Overt public sentiments against corruption and the allegedly corrupt, have never been strident as they have been in the last one year. More than anything else, the promise to tackle corruption head on, was the main current that overwhelmingly swept President MuhammaduBuhari into power in an unprecedented manner. And it remains one of the major promises the President has kept among a plethora made by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) before demolishing PDP’s 16-year old government.
I have been hesitant in blaming Mr. President for not keeping promises because, in my own view, he has kept almost all the promises he made; that is, those promises he actually made. Those he appears not to have kept were made on his behalf by desperate party stalwarts given to propaganda. President Buhari does not indulge in propaganda. He is known to be a man of few words who would rather take action. He promised to tackle Boko Haram and significant success has been recorded in that area.
He promised to fight corruption and he is doing it, though some of his approaches may be controversial. He is known to be frugal with resources, though most of his current economic policies are said to be increasing misery, at least at the moment. But he is keeping those few promises he made. He never promised to give N5,000 stipend to extremely poor Nigerians. He did not say fuel would sell for N50 a litre under his government. Providing a meal, a day, for school children was also not his promise. Nigerians know those who made these bogus promises just to grab power. It is these people citizens should hold responsible, not Mr. President.
Among the promises that came directly from Mr. President and to which he has remained faithful, the fight against corruption is apparently the dearest to him. One can even accuse him of being too emotional with the crusade; but his is an emotion birthed by passion: the passion to change his people to change his nation. Going by public sentiments, most Nigerians appear to be on the same page with him on this. Random observations of public discourses across a wide range of communication platforms in the country, reveals that anti-corruption narratives have been dominant. The passion and emotion of Mr. President in his fight against the menace appears infectious. But, is the public really on the same page with the President on this? Do Nigerians really abhor corruption? I do not think so.
While we are vociferous in our call for the eradication of corruption, our hearts are actually with the corrupt. This is because, in my considered opinion, Nigerians are supporters of corruption. Our system supports corruption. Our institutions support corruption. The way we have chosen to practice our adopted foreign religions supports corruption. This is one major reason why the incredulity that follows the revelation of monumental corruption by our leaders remains a mere vapour. It fizzles out as soon as it is expressed; because we are all guilty.
We are guilty not because most of us have stolen part or much of our common patrimony directly or indirectly. Our guilt is derived from the pressure we mount on political office holders from our various communities to take care of their constituents. The guilt is powered by the ridiculous demands we place on them. Most times, we expect them to solve our individual and personal problems instead of holding them to account on the ground of providing for the common good. We expect them to be responsible for our pregnant wives, our children’s school fees, and, even the feeding of our households. Many may blame this on the pervasive poverty in the land but will the law forgive a thief who pleads poverty as the cause of his or her action? Is poverty enough reason for mounting ceaseless pressure on political office holders for financial assistance?
Another dimension to this is the fact that our society rewards the few, who may have chosen integrity over corruption with contempt. Such people are seen as not being smart. They are branded as those who ‘’can never make it,’’ having wasted the opportunity to cut their own slices of the national cake. I do not know of any community that rewards their sons or daughters with honours for integrity after public service. Instead, such people will be derided, secluded and avoided.
It is from this prism that I consider the anti-corruption ship of President Buhari as heading nowhere. For the anti-corruption crusade to succeed, the government must first address the fundamentals. These include massive job creation; equal opportunities for all; value re-orientation; restructuring of the polity; wealth redistribution; review of extant electoral laws, especially to lessen emphasis on money politics; upward review of the national minimum wage and restructuring of the public service sector, among others.
Current approaches to economic management, are to me, antithetical to the fight against corruption. We cannot expect the crusade to produce positive results when government is reeling out policies that add to the misery of citizens. For instance, reality is the fuel price hike from N86 to N145, occasioned by removal of subsidy, has increased economic hardships. Regardless of the gain of availability being brandished by the government, how many Nigerians can afford to buy petrol under present economic regime? I equally disagree with those who opine that the increment has forced citizens to manage resources.
I wonder if proponents of the astronomical increase never considered the domino effects of that policy, especially on consumables and other goods and services. One does not need a Professor of Economics to confirm that it was the hike in fuel price that led to the increase in the prices of goods and services. I also think it is trite knowledge that no anti-corruption crusade can succeed in a country ravaged by hunger and deprivation. For these reasons and more, Nigerians can be said to abhor corruption only with their lips, their hearts will continue to be with corruption and the corrupt as everyone continues to devise alternative means of survival. Mr. President should first tackle the roots of corruption before addressing the effects.
. Oladokun wrote from Abuja