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Not A Single Good Man? Gosh!

President Muhammadu Buhari has given Nigerians reason to lose sleep. His verdict that Nigeria no longer has decent persons to be appointed into positions of high trust is one that should worry every conscious Nigerian irrespective of his or her political affiliation. That verdict simply summarizes how bad we have become.

In his conclusions, Buhari said we no longer have decent persons. Everyone is compromised. Everyone has had his or her hand sullied in the pot. I believe our president was talking in reference to politicians. He may be more disappointed if he ventured into the private world of the professional.

He may find that those referred to as technocrats are more rotten than politicians. That says a lot about how damned our country is. All our politicians come from the professions. There, they cut corners. They compromise standards. They corrupted processes and got along with life as smart professionals.

After all, they operate in a Nigeria where laws are effective only in the books containing them. It is however interesting that Buhari came to this sad realization. He has talked so tough about corruption and the task of clearing the rot of years of greed, theft of public funds, planlessness, stealing of public patrimony and all, by the Nigerian politician irrespective of party platform; military or civilian.

In his promise to fight corruption, Buhari had acolytes, state governors, ex-this ex-that, who joined the bandwagon and shouted corruption from the roof tops. Men and women, whom society hold in esteem despite their putrid lifestyles, who constantly reminded us that Goodluck Jonathan’s was the only corrupt government Nigeria has had. Those were the saints. Those who became our noon day saviors because Jonathan preferred to keep quiet. If Jonathan observed, knew, shook his head in disbelief and kept quiet, Buhari has shown he won’t.

But it strikes when one recalls that Ibrahim Babangida, as military president, realizing this truth, created two political parties and placed a ban on a horde of characters. He created the ‘new breed’ class of politicians. That was his closest attempt at addressing the same issue Buhari is fighting to surmount.

Babangida failed with that experiment. The old breed was unmanned and the bazaar continued. Buhari failed not on moral grounds but on the legalistic of his action as they affected human rights and freedom as guaranteed by the constitution. In 1999, Olusegun Obasanjo attempted to do something similar. He however restricted it to the military.

He retired those said to be politically exposed career soldiers. That action had its negative effect on the military. But those so retired eventually found themselves accommodated in politics and within the political parties. Game on. Some of them were appointed into positions of trust either on the boards of agencies and parastatals or within the ministries.

I guess it was also for this reason that Obasanjo saw his pre-1979 colleagues, best suited to work with in 1999. Buhari also demonstrated that when he reached for Ahmed Joda to steer his transition committee. That is a most worrisome signature on our country. Even before we go further, recall that Jonathan had told us that those who mounted the rostrum and screamed corruption were more corrupt.

Buhari expressed just that. Somehow, Buhari’s verdict catches up, more with his party men in the APC. It shows that, like the scripture says, not those who scream the name of Christ everyday will make heaven. Buhari’s search for decent people is a direct way of telling his party men, especially those lobbying for appointment as ministers, that they are as filthy as others. It simply shows that this country would need more time to re-float itself consciously on the path of right.

If you want to understand exactly what Buhari was referencing, look at what disclosures came from the states after May 29. Re-assess disclosures by the governors and their claims of empty treasuries even in states where governorship transitions did not hold, like Osun and Edo and Ekiti and Kogi and Bayelsa. Or, in states that transited to themselves like Imo. They all had empty treasuries even they are not owed by the federation account.

Today, most of them are still battling to address unpaid salaries. Yet, they are our change agents. I quite understand that ours is not a moralistic country. I also understand the awkward nature of our political leadership. But we must accept the fact that all have sinned and fallen short of political glory. We must also accept that the change agents and ambassadors need redemption first.

That is where the change ought to begin, logically. Buhari’s verdict is that Nigeria cannot change with the sort of characters that drive it. Same argument that Jonathan left us with to wit: that we cannot solve our problems with the same mentality with which we created them.

This tells us that change will be difficult to come by. I am sure that Buhari must, also, have seen some report about the civil service. The conclusions may be worse than what he has told us about politicians. I once asked a former head of service questions about the discovery of pension fraud in the office of head of service while she was in office. Her response was something like ‘who would you sack, who would you spare?

She told me that while you are satisfied that a pension fund thief had been removed from the department and replaced with someone from another department, little did you know that most civil servants lobby for posting to the pension department. As you get one sacked or replaced, the replacement soon finds alliance with the out-gone staff and learns fast. Life goes on. Buhari’s dilemma is that the ‘angels’ he may find, are human beings who live and operate in a society dominated by social beings and who would also desire new mansions in Abuja or their home state capitals.

They will be people who desire the good things of life; people whose new office will drive their social status and increase family, kindred, community, village, town, local government, zone, state and general political demands. Not everyone is ascetic.

When Anthony of Egypt moved away from society to become a recluse in the desert, with his mind set on the ascetic life, he opened his doors to people who were willing, and ready, to sacrifice the pleasures of the city and live like him. Buhari’s austere lifestyle is not appealing to every politician.

And some will be surprised with his new position because they had contributed stolen funds to his campaign either by way of campaign bills payment, hotel rentals, home ownership, aircraft charters, media advertorials, breakfast, lunch and dinners, form purchase of cars etc. Some people picked the bills. Someone enjoyed them. Indeed, no one is clean. Everyone is compromised… as the scripture said, all have sinned and fallen short of glory.

-ACHILLEUS-CHUD UCHEGBU e-mail: achilleus.uchegbu@theunion.com.ng

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