The anti-corruption war of the present administration led by President Muhammad Buhari has come severally under intense scrutiny and many are of the opinion it is timely; to restore the nation’s dignity, retrieve our collective wealth stolen by the few, and put the nation on the path of greatness while others see the war as lopsided, vendetta, apparently, targeted at the opposition to the government. However, majority of Nigerians feel it is a war that must be fought but with sincerity of purpose.
Renowned journalist, publisher, and philanthropist, Wole Arisekola in his recent open mind opinion which was tagged ‘school of thought’, he feels the war against graft must be fought within known conventions, rather than on spontaneous intuition without concrete evidence. According to him “I give you a very good example. Look at the case of Danjuma Goje, former Gombe State governor. He has no reason to be in court. He is one of the best former Governors that this country has ever produced. When his state was collecting the lowest allocation in the country, he built roads, built an airport, built a university. He did so many wonderful things in that state. Can you compare Gombe State with Zamfara State now? They were created at the same time. But the difference is clear because Goje transformed the state. But every day, you read on the pages of newspapers that Danjuma Goje is being taken to court. Why? You suppose to judge people on the basis of their performance. There is no former Governor in this country that can claim he outperformed Danjuma Goje. He is an example of good governance in this country. And you have so many people that spent about 99 per cent of their allocations on frivolities working freely in town.
“Another good case is former Akwa Ibom State Governor, Godwill Akpabio. See how he transformed the state from where people from Lagos and other places used to hire house helps to where everyone is now either in school or is engaged in one productive thing or the other. The state now looks like Dubai in Nigeria.
“So, when you talk of anti-corruption, who are we fighting and how are we fighting it? Are we fighting it on the basis of our perceived enemies or you just look at somebody in the face and say this one is not in our party, let me deal with him? Do you just say, now that I’m in this office, let me just write something against my predecessor to keep him of public eye? “What they do today is pure vendetta. For instance, I find the charges against former Governor Goje very ridiculous.
“And being a Crime Reporter in Europe for about 17 years, I received awards as Best Crime Reporter in Europe between 2004 and 2006. So, when I see cases, I know which ones can fly and I know the ones lacking in merit. So, we should try as much as possible to safe tax payers’ money for something better. We should not keep taking cases to court without proper scrutiny. That is why we don’t have conviction; because some of these cases are dead on arrival.”
The publisher of the The Street Journal, in his assessment of the two years of war against corruption of President Buhari, says there is need for total overhauling of how it is carried out, to give Nigerians their worth of votes they gave Buhari at the polls in 2015. Hear him: “Take the anti-corruption war for instance; there are different agencies that are involved in this fight. You have the police, EFCC and then ICPC. If we want to talk about anti-corruption, we have to take it one after the other. What are the functions of the ICPC? What are the functions of the EFCC? And what are the functions of the police? “I think out of the three, EFCC is the most prominent because we hear about them every day. We hear they charge this to court, charge that to court, everyday. But in my own opinion, we need to strengthen the EFCC.
“The President needs to stop the police from posting their officers to the EFCC. We have EFCC officers that are trained. They have been in existence now for over 10 years. So, they ought to, by now, have good hands to tackle corruption cases without involving the police or any other agency of government. It is causing confusion. “Everywhere in the world, if you go to Great Britain, they have their anti-laundry section. They do not go to the Navy, or any other section to get assistance. No. We have intelligent officers in the EFCC who the country has invested so much in. They should be allowed to lead the commission. “We must give them freedom to do their job. When you allow politicians to penetrate an agency of government, the result is what we’re getting today; because they will be using it as vendetta against one another.”
On the economy, he notes: “Nothing has improved when you talk about the economy because we do not have the people that can do the job in the respective positions. Look at the policies of the CBN. All their calculations are against the masses, and nothing works. “They said do not put money in your account, which is what drove investors away. We have been living in this country all this while and we have never experienced this kind of problem before. What happened to the dollar we were spending in 2015? How did dollar disappear from this country? How can you give a single economy, a single currency three tiers? You have Central Bank rate at 305. You have CBD rate at 395 or 400. You have bureau de change rate, that one is unlimited. Where in the world do you have this kind of policy and you expect the economy to survive?”
Does he then support call for swap of Ministers or sack of the economic team? “I’m not canvassing for that, swap. What I want is for the President to sack all of them. They are not helping the masses. They are not helping this country. When somebody fails in his appointment, it means he cannot to the job. The next thing is to remove him and put somebody who is for the job there. “These people do not have the capability to do the job. “Nigeria is not a trial and error country. Out of about 180 million people, why are you putting people who cannot do anything there? These are not the kind of people we want in Nigeria. The ‘change’ they are talking about is only being enjoyed among politicians, the masses are suffering”.
Though, the war on insurgency in the north eastern part of the country is said to have been largely won by the doggedness of this administration, Arisekola feels, it should be measured within certain perimeters. According to him, certain indices should be taken into consideration when eulogolising this regime on war on Boko Haram as against the last administration. For him, we should first ask ourselves wether this is the same conducive environment under which the Army operated then. “I remember that when former President Goodluck Jonathan was in power, and Nigeria was looking for where to buy arms, the U.S., Britain, and France did not allow foreign countries to sell arms to Nigeria. They came under the excuse that Nigerian Army was violating human rights law in the way it was carrying out its attack on Boko Haram”, he equips.
However, he gave kudos to the Army, which inspite of non-availability of weapons they still fought with their blood, which goes to show Nigerian Army has a lot of patriotic and dedicated soldiers, ready to lay down their lives to protect the nation. “Now that the Western World has installed the President that they want, they changed everything. They have done what they want, they have given us opportunity to buy arms and we can see the performance of our Army. That is about being in the right place at the right time and having the right equipment to fight the enemy”, he says.
On the alleged diversion of money meant to purchase weapons by the last administration, he cautions that it could have been the more you see the more you see. “Be careful; don’t believe everything you read on the pages of newspapers. Some of the things you hear are not true. Some of them are political statements by politicians. I am not making a case for them. I was not there and I do not know. But I know that there was a time they were looking for where to buy arms. I lived in the Republic of Ireland for 17 years, and you know that Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are the same. I met good politicians on both sides. I was the first black journalist to interview their political leader, Gerard “Gerry” Adams, President of the Sinn Féin political party, and a Teachta Dála for Louth since the 2011 general election. I interacted with them and I learnt a lot about terrorism, and these always guide me whenever I am reporting anything on terrorism.
“Yes, there is corruption in Nigeria. People are stealing money. But do not write them off, some of them are loyal to this country. What happened then, former U.S. President Barack Obama, the Western World, did not want Nigeria to be successful in the terrorism war. “There are some things you do not say in the open. I know all these. I have been interviewing people for ages. I have been interviewing World Leaders for ages. I know what is called diplomacy”
All the same, he wonders how Boko Haram manages to finance and sustain operations. Where does Boko Haram get their arms? Where do they get money to prosecute their war? Who is financing them? Where do they get money to feed over 200 girls? It is just like feeding a village. So, you understand all these. You need to understand diplomacy. You need to understand international politics, because we are quick to jump into conclusion. Once you read this headline you believe it hook, line and sinker. It is not like that”