President Muhammadu Buhari
Buhari

By Uche Chris

If a referendum were to be conducted today on President Muhammadu Buhari’s greatest achievement and failure, most Nigerians would, like the British voters on the Brexit, will be far off the mark. They are likely to vote on the basis of what they see, feel and hear happening around them and not on the most important thing he was voted to do, namely to tackle corruption frontally.

Revelations coming out of the Third Anti-corruption summit last week clearly showed that, rather than abate like his other promise, corruption has assumed very insidious and perniciously dangerous and life threatening dimension under his watch, thereby, vitiating whatever validation he had to the position of power, which he was entrusted with essentially on account of his anti-corruption reputation.

According to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Mr. Boss Mustapha, the escalating level of recurrent expenditure is a product of corruption by ministries, departments and agencies, MDAs, through duplication of projects, fake and frivolous contracts, and illegal employment, which has seen the recurrent expenditure balloon from N2.6 trillion in 2014, N5.3 trillion in 2019 to N7.2 trillion in 2021.

However, it was the Chairman of ICPC, the anti-corruption agency for public servants, Prof. Bolaji Owosanya, who provided the damning evidence of the modus operandi ofthe official racket in government. Already in the 2022 budget, over 225 projects have been identified as duplications at the cost of N20 billion prompting the House of Reps to set up a probe committee.

There is nothing more that appealed to and persuaded Nigeriansof his electability thanhis anti-corruption personality. During his first sojourn as military head of state in 1984-86, then Gen. Buhari was seen as the nemesis of corrupt politicians and that image, which could not help him during previous electoral attempts, was capitalized on by the South west media to burnish and garnish his political reputation against an admittedly helplessly gutless and hapless leadership of Goodluck Jonathan.

But history is a mercilessly ruthless judge. While the previously clueless and corrupt Jonathan has become a beautiful bride of international diplomacy and democratic behaviour, the anti-corruption warrior is now mired in a government that by its own reckoning has become the most inept and corrupt in our history.

To be fair, the President did not promise much in this electioneering campaigns in both elections. Throughout the campaigns, his mantra, repeated like a broken record, was fighting corruption, insurgency and improving the economy. His performance on all three counts is suspect, dubious and undistinguished; most people would even declare him a failure.

By its own admission, even the government does not point to any of them as its main achievement; which is curious. To it, their greatest achievement is building infrastructure, which was a kind of an after-thought as it never featured in his 2015 election. The curiosity is, how could one major in a subject on which he was not tested in an examination?

On his greatest failure, agreement will be as difficult to reach. Insecurity has become a major menace in the country and no part of the nation is spared. But that is not his greatest failure. Nor is the crumbling economy, which he was never given a chance on in the first place.

It has never been this bad since the war and although President Buhariwas elected to deal with the problem of insurgency in the North east, his regime has added the nefarious activities of herdsmen andnow bandits, who have not only made life brutishly short and unbearable for most rural communities,especially farmers, who have abandoned their farms, which has led to the threat of food scarcity and hunger in the country.

That Nigerians are paying such humongous price on account of corruption in the public service in a government that promised to stamp it out is a monumental indictment of President Buhari and his legitimacy for the office. The paradox is that for every extra kobo that goes into fictitious projects and salaries, there is corresponding denial of public-oriented spending to improve people’s lives.

Also such increase in recurrent spending is directly responsible for the unending borrowing by this government to fund its acclaimed infrastructure developments, a situation that mortgages the future of the country and the next generation.

Consequently, the reason we are borrowing is not entirely because there is no money as government has consistently maintained; but because its employees are siphoning the money into their private pockets at the expense of the generality of Nigerians.

The obvious implication of this development is that the current anticorruption strategy is defective and inappropriate. It derives from the wrong and reductionist thinking that the main culprits in corruption are the political office holders. This view featured heavily in President Buhari’s approach in dealing with members of the second Republic political class.

But it is simply untenable, because the political class does not have accounting powers which belongs to the career civil servants. So it is financial impossible for the politicians to steal money from government coffers without the active involvement and collusion of the bureaucrats.

For a minister or commissioner to steal a dime, the bureaucrat must be involved. They are also the ones husbanding the entire budget of the country through all manners of expenditure; they also prepare the budgets.Therefore, we have to revise and change the approach and train the search-light more on the public servants to get to the root of corruption.

Focusing on the few political office holders is a waste of time and resources, which has been proved by the failure of this government to stamp out corruption in the country. Also there is need to digitalise government processes so reduce human interference which ultimately conduces for corruption.

But most importantly, government must improve the remuneration of public servants to motivate them and discourage corrupt practices. However, it is necessary to properly determine the right workforce for the country.

Evidence from the Covid 19 measures which have kept level 1-13 workers, constituting over 85 percent of the personnel, at home for over a year shows that most of them are not really needed.

 

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