By Gideon Oladepo ||
The administration of the former President Goodluck Jonathan, despite its alienation from the public due to its lack of genuine respect for public opinions especially in its dying days, enjoyed the support of a good cross-section of Nigerians on the final outcome of the 2014 National Conference. A sagacious government would have made the implementation of the Confab report a matter of urgency, if only to at least win back some members of the Nigerian public, who had lost hope in the administration. But the administration would not: there appeared to be a crass tendency by that administration to take Nigerians for granted, as if their wishes and votes did not matter.
The former President however realized rather too late the need to rally more Nigerians behind his dying administration, when it became obvious that their votes would count if INEC stuck to its guns of using the card readers, as Professor Jega led INEC had insisted it would do. It was then he made the implementation of the Confab report, which he had practically abandoned, one of his campaign promises especially to the people of the South West region, which has been a strong base of the opposition party, the APC. The outcome of the election showed that few people in the zone had taken him seriously, hence his party’s loss in the geopolitical zone and consequently in the whole country.
The voters showed that they were prepared to give Buhari administration a chance, given the challenges facing the nation and the need for someone with the antecedent of walking his talk to confront them. Even though Buhari’s party avoided making a categorical statement on the implementation of the 2014 Confab report, its making the threefold issues of security, anticorruption and the economy, which were adequately addressed in the Confab report, its cardinal objectives gave some of us hope that there would be no way the new government would be addressing those issues without making use of the comprehensive recommendations in that report.
It is therefore time for the APC administration to put politics aside and address the burning national issues confronting Nigeria and Nigerians. The urgent issue of security, whether as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency, armed robbery or kidnapping for ransom, all require effective community policing; to detect and prevent criminals before they strike. With the current successes of the military operations in the North Eastern region, the insurgents are gradually turning to gorilla warfare of planting IEDs among the civilian populace: we need effective community policing to counter and neutralize them using this strategy. The insurgents, armed robbers, petty burglars and kidnappers all live among us and are known to some members of the public, who could have exposed them before they strike. But their lack of confidence in our police, as presently constituted, will not make many take that risk. Police are also too far removed from many communities as to distance and by their attitudes, to make such a patriotic effort feasible. They are also poorly equipped and inadequately motivated to expect topnotch performance from them. Letting each state and possibly local government have its own police with a better orientation in working with the public will solve that problem. It would also ensure that the state governments, who should be directly responsible for the internal security of their people, take their responsibilities more seriously. The kind of conflict in accepting responsibilities witnessed between the Borno State Government and the Federal Government in the kidnap of Chibok girls, would not have arisen if Borno State Government that had the final decision on where the Chibok girls should write their school certificate examination, was also in control of at least one of the state apparatus to ensure their security: the police.
On Buhari’s anti-corruption war, the APC government cannot succeed without first dealing with the root cause of corruption, which is the society’s permissive attitude to corruption and the celebration of proceeds of corruption. This permissive attitude has its root in the struggle to corner as much of the national wealth as possible to members of one’s ethnic group by fair or foul means. This attitude could best be explained with Donald Cressy’s hypothesis of the triad of fraud (or corruption): pressure (occasioned by great need), opportunity and rationalization.
There is the constant pressure in the Nigerian socio-economic environment for people to engage in corruption, as there’s little or no pride in belonging to the middle class, where the great majority of the population should belong in a functional economy. People are either constantly in great need because of abject poverty or are pursuing their greed in the belief that their generations yet unborn would be shielded from poverty. I wrote an article published in The Guardian of Nigeria on 20 January 2003, expounding on the nexus between poverty and greed: The Vicious Cycle of Poverty and Greed. There is always the constant psychological pressure on those who had seen or tasted poverty, to want to amass as much wealth as possible at any given opportunity. And many of such people abound in Nigeria because of the poor socio-economic environment.
It therefore follows that anyone having the opportunity of making money illegitimately does not have to think twice before engaging in corrupt activities. In fact, his/her kith and keens would see anyone in position to amass wealth in a corrupt way and not taking the advantage as either a fool or an accursed person, who would never be able ‘make it’ again in life. Some would actually see such a fellow as unfit to represent their tribe or ethnic group in the affairs of the federation: a sort of throwing away a ‘God-given opportunity’ to become wealthy. The system has become so corrupt that political appointees or elected representatives are looked upon as conduits through which certain individuals would be able to appropriate what ‘rightly belong to them’ from the national purse. With little or no effort on the part of the government of the day to fight corruption so as to serve as deterrent to others, as had been the case, especially under the immediate past administration, those with the propensity to engage in corrupt practices become more enticing. The institutions meant to fight corruption ordinarily become overwhelmed with petitions on many suspected corrupt cases, which in the absence of adequate support by government, they cannot adequately investigate and prosecute.
Then comes the rationalization of corrupt practices. With virtually everyone having the tendency to engage in corruption, there is a growing perception that everybody is corrupt or corruptible (even if not yet given the opportunity). Anyone having the opportunity to engage in corrupt practices could therefore rationalize that it’s the right thing to do. This is why you hear such people give such excuses that others would steal the money if you (in a better position to misappropriate it) do not. Or that the people higher than you in authority are also helping themselves: are you more catholic than the Pope? Or that this is the first time or a few occasion, when someone from that community would be having access to the national, state or local government treasury; the occupant should make ‘the best use of it’. The rationalization continues…
With the socio-economic environment described above, the lack of security and the unbridled corruption then takes its toil on the economy, making the poor poorer. And temptation to engage in corruption becomes all the more irresistible. This is why the APC government would be killing several birds with one stone if it could re-visit the 2014 confab report that recommends devolution of power from the centre, including constitutional amendment to allow states to have their own police. Granting the states more powers and resources, while recognizing and fostering regional (i.e. the geopolitical zones’) cooperation, as espoused in the confab report will cause positive changes in the socio-economic environment. The report also addresses several burning national questions that would take the present administration enormous time and costs to properly address within the limited time and resources at its disposal. It’s therefore my humble submission that it is in the national interest for the government to implement those recommendations as soon as possible in pursuit of its three-fold agenda: security, anticorruption and improving the economy.
Gideon Oladepo is a chartered accountant based in Lagos.
Follow on Twitter: @Gideon18511