APC and the moral high ground
By: Segun Ayoboluon
It is beyond dispute. President Muhammadu Buhari is a man of rock solid integrity. His sense of honour and high moral values are great assets to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) today. But ironically, it was not integrity that won Buhari the 2015 presidential election. He had that virtue aplenty when he lost his bid for the presidency on three previous occasions despite his massive grassroots support in the far North. There were at least four key reasons for his victory at last year’s presidential polls
Firstly, was the emergence of the APC as a pan-Nigerian political party that could match the spread and depth of the then ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Secondly, were the sophisticated and creative political marketing strategies that radically transformed the Buhari persona and made him for the first time sellable to the Middle- Belt and South-West political zones. Thirdly, was better funding and logistics support that enabled him campaign more effectively across the length and breadth of Nigeria. And fourthly was the abysmally poor governance of former President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP that led to a steep appreciation in value of APC’s change slogan.
Today, however, Buhari is clearly the most adored and admired politician and leader in Nigeria across a large swathe of the country’s political landscape. His stock has risen largely because of his single minded and unflagging commitment to fighting corruption as he promised during the campaigns. Most Nigerians are impressed that the anti-graft fire still blazes in his belly at 73 as much as it did when he was a young military Head of State over three decades ago. Buhari is quite unlike some of his very loquacious, annoyingly hypocritical, perennially letter-writing predecessors who endlessly mouthed anti-corruption slogans in office while feathering their nests with ferocious glee. The sheer lunatic scale of the looting frenzy engaged in by the PDP, as is being revealed daily, has also sensitised many Nigerians to the clear and present danger that this menace poses to the very existence of Nigeria and helped to galvanise more support for Buhari.
Yet, the APC and President Buhari must tread very carefully. When you promise radical change from a decadent and fetid past as well as an all- out war against corruption, you must yourself stand on the highest moral pedestal possible. Let us not forget the piercing words of the fiery St Paul in the book of Romans: “Well then, if you teach others, why don’t you teach yourself? You tell others not to steal, but do you steal? You say it is wrong to commit adultery, but do you do it? You condemn idolatry, but do you steal from pagan temples? You are so proud of knowing the law but you dishonour God by breaking it”.
What really is the defining essence of corruption, which for our purposes can be characterised simply as the criminal and illegal privatisation of collective resources by individuals and groups in positions of public trust? Yes, it is a violation of moral norms and values but that is not it. Yes, it is a negation of lofty philosophical and ethical principles but that is not it. Yes, it is an assault on elevated religious sensibilities but that is not it. Yes, it manifests as a denudation of the integrity of the human conscience but that is not it. Yes, it can lead to human suffering on an industrial scale but that is not it. Yes, it can result in harmful social inequality on an epochal dimension but that is not it.
What then, I ask again, is at the very core, the centre, the quintessence of corruption? I think the answer is simple. It is, first and foremost, a brutal rape of stipulated rules and regulations. It is a calculated assault on the rule of law. It is a veritable coup against due process. It is a wilful, if insidious. snapping at the binding chords that prevent a descent from society to anarchy. In one word, corruption is but just another variant of impunity.
This is why I am astounded that there is even any debate at all as to whether Buhari’s anti-corruption war must be conducted within the bounds of the rule of law or not. There is simply no alternative. You cannot fight impunity with impunity. The rule of law exists to protect us all from the tendency of power to corrupt and absolute power to corrupt absolutely. Let no mistake be made about it. No occupant of public office, no matter how saintly or well-intentioned, can be immune from the corrosive moral effects of exercising powers without restraint.
Impunity is not a copyright of the PDP. Even the APC must be inoculated against this virus by strict adherence to constitutionalism and the rule of law whatever the circumstances. Thus, the boundaries of separation of powers must be respected. Court orders must be obeyed and the integrity of the courts protected. Nobody, no matter how much you hate his face, can be pronounced guilty in the media without following the due process of law no matter how laborious. Impunity is the common factor that binds the thieving public official, the Boko Haram terrorist, the armed robber and the elected office holder who defies court orders in one sinister brotherhood of evil.
Yes, ‘Dasukigate’ involves the criminal diversion of $2.1 billion of funds meant for the purchase of arms for our military into private pockets purportedly for political purposes. But then, ‘Kogigate’ involves the felonious conversion of votes from the duly elected AbubakarAudu/James Falake ticket to the illegal Yahaya Bello sole candidacy, which is completely unknown to the constitution. Yes, ‘Dasukigate’ involves the stealing of humongous amounts of money. But ‘Kogigate’ involves the stealing of an entire state! Pray, which of these atrocious crimes is better? No sir, one form of impunity is not better than another.
In ‘Ekitigate’, leading PDP politicians are accused of illegally colluding with security agencies to manipulate the 2014 governorship election that brought the feisty Ayo Fayose to power. But in ‘Kogigate’, can leading APC politicians swear that they did not collude with INEC officials to contrive a so-called inconclusive election that enabled them to foist a candidate of their choice on the state against all rhyme and reason? So it is only when PDP elements pervert state institutions that it is a crime? I tire o!
There are two emerging trends in the APC administration that I find worrisome. First, is the creeping cheap campaign of blackmail against journalists and media houses who question the administration’s methods in prosecuting its war against corruption. Columnists are routinely described as ‘hack writers’ or agents of corruption fighting back. This is unwarranted. The administration must not cultivate the image of intolerance. The intelligent, experienced and resourceful Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has a duty to guide the administration on a better path in this regard. Incidentally, the minister is highly regarded in media circles.
Secondly, is the frequency with which the integrity of judicial officers is being attacked without the slightest scintilla of proof as being cogs in the wheel of the anti-corruption war. It is my view that if any judicial officer is alleged to have engaged in corrupt practices or abused his or her office in any way, such a person should be reported to the anti-corruption agencies which can investigate and prosecute in accordance with the law. But nobody should expect court judgements to be based on public opinion or media reports. Otherwise, we could as well abolish the courts and set up popular tribunals to summarily execute anybody accused of corruption in the media.
In the simmering controversy over the alleged rigging of the 2014 Ekiti State governorship election, popularly christened ‘Ekitigate’, I vote neither for Governor Ayo Fayose nor Dr Temitope Aluko, ex-Ekiti State Secretary of the PDP. Both men have no scruples. They lack character even though Fayose appears the more decent. Aluko testified before the Ekiti State Election Petition Tribunal that the election was free and fair. Now, he is singing a different tune because he says Fayose demurred on his earlier promise to make him Chief of Staff. There is absolutely nothing new that Aluko said which was not already in the public domain. Yes, money was voted for the elections. But which elections are fought without money? Yes, Security was illegally deployed to intimidate APC leaders and members. But does that explain Fayose’s victory in all Local Government Areas of the state including that of the incumbent governor? Does that explain why there was not a whimper of protest anywhere in Ekiti State at such alleged massive rigging? How did the PDP, despite Hurricane Buhari, convincingly win the 2015 Presidential, National Assembly and House of Assembly Seats in Ekiti? The Ekiti APC should simply stop chasing shadows, look inwards and begin rebuilding itself for the future.