The gullible average Nigerian conflates ‘change’ with ‘progress’ or ‘positive transformation,’ without realising that the objective processes which lead to change are dependent on the blending of several variables and that positive or progressive change is quite different from mere change. Ordinarily, change in itself is an inherent feature of reality at all levels of being. But progressive change, which is value-impregnated, is utilitarian and consequentialist in character, since it signposts a transition from one state of being to another judged to be beneficial for a certain purpose determined by an individual or group. Hence, there are different ways of perceiving and interpreting change, which means that any interpretation of change is an invitation for deliberation and possible disagreement.
Going by the campaign rhetoric of the APC, Nigerians would soon experience a positive difference in the war against corruption, infrastructural development, job creation, security, the economy and implementation of welfare programmes for poverty reduction. In his inauguration speech, President Buhari himself promised to be the President of Nigeria, to govern without fear or favour, to fight corruption with iron determination, and move quickly to alleviate the sufferings of the poor and underprivileged. In that regard, we ask again the question posed earlier: in what ways have the fundamentals of our national life changed for the better since May 29, 2015?
Let us start by examining Buhari’s version of the war against corruption. Invidious critics of Jonathan excoriated him because in their opinionated corruption calculus, the former President lacked the willpower to move against corrupt top government officials, especially prominent members of his political party, the PDP. It has also been alleged that the anti-graft agencies were complacent in the execution of their functions, a situation that led to sloppy investigation and prosecution of high-profile corruption cases. Indeed,while Jonathan was still President, I criticised him for the sybaritic lifestyles of some of his political appointees and for pardoning late Diepriye Alameyeseigha, former governor of Bayelsa state, who was impeached and imprisoned because of financial misconduct, although facts have emerged indicating that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the President whenAlameyeseigha was removed from office, deliberately orchestrated the matter for political reasons.
Now, some people are unduly excited about and romanticising the so-called “body language” of President Buhari, which they expect would give new impetus and vigour to the war against corruption. Accordingly, these days there are regular media reports about how the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) spent several hours “grilling” Sule Lamido, Godswill Akpabio, Mrs. Saraki and few officials of the Jonathan administration. Moreover, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Godsday Orubebe, erstwhile Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, are facing the Code of Conduct Tribunal for allegations of false assets declaration and corruption. Former National Security Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan, Col. Sambo Dasuki, has been charged to court for treasonable felony, and there are attempts to try him secretly in a kangaroo court. All this suggests that the relevant agencies are waking up from their slumbers now that “a new sheriff is in town.”
But the situation is actually more complex than the average Buharimaniac for whom everything the President does, every decision he takes, is right and must not be questioned, can fathom. Objectively speaking, President Buhari is probably repeating the same mistakes that Obasanjo made by deploying the EFCC to harass, intimidate and humiliate those who do not belong to his herd. Prof. Nwabueze, in an informative essay entitled “The tragedy of lack of a collective sense of history,” discussed in detail how Obasanjo trampled on the constitution and used the EFCC to hound selected state governors. Similarly, Buhari, in his Inaugural Speech, hinted that he intends to follow the footsteps of Obasanjo by not allowing constitutional limitations on presidential power arising from our federal system to inhibit his war on corruption. Thus, with Buhari’s ascension to power, we have moved from Goodluck Jonathan’s laid back attitude towards fighting corruption to a more dangerous and sinister situation in which the constitution will be arbitrarily subverted in the name of fighting corruption, which means that we should be prepared for odious dictatorial and unconstitutional usurpation of powers by Buhari against those outside his inner cabal.
Of course, it is impossible for any President to deal with all allegations of corruption at the same time – the war against corruption must begin fromsome individuals, preferably former heads of state and key public officialswhose extremely ostentations lifestyles far outstrip their legitimate income.But consider this: since Buhari took over power, virtually all the prominent government officials and politicians facing the EFCC and the CCT belong to the opposition party or had worked for Goodluck Jonathan, whereas APC politicians with fat hunchbacks of corruption are being selected as gubernatorial candidates of the party in states where elections are pending or are rewarded with ministerial appointments.
More specifically, the politicians APC is fielding in Bayelsa and Kogi states’ governorship elections were former PDP governors in their respective states with unsettled allegations of graft hanging on their thick necks, whereas despite several petitions sent to the EFCC against APC kingpins, including Babatunde Raji Fashola, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi and Rabiu Kwankwaso, none of them, to the best of my knowledge, has been interrogated by the anti-graft commission, let alone charged to court.
In my opinion, on the issue of fighting corruption, there is change, but not in the direction that would bolster the confidence of discerning Nigerians that indeed the war against corruption would be fought by Alhaji Buhari in a manner that would be fair and just to everybody concerned. All the same, I sincerely wish the President unequivocal success in bringing the biggest evil looters to justice.
Next, let us consider the question of inclusiveness in central administration, which is extremely important in a federation such as ours, inspite of its numerous challenges and imperfections. The emergence of Buhari as President is an object lesson in the power of propaganda, prejudice and habit of thought in shaping how human beings perceive reality and how they interpret socio-political phenomena occurring around them. It is distressing to note that some Nigerians thoroughly dislike Goodluck Jonathan to the extent that even in few areas that he deserves some credit, they would either concoct some stupid arguments to discredit his achievements or distort facts to suit their jaundiced interpretations.
For instance, Jonathan, from what one can glean from accounts of his personality and disposition, is a mild-mannered humble man temperamentally incapable of the kind of sectional lopsidedness President Buhari manifested in the first few dozen appointments he made on assumption of office. I do not have the exact facts concerning the constitution of Jonathan’s inner circle of officials with whom he took on the spot decisions daily, but I am sure that he distributed fairly key official positions, especially Secretary to the Federal Government, Chief of Staff, National Security Adviser, Director of State Security and others between the North and South. But President Buhari gave all these positions to Northerners.