Buhari’s Tale of Two Houses and 270 Cows -By Charles Anyiam

Filed under: National Issues |
Charles Anyiam

Charles Anyiam

 

Corruption in Nigeria or anyway, for that matter, is vicious. If he and this new administration are to succeed, Buhari must push the envelope. To start with, the judiciary must be cleaned up and the new government in Abuja must rid the bench of all the dead weights, and unclog the wheel of justice. This should be carried out with all the presidential powers at Buhari’s disposal.

In today’s Africa, it is almost unheard of. More so when the news is Nigeria. To the rest of the world, the news that a former Nigerian president can declare his assets, and what we find on the list includes two mud houses (inherited from his mother and older sister, who are both deceased), 270 herds of cattle, 25 sheep, five horses, a variety of birds, and a number of economic trees comes across as surreal. The palpability of the news itself when placed within the context of the psychographic indices of most African leaders past or present gives cause for hope.

According to the assets’ declaration form just made public, to his name are two undeveloped lands and such other non-descript personal property, a single bank account with 30 million Nigerian naira (about $150,000 USD) in it, which compared to what we are used to in terms of the wealth and opulence that have come to be associated with many members of Africa’s ruling class, sounds paltry and understandably stunning. To pundits this is a poor boy’s portfolio by any African standard.

As part of his campaign promises was the pledge to fight corruption, a malignant ailment that has been threatening to hobble arguably one of Africa’s most important nations. It was therefore expected by all that he, President Muhammadu Buhari will lead by example.

That is why it was made a big deal, especially by the opposition, when there was a perceived delay in publicly declaring Buhari’s assets and those of his Vice President, former law professor, Yemi Osinbajo. The uproarious response from a section of the Nigerian populace, whose horrible experiences in the hands of governments with leaders who had in the past sold them a bad bill of goods, was expected. We all know how these characters enriched themselves and their cohorts by willy-nilly dipping hands into the till or by outrightly coveting the commonwealth of the nation.

When Buhari’s assets were declared last week, most Nigerians and others in the international community were pretty flabbergasted. For, here is a man, who had the choice of joining the band of looters who still walk or have walked the corridors of power all over Africa, but rather opted for an ascetic lifestyle which in itself is very un-Nigerian.

As a matter of fact, space will fail me if I were to detail an inventory of luxury items, mansions, and offshore accounts of African leaders, among who are the very notorious ones such as Equatorial Guinea’s Marcia Nguema and his son, Theo; Omar Bongo of Gabon; Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo Brazzaville, who was alleged to have spent 1.8 million Euros on shopping for shirts and suits between 2005 and 2011, while his country’s income per capita ranked amongst the worst in the world; Congo Kinshasa’s Mobutu Seseko, and the other not-too-obvious ones, some obviously from Nigeria, whose loots are concealed in coded and secret accounts, in shell companies and of course, by the criminal use of proxies.

It was indeed therefore refreshing to have an African leader who mirrors the sort of ideals that has for years been in gross short supply in our beloved Continent.

That, in itself, tells me that Buhari meant business when he promised his countrymen and women during his electioneering campaign that the fight against corruption and corrupt practices will form the fulcrum of his agenda as President. In close proximity to him during his visit to Washington DC in July, his body language confirmed that the gentleman means business. And when asked during that trip if he will prosecute members of his own party who run foul of his anti-corruption guidelines, his response was in the affirmative. I remember he did not even pause when he gave that answer to the reporter.

As I write, most Nigerians can already feel the ripple effects of his uncompromising posture in their daily lives. Within the rank-and-file of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), we can hear that the murmuring is fast turning into public outcry. His party-men are still unsure of what to make of Buhari. Some are even telling the party leadership, “we told you so”. To them, however, one thing has become clear – that this guy will not be pushed around. And he will not be intimidated. Neither will he be blackmailed. They all know deep down their bellies that the Nigeria of the past where public offices were doled out to the highest bidder is gone. Especially, under Buhari. Something has sure shifted on the Nigerian political landscape.

With the list of his assets now in the public domain, I believe that Buhari has fired the first real shot in the war against corruption. He has equally set the bar for all who aspire to public office in Nigeria, and invariably for himself.

