The former minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Diezani Madueke had not openly spoken, or granted any interview in the last five years that she’s been standing trial in absentia for corruption and embezzlement. But when she did about four weeks ago, she pontificated on morality and social values at a virtual event organised by the Ijaw National Development Group.
Although Diezani spoke in relation to Yahoo-Yahoo boys (a byword for cybercrime), many think she has no moral right to talk on social values when she has not been a good role model because of the massive corruption she was alleged to have been involved in during the Jonathan era. But can you really blame her? Our society celebrates the rich and affluent, including politicians who personalise public office and appropriate resources therein.
In this respect, Diezani is not alone. Many public officials, including serving ones, have had their hands in the cookie jar, and there have not been concerted efforts to punish them to serve as deterrent to others; not even by this current government that mouthed the anti-corruption mantra as a force for election victory in 2015.
Diezani is alleged to have committed offences bordering on the abuse of office, and money laundering. She is also alleged to have stashed away about $115 million to rig the 2015 presidential election on behalf of ex-President Jonathan. She has been in the U.K. since that year, even as she is being investigated. She was said to have forfeited properties and jewelry worth billions of naira.
“The ones that have swag, Yahoo-Yahoo boys; these in short are the role models they are looking at. These are the ones that reinforce negative societal norms and values. This is a travesty of an unfolding tragedy for us”, Diezani was quoted to have said at the virtual event.
Yes, Yahoo-Yahoo is open stealing through the cyber space, which is as seedy as the embezzlement of public funds and corrupt practices, and both are a travesty of social values on which any civilised society, including ours, is built.
For the former minister to have ‘preached’ about morality and social values, should be a source of concern for us as a people, and a shame. Nevertheless, here comes an opportunity for us to interrogate our value orientation, if any. Although, Diezani has not been convicted, she had the courage to talk the way she did because she knows the country is not ready for an ideal social value engineering, and the current government’s anti-corruption war is just a ruse.
Compare her braggadocio as minister to today’s brazen audacity and the forage of the commonweal, and you will discover how thin the line between them is. Diezani was already out of the way before her closets were exposed, but for the present crop of leaders, everyone knows the other’s mess and looks the other way, and when they accuse each other, they shout at the rooftop even, because everyone pretends not to hear or know.
It is therefore not a surprise that Nigeria’s corruption perception index since 2015, reads like an irredeemably bad student not making efforts to improve: 26.00 in 2015; 28.00 in 2016; 27.00 in 2017; 27.00 in 2018; and 26.00 in 2019. As much as government tries to dismiss Transparency International’s assertions, the facts speak for themselves, and there are many cases that buttress these, even if the dramatis personae in power consistently deny them as baseless and appalling, claiming they are “fighting corruption devoid of any extraneous consideration relating to the rating by TI, in terms of legislation”.
Sadly, Malami who, as a response to TI then, said there was no evidence or proof that corruption was on the rise in January this year, provided much of the evidence used to nail Magu, who has been put on suspension since July.
Again, with the way we treat, pamper, and politicise corrupt practices, it is not a surprise that we occupy a prominent place in Transparency International’s (TI) book of infamy. This government was five years in May this year. Within this period, its TI rating has been abysmal, and not markedly different from the previous five or ten years. This is discouraging, considering that the government was ushered in, in 2015, based on its mantra to kill corruption, before corruption kills Nigeria, among three of its cardinal principles.
By the way, “Social values are a set of moral principles defined by society dynamics, institutions, traditions, and cultural beliefs. These values are implicit guidelines that provide orientation to individuals and corporations to conduct themselves properly within a social system”.
Perhaps, Diezani did not think corruption or the breach of public trust is a breach of society’s norms and values or the breakdown of social values. You can’t blame her either, nor the group that invited her. For them, Diezani is a hero, even if she is someone else’s villain. After all, corruption connotes different things to different people; it is defined differently based on the government in power, time and space and circumstance.
For Jonathan, stealing is not corruption, but for the government in power today, your sins (including the sins of corruption) are forgiven when you decamp, according to party chieftain, Adams Oshiomhole; buy votes and apply maximum force, including the use of security men (paid from public purse) to win election. If you are still in doubt, ask the former secretary to the government of the federation (SGF) Babachir Lawal, Senator Goje, Godswill Akpabio and a host of former political actors of the last government who are still relevant in their new sanctuary.
Based on the pervasive corruption allegations against those in the forefront or should be in the forefront of fighting the menace, can we in all honesty blame and condemn Diezani when the head of an anti-corruption agency like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu and his supervising minister, Attorney-General of the Federation Abubakar Malami are throwing corruption punches at each other while still in government? Who will initiate their (Malami especially) prosecution and or trial, if guilty? Although it has been two months now that Magu was suspended on the basis of Justice Salami’s presidential panel investigating him, the whole saga has been muddled up and mired in controversies. Talk of corruption fighting back indeed.
For the suspended chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, his travails began from “home”, in the sense that his supervising minister, AGF Malami documented the alleged offences against him. Apart from insubordination to his (Malami) office, Magu was accused of 21 other infractions bordering on corruption and abuse of office among which are: Discrepancies in the reconciliation records of EFCC and the Federal Ministry of Finance on recovered funds; declaration of N504 billion instead of N539 billion recovered; late action on P&ID, leading to legal dispute; not respecting court order to unfreeze a N7 billion judgment in favour of a former executive director of a bank; not providing enough evidence for the extradition of Diezani Alison Madueke; favouring the so named Magu boys in the forces; sale of seized assets to friends, cronies and associates, among others.
A group of civil society organisations had written to President Buhari to also investigate allegations of corruption against Malami, such as the auctioning of sea vessels holding crude oil seized by the Federal Government, the sale of vessels by companies under EFCC prosecution; the botched re-instatement of Abdulrasheed Maina; discontinuation of a N25 billion criminal charge against Danjuma Goje; withdrawal of criminal charges against soldiers accused of killing policemen to aid the escape of Bala Hamisu Wadume, a kidnap kingpin; withdrawal of cases against John Abebe, Diezani, ex Customs’ comptroller general, Inde Dikko etc.
As the duo of AGF Malami and Ibrahim Magu continue to engage in accusations and counter accusations, the question is, whether they work hand-in glove with corrupt people or they themselves are not clean, to put it mildly.
Evidently, the answer is both. Here lies the dilemma of a nation suffering under the yoke of abuse of power, seeking for salvation in the hands of equally culpable public officials tasked with the responsibility of cleansing the mess of the past.
With people like Malami and Magu in charge of the anti-corruption war; their selective prosecution and impunity, we are indeed in trouble, and past ‘sinners’ like Diezani will soon look like ‘saints’.
It has been over two months that Magu was suspended and over one month that the CSOs wrote to the president detailing Malami’s misdemeanours. Magu has not been invited by the Justice Salami presidential panel to defend the allegations against him, nor has the Presidency told us what their findings are about Malami. How can you run a nation with so much deception, selective prosecution and criminality and hope for prospect of meaningful progress? Until we treat government job as sacred, and not a place for crooks to determine the destiny of the people, we will remain in the abyss of decay.
All said and done, it is wrong for officials of government to throw stones at corrupt politicians of the past when their hands are soiled too. Until the cases against Magu and Malami are investigated by an independent body and cleared by courts of competent jurisdiction and given clean bills of health, in the eyes of the public they are at one with the Diezanis of this world, and none has the moral rectitude to accuse the other or talk about social values. And as long as things remain the same like this, Nigeria will always be in the bottom rung of TI’s rating.