The 'historic' visit of President Muhammad Buhari to the United States of America has long come and gone
Newspaper Column

Help! Corruption and Insecurity Are No Joking Matters

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By M. Babajide-Alabi
Last week, Barack Obama, the President of the United States of America, had the honour of hosting our own President Muhammad Buhari. It was a glorious occasion for Nigeria, as we learnt from “historians” that Mr. Buhari was the second Nigerian leader to have stepped foot into the prestigious Blair House in Washington. The first, they recollected, a few decades ago was Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.

Not minding the rhetoric of the number, composition and activities of Buhari’s entourage, the visit afforded an opportunity for international spotlight on the country. Nigeria was once again in the headline news in major international media. Obama and top officials of his administration were also “all ears” to every word of the president.

During this visit, certain words featured several times in his discussions, consultations and press interviews. They are “Security” and “Corruption”. The President was not at any time shy to throw the words around for maximum impact. By their recurrence, one can conclude that he had been having many sleepless nights on the issues and will be happy for urgent solutions to them. Back at home and indeed everywhere in the world where Nigerians meet in groups of two or hundreds, these words are now the subjects of discussions. Security and Corruption have become a definition of the country, especially to the international world.

The President’s aversion to corruption and insecurity is not in doubt, as he has stated publicly his mission in government is to stamp them out. However, the visit to the U.S. gave him the platform to tell the international community that it is ‘no longer business as usual’ for corruption in Nigeria, while he also cried out for help in tackling insecurity.

Security has always been the corporate prayer point of Nigerians, home and abroad. For a long time now, the activities of terrorists organisations and ethnic militant groups coupled with armed robbery, kidnaps have all made the country one of the most dangerous places to live in. The citizens live in fear of their lives and properties everyday, while kidnapping “business” is gradually becoming a past time for unemployed youths in the villages.

The lack of security is definitely not abating, with Boko Haram terrorists on full rampage in the North East, and with threats of extending to “VIPs” in the south. The South-South militants are reported to be regrouping and have shown they are ready for business, going by a few ‘blasts’ in the Niger Delta area in recent times. In other parts of the country, armed robberies, burglaries, kidnaps etc are rife. The citizens sleep with one eye open not knowing when a knock on their gates might change their fates for ever.

The security forces and agencies are definitely overwhelmed by these unscrupulous acts that are making living in the oil rich country a disaster. They throw up their “colonial” riffles in frustrations and join the bandwagon, inspired by corruption. A few wads of Naira notes in the pockets of a poorly paid, disoriented policeman will “distract his attention” to details of crime. Corruption and insecurity are inter-related

One can therefore sympathise with President Buhari when he almost turned the issue of security to a sing song during the visit. As expected, he canvassed the U.S. for support in this regard, especially in the country’s fight against the activities of Boko Haram. He could not hide his disappointment that the Obama administration would not shift ground and “supply” him with the needed equipment to once and for all rout the terrorists.

If there is one gain from Buhari’s visit, it is his exposure as a leader who knows the desires of the people and set to work to achieve them. The President showed this in an interview with CNN’s Christine Amanpour when he said: “My people, firstly I believe, they want the security in the country to be stabilized so that normal life, both in the southern part of the country where militants are still sabotaging oil installations and kidnapping people and demanding ransom and then in the north east of the country where Boko Haram is still active. This is a main preoccupation of Nigerians now and is a realistic way of looking at things. Nothing will work until the country is secured.”

This is where the past administrations got it wrong. They “spent” billions of Naira fighting insecurity but they never put security at the fore front. They voted billions for security, but nothing on ground to show the situation was improving or would improve soon. All the leaders did was wish the insecurity away and also pray that wit would ease off with time.

The implication of insecurity is evident on all facets of the country. Take for instance, the many professional Nigerians in the diaspora that are willing to relocate with their “expertise”. But their main worry is security as they know that if they venture a move in the present situation, they shall be “rich pickings” for kidnappers.

On the other hand, the international community that hailed Buhari’s stance on corruption are becoming a little bit hot under the collar for the time it is taking to see the changes promised by the APC-led government. They have not given up as they count on the words President Buhari.

Sensing the seeming impatience on this issue of corruption, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has taken up the gauntlet by suddenly waking up to its responsibilities. In recent weeks, especially since the inception of the Buhari’s government, the commission had been baring its teeth and “knocking a few dishes off the shelf”.

The EFCC, notorious for its passive response to corruption, and failed prosecutions, had suddenly come back from death. Observers are attributing this new energy to fear of “joblessness” starring the top executives in the face. They know playing “hard ball” and pretence to be in line with Buhari’s dream, will buy them a few more months in their duty posts. In recent weeks, they had made some “headline-grabbing” arrests. But they are getting it wrong. What Buhari and Nigerians want are not celebrity arrests, but real prosecutions as deterrent to others.

Nigerians can see through these superficial anti-corruption “moves” of the commission, lately. This is why some are clamouring for the sack of its head, Ibrahim Lamorde. They believe the EFCC, as presently constituted, offer no hope for Nigerians in the fight against corruption.

There is light at the end of the tunnel. News of Sambo Dasuki’s house arrest and searches are indications of the government’s readiness to hit the ground running in the fight against corruption. If the alleged offences against the former National Security Adviser are proved and prosecution is successful, it will go a long way in giving the government the confidence needed to go a long way in its desire to halt corruption.

Until we hear the good news of “genuine” arrests and prosecution, not the EFCC’s style, we keep our fingers crossed, just like the international community.
Sent from my iPhone

Published in Sunday Vanguard July 26, 2015. CLICK HERE

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