Tag Archives: Nigeria corruption


Changing Nigerian Political Landscape.

The Nigerian political commentaries never cease to amaze me. With the Jonathan administration scoring itself high and the opposition scoring him as poor; it again emphasizes the age-old wisdom that the truth is always between the two extreme positions. A perusal of the government report on itself will reveal a catalogue of self-praise and achievements; with no credible mention of its failures. And reading the opposition analysis equally reveal all that the Jonathan administration has done wrong without any praise for whatever it has achieved. This scenario portends badly for the Nigerian political discuss. It simply shows that the government is as bad as the opposition. It reveals a level of political immaturity and bitterness that is bound to derail any plan for national development.

Nobody and no government can be completely bad. I am sure there are plenty of people GEJin Libya and Iraq today that reflect on the regimes of their former dictators with glee and affection. As bad as these dictators were; they got some things right. There was better stability; less casual violence and there was definitely no daily killings by militia groups. Don’t get me wrong; I oppose these dictators; all I am saying is that as bad as they were; they still did some things well, no matter how few.

So why do the opponents of the Jonathan administration never seem to be able to get themselves to admit what he had got right and praise him for the good things he has done. Or are they saying that ALL decisions taken by the President since Day 1 of his government have ALL been wrong and bad for the country. Also why is it that the President cannot get himself to admit his mistakes and failures while promoting his achievements? Does he think Nigerians are fools? Maybe many of us are.

I am not a fan of the style of Mr. President; but I am passionate about Nigeria and I refuse to give up on the nation. So both sides have to be fair in their analysis. The primordial concern of a government mid-term report that only focuses on its achievements and not its failures is that the administration will not give attention to fixing the problems we all know exists; but which the government has not admitted exist. People do not make effort to fix a problem they have not admitted exist.  So a candid admission of its failures will assure Nigerians that at least the government can see what we all can see; thus giving hope that solutions can be found. But when government does not admit openly to problems everybody knows exist; it is difficult to have confidence of any imminent solutions. Sadly our political leaders live in a bubble that makes empathy with ordinary Nigerians difficult for many of them. But do they have to rub our noses in it?

As for the Opposition groups; I have even greater criticism of their performance. Opposition for its own sake is bad politics and bad for transformation of any nation. If truth be told; Nobody (regardless of their political sympathy); can honestly believe the Jonathan administration has been 100 percent bad. Not even Saddam Husain was totally bad. There will be more credibility in opposition groups if they produce balanced analysis of the government performance. That will require them to accept and praise the government for what it has done right and then criticize what it has done wrong and then A_street_in_Lagos,_Nigeriaproffer their own solutions. Simply going on about how bad the government is will not wash. This is lazy politics. Afterall; many of these opposition players have been in power in one way or another in the past. What did they achieve when they were in office? How did they transform their sphere of influence? We need to move beyond the politics of noise to politics of substance.

My recommendation for the opposition is that they should form a Shadow Cabinet to replicate the real government. And they should produce a quarterly scorecard for each ministry they are shadowing. Stating in a SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threats) format; the activities of each ministry as shadow cabinets. This will make them look like government-in-waiting and it will also create a pool of people who will be better familiar with the details of operational activities in each ministry; thus making it easier for them to hit the ground running if they get into power. They must stop all these nonsense of headline grabbing abuse and criticism of the Jonathan administration; just for its own sake. Their opposition is against the government and not Nigeria. Hence in the interest of the country; they must oppose responsibly and constructively. Nigerian will believe more an opposition group that credits the government when it is due and opposes them when it is deserved. Nobody has a monopoly of solution; afterall there are educated and experienced professionals in the current government. So they must be doing some things right and it will make sense for the Opposition to admit the successes of the government as and when it happens. This is the kind of opposition Nigeria needs. It also strengthens the voice of the opposition, thus increasing their influence and credibility.  An opposition that always opposes regardless of the facts; will become a laughing stock.

As for the government; President Jonathan need to take note of a wise counsel of our ancestors that; if a man with a big head goes into the public square to speak and first jokes Nigeria_politicalabout how big his own head is; it neutralizes anyone’s subsequent joke about his big head. People will say we know…he has told us himself.  So a government that honestly admits its failures with stated plans for change and improvement will wrest from the opposition the power to influence the citizenry.  Putting your own bad news and failures on the table candidly will take the sting away from any subsequent criticism. So the government’s constant denial of all things negative should stop. The administration should be bold to state both its achievements and failings. People love plain-speaking and candid politicians. Politicians that say it as it is. Politicians that do not insult our intelligence by denying what most of us know as truth. The recent First Lady sickness denial debacle comes to mind.

