluck Jonathan had the political will and committed himself to it, he will do so much to confront corruption. Unfortunately, he doesn’t!
Nuhu Ribadu, the pioneer chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) set up by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to help stamp out high-level corruption, recently said, “To fight corruption, the biggest man in government, the president or Prime Minister, must be honest about it.” Likewise, former Education Minister, Dr Oby Ezekwesili, who, as Director-General of the Budget Monitoring Unit, earned the sobriquet of ‘Madam Due Process’ due to her exceptional work in sanitising public procurement in the federal government, says “An effective anti-corruption strategy requires the political will and leadership of the highest office in the land.”
It is not rocket science to fight corruption in Nigeria. All that is needed to lead a tough campaign against corruption from the top, where it really counts, is a president with the political will! If Jonathan sacked Stella Oduah, and ensured that she faced the law for her malfeasance, for example, that would be a sign of commitment. Rather, Jonathan has swept virtually all the corruption scandals in his administration under the carpet.
In his December 22 reply to the issues of corruption raised in Obasanjo’s blunt open letter, betraying his peculiar weakness in fighting corruption, Jonathan gave the silly and flimsy excuse that “corruption in Nigeria is indisputable. It has been with us for many years.” So if corruption has been in Nigeria for ages, must an incumbent president not fight it hard?
When he declared his interest to run for president in September 2010, Jonathan promised that there would be no sacred cows in his fight against corruption. However, despite the widespread indignation over the $6.8bn fuel subsidy scam, not a single individual has been brought to book. This isn’t surprising given that Jonathan’s main reaction to the scam was to punish the suffering masses by removing the subsidy instead of using it to send a strong signal against corruption by going after those responsible for misappropriating the funds. Jonathan has been similarly indifferent or inactive with regard to other large-scale corruption scams and issues happening right under his nose. There has been no concrete action, for instance, taken by his administration on the salient issue of oil theft which, as per the Ribadu report on the sector, has led to the loss of over $12.6bn (₦2trn) in the two full years of Jonathan’s presidency. An additional $12bn has been reported by the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Lamido Sanusi, as not accounted for by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). The sums involved in all these scams are as staggering as President Jonathan’s inaction is unbelievable and cowardly! No wonder Sam Nda-Isaiah says “The Jonathan government is the most corrupt government Nigeria has ever seen. Jonathan’s government steals in trillions.”
President Jonathan visited China in July and met with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, who became China’s president earlier this year. In the course of the visit, Xi said: “Both China and Nigeria are now working hard to accelerate our respective development.” To accelerate Nigeria’s development, Jonathan will do himself a favour to draw inspiration from, and replicate Xi’s bold and daring campaign against corruption.
A December 25 Reuters article showcasing President Xi Jinping’s no-nonsense posture against corruption in China states that: “Xi has launched a sweeping crackdown on corruption since taking power, pursuing high-flying ‘tigers’ as well as lowly ‘flies’ in the government, military, state-owned enterprises and universities.” Reuters also instructively reported that, “In November, China said it would target all senior officials as part of a deeper war on graft. Xi has not only targeted corrupt practices like bribe-taking, but also extravagance and waste.”
Similarly, a recent article by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), highlights Xi’s strong resolve against corruption. In the article, titled “How real is China’s anti-corruption campaign?” the BBC quotes a Beijing-based professor, Hu Xingdou, as saying, “Xi’s campaign is far different from earlier attempts to wipe out government corruption. Xi’s is an unprecedented effort to crack down on corruption in China. [Under] Xi, the level of officials getting investigated [for corruption] is getting higher and higher.” Prof. Hu adds that “Xi’s Tigers and Flies campaign appears to have gone on for such a long time, many seem to believe, and it has netted such a widespread group of party officials, that it is difficult to dismiss it as an empty political gesture.”
Will Jonathan learn from Xi and up the ante in his lacklustre, if not nonexistent, fight against corruption?