We know the Peoples Democratic Party is in support of President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption efforts, because it claims so.
The party’s press statement commemorating its 17th anniversary, which held under a ‘low-key’ atmosphere late August, welcomed Buhari’s anti-graft rhetoric and put its own members on notice: “Even if the PDP members are being probed, we support the probes,” because “corruption is a crime against the people, the nation and our Constitution.”
The PDP is credited with establishing the two most-prominent anti-graft watchdogs since the turn of the century, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, ICPC. If these vehicles had been used for the special purpose for which the party designed them 16 years ago, the current administration won’t be as pre-occupied with fighting corruption.
Other elected political office holders on the platform of the party have also assured Mr. Buhari of their support in his quest to battle graft to a standstill.
“The PDP Senate Caucus notes the crusade against corruption undertaken by the APC-led federal government and hereby declares her support to rid Nigeria of corruption,” the party’s 49 senators said in a joint statement early August.
But the recent arrest of Senator Godswill Akpabio, the immediate-past Governor of Akwa Ibom State and the current Senate Minority Leader, has served more as a Rorschach test for the PDP’s epistle than an encouraging progress in Buhari’s war against corruption.
Shortly after Akpabio appeared at the EFCC offices in Abuja, the PDP released a statement alleging, amongst other things, an “orchestrated investigation of Senator Akpabio,” which is “politically motivated and targeted at weakening the PDP for 2019 elections.” The party also held an “emergency meeting” at its headquarters where it called Buhari a “dictator” and charged him to “investigate the corrupt elements in his own party.”
The PDP’s obnoxious inconsistency would be hilarious were it merely another evidence of institutionalised hypocrisy of our politicians. It is, however, a harbinger of what Nigerians should expect in the next four years as far as the war against corruption is concerned: outright obfuscation and lip service.
Although the PDP, in calling for a thorough investigation of APC bigwigs, like Rotimi Amaechi and Tunde Fashola, has a tenable concern, it would, however, be detrimental to the country’s overarching interest if the party sees every prosecution of its members as a witch-hunt. Perhaps no one should understand this better than the PDP itself.
Each of the three successive administrations administered by the PDP since civil rule returned to Nigeria in 1999 endured relentless allegations of selective prosecution. After a few politicians who were not loyal to Obasanjo were summarily tried and jailed during his second term, the PDP found it necessary to fight back hard against accusations that the party and the former president were using anti-corruption agencies to hound political adversaries.
“Contrary to the criticism of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and our great political party that the prosecution of corrupt politicians is selective, our party wishes to state categorically that nothing could be further from the truth,” the party disabused Nigerians in a 2006 statement signed by its former National Publicity Secretary, John Odey.
Corruption has become so systemic in Nigeria that the country has become infamous for it across the world; yet, no leader has been able to constructively deal with the menace. Over $400B is estimated to have been pilfered by successive governments within the past 40 years alone. But all those who participated in the governments past and present have always been quick to proclaim innocence.
Even politicians who were convicted after a lengthy trial, like Chief Olabode George, still maintain their innocence and allege victimisation. This is why the president must not only fight corruption equitably but also be seen to be doing so.
While the PDP must match its deeds with its anti-corruption rhetoric, the APC must also understand that the only way Nigerians can call PDP out on its hypocrisy is if the ruling party leads the efforts to winnow corruption off our public service. There have been ample suggestions by public commentators on how the ruling party can best display its mettle in this regard, but one of them stands particularly out: The case of former Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi.
Mr. Amaechi, a pyromaniac in the field of political thuggery, is perhaps best known for his invaluable contribution to the success of the APC in the last presidential election.
Armed with Rivers State’s formidable oil revenues and steep contact in the media, Amaechi successfully defaced the image of former President Goodluck Jonathan and financed the election of incumbent Muhammadu Buhari, whose belief in modest lifestyle did not forbid him from campaigning with a private luxury jet or keeping the nearly a dozen planes in the presidential fleet.
The nomination of Amaechi for a cabinet position is a pointer to the fact that the president has no intention of going after him, which surprises almost no one. He has been indicted by a duly constituted panel in Rivers State. Allegations ranging from fleecing state’s coffers up to the tune of N53B to vandalisation of government properties in the waning days of his administration still hang on his neck. This has stalled his screening in the Senate for two weeks. Yet, not giving him a seat in Buhari’s Federal Executive Council would have alienated other APC sympathisers who worked assiduously to wrestle power from the PDP, which could plunge the APC and the presidency into perpetual acrimony with monumental consequences.
Similarly, the ongoing prosecution of Senate President Bukola Saraki, which has continued to suffer setbacks since the renegade senator encouraged smooth approval of Buhari’s ministerial nominees, has done little to intensify the hope of Nigerians that the president would fight corruption with constitutional equipoise.
But the likelihood of President Buhari’s anti-corruption campaign getting local and international encomiums is largely contingent on bringing people within his own party to book.
It’s a catch-22.
Someone recently said our politicians endorse the war against corruption so long as it doesn’t affect their individual interest. In 1959, the country held a National Flag Design Competition which Pa Taiwo Akinkunmi won with his ingenious illustration. The time for another such patriotic competition is due. This time, however, the contest will be themed National Anti-Corruption Design Competition, or NACDECO or NACDEC for short.
Considering how susceptible the current anti-graft system is to manipulation by tribal and political interests, this proposition exudes more candor than laughter.