OBANIKORO’S DEFECTION; A DISTRACTION IN NIGERIA’S CORRUPTION FIGHT

Musiliu-Obanikoro

The list is long. Expectations rife and high, and so are the burdens or problems that are yet to be resolved-It is a messy room with furniture turned upside down, strewn with dirt, and begging for fumigation to rid it of its cockroaches and rats.

The picture still remains unclear as the APC led government of President Muhammad Buhari still struggles to find the perfect shot for Nigeria’s political album. Years of mismanagement and ruin under the PDP led government had almost driven the country aground. But whether it was something the APC were oblivious of while making promises to Nigerians is a question that begs for an answer.

But considering the situation on ground, it is obvious that the new government that ended the PDP 16-year nightmarish rule never knew the decrepit state the country was until it assumed power. It was a shocker that jolted it and brought it back to earth.

Rather than lament the pitiful state they met the house, the All People’s Congress needed to ditch excuses and try as much as possible to fulfill their electoral promises. It was a long list that they had to treat as a scale of preference and national interest.

So, tackling Boko Haram, bridging the country’s infrastructural deficit and fighting corruption got premium attention from the government. However, it is the latter that has earned more attention, evaluation and criticism.

Many critics of the government had queried the sincerity of its corruption fight. They have labeled it selective and even witch-hunting. They believed the campaign has only targeted oppositions and officials in the last administration of Goodluck Jonathan-A point that may further look credible depending on the outcome of the recent defection of a former Minister of defence to the APC.

Still shrouded in fog, the reports making the rounds on the defection of Musiliu Obanikoro, a former minister under Jonathan’s government to the APC would definitely beam the radar on the corruption fight of the Buhari administration.

It is a wonderful scenario that would test the character and the resolve of this government that has struggled to meet expectations.

Already disillusioned by the government’s inability to fulfill its electoral mandates, Nigerians are nonetheless still eager to see how the Buhari administration convinces them on the anti-corruption crusade which seems to be the number one on the political menu.

With news of billions of monies recovered from politicians, former ministers and heads of parastatals thanks to the ‘whistle blowing’ policy aimed at making the job of the financial crimes crack team, EFCC  easier, there still remains some flaws besides the ‘selective or one-sided’ allegations holding the corruption fight back.

In a country where the justice system has been accused of soiling its hands and can no longer claim to be saints, based on its past and current roles in dispensing justice to accused looters brought before its courts, many Nigerians have concluded that the corruption fight will eventually turn to a charade as the country’s judicial system is somehow inept and ill-prepared for this national cleansing project.

The recent sentencing of a twenty-two year old to 21 years in prison for stealing a phone shows the lopsidedness in Nigeria’s judicial landscape. Whereas, looters that have committed grievous economic crimes while in government have been left off the hook or in worst cases given reprieve through ‘plea bargain’. It is an absurdity and a mockery of the country’s judiciary.

And now with Obanikoro’s reported defection to the ruling party, the question Nigerians would definitely be asking is the fate of the former defence minister in the wake of joining the winning team. It is a question only the administration can answer.

Accused of stashing billions into personal accounts and also using his children’s account to launder money abroad, Obanikoro had been put on the radar of the government’s anti-corruption drive but, with his recent maneuvering, will the EFCC be forced to pull the plug off him? If this does happen, then the government critics and Nigerians’ worst fears have just been confirmed: The corruption is truly selective and the only way to escape the harassment is by pitching tents with the ruling party-A terrible conclusion and an indictment on a country that has been held back from fulfilling her potentials truly as the ‘giant of Africa’.

The reason why West Africa’s juggernaut and Africa’s heavyweight has been comatose for more than four decades is because of misrule, apathy and dis-service all symptomatic of corruption. It is a cancer that has affected the fabric and foundation of the entity called Nigeria.

Asia’s rising is one that Nigeria should take a cue from. The likes of China, Thailand, Singapore and South Korea, just to mention a few are on a roller-coaster because of their governments’ zero-tolerance for corruption and the rule of law.

Most importantly Seoul, recent impeachment by the legislative arm and trial of ex-president Park Gu Hye in court for allegedly compromising her office and state’s sensitive documents with a personal friend just shows how far and finicky the South Koreans are when it comes to governance and government.

There is an invisible but yet strong synergy among the three arms of government in South Korea to deliver accountable and priceless governance to the people. Park Gu Hye only had one attorney to defend her against the charges. She didn’t flock herself with 80 senior advocates and her ministers when she appeared in court.

It is an exemplary thing to do as a leader. And Park Hye showed that national interest comes first.

Back to Abuja, the good work already started by the anti-corruption policy of the APC must start reaping benefits. It is the only way to convince Nigerians on this front that at least out of the numerous promises on the list they did well to fulfill this.

And to prove skeptics wrong and convince the masses, President Muhammad Buhari must make sure Obanikoro’s defection to his party must not be an alibi for abandoning the case of corruption against him.

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