War On Corruption: The Guilty Must Pay! - by Fola Ojo

I am neither bothered about the scope of the hovering war; neither am I blathered or blustered about the tactics and approach. President Muhammadu Buhari has promised a fair fight through the rough terrain of his new battle-field with Nigeria’s lone arch-enemy, corruption, and Nigerians have no reason to doubt his vouch. 

It is time for the guilty to pay for their evil against Nigeria. This time, it will not be a mere war of words; it will not be a wish that will end up a wash; expect the mighty to fall; expect the “Goliaths” to tumble; and expect very heavy casualties. The man at the country’s driving seat means business.

But how far will the war go? How high will it reach? How wide will the spread be? And how truthfully, not rhetorically, prepared is this administration to blitz through the gale and stormy winds to come? When Buhari begins the gruelling, necessary and justifiable cleansing process, at the end of it all, the guilty must pay for the harm they have inflicted on Nigeria.

Friends, if the war is fought fair and firm, and the wheat is meticulously and thoroughly sifted from the chaff, the casualties will be heavy. The “missiles” from the war-front will hit overt and covert targets in every region of Nigeria; the “bullets” will riddle bodies in registered and unregistered political parties, all local and state governments, the police, the armed services, the civil service, and by the time the exercise is done, almost every Nigerian family will have a reason to drop a few tears for the injury that will be sustained by a loved one.

The President said the war will not hit anyone outside the inner circles of the immediate past administration. His probe attention and energy will be on those milking-ministers whose shady deals have been exposed, and dirty records have been handed over to Nigeria by the United States. Those who want Buhari to swing back to 1999 groping around that far for what may have been lost in the mix must understand that this is not Buhari’s job. Umaru Yar’Adua should have probed Olusegun Obasanjo in 2007; and Goodluck Jonathan should have probed Yar’Adua in 2010. Maybe, they did and none was found corrupt. I am laughing!

Anyone who is fidgety about probes has no business feeling that way if the person came to equity with clean hands in the first place. Probing is not the same as prosecuting, convicting or incarcerating; it is simply asking questions. And there are a lot of questions you must ask your predecessor if you hope to do a good job as a successor. But I am sure that if anybody is privy to credible evidences of corrupt escapades of any public official even since Lord Lugard, the individual has the right to bring forth his strong cases; and the law will address them appropriately.

Those who are crying “witch-hunt” should cry no more. As long as you are not a witch with a double-major in stealing government money, nobody will hunt you. But if you are, you will be hunted by the law, and In Jesus name, the law will get you! Those who have plundered while serving in government and those who have impoverished Nigeria must answer to God and to the man He has sent to ask questions. The guilty must pay for their misdeeds!

Reports received from the US alone depicted many of these people as depraved and reckless; and they are not fit to be called public servants. Before our eyes, they have pulled the country down. Funds meant to flourish lives and destinies of Nigerians stuck in the hands of a few. A new estimate by the Business Council for Africa surmises that up to $1tn has been stolen from the public from 1960 to 2005, higher than the $400bn estimated by the World Bank to have been stolen between 1960 and 1999. Thieves had stolen between six per cent and 30 per cent of the country’s oil production. We heard that some people in the last administration are returning stolen funds. One person, it was reported, returned $250m and another one $150m! The spirit of lunacy in the spirit of money has consumed them all.

They stack up cash in different denominations and currencies in water-tanks, wells, towers and behind walls of empty buildings; all about the cares of this world that do not promise anyone of us tomorrow. They try hard to conceal their evils; but the eyes of God of the Nigerian poor go to-and-fro through the earth and He reveals deepest secrets of men.

With the highest economic growth rate of about 7.4 per cent, Nigeria’s poverty rate remains high at 33.1 per cent, and these so-called leaders don’t care. Nigeria is neck-deep in infrastructure deficit, and our economic growth is held back as a result of this by at least two per cent per annum. According to a recent World Bank study, we need about $14.2bn per year to bridge the infrastructure gap, with about $10.5bn needed for federal infrastructure alone. 

Absence of adequate infrastructure, particularly poor electricity supply adds a massive 16 per cent to business costs in Nigeria. But some few people are so presumptuous and impudent carting to their villages a total of $6bn belonging to the people. They deliberately killed our regulatory and monitoring system and they are as dead as dodo. They believe their political positions given on trust to them are platforms for consigning and hiding public funds in sewages. 

The Nigerian Navy announced recently that oil theft has gone down to 250,000 from 400,000 barrels per day; do we now begin jumping for joy? Maybe, all of us should hit our churches and mosques in special regalia thanking God that oil thieves have now shown mercy stealing just a bit of our treasures and not a whole lot. According to the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, between 2009 and 2012 alone, about 160 million barrels of crude oil, valued at $13.7bn were stolen under the watch of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. And they holler “witch hunt”. Any public official who stole public funds and then cries “witch hunt” when pursued by the long arm of the law is a witch that must not be allowed to go scot-free.

President Buhari recently announced that there will be no sacred cows when the mighty water of justice starts rolling down on the corrupt. He promised that members of his party will also keep an appointment with justice and no politician will be free from the hangman and his noose when he swings into action. Some politicians are more corrupt than others. Some are mild and gentle while some are bold and brazen. Some still give to the poor while some take from both the rich and the poor. Some build good roads we drive on while some build roads only on paper. 

Whether a politician is a bit or extra-large corrupt, all of them have committed a crime against humanity. With Buhari, there must be no freeing one and freezing the other; there must be no jailing one and hailing the other as a saint if he is not. Nigeria may be down now, but not out. The country will bounce back! But for the guilty, they must pay for the harm and havoc they have wreaked on all of us.