During his campaign tours nationwide, President Muhammadu Buhari indeed promised Nigerians that if elected, he will fight corruption holistically. Over five months on the saddle, what we have seen thus far is a selective fight against corruption writes Dozie Emmanuel.
It was indeed a sigh of relief to many Nigerians when Muhammadu Buhari won the 2015 Presidential elections. It was widely believed that few months into his administration, Nigerians would certainly have something to cheer in terms of showing corrupt government officials the back door. But lo and behold, what we have seen and witnessed so far is nothing but a mere witch hunt against the opposition.
Under Buhari’s government, it is quite difficult to explain how former PDP governors and ministers are being hounded and arrested over allegation bordering on corruption, while their APC counterparts, who have more damaging petitions, are being nominated for ministerial positions. In fact, many have described this as a typical example of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
In the last five months, the ruling party has practically equipped the State Security Service, SSS to hunt down members of the opposition party at all cost. It first started with the sacking of Mr. Ita Ekpenyong and appointment of Buhari’s kinsman, Lawal Musa Daura. Since then, the service has become a willing tool used by the Presidency to attack any perceived enemy or opposition.
The most recent onslaught against the opposition party was the invitation of the Senate Minority Leader and former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Senator Godswill Akpabio for questioning over a petition addressed to President Buhari and the EFCC by one Leo Ekpenyong, alleging that Senator Akpabio, fraudulently converted N108.1 billion belonging to state during his tenure.
Ironically, other former governors of APC, who have on-going corruption cases in court, are being rewarded with APC tickets for the forthcoming governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states.
Worried by these seeming attacks on its members, the party has taken a swipe at Buhari and All Progressives Congress, APC. In a press statement, the party described the attacks against its members as politically motivated and targeted at weakening it ahead of the 2019 elections.
“The orchestrated investigation of Senator Akpabio is politically motivated and targeted at weakening the PDP for 2019 elections, by virtue of his being the face of opposition in the National Assembly. It is also part of the fight by the Presidency to weaken the legislature as an arm of government and prevent it from effectively carrying out its constitutional role of checks and balances in a democracy.
“Whereas the PDP has over time restated its support for a credible, holistic fight against corruption, unfolding events have confirmed our position that this administration is only using the anti-corruption posture as a tool to witch-hunt PDP members and perceived political opponents.
“We are aware that having realized that Nigerians have seen through their propaganda, deceit and lies, as well as their ineptitude in handling governance, the APC government is now mortally afraid of the on-going rebuilding in the PDP to take over power in 2019 and is as such, applying every negative means to decimate our great party, including the relentless victimization of our key members.
“It is clear that the same dictatorial tendencies manifested during the military regime of 1984 are being presently applied in the polity in an attempt to discredit PDP members and weaken our great party ahead of 2019.
“The APC and its government have been busy denigrating the PDP and trying to appropriate our achievements, while at the same time blackmailing, hounding and harassing our elected members with the aim to cow and force them to leave the PDP and join their party.
“We have verifiable reports from our key members that agents of the APC have been approaching them to join the APC with threats to use the EFCC to victimize them should they refuse. The APC and its agents have been boasting that they have the powers to deal with or spare any person, depending on the party such person belongs.
“This clearly explains why the so-called fight against corruption has been selective and focused against PDP members, despite counsel by stakeholders that it should be holistic and in accordance with due process of the law,” the party stated.
But the special adviser to the President on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, said, “The opposition seems to have run out of ideas so soon. Daily, we hear the same jaded, hackneyed allegations from them. I think they really are to be pitied. They need help. A broken record that repeats itself ceaselessly is of no use than to be thrown away.”
One wonders how far the present administration can go in the fight against corruption and corrupt government officials if it continues to hunt and hound perceived political enemies. No doubt, the development has left a sour taste even in the mouth of Buhari’s admirers, who hitherto argue that the fight against corruption should be drastic and holistic.
Therefore, it is right to say that so far, Nigerians have not felt the impact of Buhari’s anti-corruption war despite his campaign promises that he would hit the ground running and be fair to all.
The President should know that as far as corruption is concerned, he needs the legislature and judiciary to pull through; it is not a fight he can embark upon alone. For instance, the National Assembly can make law by way of empowering the anti graft agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC. The lawmakers are also constitutionally empowered to oversight government ministries, departments and agencies to ensure that funds appropriated are properly utilized.
In line with its legislative agenda, the 8th House of Representatives pledged total support for Buhari’s government in the fight against corruption. At its inaugural meeting at the National Assembly, Chairman of Public Accounts Committee, PAC Hon. Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers) said the committee has the mandate to expose corruption, inefficiency and waste of public funds by public officials in the country. The chairman noted that Section 88 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria and House Rules vested the committee with the powers to change the courses of action on which the APC clinched power in the 2015 general elections. Chinda explained that PAC is one of the special committees recognized by the constitution of the country with the mandate to expose corruption and wastages in the public sector.
He observed that two committees of the House: the Public Accounts and Finance Committees have the constitutional powers that are clearly spelt out in the constitution, adding that its members are selected from various states of the federation to oversight government agencies. The lawmaker further hinted that the committee would engage in training and retraining of its members and staffers to achieve maximum results in the onerous task of exposing corruption in the country.
“This committee is the one vested with the responsibility that the change that Nigerians are yearning for can be put to light. I am talking of positive changes that will touch positively on the lives of Nigerians,” Chinda pointed out.
Interestingly, Nigerians still believe in Buhari’s anti corruption campaign in spite that his government has started on a shaky note. The President should, therefore work closing with other arms of government in fighting corruption holistically rather than unleashing officials of the SSS on members of the opposition party. Of course, this is the only way the positive change being canvassed by the lower chamber and indeed Nigerians can be achieved.