So who should blink first? The opposition should reform their approach and consider the recommendation I made earlier. It seems however clear that the government has the resources to implement the foregoing changes more quickly that the yet to fully congeal opposition groups. Why not show leadership by changing the style of your administration Mr. President. Move from the lethargic posture to a more open and pro-active leadership style. And by the way; Mr. President; you need to get rid of Okupe immediately. You cannot secure credibility from a discredited mouthpiece like him. I believe that (given the right instruction and encouragement); Abati (though disappointed many so far but not yet fatal failure) can still do a better job than the politically scared and tainted Okupe.  I still believe Abati may be able to do better if given the right climate and rules of engagement. It is time for less spin and more spunk.

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I was on my way to Ibadan from Lagos in early December 2012; but had to abandon the trip due to the intolerable jam caused by road closures as a result of President Goodluck Jonathan’s visit to RCCG’s Holy Ghost Congress. Roads were closed from the Island to Ibadan expressway for over two hours. So I turned back to Ikeja to hold another impromptu meeting with an old acquaintance who is now a “big boy” in the PDP National structure. Our conversation veered into the subject of political manipulation of the citizenry and media manoeuvring in Nigeria. His response not only confirmed my greatest fear for my country, but also explained how Nigerians own strength is being used against them by the political elite. This analysis is the basis of my article.

I asked my PDP “big boy” acquaintance why falsehood and lies seems to be a commodity in abundance within the operations of the political elite; especially when it comes to challengers or opposition figures. His response was glib and sharp. He said; “ We know that Nigerians are wired to expect the worst from others; so when we release a false story about an opponent, we are certain more Nigerians are inclined to believe the worst of others than good news”. I was in total shock at the depth of socio-political encapsulation of the national psyche of Nigerians by these politicians and their henchmen.

Over the decades; with bad and corrupt leaders come and go, Nigerians have come to expect the worst from their leaders. The initial shock factor has long been replaced by weary resignation that all politicians are the same and a believe that nothing good can come out of the ruling elite. Knowing this reality; any occasional ray of hope that emerges in the corridors of power is quickly killed off by the corrupt majority through misinformation and mud slinging (though false), but most Nigerians will tend to believe the tale. We have become a nation of negative expectations. If we read that a politician turned down a bribe; we will not believe the story and instead question whether the politician is batting for the opposition and want to bring down the government. But if we hear that the same politician collected bribe (though False); most will quickly believe it as it fits perfectly into our depraved expectation of our leaders. It now seem that the ruling elite are using this national mind-set against us as a people.

To buttress his point; my acquaintance used an example. There is a member of the house of Representative who came into office at the last election determined to do the right thing. He refused all attempts to bribe him or be corrupted. This made all the others  (especially those in his House committee) to be uncomfortable. So after a few months; the chair of the House committee (name withheld) of which this “good guy” was a member used his influence to get the personal bank account details of this clean member through his staff. Suddenly this ‘good guy’ started getting alerts from his bank for huge deposits into his account. First it was N20Million; then next day N50Million and then N90Million.  He asked his bank where the money came from as he did not deposit any money. They told him it was all cash lodgement by some people into his account.

By the end of the week; the committee chair confronted the ‘good guy’ and said his share of the bribe money has been deposited into his account and that whether he likes it or not; he is now one of them. He was warned that if he makes any noise; he would have to explain to Nigerians where all the money in his account came from. This young legislator broke down in tears I was told. He is now silent and determined to get out of the political system at the end of this term. There are many similar stories in our nation. The truth is; not every single political player is corrupt. Yes they are few; but then exist and need encouragement to stay the narrow path. Reality is; how many Nigerians will believe his story if it came out? How many will believe he is innocent?  This is the problem of the Nigerian mind.

So next time you read a story about a “corrupt” politician; especially someone who does not have a history of it; you need to begin to question it. Could this be true? Most of Nigerian media are politically controlled; so there is easy access to tools of misinformation. We should stop expecting the worst of each other. We should stop making ourselves easy pickings for political manipulations by the ruling elite, who want to perpetuate venality. We believe bad news with ease but find it difficult to believe good news. WHY? If we do not change our outlook as a People; we will drive away all ‘good people’ from our polity.

If the corrupt politicians know that all they need to do is to plant false stories in the media to discredit “Credible people”; then good people will stop coming out to serve and thenceforward we are indeed doomed as a nation. So think twice before you believe every bad news you read about others. We may indeed be discouraging the few good men that exist by our embrace of all bad news. There is hope in our future and future in our hope; let us begin to give hope to the few good men that still exist and hopefully rekindle the fire of national transformation.

