President Goodluck Jonathan appears unfazed about the myriads of problems—some created by him directly and some festering but which he is unable to confront headlong—dogging his administration is nonplussed. May be his stoicism is his way of showing he can take the hard hits. However, how has this do evil and hear no evil attitude impacted on the nation? Positively or negatively? Your guess is as precise as mine. The nation has hit its bottom low, so much that new revelations are mere statistics in a down-ward slope. Meanwhile, incidences of ineptitude, sleaze and contract scams are on the upward swing.
The newly released Transparency International corruption index puts Nigeria the 35th most corrupt nation in the world. Nigeria scored 27 out of a maximum 100 marks and by any stretch of imagination that is F9. It occupies 139th place out of 176 countries surveyed. Only two days ago, another bad news came upon us. Nigeria is ranked as the seventh most terrorised country in the world according to the latest ranking of the Global Terrorism Index produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace based on data from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), at the University of Maryland. Nigeria was 16th in 2008, 11th in 2009 and 12th in 2010. This year we plunged down to the 7th position. This is based on the fact that Nigeria recorded 168 incidents of terrorism in 2011 from which 437 persons died, 614 persons sustained injuries and 33 property were destroyed. Nigeria is now worse than Sudan, which is rated 11th and Mali at 34th position and we all know the precarious situations of these two countries. While we continue to slide, countries like Burkina Faso, Brazil, Congo, Gabon, Jamaica, Gambia, Liberia, Zambia, North Korea among others are free from terrorist attacks. You know as they say: it doesn’t rain, it pours. And so it is, that calamities pour. Last week, the Super Falcons dropped from its 27th position last year to 35 this year in FIFA ranking. In all spheres of our endeavours, the signals are overwhelmingly disheartening.
To be fair to this government, corruption did not start with it. The TI low rating trend has characterised democratic rule since 1999, despite the existence of anti-corruption agencies like ICPC and EFCC and flourishing CSOs and CBOs to checkmate the excesses of government officials. Unfortunately, instead of being retrospective about the discomforting information, government officials who often live in denial went overboard to either blame the TI’s corruption rating on journalists who publish bad news about the country, or simply downplayed it. One of such comments came from Doyin Okupe, the president’s new-found attack dog. In the Thisday report that followed the TI pronouncement, he said the rating is an improvement on the previous one which placed Nigeria 143 out of 183 examined. Folks, what is the difference between 139 out of 176 and 143 out of 183? Yet, so much hype and resources have been expended to prove our progress in the anti-corruption war.
Dr. Okupe further underscored the president’s willingness to fight corruption thus: “He follows due process in whatever he is doing, he is not the type of person that will trample on citizens’ fundamental human rights because he wants to please some others”. Sadly, while not doing enough with the powers he already wields, the president is seeking to amass more powers not to tackle corrupt tendencies but to award contracts. I was, therefore, surprised(?) to read in the Daily Trust last week with regards to a new bill to amend the Public Procurement Act. According to the report, the president is seeking to take over the powers of the minister of finance and its Tenders Board as the chairman of the procurement council. With such sweeping powers, the president will take total charge and will be empowered to endorse 15 percent contract mobolisation fees, make FEC the approving authority in contracts awards and put the appointment of the BPP boss at his pleasure instead of a competitive selection process.
At a time Nigerians are talking of devolving powers to other arms of government, in the ongoing constitution amendment, the president wants to acquire more. Two, what is wrong with the current arrangement in the BPP law that should warrant an amendment? Why is the president looking for more work when he has his hands full?
Nigeria arguably parades the most powerful president in the world. He sits on and dispenses the country’s enormous resources at will. The ICPC and EFCC are not just at his beck and call; they are his attack dogs and they can be deployed to unleash terror on any dissenting voice, and to make such people fall in line. All security agencies are under his command. So, what else does the president want? Despite these powers, the country is practically on the edge. Its low rating in all indices does not ever feature at the country’s highest decision-making body, the FEC, which he provides over, for the obvious reason that it has been effectively ‘transformed’ into something else.
It is bad enough that the weekly FEC meeting has been turned into a contract awarding bazaar, instead of the brain-storming session that it should be. But if the president is granted his wish (as he is likely) and he begins to scrutinise contract papers in every ministry and parastatal, will that be enough to end corruption? Will it improve our rating? Can the president purge himself of (you know what) and even cleanse the pervasive stench firmly entrenched in government circle?
Meanwhile I cannot agree more with those who think that being rated 35 out 173 is not a true reflection of the country’s corrupt tendencies. Without exemplary leadership, concerted efforts, and successful prosecution and with emasculated anti-corruption bodies, and compromised judiciary, corruption can at best grow from strength to strength. But do our leaders care? The president can take the pot-shots, however hard
Last week, the ACF held a conference on “the North and Strategies for Sustainable Development”. It was a moment of reflection, and of course lamentations. As usual with such gatherings these days, those who were in a position of authority and had the opportunity to change things, turn the heat on others for the region’s woes. Again those who should act, in most cases, would rather choose to talk. General Abubakar Abdulsalami, opted for the second option. He said it would take the North up to 20 years to recover from the destructions and predicament occasioned by the Boko Haram menace. That can’t be truer. However, the respected general failed to tell us what he has done in his personal capacity to rescue the region, nay the country from the abyss. Besides, in my own estimation, and assuming the activities of the Boko Haram cease today, it may take not only the North, but Nigeria up to a life time to fully recover from the damage. How do you in 20 years erase the mutual suspicion, the regional and religious divide, the emotional scar, the loss of precious lives, and the unprecedented destruction? How do you bring functional schools back to normalcy? What about the cosmopolitanism that was beginning to characterise our major state capitals before the advent of Boko Haram? How and where do we start from? We need the Abdulsalamis of this country to tell us.