The Government of Nigeria’s (GON) decision to somewhat expediently ‘fight corruption by scandal’ is by far the most inappropriate way to do so and shall end in abject failure. Unsurprisingly, the Big Thieves in Nigeria are the top beneficiaries of ‘anti-corruption by scandal-making’ adopted by the GON. The current $2.1 billion “Sambo Scandal” and others simply have the contrary effect of legitimising the ‘money sharing antics’ of the named culprits, arming their lawyers with legal “technicalities” and frustrating Nigerians with leaked allegations in the absence of formal prosecutions and convictions.
Before the negative consequences of ‘anti-corruption by scandal making’ are examined let us look at the best practical way to deal with corruption effectively. A nation can only end or minimise corruption significantly by meeting the necessary “costs” of doing so; it is neither free, easy nor without retaliation. The only way a society can witness “change” is if the costs required for that change are thoroughly and adequately paid for.
Violent revolution, peaceful revolution, draconian reform, piecemeal reform, ideological reorientation, moral reorientation etc. are all high-cost high impact activities/outcomes, be it finances, political leverage, institutional arrangements, structural building, cultural acceptance, constructive human effort, investments in education and information, uplifting the rule of law; all of these actions when well thought out and diligently implemented have costs before they bring successes. President Muhammadu Buhari seems increasingly unlikely to be the man who will meet those costs today by his own actions.
The greatest cost of anti-corruption is allowing the masses to participate in it effectively and decisively. In Nigeria ‘the costs of anti-corruption’ are carried by the president, governors, senators, representatives, assemblypersons, heads of parastatals, judges, lawyers, journalists and a few more men and women. 2000 people (max) out 200 million. And the shameless big thieves in power have the audacity, the madness to blame ordinary everyday Nigerians for their very own corruption with support from educated people?
While corruption scandals are often useful in exposing corruption and bringing it to the attention of the public, it is also known to strongly help the legitimisation and deeper entrenchment of corruption in societies where it is practised. In many societies, the fear of corruption scandals is greater than the fear of corruption itself. That the GON swims in corruption scandals with glee is more about the level of development in Nigeria and the thinking of the leaders than corruption itself.
Alas, when it comes to ‘anti-corruption by scandal-making’, the Owners of Nigeria Technostructure (ONT) are the only beneficiaries. What is the point of making big thieves more famous, helping big thieves avoid jail or punishment, further entrenching the culture of stealing among aspiring politicians and bureaucrats, making corruption more acceptable in society, frustrating the expectations of good citizens for a just society, keeping weak institutions weaker? These are the hard impacts media-based corruption scandals have on societies eventually. Ultimately, scandals, as a rule, make existing corruption worse. ‘Arrest and publicise’ is too poor a strategy to be favoured by the GON.
The ‘Sambo Scandal’ has been handled in a very perverse way. In a proper democracy the main suspect, Col Sambo Dasuki, would be (1) arrested, (2) interrogated [in the presence of his lawyer], (3) charged to court and then (4) prosecuted to be found guilty or not guilty. It is during the prosecution that evidence of corruption would be made public. In this case, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) interrogations office is leaking evidence like a busted basket.
Is this leaking of interrogation information by EFCC insiders a grand strategy to make the GON look like it is ‘trying’ hard with its anti-corruption campaign? Does the GON now have its own favoured media houses it passes info through? Will the lawyers of Dasuki and others not plead ‘trial by media’ when prosecution time comes? Will the GON’s prosecutors not have to walk through a minefield of legal technicalities to be scored by the defence lawyers? Why increase the ‘costs of anti-corruption’ in Nigeria that is already incredibly high?
How the ‘cost of anti-corruption’ would be met is not an easy matter and requires the high competencies of expert knowledge of corruption and expert practice of anti-corruption. But there has to be a strong will [political will] to put these competencies together in sustained undertaking that would bring about the success of anti-corruption in Nigeria. It can be done. But I am yet to identify a single step in the direction of thorough anti-corruption by the current GON. All I identify are scandals.
President Buhari has far to go if he wants his anti-corruption campaign to be more than just a reality show.