By Muyiwa Olayinka
Nigeria is about to go to the polls for the 2019 general election. The political landscape has been revived and will get to its feverish peak as we inch closer to February 2019 next year.
It is imperative for the electorates to have facts and take stocks, knowledgeable enough to choose the right candidates to fill most of the vacant political offices in 2019.
Nigeria has more than 60 political parties registered by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), but some of them are just in existence with mere names and appellations. Realistically, the two dominant parties are the ruling party APC (All Progressive Party) and the opposition party, PDP ( Peoples Democratic Party)
A lot has been said about these two dominant parties
Many topical issues involving them have been interpreted with biased prism of political interpretations. Facts have been colored with fictions. Political brick bats between the two drivers and supporters of the dominant parties have made it so difficult to identify real issues.
Before I go further, there is a need to understand the evolution of the two parties
PDP evolved from the G8 later became G34 during the military rule of late General Abacha. It was a pressure group formed to put an end to the ambition of late General’s hidden agenda, transmuting himself to a democratically elected President of Nigeria. Unfortunately Abacha died and unable to execute his sinister plan. He was succeeded by General Abdulsalami Abubakar.
Abubakar lifted ban on politics paving way for the return of Nigeria to democratic rule.
With the planned return to civilian rule, in 1998, the exiting pressure groups and others coalesce together to form PDP. PDP became a national party, won the general election in 1999 and ruled for 16 years uninterrupted till 2015
APC is the formation of legacy parties of CPC, ACN, ANPP and a faction of APGA. They merged together to become a major force to challenge the ruling party.of PDP APC won a four year term in the general election of 2015, becoming the first successful political merger in Nigeria
.Both parties have been trading blames over the current situation of things in Nigeria This article is not meant to join the fray but to highlight how Nigeria has fared with both parties.
This is a four part series that will focus on corruption, economy, security and foreign relations
Corruption has been the bane of many nations of the world. Many nations have come up with bold initiatives to curb this menace. Some nations have been able to reduce it drastically, to the barest minimum, while some are still bedeviled with corruption.
Nigeria is not an exception.
When PDP took over in 1999, corruption was synonymous with military rule. Succinctly put, successive military governments almost destroyed the fabrics of the nation with corruption.
During military rule, it was so rife that it is perceived that every Nigerian has a price and they can be ‘settled’. The Ibrahim Babangida’s military government introduced this ‘settlement’ syndrome.
The Abacha government that succeeded it made it worse; himself and his family were accused of stealing more than $4 billion from government’s coffers through dubious oil and shady deals.
Successive governments have recovered huge sums of money from the Abacha family trapped in western countries like Switzerland and Lichtenstein.
Recently President Buhari’s government confirmed the receipt of $322 million from the Abacha family
According to available reports, Nigeria has lost billions of dollars through corruption. Money meant for critical and sectoral developments have found ways into private pockets and foreign accounts
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international body set up to combat money laundering, terrorist financing and other related financial crimes impressed on Nigeria to have an institution to fight financial financial crimes.
In furtherance to this request, the PDP government of Obasanjo set up EFCC ( Economic Financial Crime Commission) in 2003 to combat financial crimes. prior to the establishment of EFCC, Obasanjo established the ICPC (Independent Corrupt Practices Commission) in 2000 through an act of the National Assembly. ICPC became a sister agency to support EFCC in fighting corruption.
Mallam Nuhu Ribadu was made the pioneer head of EFCC and he was passionate, patriotic, diligent and successful in prosecuting many high profile cases. Former governors Diepreye Alamaseigha, and James Ibori, former Inspector General Police Tafa Balogun, are examples of politically exposed VIP that were jailed.
One of the richest men in Nigeria, Dr Michael Adenuga lived in exile in Ghana as a result of suspicious business relationships with the then Vice President Abubakar Atiku..
Many top bankers and captains of industry such as the defunct Oceanic Bank’s Managing Director Cecilia Ibru and Erastus Akingbola of Intercontinental Bank, were apprehended and their properties confiscated
Properties of 419 kingpins such as Emmanuel Nwude who defrauded one Nelson Sakaguchi, a former director of a Sao Paolo based bank were seized and confiscated. This fraud of $242m committed by Nwude is one of the biggest financial crimes in the world.
EFCC entered some plea bargaining with alleged looters to fast track some cases for loots to be quickly recovered. This is to avoid less litigations and payment of legal fee that ran into millions of Naira.
When APC came on board in 2015, it brought the needed fillip to the fight against corruption. Many revelations came to the fore of how many top Nigerian politicians diverted public funds into personal use. Public funds were used to finance political campaigns. Top military brass in charge of security agencies diverted monies meant to fight insurgency to personal use.
