Are Strongmen Above Strong Institutions in Nigeria?

A comment by Adedayo Osho

President Muhammadu Buhari has been rightly lauded for the progress made in the ongoing campaign to rid Nigeria of corruption. But beyond the trials religiously covered by the media, a substantial number of indicted individuals are often granted bail (based on conditions) and in turn, a fraction of them appear more audible to the public upon release.

Partnering in anti-corruption campaigns in Nigeria, the Attorney General of the Federation who also doubles as Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, had earlier this week reportedly written to a state graft agency, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offenses Commission ICPC, directing its chairman to reopen corruption cases previously instituted against 31 former governors; a few of those involved are congressmen in the current 8th National Assembly.

Malami’s list submitted to the Commission included: Senate President, Bukola Saraki (former governor of Kwara State); Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio (former governor of Akwa-Ibom State); and Chairman of a faction of Peoples Democratic Party, Ali Modu Sheriff (former governor of Borno State).

Other former governors include Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia); Chimaroke Nnamani (Enugu); Saminu Turaki (Jigawa); Sule Lamido (Jigawa); Joshua Dariye (Plateau); Ahmed Yerima (Zamfara); Gabriel Suswam (Benue); Martin Elechi (Ebonyi); Danjuma Goje (Gombe) and Murtala Nyako (Adamawa).

Ikedi Ohakim (Imo); Obong Victor Attah (Akwa Ibom); Achike Udenwa (Imo); Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa); Gbenga Daniel (Ogun); Boni Haruna (Adamawa); George Akume (Benue); Lucky Igbindedion (Edo); and Rashidi Ladoja (Oyo).

Usman Dakingari (Kebbi); Adamu Mu’azu (Bauchi); Peter Odili (Rivers); Attahiru Bafarawa (Sokoto); Adebayo Alao-Akala (Oyo); and Jolly Nyame (Taraba).

After it was earlier misconstrued that the Buhari-led administration’s battle against corruption was targeted toward the opposition party, PDP, the public is now inclined to believe (in light of the cross political and geographical representation of this list), that the scourge is beginning to be combated on a national scale. However, doubts remain if this case will be striking, leading to a possible jail term, or a reversion to the status quo of untimely discharge.

All avenues for jailing political strongmen, it seems, have eluded Nigeria; with accomplices ranging from clients and children partaking in looting state funds, the kind of jamboree and media attention channeled by citizens in nailing corrupt politicians has, over time, been aborted either by a delay of justice or constitutional immunity.

For instance, the case of Martin Elechi of Ebonyi involved his son, as did the case of Murtala Nyako of Adamawa and Sule Lamido of Jigawa, where his first son, Aminu Lamido was arrested in December 2012 at the Aminu Kano International Airport in Kano in possession of $50,000.

There are parallels of corruption in various countries; political scientists have argued that in the current global economic climate, it is ultimately impossible not to observe corruption even in advanced democracies. For example, Indonesia,at the height of its dysfunction, was no less corrupt than Nigeria. The difference is that the Indonesian money stayed behind in their economy, while Nigeria’s is offshore driven — African politicians prefer to invest their loot in Western countries.

All of these former governors shortlisted for investigation failed to execute projects which only existed in blueprints, but never materialized. Such acts speak volumes for political offices being used as a conduit pipe to siphon public funds in Nigeria.

For 14 years now, since the wake of millennium when former president Olusegun Obasanjo promised to clamp down on corruption, the story has been the same, with the country weathering a continuing series of mal-governance storms.

This is the best time for the Buhari presidency to redefine its stance on corruption. Strongmen are usually above strong institutions in Africa: is this assertion by US President Barrack Obama true?

Adedayo Osho

Adedayo Osho is a political scientist with research interest on Conflicts, Protests and Party Politics. He writes on personal capacity. Twitter: @Jahpolitical