The All Progressives Congress (APC) was formed on 6 February 2013, and, in less than two years, won Nigeria’s presidential election held on 28 March 2015. That victory was largely due to the cult image of its flag-bearer, Muhammadu Buhari, who easily passed as a General who would wage a successful war against corruption. With his election, many were highly expectant that past and present corrupt Nigerians would be on the chopping board, and accordingly, the economy, indeed the society at large – public and civil service or, if you like, public bureaucracy – would soon be rid of corruption, through which much of the country’s economic wealth had been diverted to private coffers. The effects of corruption on the conflictive country are countless: public infrastructure and institutions that have remained poor and weak despite the humongous funds allocated to them over the years; a wide wealth redistribution gap between the rich and the poor; low human development index; slow, poor economic development; and a pervasive distrust by the citizenry against the Government and Governance. Indeed, but for corruption, Nigeria would have joined the league of developed nations.
For instance, sometime in October 2012, Abdurasheed Maina, the then Chairman of the Petroleum Pension Reform Task Team told the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) that N3.3 trillion had been stolen from the Local Government Pension Fund alone from 1976 to 2012. In a similar vein, Maina – whose recent reinstatement into the civil service has provoked a justified national outcry – claimed that some people in the police service were stealing N300M daily from the police pension fund. These discomforting revelations explain why the life of the Nigerian Pensioner is so precarious and why the Police has remained such an embarrassing crime-fighting institution.
The attempt here is to highlight the challenges of the war against corruption – not to answer the question as to whether or not President Muhammadu Buhari has disappointed Nigerians or lost the anti-corruption war.
The heavy reliance on the law and the judicial system to fight corruption has its demerits. Even as a lawyer, I have no finished thoughts on whether or not Law is a rational science detached from politics, morality, religion and society. Writing on the Effects of Corruption on Economic Development, Mahmoud Moustafa averred:
The role of law in development is obscure. Some see law as a transcendental notion of applied justice that has nothing to do with politics, morality and the distribution of wealth. Others see certain types of legal regimes as the environment that fosters and nourishes development. Others recognize the social effects of legalism, its political aspects and distributive function.
It is doubtful if the law alone can deter a negative but lucrative behaviour like corruption.
The APC Government is having a ferocious pushback on the war of corruption because of its over-reliance on the judicial system to prosecute the war. There is nowhere in the world where the state relies solely on its investigative and prosecutorial institutions to fight any kind or crime, not to talk about corruption. Even the judiciary sees not itself as capable of fighting corruption alone. JCA Omokri submitted, in the case of Altimate Inv. Ltd v. Castle & Cubicles Ltd (2008) All FWLR (Pt. 417) 124 at 132 – 133:
…it is important to mention that this is a time when the Nigerian nation is fighting the difficult battle against corruption in all its ramifications. All hands should be on deck to eliminate or eradicate this social ill. Corruption or corrupt practices, if not checked, threaten the peace, order and good government. Uwais CJN (as he then was) in Attorney-General, Ondo State v. Attorney-General, Federation (2002) FWLR (Pt. 111) 1972) at 2070-2071, (2002) 9 NWLR (Pt. 772) 222 at 306 said: ‘Corruption is not a disease which afflicts public officers alone but society as a whole. If it is, therefore, to be eradicated effectively, the solution to it must be pervasive to cover every segment of the society.’ Mohammed JSC at page 2106 FWLR or page 347-348 of NWLR said: ‘It is quite plain that the issue of corruption in the Nigerian society has gone beyond our borders. It is no more a local affair. It is a national malaise which must be tackled by the government of the Federal Republic. The disastrous consequences of the evil practice of corruption have taken this nation into the list of the most corrupt nations on earth…’ Ogwuegbu JSC at page 2098 of FWLR or pages 337-339 of NWLR referred to the preamble of Chief Afe Babalola SAN in his brief in the appeal, where he said: ‘It is a notorious fact that one of the ills which have plagued and are still plaguing the Nigerian nation is corruption in all facets of our national life. It is an incontrovertible fact that the present economic, moral and/or quagmire in which the country finds itself is largely attributable to the notorious virus which is known as corruption…
Corruption is a culture that has not only profited many Nigerians but has also been the distributor of national wealth. To reset the minds of those who have lived on corruption all their lives requires much more than the metaphysical law and order instrument of the state. To fight corruption, the Government needs to partner with religious bodies, schools, NGOs and, particularly, the entertainment industry. The movie industry is a veritable vehicle for the rehumanization of the individual. The Government can partner with the industry to create and promote spins and slants against corruption. There will be nothing wrong if the Government establishes an anticorruption ministry to promote and coordinate the anti-corruption war.
The concern here is not about the fate of the APC, but the possibility of corruption returning with the biblical seven devils if President Buhari fails in this war.