Oduagate, Jonathan Presidency and the Culture Of Corruption

by Peter Claver Oparah

Nothing best demonstrates the decrepit condition of the Nigerian state at present than the handling of the lurid details of what has come to be known as Oduagate today. To the extent that most Nigerians have come to see the dithering of the Jonathan government in adopting a firm position on the issue as a predictable effort to add the malfeasance that is spewing from the scandal to the rich list of official scandals that have been festering in the life of this regime, Nigerians believe that nothing substantive will be done by the regime to ensure that the wellhead of corruption, which thrives so luxuriantly in this regime is capped. It is unfortunate that gradually, the country is being led to believe that corruption and graft are integral parts of the directive principle of state police and no previous regime in Nigeria has made this retrogressive policy statement more forcefully than has the Jonathan regime.

It may be true, as being put forth by perverted ethnic mandarins, that what presently passes off as Oduagate is becoming an integral part of statecraft in Nigeria. It may be true that corruption has become an ethnic commodity in Nigeria; to be hoisted by respective ethnic divisions to ferry their guilty compatriots from indictment. However, it speaks so low of the present regime that corruption and graft have assumed such life where all it takes to get a culprit exonerated from his or her obvious crimes is to wave a tattered and shameful ethnic bandana. And this has been because rooms have been created for unpardonable lax in the presumed fight against corruption, which has been a convenient mantra successive regimes have clung to for the purpose of purchasing credibility.

But in a clear and cadent instance like the Oduagate where the culprit was caught with her hands fully dipped in the cookie jar, a president mindful of his name and the legacies he leaves behind would not have second-guessed before he does the needful, which is offloading such putrid garbage. A president that attaches even the flimsiest meaning to integrity needs not be prodded to shake off such embarrassing tag the continued tolerance of Stella Odua is bringing to the regime. A president mindful of his placing in the pages of history needs not have waited till Oduagate mutates into a shameful exchange of ethnic brickbats by ethnic minions who predicate their commission on how they are recruited to grow the burgeoning corruption complex. Furthermore, a president careful of the signals he sends forth would not have allowed his party to attempt to muddle the issue on clear partisan coloration. Such president would have been careful to send the signal that his government is interwoven to corruption, as his deliberate dithering on the issue and on such similar issues in the past, portend.

But Nigerians may be dreaming if they expect such actions that speak of an ethical high-ground from a Jonathan government. Again and again, this government continues to demonstrate that it cares no hoot being bandied as corrupt. It has been a free reign of scandalous conducts and means which rebuke decent conduct in governance. Nigerians recall the sordid malfeasance that many believe, is grown in the oil sector, the highlight of which was that in one fell swoop, the government carried out a N2.3trilion heist where state resources were freely shared amongst choice lackeys, cronies and subalterns in the name of fuel subsidy. Even as the government had tongue-in-cheek, admitted such hefty scandal, it had not brought any of the known culprits who are its enablers, supporters and fronts, to justice. It had traversed curious ways to ensure these economic rapists remain free from harm’s way and openly sabotaged the report of the Nuhu Ribadu panel that exposed large-scale officially-induced graft in the oil sector. Today, the Nigerian oil sector remains a cesspool of corruption and its case has been worsened by a frightening large-scale oil theft which most Nigerians consider as an insider-deal and which bleeds the country of an estimated N10 billion each week!

As it is in the oil sector, so it is in the energy sector which had remained terminally cancerous even with the billions of dollars poured into it. At the end of the day, Nigerians are being arm twisted into paying higher tariffs for nonexistent light. Even the much saluted privatization of the sector is not emitting any early signals of revival. These are two instances of the way the government has allowed the scourge of corruption to inflict deep cancerous gashes on the country and its citizens. It is so pervasive that every sector reels from the scourge and it has become such an epidemic because the government promotes a permissive culture that allows corruption to permeate and mutate in various forms and guises. It has gone so bad that it has completely demolished what remains of the national moral sinew. In the sequel, such bodies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, which hitherto made pretensions to fight corruption, have been buried in unmarked graves. Cronyism, influence peddling and impunity which grow corruption and financial indiscipline are allowed free rein and state resources are plundered with daring audacity.

A fat, obtuse and wasteful government ensures that several fonts of corruption are unleashed on the resources that would have bettered the lots of perpetually suffering Nigeria whose lives continue to trudge on the thorny paths of a brutish, short and nasty life. In the sequel, an insignificant few, with access to the operatives of government corner the common till and flags not in plundering such national patrimony to the detriment of the masses. It is for this reason that Nigeria is today a study in contrasts where government trumpets a growing economy but where the citizenry is experiencing the worst form of privation ever. It is for this reason that Nigeria has earned more oil revenue in the last fourteen years that it earned in the rest of its 39 years independent history yet poverty is rifer than at any period of our history. It is ironic that these free loaders succeed in enlisting the politics of poverty which undergirds the conduct of the present epoch to recruit their victims to ethnicize cases of corruption against them. It is a greater tragedy that a presidency that should wield the hammer in such dastardly instances and weigh in the moral cudgel willingly plays up the game and takes deft measures to inter such brazen cases of corruption each time they arise.

The absence of a leading figure abhorrent and intolerant of corruption has unleashed a wild gusto of free loading amongst public office holders who always trust on the unfailing support of the president to rally to their sides when they are caught in the act. Because the present government is ethically rusty, morally compromised and stunted in credibility, it had not failed to leverage its cover to any of its officials caught plundering public funds. At best, it tries to politicize such lurid cases and wait till our historical national amnesia quells such scandal and consigns them to our narrow subconscious.

Nigeria needs instant redemption, anchored on the need to re-discover our moral compass, reawaken our ethical underpinning, and resurrect our sense of shame and hewing for ourselves a leadership that has the guts and enough personal distaste for corruption. The citizenry need to rediscover their lost souls to stand and mobilize enough shame to confront corruption and its perpetrators, regardless of their ethnic origins. This is the only way to save the country and its citizens from possible perdition where it is irrevocably heading for at present.

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