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Events over the past eight years have clearly shown that being an accomplished criminal is the minimum requirement needed to be a high-ranking member of Nigeria’s ruling party – The All Progressives Congress (APC). The party has managed to set staggering records as it concerns the blatant looting of Nigeria’s common patrimony.
By next week, the corrupt, senile, and incompetent President Muhammadu Buhari and his gang of looters who the APC foisted on Nigeria will vacate office after a second and final term as Nigeria’s President. The sad reality, however, is that the same APC is also gearing up to resume from wherever the current maladministration will stop through the renowned looting machine and self-styled Jagaban – Bola Tinubu.
For a President and a party that rode to power on the wings of the anti-corruption avowal which the outgoing President was bestowed with, his capitulation to Nigeria’s kleptocracy and superintendence over his own regime of corruption is quite disturbing. As the gaunt-faced man from Daura fades into the sunset, Africa’s most popular country will grapple with the consequences of his colossal anti-corruption failure.
In 2015, the All Progressives Congress (APC) painted a very grim picture of Nigeria. Nigerians were told that their country was on the brink of collapse. Issues around the failing economy were garnished with tales about how the education and healthcare sectors completely failed. Rising insecurity particularly the menace of the deadly activities of Boko Haram in the Northeastern part of the country, was brought to the front burner, and the infrastructural decay amid huge earnings from oil was serially emphasised. During the period of campaigns, the APC and Buhari succeeded in linking these state failures to unbridled public sector corruption under the then-governing Peoples Democratic Party—PDP. For this, many gullible Nigerians immediately concluded that their Messiah was now at their doorstep.
The People’s Democratic Party, which Buhari and the APC removed were neck-deep in corruption, and they made no pretenses about it. So it wasn’t surprising that Buhari’s promise to deliver a death blow to corruption was as timely as it came. He took a bold anti-corruption stance during the campaigns that helped in galvanising a huge section of the electorate, including the middle class, and especially ordinary Nigerians who were the major victims of corruption. Although he was the presidential candidate of the APC which was essentially a party that was birthed by the merger of opposition parties and PDP deserters, many of whom linked to corruption, Nigerian voters overlooked it for what they described as Buhari’s ‘personal integrity’ and ‘fearlessness.’ The APC succeeded in making Nigerians believe that Nigeria’s only problem was corruption and only Buhari had the solution to it.
Many Nigerians easily concluded that with the APC and Buhari fighting a determined war on corruption, the days of their problems were finally over. Little did these Nigerians know that they were about to hand down the keys to their yam barns to hungry goats. Little did they know that they know that they just invited highway-armed robbers to guard their treasury. Little did they know that they just were about to enthrone a government that was determined to make corruption its hallmark and favourite pass time and hobby.
Upon taking the reins in May 2015, it didn’t take so long for Nigerians to understand that the Buhari bandwagon was a Ponzi scheme. The government began with a few months of inconsistency which saw it making some face-saving moves against corruption which included the implementation of the treasury single account (TSA) and weeding out of ghost workers using the Integrated Personnel and Payroll System (IPPS). Subsequently, it went after opposition elements and made a few arrests, and subsequently, the party simply returned to ‘looting ways’, and this time, it went berserk on Nigeria’s resources.
Many of Buhari’s supporters who swore before 2015 that corruption personally offended Buhari were shocked to see graft triumphing under him. It became a looting bazaar of some sort. Politicians were looting right under Buhari’s nose without consequences. The APC failed abysmally in translating their promises into crushing corruption and ended up becoming the symbol of corruption in the country.
The unravelling of Buhari to people who did not know who he truly was pre-2015 is a study of leadership incapacity, self-subversion, lethargy, and compromise. As far as the war against corruption was concerned, Buhari rated very high in rhetoric, propaganda, and grand gestures and performed quite poorly in the practical essentials needed to wage any meaningful war against graft. The political will was lacking, the coordination was missing, impartiality was non-existent, and the strict enforcement of the rule of law only existed on paper. The implication was that the government turned out to be a corruption galore, which simply created room for a free-for-all-looting kind of situation.
