Nwabuzor's Panorama

Cleaning of the Augean stable appears to have begun by using a 'dirty broom.' For the cleaning to be thorough, the broom must be washed and cleansed of all dirt.
Monday, April 18, 2005

Steve U. Nwabuzor


ince the last commentary in this column, I have been inundated with e-mails reacting to the article "Bribery and hypocritical grandstanding." Readers have always expressed their opinions via e-mail but none of my commentaries has been misunderstood as the referenced article. Most respondent's reactions oozed out of ignorance, superficial analyses and mischief. Others grasped the essence of anchoring the nation on pillars of transparent democracy and fairness, and a few thought that one should have spiced the comments with praises which would have helped the ego of the president in this 'courageous way' of announcing the 'bribery-for-budget' scandal.

Obviously, no Nigerian is unaware of the corruption in high and low places. It is commonplace, and in fact some grew up knowing that corruption is a national pastime. Little wonder why any glimmer of hope, no matter how ill-executed, excites the sensations of majority of Nigerians. In the usual manner of fleeting excitability, most are ready to throw away due process and obvious lapses, forgetting the long term goal of erecting a solid foundation for the nation.

This writer is an uncompromising advocate of good governance and is averse to dictatorial tendencies in a democratic setting. It would be unfair and rather extreme to demand that a saint rules Nigeria for one is aware that politics the world over is a profession that beckons, in the main, to the double-speak, who promise all bounties and deliver minimally. Only in few African nations with deep cultural values and good leadership antecedents do we find pragmatic and positive results from their political class.

As one that grew up in a Nigeria where integrity, accountability and service were clearly visible, it is not out of place to demand that we improve the way of doing business. Corruption is not limited only to bribery. It is an elastic vice that pools an array of improprieties, complicities, appropriations, nepotism and the like. It stultifies national growth by suffocating the productivity of the people. However, in the euphoria of the moment, it is easy to fall into the trap of shunning other derivatives of corruption and consume ourselves with the case at hand.

In tackling the corruption menace in Nigeria, it is important that the process be panoramic, methodical, transparent, fair and not tilted to fighting political enemies or perceived opponents. A judiciary that is independent and fair must be in place. That is, a judiciary not influenced by any tier of government, executive or legislative. Right now, Nigerians are aware that some in the judiciary have been compromised as typified by retired Justice Egboh Egboh in the handling of the Bola Ige murder trial and the Wabara selection into the senate. Some have indicated that the bar of public opinion is better than the court of justice, a reason that is given to support the TV announcement of the 'bribery-for-budget' scandal?

The role of this column is to draw attention to lapses in governance when they occur. It is not in the business of stroking anybody's ego. Nigerians pay those in government to serve and reciprocally expect good return for their money. This much can be justifiably demanded after six years of junketing, filibusters, impeachments and unfulfilled promises by the executive and legislative arms of government at all levels.

It is my sincere belief that a poisoned tree cannot beget good fruits. The PDP is akin to a corrupt tree that has borne no good fruits in this democratic dispensation. Apparent that Nigerians are unruffled by the process that foisted political shenanigans into the center stage of governance. Even with this complacent disposition to accept the PDP majority and its leadership, would it be too much to ask these politicians to inform us of their assets at swearing in, their current assets and after they leave office? As it is now, the information is not readily available for perusal as this would help in balancing assets against their earnings.

Notwithstanding public statements of personal probity by any public official, good level playing field demands that the books of all be made available in the public domain for scrutiny. And when issues of appropriations are raised about public officials, verbal denials and bravado do not suffice, but documents corroborating these denials must be tendered. It is by so doing that any leader or political office holder can confidently carry the people along. The recourse to using sycophantic megaphones, as bull dogs, to denigrate any critic of government only begs the issue.

Cleaning of the Augean stable appears to have begun by using a 'dirty broom.' For the cleaning to be thorough, the broom must be washed and cleansed of all dirt. In this wise, President Olusegun Obasanjo cannot sit down and just dare critics. He owes it to the people to publicly declare his assets. It is by so doing that tongues now wagging would be mute.

The President should take care of his own business first, and give answers to the following questions that bother Nigerians:

  1. Why Otta farm has suddenly risen from the brink of bankruptcy?

  2. Where the fund to build a Bell University is to be sourced?

  3. Why he receives $250,000/month from Otta farm and still gets his salary as president of the Republic? And, why the latter is not a conflict of interest?

  4. President's role in the ALSCON sales must be made public.

  5. What his wife's family (Abebes) does to afford about N321 million for the aborted Ikoyi Housing sale?

  6. The account of the Petroleum Ministry for which he is the Minister must be published and he should inform us if any member of his family sits on the Board of petroleum companies operating in Nigeria?

  7. Why the president failed to report Ngige and Uba to the court of law when they confessed that the gubernatorial election in Anambra was rigged?

In fact, there are many questions for the president. Until the above are answered, one would say that the president's daring of critics is just "shakara oloje," apology to Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. Thus according to a respectable Nigerian, it is time to call the bluff of the President and to provide incriminatory information, if any, or forever let the rumormongers hold their peace. We need the president to open up. It is then it can be said that fighting off corruption has commenced in earnest.