Don’t be quick to believe every bad story you read anymore; that will be a good first step. If you believe you are not corrupt personally; then you must believe there are people like you (albeit few) in the political arena as well. Let us not give up on them…as that will be given up on ourselves and Nigeria.

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I have observed quietly the activities of the EFCC since inception. A perusal of the statues that set up the anti graft agency gives a seeming clear goal to the agency in terms of function and boundary of its activities. But while I was contemplating writing this article; I recollected the conversation I had with a former Senate President in Nigeria under Obasanjo regime that established the EFCC. This larger than life politician has been a friend of mine for many years and we spent time together in his London home from time to time. I remember challenging him on why the Nigerian Police is being disempowered by the successive government in Nigeria through the constant outsourcing of its traditional duties to new agencies.

First, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) was carved out of the Nigeria Police to look after traffic and road safety matters. Then came the ICPC and the EFCC to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. In fact there is a blur between the role of ICPC and EFCC as EFCC has sought in the past to prosecute public officials; which I thought was the duty of ICPC. But that is not my focus in this piece. It is sad to see the once strong and competent Nigeria Police reduced to a shell of itself through neglect and continued reduction of its remit. But that is a matter for another future article.

My focus here is the response of my Senate President friend  to my challenge about the many duplicated and even triplicated bodies all dealing with the same arena of crimes. I remember he answered glibly “ That is Politics for you my friend”. Not satisfied, I probed him further. He went on to explain that Politicians need to have various tools at their disposal and that Nigeria police was getting too ubiquitous (and too many hands to satisfy before you can get your way); so smaller agencies are easier to influence by the government. In smaller agencies you can get your way by simply sorting out one man (the head); but with the regular police, there are too many people to bring into line; he asserted.

So for instance, if a politician in power wants to deal with you (a public office holder); he could call the police on you and if that does not yield any result, he will then have the choice of ICPC and EFCC to set loose on you. It is interesting to see how many of our politicians in Nigeria think.  The truth of this assertion seems to have become more obvious to me in the past few weeks of observing the Farouk-Otedola saga.

It is my assumption that the EFCC was set up akin to the UK’s Serious Fraud Office; which specialises in prosecution of large, international and complex financial crimes only. But any casual observer of EFCC cannot help read weekly how EFCC is prosecuting people for stealing as little N100,000 from their employers. How is that a complex crime? Why can’t the Nigeria Police prosecute such minor and bog standard crimes? Yet when it came to Farouk-Otedola; a financial crime that involves hundreds of Million of Naira; it is the Nigeria Police that is doing the investigation and possible prosecution. I thought EFCC was set up especially for cases like Farouk-Otedola; and not for the minor cases they seem to waste their specialist skills on.

So the question is why is EFCC not dealing with Farouk-Otedola. Then my discussion with my Senate President friend came back to me. That the politicians choose the agency that they can most control to do their bidding in any given situation.  So it is clear that EFCC could be less controllable to pursue the agenda of the government in this particular case; so it was given to the Nigeria police. I thought EFCC was established to deal with matters like this as a “Serious Fraud” office equivalent. Why is EFCC prosecuting N100,000 financial crime and yet not allowed to deal with a major case of almost half a Billion naira fraud?

This is a deliberate mess created by the politicians to give impression they are waging real war on fraud and corruption when in fact they are only interested in selective prosecution of their opponents.  To restore public confidence; The government should immediately publish again a clear guidance of when EFCC, ICPC and Nigerian Police can lead the prosecution of cases. EFCC with its specialised assets, training and skills should concentrate on major, large and complex crimes only. The Nigeria police should deal with minor and straightforward financial crimes. As for ICPC; I am not really sure what value that brings to the table. It should just be scrapped and EFCC should be strengthened to do its work.

I believe one of the main reasons EFCC has not been as successful as it should be is the fact that it is becoming jack of all trade and master of non. It is prosecuting a N100,000 thief and a N100Billion thief at the same time.  Human nature means many of their staff will be more interested in the smaller and simpler cases; to be able to raise their conviction statistics. But that is not why they were established. EFCC should from now on focus on serious financial crimes and go after the “big guns” and stop chasing thieving drivers and houseboys.  They should leave that to the regular police.

And EFCC should assert its jurisdiction over cases that fall within its remit. It is a surprise to many Nigerians why the regular police are investigating Farouk-Otedola when such a complex case is exactly what EFCC exists for. But then; I see the hand of the government in this subterfuge and confusion.


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