For example about $25 billion entrusted to the office of the national security adviser (ONSA) were spent frivolously and recklessly on expenses that were shady and questionable. The ONSA became a conduit pipe to satisfy the inanities of political office holders of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
EFCC traced millions of dollars to the his wife, Patience Goodluck’s various private accounts despite the fact that she does not engage in notable private businesses.
As corruption had eaten deep in our political and economic life, the judiciary were not excused from the malaise. The bar and the bench are seriously eroded and compromised. The lawyers know all the tricks in the book to delay and subvert convictions .
The Buhari government took the fight to the judiciary. He arrested many judges and were summarily arraigned in law courts. But unfortunately, most of the cases did not see the light of day. Cases were botched and frustrated, through technicalities and deliberate connivance with sections of the judiciary. Many of the judges accused of corruption were summarily discharged and acquitted.
The Buhari government implemented the Treasury Single Account( TSA) initiated by his predecessor to plug loopholes in federal government’s account.
In a bid to bolster government’s effort to curb corruption, it recently released names of people alleged to have looted state funds. The public showed apathy to the names released because it was politically motivated. Only the names of the opposition party PDP made the list.
Names like former Secretary to the Government of the Federal (SGF) Babachir Lawal who was removed from office over financial scandal was omitted. Another example is the personal friend of Mr Buhari who returned N100 million.
Despite efforts made by APC and PDP to fight corruption, the nation have not had favorable ratings from Transparency International (TI), the international watchdog on corruption.
In 2001, before the establishment of EFCC, 91 nations were ranked by TI with the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) Nigeria came 90th only surpassing Bangladesh
In 2004, a year after the establishment of EFCC in 2003, 146 nations were ranked Nigeria was 144th above Haiti and Bangladesh.
But surprisingly, despite the bashing and public spat received from Nigerians and opposition party APC, that President Goodluck Jonathan’s government as is the most corrupt, the nation got the highest rating of CPI between 2011- 2014, the period he was in power. President Jonathan ruled from 2010 to 2015
Nigeria was ranked 143 in 2011, 139th in 2012, 144th in 2013 and 136th in 2014 out of 175 nations under consideration.Therefore we had the best rating in 2014, during the regime that was classified as the most corrupt in Nigeria!
Unfortunately Nigeria lost what she gained in 2018 with ranking of 148th out of 180 countries.
So what went wrong?
I have repeatedly argued that corruption is a symptom of a major disease.
Corruption is not curbed because Nigeria is operating a dysfunctional system. The disease therefore is the dysfunctional and an alien system borrowed from the US.
Nigeria copied the political presidential system of governance but refused to embrace the financial autonomy of a federal structure.
USA operates a federal structure in its entirety but Nigeria a quasi federal state practices a unitary system.
Nigeria cannot continue to treat the symptoms while the disease is festering.
A system that gave so much power and the financial wealth of the nation to the political leaders, at the top will be taking faltering steps.The President and the 36 governors were giving enormous powers by the unitary constitution of 1999. We operate a top down approach where the minority political leaders control the purse of the nation to the detriment of the majority .
The power given to the President and the governors by the 1999 constitution, allows them to spend security votes encourages corruption. Security votes in Nigeria, is like a blank cheque to be spent as they wish. It is not accounted for and cannot be audited. It is free money that is spent a la carte.
This strange arrangement has to be dispensed off to ensure transparency and accountability.
On monthly basis the federal government and the state government meet in Abuja (capital city) to share from the federation account. A rent system with a weak and porous internal mechanism to checkmate political leaders. They become feudal lords dispensing largesse at their whims and caprices..
Ordinary citizens become poor, helpless and too weak to fight the system, majority of Nigerians are in a rat race, looking up for political favors
When the political leaders leave offices, they have acquired so much to fight the weak system.. It is common in Nigeria for corruption cases to drag on for 20 to 25 years without any conviction.
President Obasanjo was able to successfully prosecute a sitting governor ( Diepreye Alamaseigha) by subverting the laws of the land.
This dysfunctional system is fraught with weak checks and balances, weak support institutions, has to be tinkered with before we can win the war against corruption. It is only in Nigeria that a serving President can demand money from the Central Bank Governor on promissory notes.
Transparency International considers strong institutional framework established by nations.. They take into consideration the prevention of commission of an act of corruption rather than prosecution that could take eternity
In a nutshell, we are still scratching the surface in the fight against corruption.
Complete overhaul of this system will minimize corruption to its barest form
So has Nigeria fared better in the fight against corruption?