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1 Aug 2017

A change betrayed

The All Progressives Congress came to power on the mantra of change. During the electioneering, its theme and slogan was “APC Change” and the party’s main focus for this change was the fight against corruption. Before then, Nigerians had come to see corruption as the worst problem hindering the country’s development. It was therefore not a surprise that on the day of election, Nigerians voted massively for the APC and in particular its presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari. Nigerians appeared tired of wearing, over the years, the toga of corruption. Hitherto, Nigeria was perceived as one of the most corrupt nations in the world.
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On assumption of office, President Buhari made the fight against corruption a top priority of his government. He set up a Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption headed by Prof Itse Sagay. He also implemented the Treasury Single Account and introduced the whistle-blower policy. These policies among others are meant to address the menace of corruption in Nigeria. Unfortunately and disappointingly, corruption is fighting back, as they say, from all the three arms of government including the ruling party, the APC. In the process, they did not only fight against the anti-corruption war, they ended up betraying the change.

Zuzanne Collins once said that for there to be a betrayer, there would have been trust first. That trust was there as demonstrated by Nigerians when they voted massively for the APC in the 2015 elections.

The first to betray the change is the party. The APC through its lack of internal democracy could not decide the party’s choice of leadership to drive the change at the National Assembly. As a result, the party in a last-minute attempt at resolving the issue of the National Assembly leadership, called a meeting of its members a few hours before its inauguration. This decision by the APC leadership to schedule such a crucial meeting on the morning of the inauguration of the National Assembly was not only naive, it was an unpardonable error of judgment. The party should have resolved the issue of the National Assembly leadership before then knowing the crucial role the legislative arm is expected to play in enacting laws that will enhance change and the fight against corruption. The emergence therefore of the National Assembly leadership as against the choice of the party is the greatest betrayal of the change and the APC as a party cannot be absolved of the blame. To complete the betrayer, a PDP senator emerged as the Deputy Senate President. Other acts of betrayer by the party include internal wrangling for political appointments, ill-feelings and bad blood generated among members on who to carry the party’s mandate after the death of Prince Audu in Kogi State as well as the acrimony that attended the Ondo State party primaries to elect the party’s torch bearer for the governorship election. The APC, a rainbow party, formed by four or more political parties, has never been able to carry along the majority of its members on the path of change due to lack of cohesion and weak leadership. Thus, as a party, it has abandoned the ship of change in the middle of the sea and has since joined forces with those opposed to the fight against corruption and change.

The National Assembly, right from the beginning, has never been part of the change. Although the APC constitutes the majority in the parliament, the members of the National Assembly left no one in doubt as to their intention to betray the change. It all started with the padding of the first national budget under President Buhari’s administration which eventually led to the suspension of a member of the House of Representatives. The purchase of exotic utility vehicles by the National Assembly for its members for oversight functions in a period of recession is not the change Nigerians voted for. Furthermore, bills that will promote change and enhance the fight against corruption have yet to be passed. These include the anti-graft bill and the special criminal court bill. Not only that, the lawmakers have also refused to confirm the appointment of the EFCC Chairman who the government and the people of Nigeria believe is doing a good job. It took the National Assembly six months to pass the 2017 national budget that is expected to drive the economy out of recession and even at that with so much controversy. It is obvious from the action and inaction of the National Assembly that it is not on the side of change or the fight against corruption even when the majority of its members were voted into the parliament on the mantra of change.

The judiciary is not left out in the betrayer of change and in the fight against corruption. The President once said that the Judiciary was the biggest barrier to his administration’s fight against corruption. Some of the pronouncements from the judiciary leave much to be desired. Cases are thrown out based on technicalities. The judiciary is also known for granting frivolous injunctions to corrupt individuals thereby providing them the sanctuary to avoid justice. There is therefore a need for judges to look beyond the letter of the law to the spirit of the law which is the principle behind the intention of the law. The letter of the law should not alone determine culpability. One can violate the spirit of the law and incur culpability. In fact, S.M. Gracia believes that violating the spirit of the law accounts for culpability above and beyond breaking the mere letter. The judiciary is so important to government and to democracy and to the success of the fight against corruption in such a way that it has to be in tandem with change.

The executive is not left out in the betrayer of the change otherwise how do you explain the damaging report from the Department of Security Services which was the basis for the non-confirmation of the acting EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, by the National Assembly? What do you make of the controversial release by the Nigerian Prisons Service of a former Adamawa State ex-governor, Bala Ngilari, from prison without allowing him to serve out his five-year jail term? What of the N20bn contingency fund in the budget of the Ministry of Works, Power and Housing for an economy in recession? What about a situation where presidential aides and even the Attorney General of the Federation referring to the policy statement of the Acting President on the non-confirmation of Magu as his personal opinion? The executive has become a House of Babel in league with the party, the legislators, and the judiciary to betray the change.

It is therefore obvious that the party and all the three tiers of government have betrayed the change and the fight against corruption leaving the President, his deputy and Nigerians who voted change to continue the struggle. Unfortunately for the President, his ill-health and old age both mischievously conspired together to betray the change. One cannot fail but to ask in the words of Jim Reeves in one of his songs, “Where do we go from here?”

I believe it is not yet to Thy tent oh Israel, but we are not far from it. May God save Nigeria just as we pray for the quick recovery of Buhari.

Brig. Gen. Ojo (retd), a strategist and security expert, wrote in from Lokoja via delemopa@yahoo.com

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