With a vociferous opposition in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that has literally been on the offensive from day one, my earnest hope is that Buhari maintains a zero margin for error. It is almost common knowledge among Nigerians that the PDP still rues the day they conceded power to APC. I believe that the doves in the party, led by Goodluck Jonathan, seemed to have been lured into conceding defeat in the belief that Buhari will forget the past and move on with the future. That he will not ruffle feathers. To their consternation, that has not been so. I believe that given the eventful outbursts of one of the PDP stalwarts, Godsday Orubebe, while the Chairman of the electoral commission (INEC), Attahiru Jega made the official announcement of the results of the presidential elections that fateful day, the disposition among the PDP hawks had been to create mayhem by contesting the election results. To his credit however, Jonathan knew better and conceded. Not for national interest but more as an act of self-preservation. He had read the ominous handwriting on the wall. And did not want to go down ingloriously like the knuckle-headed Laurent Gbagbo of the Ivory Coast.

Buhari must, in the light all these, realise that the ability to effectively execute on his offensive against corruption will be the best defence against the vituperations of the opposition party.

With a lifestyle like his, Buhari seems armed with the moral imperative needed to pursue his cleansing exercise to its logical conclusion. His antecedents from 1983 as military head of state holds him out as the right man for the job.

Those of us old enough to remember, will recall the successes of his War Against Indiscipline (WAI). Add this to his proven strength of character, evidenced by his non-capitulation and unwillingness to compromise during those 35 years in political purgatory, and all you have is a man who has more than mere pecuniary interests in seeking to serve his motherland.

Also working in his favour in the brewing war against corruption is the credibility deficiency of the PDP, which is why most Nigerians see it as the party of the moneybags – the type President Obama copiously referred to in his speech in Accra during his first Africa visit in 2009, when he said: “No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20 percent off the top or (where) the head of the Port Authority is corrupt.” And as if re-echoing what Obama had said, I heard Buhari tell a short story to a close-door meeting of a room full of US business leaders in DC about an American company that was made to wait for seven long years before it could commence business in Nigeria ostensibly to make room for kick-backs, bribes and all what not.

With the list of his assets now in the public domain, I believe that Buhari has fired the first real shot in the war against corruption. He has equally set the bar for all who aspire to public office in Nigeria, and invariably for himself.

That is why I will give my two pennies to support all those who say that it is about time that public service in Nigeria becomes the preserve of those who truly want to give of themselves to the common good of their fellow countrymen. Giving service for the heck of it should become the standard for every Nigerian. In today’s Nigeria, that is still an aberration.

And if my facts bear up, public office had always been a veritable means to wealth acquisition and accumulation among Nigerians. And as someone opined not too long ago, government is the only business in Nigeria. In Nigeria, you are either in the business of government or in the government of business.

Nigerians, to a very large extent, are good and decent people who desire to live in a decent society, which is why you find Nigerian nationals holding their own all over the world, and as a matter of course contributing constructively to the development of countries around the world.

To the opposition, my advice is simple. First clean your house; rid your party of the toga of corruption. Then can PDP come to the table with clean hands. Attacking Buhari and everything he stands for is poor gamesmanship. Nigerians deserve a better opposition party that will be issue-focused, chief among which is corruption.

However, corruption as a way of life has robbed the generality of Nigerians the opportunity to prosper and enjoy life due to the tyranny of the corrupt minority.

That’s why I believe that the Buhari/Osinbajo’s recent example bodes well for Nigeria’s future with the public declaration of their assets.

In this war against corruption, I am sure that there is already a column that is spoiling for a fight and ready to sabotage it. Like someone once said, when you fight corruption, corruption fights back. True. And if Buhari has to win this war, he must not shy away from any opportunity to use power. Corruption in Nigeria or anyway, for that matter, is vicious. If he and this new administration are to succeed, Buhari must push the envelope. To start with, the judiciary must be cleaned up and the new government in Abuja must rid the bench of all the dead weights, and unclog the wheel of justice. This should be carried out with all the presidential powers at Buhari’s disposal.

There are some who think that Buhari’s war against corruption is joke. I therefore adjure that all the gloves must be off in this fight if Nigeria is to win the war.

To the opposition, my advice is simple. First clean your house; rid your party of the toga of corruption. Then can PDP come to the table with clean hands. Attacking Buhari and everything he stands for is poor gamesmanship. Nigerians deserve a better opposition party that will be issue-focused, chief among which is corruption. As far as I am concerned, corruption is not politics but a life-and-death issue. If Nigeria must survive.

Meanwhile, I believe that Buhari’s stance on corruption will remain a tough act to follow until a serious opposition emerges on the scene.

At the end of it, I want the Nigerian people to come out of these as the winners. Especially the youths.

That is my story. And I stand by it.

Charles Anyiam is Editor-In-Chief, The African Times-USA.

 

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