By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
It is in the DNA of every Nigerian government to talk tough on fighting corruption.
This useable tactic of mass deceit did not start today.
Let it be known that the much-abused General Sani Abacha was in his time a very ferocious fighter of corruption.
From available records, the list of bank fraudsters Abacha sent to jail on account of the vexed matter of corruption reads like the who’s-who of the idle rich class of the Nigerian establishment.
It was only when death overthrew Abacha we started hearing stories of how the goggled one wrote new chapters into the book of corruption through direct stealing of government funds.
The Abacha money alerts being returned to Nigeria from all corners of the wide world every new day is now reportedly being re-looted, thus engendering monetary constipation in high places!
The Nigerian leaders who claim to abhor corruption remind me of the mythical Ghanaian bird known as the Chichidodo.
According to Ayi Kwei Armah in his inimitable novel The Beautyful Ones Are Not Born, “the chichidodo is a bird. The chichidodo hates excrement with all its soul. But the chichidodo only feeds on maggots, and you know the maggots grow best inside the lavatory. This is the chichidodo.”
Yes, Chichidodo hates shit but only eats worms that only feed on shit!
It is so like our professed anti-corruption leaders to hate the excrement of corruption only to keep the company of maggots that feed only on the shit of corruption.
In his 1987 book, Democracy and Prebendal Politics in Nigeria, Professor Richard Joseph described the gross appropriation of state offices, especially elected officials and government workers, and the corrupt diversion of their resources to serve themselves, their cronies and their ethnic and other identity groups.
The very insightful Professor Joseph thus chronicled the disorder, group conflicts and economic failings that all but doomed Nigeria to this day as stemming from Prebendalism.
According to Wikipedia, “Prebendalism refers to political systems where elected officials, and government workers feel they have a right to a share of government revenues, and use them to benefit their supporters, co-religionists and members of their ethnic group. The term is commonly used to describe the patterns of corruption in Nigeria.”
President Muhammadu Buhari stated from the very beginning that fighting corruption is the pivotal pillar of his change agenda.
Buhari initially touted the audit of the civil service. He has thus far refused to go the whole hog. The sparing of some sacred cows is the rule rather than the exception.
It needs to be recalled that during President Olusegun Obasanjo’s time the then Acting Auditor-General of the Federation, Chief Vincent Azie, published the 2001 audit report that indicted all tiers of government as being thoroughly corrupt.
For what ought to be his laudable job Chief Azie was sacked by President Obasanjo on February 10, 2003.
Azie had written a huge 301-page audit report divided into 434 sections in which he exposed how billions of Naira got siphoned through the purchase of what was termed “various items”.
Azie’s expose was a staggering case of collecting humongous amounts of money without making any purchases whatsoever, being paid for contracts not executed, collecting fuel cash for cars parked in houses out of region etc.
In his report, Azie even went further afield to expose how policemen were selling guns to robbers and sundry marauders!
All he got for his efforts was a sack from the Obasanjo regime that claimed to be engaged in a fight against corruption!
If Buhari insists on a thorough auditing of all government agencies as and when due as the constitution stipulates there may not even be the need for such quangos as the EFCC and the ICPC.
Corruption can be nipped in the bud if proper auditing is done instead of letting the corruption to accumulate before bringing in the EFCC and the ICPC to do some show trials.
It needs a recall that after overthrowing the Second Republic on the last day of 1983, Buhari undertook the prebendal path of putting the then President Shehu Shagari under house arrest while hurling Vice-President Dr Alex Ekwueme into prison.
When queried about this very curious development Buhari stressed that his government had found Ekwueme’s hands in the corruption of the overthrown regime.
Ekwueme was detained in the following Lagos addresses, namely: Bonny Camp, Victoria Island; Temple Road, Ikoyi; Kirikiri Maximum Security Prisons; Ikoyi Prisons; Hawksworth Avenue, Ikoyi; Barlow Street, Ikoyi; Ruxton Road, Ikoyi; and Milverton Road, Ikoyi.
Ekwueme had the last laugh on Buhari when the Justice Samson Uwaifo Tribunal set up by Military President Ibrahim Babangida to try the detained politicians eventually set Ekwueme free, stating that punishing Ekwueme would amount to “setting a standard of morality too high for saints in politics in a democracy to observe.”
Nigerians still remember the 1984 closing of all borders for the change of the Naira when the mysterious 53 suitcases passed through the airport and thoroughly embarrassed the then Buhari military regime.
Such embarrassments are now all over the place in the civilian dispensation.
There are maggots all over the place eating the excrement of corruption.
The government doesn’t take shit but delights in eating maggots that feed only on shit.
Let’s zoom to a virtual party of the Chichidodo Government!