If you were to personally ask President Muhammadu Buhari what the most successful thing a person  could achieve in Nigeria was and he is totally honest with you, he will tell you it is either to seize power (through coup d’états or general elections) or amass riches (through grand corruption). Power and riches for their sake will always breed corruption and that is particularly why the president himself is not exempt. We all know that but some simply deny it. The Panama Papers scandal involving tax-evasion and money laundering cases in off-shore havens shook many international heavyweights in the civilised world but not Nigeria. Buhari’s administration has rendered big thieving Nigerian politicians and quasi-businessmen completely “Panama-proof”.

Prime ministers, politicians, businessmen, sportsmen and others from the civilised world could not be Panama-proofed. They were either forced to resign from office, prosecuted, paid heavy fines or got suspended prison sentences, and some may still go into the slammer. The main crime these men committed was tax evasion, on legitimately earned money. If tax evasion was [enforceably] a crime in Nigeria and [retrospectively] detectable virtually everyone who has done medium to large business transactions in the formal sector would certainly be jailed lengthily and fined heavily. Nigeria was never uncivilised but the post-colonial leaders who are no better than auto-colonialists are trying their very best to make Nigeria incredibly disorganised by creating externalities in society that will ensure certainty their own increasing power and riches. Nigeria is not becoming an anarchy for lack of leadership, its leaders are de-civilising the country deliberately and ruthlessly.

A country whose political, economic and cultural institutions are immune to explosions of corruption is a truly dying one. Nigeria is a dying nation. Being Panama-proof or scandal-proof is not good for Nigeria, it is only good for the thieves drying out all the worth of the land. The thieves think they are blessed in their thievery but they are actually working assiduously toward their own suicides. Panama-proofing drives away capital and investment, local and foreign. It is tragic that Nigeria is a nation in decline without ever having risen hitherto because power and riches for the leaders have always been the opportunity cost of creating the conditions of a flourishing societal. Nigeria perhaps has the most ‘un-transcendental’ leadership in the world. Thank you, President Buhari and your predecessors for this, you have added your quota indelibly.

Many thieving Nigerians implicated in the Panama Papers scandal are prospering profusely and living free. There are over a hundred Nigerians from both the public and private sectors enjoying the leisure of being Panama-proofed by the president.

It would not even be wrong to surmise that Buhari’s administration is not even aware that Nigerians are implicated in the Panama Papers scandal. Put more precisely, the Buhari administration lacks the will and wherewithal to even care an iota. Some will say in favour of the Buhari administration that the Panama Papers scandal was an “external matter”, even extraneous to anticorruption measures in Nigeria and the Government of Nigeria has no jurisdiction or business in Nigeria. The question such an interesting mental attitude will elicit is, is it true that Nigeria’s big thieves have their illegally acquired monies laundered within Panama’s jurisdiction? And what should be done about it? Buhari has not even been able to deal in any concrete or credible way with corruption in Nigeria why even think about faraway Panama.

A disastrous mix of premature wild disclosures of corruption / corrupt actors; stone-faced wielding of threats; toothless inconclusive probes; highly selective witch-hunts / arrest of political opponents; bequeaths of total impunity to big thieves that swept the party into power; the abhorrence of a sound method or strategy; the engineering of short-lived political distractions to make the administration look tough; the transiently successful propaganda; all led to the stillbirth of Buhari’s “messianic cleansing“ of corruption in Nigeria. Anticorruption Powerless! The only reason why we are not seeing record-breaking corruption taking place under Buhari’s watch is that oil money bounties are no longer flowing copiously. But even with the “tight-belt economy” Nigeria now operates, corruption is occurring crapiously with the president and those that matter to him bifurcating their way out of the country’s suffering with plutocratic aplomb.

When the future annals of Nigeria’s political history is written it would be unfair to suggest President Buhari was the cause of Nigeria’s current corruption status but it will be aptly fitting to record that he effectively Panama-proofed it by action or inaction, it does not matter.

 

Grimot Nane

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