By Sanusi Muhammad
In the over 50 years of Nigeria’s political history, this perhaps is the first time ever the electorate got it right. The 2015 presidential contest was the most keenly contested ever. Two political giants slugged it out. With massive support from the deprived, the All Progressives Congress (APC) thrashed the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to consign it to the dustbin of history.
It is beyond any responsible debate that President Muhammadu Buhari is a man of integrity and honour. His sense of honour and moral values turned to be the greatest and most cherished assets of the APC. Ironically, it was not that cherished and trumpeted integrity that won him the presidency; he has all along had that virtue when he lost his bid in three previous elections, 2003, 2007 and 2011 despite the massive grassroots support he enjoyed in the core north. Discerning minds opine that there were four or five factors that courted victory for Buhari in the 2015 election.
According to Dr. Musa Babayo (Talban Katagum), one-time acting national secretary of the PDP and erstwhile chairman of Tetfund, “PDP piloted the affairs of Nigeria for sixteen years but before it lost bearing and credibility. Few of us opted out of the party for safety before the general elections. President Muhammadu Buhari won the election because of the emergence of a brand new platform as a pan-Nigerian political party that could match the spread and depth of the PDP, christened All Progressives Congress (APC).
“Secondly, there were the sophisticated and creative political marketing strategies that radically transformed the Buhari persona and made him for the first time in his political sojourn sellable to the Middle Belt and South-West political enclaves. Thirdly, there was better and prudent funding and provision of logistics support that supported Buhari to campaign more effectively across the length and breadth of Nigeria. And fourthly was the abysmally poor governing style of former President Jonathan and the PDP that led to a steep appreciation in value of APC’s change slogan.”
Undoubtedly, Buhari is today the most adored and admired politician and leader in Nigeria across a large swathe of the country’s political landscape. His stock has risen largely because of his single-minded and unflagging commitment to fighting corruption as he promised during the electioneering campaign.
Dr. Musa Babayo added, “Most Nigerians are impressed that the anti-graft fire still blazes in Buhari’s belly at 73 as much as it did when he was a young military Head of State in 1983.”
Buhari differs from some of his very loquacious, annoyingly hypocritical predecessors who endlessly mouthed anti-corruption slogans in office while feathering their nests with ferocious glee. The sheer lunatic scale of the looting frenzy engaged in by the PDP, as is being revealed daily, has also sensitized many Nigerians to the clear and present danger that this menace poses to the very existence of Nigeria and helped to galvanise more support for Buhari and APC.
Despite that, Buhari and APC must tread very carefully. When you promise radical change from a decadent and fetid past, as well as an all-out war against corruption and stealing in public office, you must yourself stand on the highest moral pedestal possible. At this junction, if one may ask, what really is the defining essence of corruption which for our purposes can be characterized simply as the criminal and illegal privatization of collective resources by individuals and groups in positions of public trust?
Yes, it is a violation of moral norms and values but that is not it. Yes, it is a negation of lofty philosophical and ethical principles, but that is not it. Yes, it is an assault on elevated religious sensibilities, but that is not it. Yes, it manifests as a denudation of the integrity of the human conscience, but that is not it. Yes, it can lead to human suffering on an industrial scale, but that is not it. Yes, it can result in harmful social inequality on an epochal dimension, but that is not it.
What then, I ask again, is at the very core, the centre, the quintessence of corruption? I think the answer is simple. It is, first and foremost, a brutal rape of stipulated rules and regulations. It is a calculated assault on the rule of law. It is a veritable coup against due process. It is willful, if insidious snapping at the binding chords that prevent a descent from society to anarchy. In one word, corruption is but just another variant of impunity.
This is why I’m astounded that there is even any debate at all as to whether Buhari’s anti-corruption war must be conducted within the bounds of the rule of law or not. There is simply no alternative. You cannot fight impunity with impunity. The rule of law exists to protect us all from the tendency of power of corrupt and absolute power to corrupt absolutely. Let no mistake be made about it. No occupant of public office, no matter how saintly or well intentioned, can be immune from the corrosive moral effects of exercising powers without restraint.
Dr. Musa Babayo said, “Impunity is not a copyright of the PDP or any of the parties that controlled power as even the ruling APC now must be inoculated against the virus by strict adherence to constitutionalism and the rule of law as President Buhari is doing.
“Thus, the boundaries of separation of powers must be respected. Court orders must be obeyed and the integrity of the courts must be protected. Nobody, no matter how much you hate, can be pronounced guilty without following the due process of law, no matter how laborious.
“Impunity is the common factor that binds the thieving public official, the terrorists, the bandits and the elected office holder who defies court orders in one sinister brotherhood of evil”.
Yes, ‘Dasukigate’ involves the criminal diversion of $2.1 billion public funds supposedly for arms purchase to private vaults purportedly for political purposes. But then, ‘Kogigate’ involved the felonious conversion of votes from the duly elected Prince Abubakar Audu/James Falake ticket to the conscripted Yahaya Bello sole candidacy, which is completely alien to the constitution. Yes, ‘Dasukigate’ involves the stealing of humongous amounts of public money and endangering the lives of millions of Nigerians. But ‘Kogigate’ involved only the ‘stealing’ of an entire state! Pray, which of those atrocious crimes is better?
In ‘Ekitigate’, leading PDP politicians were accused of illegality and colluding with itchy-fingered security personnel without integrity to manipulate the 2014 governorship election that brought feisty Ayo Fayose to power against the wish of the majority. That was a serious case of impunity that needs further investigation. Those involved in imposing a certified lunatic on the people of Ekiti State as a governor should be made to face the music.
Dr. Musa Babayo said, “When I realized that PDP was no more the PDP some of us used to know, I decided to silently quit the party to join a better organized and more focused party for the good of Nigeria. I had no problem with anyone in the PDP but I realized that the party was derailing towards impunity. With my reputation and integrity at stake, I quietly threw away the baby with the bath water. I left PDP long before the general elections on personal ground and I have no regrets. I served Nigeria as chairman of Tetfund and served with commitment and dedication. I can beat my chest anywhere to say that Tetfund has done great things for Nigerians and is still doing”.