Strategic Opinions

And Buhari Buried The War Against Corruption

By Kazeem Akintunde

In the build up to the 2015 Presidential election, there was the need to formally introduce Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retired) who has emerged the candidate of the All Progressive Congress, APC, to some editors. The venue was the State House, Marina, and he was led to the meeting by the then governor of Lagos State, Raji Fashola, SAN. In his prepared address, Buhari assured editors present at the meeting that his administration, if elected, would secure Nigeria and tackle corruption. He also promised to put in place a very strong team to revive the dwindling economic fortunes of the country.

 After reading the address, it was time for questions and answers that would enable the editors have an insight into the mind and thinking of the man but his handlers told shocked editors that he had another appointment somewhere and he won’t be able to entertain questions. He left immediately and Fashola was the one that provided answers to most of the questions meant for the retired general.

With the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that the APC sold a very bad product to Nigerians in 2015 and repeated same four years later. This is because the two cardinal programmes Buhari promised Nigerians – tackle insecurity and robust anti-corruption war are long dead. Under his watch, many states in Nigeria are no longer safe and are under the control of terrorists and bandits including the president’s home state-Katsina. This year alone, over 2000 Nigerians have been killed by terrorists and bandits operating in the North East and North West of Nigeria respectively. Several millions of naira have been paid as ransom by Nigerians to secure the release of their loved ones from bandits who have now turned kidnapping to a lucrative business. Farmers can no longer go to the farm due to the activities of criminal elements that have taken over the business of cattle rearing. Seven states in the North have been flagged by the United States of America, which has warned its citizens not to venture into. Sophisticated weapons are now in the hands of non-state actors with which they maim, kill and terrorise the rest of the country.

The other day, a train was bombed off its tracks with several passenger killed while others were abducted. It is over a month now and the abducted passengers are still with the terrorists, bringing the fight against corruption that our president promised and which attracted many to his side, to mere rhetorics. In fact, it is safe to say that the talk has been dead on arrival. Where there were doubts, the President formally buried them few days ago when he granted pardon to two convicted former governors, Joshua Dariye of Plateau State and Jolly Nyame of Taraba State.

Nyame and Dariye were accused of corruptly enriching themselves at public expense. Dariye, who was Plateau Governor between 1999 and 2007, was charged for money laundering of the sum of N1.16 billion. His matter went from the High Court all the way to the Supreme Court, at the end of which he was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment by the High Court. This was later reduced to 10 years by the Court of Appeal, and his conviction was finally upheld by the Supreme Court. Nyame, Governor of Taraba state between 1999 and 2007, was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. Now both men have been freed courtesy of a state pardon granted them by President Buhari.

Many Nigerians are aghast. Femi Falana SAN, Jubrin Sam Okutepa, SAN, Governor Nyesom Wike, Reno Omokri and a host of others have all condemned the state pardon granted to the duo. In his Easter homily on April 17, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto said there are many innocent people languishing inside Nigeria’s “broken system” who should also be freed.

The state pardon has demoralized many officials of the anti-corruption agency, the ICPC, the EFCC and their lawyers are alarmed at the shocking turn of events, especially as the agency spent 11 years and millions of Naira on investigations and prosecution of the two former Governors, who, by the pardon, are now free to roam the world as saints.

Rivers state Governor, Nyesom Wike says the judges who convicted both men have been exposed to ridicule, and that the pardon is politically motivated as both men – Nyame and Dariye – are members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). 

As if that was not enough, the APC under Buhari’s watch has gone ahead to fix humongous amounts of money for its presidential aspirants and others offices in the build up to the 2023 general elections.

According to the schedule of fees for expression of interest and nomination forms released by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party, governorship aspirants must cough out N50 million, contenders for the Senate, N20 million, House of Representatives N10 million, while state House of Assembly aspirants would purchase theirs at N2 million. For presidential aspirants, it’s pegged at a whopping N100m.

The N100 million for Presidential nomination form is over 100 per cent increase from the amount it sold the form for the same office in 2018, at N45 million; and nearly 200 per cent hike from N27 million it sold the forms in 2014. The N100 million fee is also more than double the fee of the major opposition party, People’s Democratic Party (PDP)’s, fixed at N40 million for its Presidential nomination forms.

Again, many Nigerians are still in a state of quandary as to why Buhari would allow such under his watch. This was the same Buhari that told Nigerians that he took a loan in 2014 for him to be able to buy the same form when it was pegged at N27m.

Already, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), has urged the EFCC and the ICPC to probe the source of wealth of any presidential aspirant who picks the APC presidential nomination and expression of interest forms at that ridiculous amount. HURIWA said: “Anyone who buys the nomination form at such a scandalous amount should be arrested and handed over to law enforcement agencies such as EFCC or ICPC or the Nigeria Police Force for investigation on the source of the money.

“We only just finished carpeting the opposition PDP for bastardising the process of nominating its presidential candidate by inflating the cost of its nomination form to N40 million, little did we know that the politicians who run the Federal Government and have ruined the national economy will peg theirs at the extravagant cost of N100 million.

“It is a shame that those who seek to govern Nigeria are made to cough out so much money to purchase forms just to signpost their original intention as persons whose only objective would be to first recoup their huge investments and to further impoverish the citizenry.”

Also describing the cost of APC form as shameful, another rights group, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), has called on all Nigerians to condemn money politics.

In a statement by Executive Director, CISLAC/Chairman, Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani), the body said: “It is shameful that the ruling party, that the President belongs to, has endorsed the expression of interest and nomination forms for its presidential ticket at N100 million. This is especially at a time when many have expressed dissatisfaction with the level of youth participation in partisan politics and called for deliberate measures to create the enabling environment for wider inclusion and active participation of women and youths in politics and governance of the country.

“A key question to ask is, ‘who can legally afford N100 million for a Presidential ambition?’ This despicable decision by the APC begs this question as it only serves to marginalise youths, women and average citizens.

“Despite claims of a 50 per cent reduction in nomination fees for women and youths, it clearly shows that N50 million remains higher than the 2019 Presidential aspirant fee, which was N45 million. This will apparently exclude the youths, women and average Nigerians who have clamored for improve opportunities to exercise their rights to declare their interests and contest in the elections.

Indeed, the N100m needed to purchase the forms is far above the entire President’s salary for the eight years he would spend in office and what this has shown is the fact that many of those angling to rule us are after their pockets. If to purchase the forms alone could cost as much, it is better imagined what it would take for them to get to the office and only a mad man would invest close to N10billion on a project without thinking of how he would recoup such funds. Then the endless corruption circle will continue.

It is now clear that only those at the corridors of power, who have stolen huge sums of money from the system would continue to recycle themselves from one office to the other while the masses will continue to suffer. But we cannot continue on this path. It is time for the masses to wake up and rescue the country from political bandits at the helms of affairs in Nigeria. This is not the democracy we prayed for and which some of us suffered to enthrone in Nigeria. This is a government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich. Now is the time for the down-trodden to take their country back from traders and businessmen who call themselves politicians next year or Nigeria would continue on its sloppy descent to a failed state.

Buhari that promised to tackle corruption, secure Nigeria and put in place a team that would revive the economy has failed on all scores. The process of getting it right next year has already been skewed in favour of their friends and buccaneers. God will save us in Nigeria.

See you next week.

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