The APC sank Nigeria deeply into the abyss of corruption so badly that the ratings of the Corruption Perception Index ratings of Transparency International successively ranked Nigeria very poorly every year. From 2015, when Buhari took the reins of power, the ratings maintained a steady drop.
Rather than fight the corruption as they promised, the APC and Buhari condoned and promoted it. The details of the industrial-scale corruption that went under the nose of the APC will cause the head of any Nigerian with a conscience to spin. Some notable cases of graft which was seemingly swept under the carpet by the APC included the alleged diversion of ₦47 billion ($102 million) from the Niger Delta Development Commission by the agency’s Director who eventually resorted to fainting the day he was called to come and testify; the alleged looting of about ₦109 billion ($236 million) by Nigeria’s Accountant-General; the alleged fraud to the tune of ₦5.6 billion ($12.1 million) at the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending by its Managing Director. Even Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who is supposedly a law professor could not stay above board because the looting of about N4.6 billion which was supervised under him at the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is well documented.
The corruption was mindless and was, in fact, systemic. Other notable cases of corruption included the alleged padding of all the budgets instituted by the APC, most notably being the 2016 national budget through expenditure falsification which ran up to a whooping ₦481 billion ($1.044 billion); the alleged padding of the 2021 and 2022 national budgets through project duplication to the combined tune of ₦400 billion ($868 million); and the alleged ₦49.9 billion ($108 million) salary payment to ghost workers between January and June 2022. Everyone who found themselves in government over the past 8 years was simply stealing as much as they could lay their hands on because there were absolutely no consequences for such. While Nigerians groaned under abject poverty, the members of the APC in Buhari’s government were simply living larger than life.
Many Nigerians felt insulted in 2022 when Buhari, for no reason, opted to grant a presidential pardon to two former governors – Joshua Dariye of Plateau State and Jolly Nyame of Taraba State – who had hardly gone halfway into their sentences for looting their states. Despite the storm of public outrage that greeted that action, both men currently walk free and have been reinserted into national politics. That is the legacy of the APC!
The culture of corruption that the APC institutionalised was what gave the needed moral booster to oil thieves in Nigeria. Oil theft soared so much that in the first seven months of 2022 alone, Nigeria lost $10 billion to oil thieves! With Buhari in charge, heads did not roll and no one was arrested. How else could one explain the fact that over 437,000 barrels of oil were criminally leaving the shores of Nigeria every day to the extent that Nigeria could no longer meet its OPEC quota, yet no one was brought to book?
Many Nigerians who were made to believe that their lives were worse in 2015 are now living in regret because the APC has ensured that they now live in a far more precarious socioeconomic reality. The impact of APC’s mindless looting has been felt everywhere. Unemployment, poverty index, inflation, and other indicators have worsened terribly under the APC. Today, at least 133 million Nigerians now endure multidimensional poverty, and no fewer than 37% of the workforce is unemployed, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The insecurity that the APC met in only the Northeastern part of the country has become nationwide and overwhelming. In many states in Nigeria, armed non-state actors have overrun communities, kidnapping and killing thousands each year. Who still remembers education and healthcare? The APC has ensured that they were pushed into a state of comatose. Under the President Buhari-led APC maladministration, every sector of governance took a nosedive as only corruption and criminality flourished in every sense of it.
In conclusion, while President Buhari continues to delude himself by touting his integrity and incorruptibility in the twilight days of his administration, posting that he cannot be found guilty of corruption himself, his self-evaluation has meant nothing to Nigerians who expected a tough war on corruption but now see corruption waxing stronger, deepening despair. Tolerance for corruption, public romance with corrupt elites, and lack of concern for optics and public perceptions remain the distinguishing characteristics of the Buhari administration, and nothing can change it. While they continue to bamboozle Nigerians with lies and propaganda, they must be reminded that they might go scot-free in the eyes of the malfunctioning Nigerian laws, but they will never go without the punishment of posterity and history will never be kind to them.