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Anti-graft war and the grex venalium

By Osirike Ndukeme

Rev Okotie has once again thrown his hat into the ring of discourse on the global scourge of corruption and money laundering, and the divergent views over President Muhammadu Buhari’s government’s prosecution of the campaign against it. It is bitter for those who are perpetrators and beneficiaries of the loot, but sweet for those who seek the entrenchment of justice and transparency in Nigeria.

In his latest interjection on the political landscape titled; “Buhari’s battle against the grex venalium”, which appeared in Sun Newspaper of February 4, 2016, the Chairman of Fresh Democratic Party, (FRESH), summed up the understated relevance of the anti-corruption war which the President Buhari-led government is engaged in. The voices of dissent and acrimony have characteristically sought to rubbish the campaign and the integrity of the government, but Okotie’s annotations are an auspicious voice of support for the long overdue prosecution of the battle, while also questioning the audacious proclivity of clerics of the two predominant faiths, to use their offices as a platform for corrupt enrichment at the nation’s expense

What is most disconcerting about the sordid $2.1 billion arms purchase rip-off are the inexplicable reasons for which Col. Sambo Dasuki allegedly shared some of the booty, like paying for prayers and vigils, the quirky mendacity of co-opting media support, and worse still, securing alignments of political parties with pecuniary inducement, which is reminiscent of the hey days of Gen. Sani Abacha and Daniel Kanu’s Youths Earnestly Yearn for Abacha. Yet, none of the expenditures were provided for in the ledgers of government’s budgetary spending. Surprisingly, the ex-president, Goodluck Jonathan and Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the then Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy played the ostrich while the nation’s treasury was looted

On the vexatious issue of ‘prayer welfare package’, Rev. Okotie challenged the involvement of religious personalities in the misappropriation saga asking; “Who is that Christian proboscis whose insidious suction availed himself of billions of naira on behalf of the followers of Christ? Who is that Judas? Maybe Judases? What about Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor’s one-plane airline becoming the surreptitious instrumentality for some covert military operations, involving over nine million dollars in South Africa? All sacred cows must become secularized. Government must ascertain the scope of pecuniary inducement that informed their political alignments in the 2015 elections. What an irony, that those who should scrupulously guide the people are themselves poisoning the water from which the flock will drink.

He furthered reasoned that; “Previous attempts to fight corruption were somehow symptomatic but the present government has adopted a strong, pathological approach that aims to get to the root of the matter, which is why every Nigerian should give the president total support. What is being done now, if carried to the logical conclusion, would free the country from the labyrinth of a deeply entrenched tribe of Machiavellian politicians whose sole purpose for seeking power is to loot our common patrimony”.

This position, when viewed against the backdrop of Nigeria’s present economic quagmire of oil glut and diminishing income, which the nation with its mono economic status is faced with, the spate of security challenges which have hobbled the nation’s stability and the rising restiveness in the economically traumatized society, it makes the need to claw back our stolen loot and plug the loopholes for governmental pillagery a fierce and urgent necessity.

President Buhari’s arduous task of juggling the intricate prosecution of an anti-corruption battle, the singular most important pedestal upon which his administration rose to power, with the equally challenging task of bringing a graft-weary economy back to levels of sustainable growth, are not easy.

Failure at both, which is what opposition would like to see happen, could pave a way for their hopeful return to power was punctured by the Pastor-politician who emphatically declared in the article that;”With the current anti-corruption war, we can now understand why Jonathan and his PDP cohorts spared no expenses to buy themselves back to power…, but we cannot just sweep what happened during the PDP government under the carpet. Regardless of who is involved; justice must be done to send a clear message that leaders must be accountable even after they leave office…” Wise words indeed.

Israel’s former prime minister, Ehud Olmert was last year sentenced to prison for 19-months for bribery and obstruction of justice. The alleged corruption was during his tenure a Mayor of Jerusalem and trade minister, before he became prime minister in 2006. It ended years after a legal saga for which he was forced to resign in early 2009 for the allegations. Despite denying any wrongdoing, he accepted the sentence because “no man is above the law”. Israel has sentenced other senior officials like former President, Moshe Katsav, to a seven-year jail-term for rape. Culpable Nigerian politicians need to borrow a leaf from this, rather than making insinuations of witch-hunt and persecution.

The collective effort of ridding the nation of the venal crowd of treasury looters (grex venalium), is one that must be embraced by all and sundry. Like Okotie stated, “It is a mistake to assume that this is President Buhari’s private battle to clean the Augean stable. Rather, it should be seen as a determined effort to right the wrongs of the bad leadership, which has been the bane of Nigeria’s development for decades”.

When late Military Head of State, Gen. Murtala Mohammed, whose 40th anniversary was celebrated on February 13, emerged on the scene in 1976, he endeared himself to Nigerians with his transparent pursuit of governance which had the fight against corruption and indiscipline as one of the cornerstones of his agenda. President Buhari, in his first advent as Military Head of State almost two decades later, also hinged his government’s agenda on a war against indiscipline and corruption. He, like Murtala before him, had to his credit, an unblemished character as a stickler for transparency.

That is why, over thirty years after, back in office, in the face of the nation’s most daring acts of embezzlements like “prayers for cash”, Buhari was called upon by the electorate to restore sanity to the political landscape. But, with the fight being put up by those being probed and the tendency to ride it out of the dragnet of the law to sabotage governments effort by manipulating clauses within the constitution, this campaign may protract for a long time. Nevertheless, every Nigerian should give President Buhari and his government all the support they need, rather than give room to the sponsored propaganda in the media which is calculated to discredit the war that Nigeria needs to win badly.

•Ndukeme, is a member of Fresh Democratic Party, FRESH, Lagos.cratic Party, FRESH, Lagos.