OBJ ON CORRUPTION

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OBJ ON CORRUPTION: A THUMB UP BUTÖ

 

By

 

Paul Mamza

mamzapaul@yahoo.com

 

 

 

March 26, 2005

 

 

The President Olusegun Obasanjoís high sounding speech to the nation on the fateful day of 22nd March, 2005 reminds one of the 31st December, 1983 coup speech that ousted Alhaji Shehu Shagariís government except that there was no marshal music to match it.

Like the Lord of the manors, the President descended on the cream of the former Minister of Education, Professor Fabian Osuji; the Senate President, Chief Adolphus Wabara; Senator John Azuta Mbata, Chairman, Senate Appropriation Committee; Senator Ibrahim Abdulazeez, Chairman, Senate Committee of Education; Senator (Dr.) Chris Adighije, Senator Badamasi Maccido, Senator Emmanuel Okpede and members of the Federal House of Representatives; Honourable (Dr.) Shehu Matazu who is the Chairman of House Committee on Education, Honourable Gabriel Suswan, Honourable Osita Izunaso, Government Officials like Prof. Peter Okebukola, the Executive Secretary of the National University Commission (NUC), the Vice Chancellor of Federal University of Technology(FUT) Owerri, Professor Jude E. Njoku, five Directors and Acting Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Mr. P.S. Abdu just for about N80million bribe scandal (N55m from Osuji and N25m from Njoku). Corruption-the malignant tumour that has eaten the fabric of his administration formed the relics of Obasanjoís speech. At least, the President deserves some commendation for terrifying current at late hours.

 

Against the past continuum of innuendo, the nation can say to start limping after prolonged crippling imaginations. But one may ask what would make a Minister bribe his ways just for a budget of his Ministry be passed? Considering the gross under-funding of the education sector, could it be that the Minister, to show concern for the plight of education which he couldnít pass through the President went beyond rules by taking extra ordinary means of bribing the legislators to bloat his chances?

Was the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) not in existence in the past five years when similar cases were mentioned? Does the ICPC have any legal backing to prosecute anyone under Nigerian laws of democracy?

No doubt, as the President said in his speech corruption "compromises national development, contaminates collective morality and values, distorts national planning, corrodes integrity and discipline, and destroys the foundations of creativity, innovation, and democratic structure and development". However, the root cause of corruption had to do with abuse of rule of law and the endangerment of the rights/privileges of its citizenry.

 

Leaders must be upright in all the entireties of responsibilities and the followership must follow suit. The fight against corruption is like two sides of a coin: discipline must be maintained at both sides. This is lacking in the present democratic order and that is why the disheartening events occur.

 

It was the irrepressible Mallam Nasir El-Rufai that opened the first can of worms in the bribery series that two principal officers of the National Assembly: Senator Ibrahim Mantu, The Deputy Senate President and Senator Jonathan Zwingina, the Deputy Senate Leader demanded N54 million from him to be cleared as Ministerial Nominee. The Senate Committee without a mention of ICPC cleared both senators Mantu and Zwingina. Then the Honourable Haruna Yerima versus his colleagues at the House of Representatives on GSM bribery scandal. Yerima went further that National Assembly members demand bribes from Ministries to pass their budgets. Yerima is vindicated at least from the Presidentís revelations. Unfortunately, Yerima was suspended unjustifiably when he is supposed to be hailed.

 

On the cases involving the National Assembly members, the President Said "I have forwarded the report on Senate President, Senator Ibrahim Abdulazeez, Senator (Dr.) Chris Adighije, Senator John Azuta Mbata, Senator Badamasi Maccido, and Senator Emmanuel Okpede, to the Deputy Senate President and Leader of the Senate for appropriate action while sending the same report to the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Chairman of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) for appropriate action by their respective parties. In addition, a formal report will be made to the ICPC for necessary action" The President also mentioned similar action against Honourable Shehu Matazu to be forwarded to the Speaker of the House of Representatives. On the moral issue of perception and reality of corruption and corrupt practices in Nigeria, the President almost challenged the Transparency International on the current rating of Nigeria as the third most corrupt nation in the world. I gave an interview with New Nigerian On Sunday of February 20, 2005 which was highlighted on its page 4. "The leadership" I said "should show example while the followership can also demand because it is their responsibility to demand that the leadership be answerable to whatever action they take". Meaning that the crusade is a collective responsibility. Considering the excesses in the system, which are left unchecked and unattended to, I surmised that the Transparency International rating could be challenged because "I donít think there is any country that is corrupt as Nigeria". Obviously, Nigeria has a bad image of arbitrariness and abuse of the fundamental laws of the land. The Presidentís new step must be commended as a stepping stone to a renewal of lost hope that has pervaded the strata of national rejuvenation. It may not be all encompassing but with more encouragement and persuasions, the nation can make a leap into a liberty zone. The high toned voice of the President in his speech like "The Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Peter Okebukola will be dealt with appropriately for providing a loan of N20 million to the Ministry of Education on instruction of the then Minister" and "the allegations against other Ministers and Departments that may have committed similar offences will continue to be investigated" should be followed with apt actions.

 

Our major problem in the fight against corruption had been setting motion without movement. Let us set both motion and movement in combating this hydra headed monster that had consumed both our ethics and value system. After the Deputy Senate Presidentís investigation of the Senate President, if cleared, let the Senate President genuinely investigate the El-Rufaiís allegation and forward it to the ICPC for necessary action.

 

Let us open up the archives of past abuses that had stigmatized our image as nation as a leading corrupt nation in the world and confront them in line with the Presidentís renewed vigour.

 

A stitch in time saves nine.

 

Mamza writes from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria

 

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