President Buhari gave a speech on Thursday night at a Kano high society dinner at the Government House as he wrapped up his two-day official visit to the state. Although short on depth and details, the speech majorly centred on anti-corruption. The short summary of the session which had high level attendees including the governors of Kano and Jigawa states, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje and Alhaji Abubakar Badaru and Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammad Sanusi II was this: Pres. Buhari still does not get it.
According to him, “The fight against corruption is the most difficult task of the present administration’s agenda since its inception over two year ago.”
Making Corruption about Individuals – Personal Style
President Buhari told a story of his stint as the military head of state in the 80’s, and how he locked up corrupt persons at the Kirikiri prisons until till they proved their innocence.
“Only two of them were without guilt-a former minister from Hadejia-Bilyaminu Usman and Mallam Adamu Ciroma.”
Doesn’t mention Alex Ekwueme who he locked in jail while placing Ekwueme’s boss, Shagari on house arrest. But that’s besides the point.
The above quote shows that Buhari subscribes to the theory that incorruptible persons can lead to systemic change and has not given much thought to strengthening institutions and systems that would deal with corruption. And he suggested that there is an existential war with the corrupt elite who are fighting back against his anti-corruption war. To make his point, Buhari drew another comparison with his 80’s experience. “But also, the forces of these corrupt people also ensured that I was also locked up and detained for three years.”
Buhari also reinforced this idea by the suggestion that his government would shop for trusted judges for his proposed special anti-corruption court dedicated to prosecuting corrupt persons. “To strengthen judicial integrity and the rule of law, anti-corruption courts must be manned by ‘incorruptible judges’”, he said.
At no point does he mention institutional reforms or using technology in the speech.
Still Lacks Appreciation For The Constitution
President Buhari still views the constitution as a stumbling block to his anti-corruption efforts. Buhari appeared to suggest that his dictatorial approach to fighting corruption was better.
“When I came in uniform as military Head of State, we locked every suspect in Kirikiri prisons until they proved that they were not guilty. Under the constitution, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. That is the constitution and we will abide by it.”
this tough talk does not explain his sluggishness in taking actions against those in his circle accused of corruption. the Mainagate scandal is still fresh in the minds of Nigerians.
On Seized Assets
The President seems to have concluded plans to sell the seized assets to boost government revenue without any clear plan or proposal or public stakeholder consultation.
“We are planning to sell all confiscated properties so as to put the proceeds into government coffers. This is because I learnt a lesson when I was military head of state. The assets confiscated from corrupt officials were returned to their owners after we were removed,” he said.
Buhari would sell all these assets which might hold higher value and yield dividends in the long term as a result of his carried over fear that the assets might be returned.
How about enacting relevant protections first? How about making it difficult for such returns to happen?