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Opinion: Does Jonathan have the political will to fight corruption?

“Our administration believes that the cost of governance in the country is still too high and must be further reduced. We will take additional steps to stem the tide of corruption and leakages”

– President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan

Those were the words of President Goodluck Jonathan during his New Year broadcast to Nigerians. Someone who tries to interpret this statement literarily will imagine that the speaker wants to demonstrate his intention to scale up the fight against corruption. Many Presidency aides have quoted this statement earlier in the year in many international fora to suggest that the Jonathan administration has the political will to fight corruption. I encountered one of those officials, who is also a kinsman of the President, in a session organised at the United Kingdom House of Commons on oil theft in Nigeria, recently. I respectfully requested that he should unbundle the rhetoric of political will peddled by the government about the fight against corruption.

Many scholars, who studied “political will” as it relates to fight against corruption in many countries, insist that it neither originates nor exists in a vacuum. It must manifest itself in a set of circumstances and actions that reflect the leader’s values, desires and aspirations. Drawing from this assertion, my submission here is that Jonathan has neither the political will nor the capacity to fight corruption. Sad isn’t it?

Corruption is present in some degree in all societies. However, it just seems to find an easier home in some countries like Nigeria than in many other countries. A former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, posits that corruption is an evil phenomenon and an insidious plague found in all countries – big and small, rich and poor. He also says that it is most destructive in developing countries where it disproportionately hurts the poor by diverting funds meant for development and thus weakening the ability of government to provide basic services.

Back home, Jonathan is not sure that corruption is one of the problems that deserve his attention. Curiously, very few agencies under him have made any public pronouncements that seem to counter the position of the President. It seems that reform initiatives have been rolled back. No one can talk about continuity of efforts or application of sanctions. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has gone quiet, almost comatose in recent years. The little that the public hears about it is about withdrawal charges and lack of diligent prosecution with political flavours. Others, like the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, infamously joined the appalling conversation differentiating between corruption and common theft!

Now, in a country where the President is leading a conversation of denial that seeks to drop the corruption down his priority list, how can someone taunt about political will?

An important aspect of political will, for me, is in spoken or written words – speeches, manifestoes, among others. I believe that the President is learned. At least, he has a doctorate. No one will imagine that he does not understand the implications of such public statements on the perception of the country before the world. That he went ahead to make such a statement and subsequently insisted on it, sends an important signal to the world. It means that he does not want to leave anyone in doubt about the position of his government.

Now, to imagine that this government still has people like Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as a minister beats my imagination. She is one person that was famous for her reform credentials. How can such a person be in Jonathan’s cabinet?

I have commented on the infamous Presidential pardon granted to a former Governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha. Some people insist that Jonathan acted within his powers. True. Does that make it right? No. Those who worry about the policy implications of such a decision have now reconfirmed that we have a leader who does not give a damn about what the world thinks about his actions.

The case of the very dubious plea bargain granted to Mohammed, a son of a former military dictator, Sani Abacha, who is said to be preparing for elective post come 2015, will remain topical for some time to come. No prize for guessing which party he is going to join. The message seems to be – if you steal or have access to stolen money, make sure you buy yourself clemency by supporting the ruling party.

The world is waiting for the results of the forensic audits allegedly commissioned by the Nigerian government on the Nigerian National Petroleum Company. There are now conflicting reports from the National Assembly about the alleged unremitted revenue observed by a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Lamido Sanusi. Till date, no one knows the amount of oil being produced from the President’s home region even as the amount of oil being stolen is a mere guesswork.

Under the supervision of the President, a man who is under prosecution for corruption, became the flag bearer of the ruling party and was subsequently elected governor of a state.

The implication of all these have been very dangerous on the citizens. When everyone believes that everyone, especially the leaders, is stealing, then everyone wants to get involved. That is why Nigeria has become a temple of dishonesty. From the vulcanising mechanic to the driver, to the ticketing officers to the pilot at the airport, to the teachers in the school, the generals in the army, the combatants in the battlefield, and of course, the bureaucrats – everyone wants to get a share. No one wants to be honest, because if you risk being honest, you will lose out. Our collective psyche has been messed up. And the cancer keeps spreading to all sectors of our national life.

With new committees sprouting every day and with the National Conference still extending, how does the President expect to fulfil his promise of reducing the cost of governance? For plugging the leakages and stemming the tide of corruption, I am sure Nigerians will wait for a while.

I wonder how other serious countries think about us. In fact, even the President seems somewhat concerned about, if not the country’s, then at least his own image, wasting even more money to launder our image through the hiring of a public relations firm in the US.

Even the main opposition party is no better, with some of their leaders among those havinga tainted past of transactional politics,while still hovering and jostling to take over the soul of the party.

No one yet thinks that articulating a watertight programme against the cancer of corruption should feature prominently in their or anyone else’s agenda, yet, they want to rule us. We, the electorate, have been taken for a ride with stomach infrastructure.

What a country!

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Posted by on Jul 15 2014. Filed under Goodluck Jonathan (2010-present), Headlines, Presidency. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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