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Thirty Days Of ‘Change’

In the weeks since Buhari came to power, a former governor has been acuitted o corrution charges against him mainy on rocedura grounds

Pita Okute

This would seem a rather inappropriate headline, because governments and major social developments are not judged on such a brief time scale. The usual gauge is 100 days, mid-term, etc. But President Buhari forced the issue last week when he lamented that the hundred day landmark posed a serious pressure point for his very young administration.

The assertion suggests very clearly that the president is apprehensive of the enormous challenges ahead and realises very frankly that time is not on his side. His response to the matter has been rather disappointing though his teeming admirers, and I am one of them, have cut him a great deal of slack.

Even his political opponents have allowed that he promised change, not miracles. Everyone is surprised though- the highly expectant cheer leaders most of all- that the Buhari train is slow to clank out of the rail yard. And the truth is, we can hardly wait another two months for the 100 day landmark before we register our worries.

Pardon me, everyone, for believing that after announcing his desire to work with a much smaller number of special assistants, and getting the nod from the Senate, the president would follow suit with a prompt release of their names and portfolios.

The greater wonder for me is that the president blamed his tardiness on the lack of proper handover notes from the preceding administration he ecuse that he wanted rst to know the state of affairs in the ministries before appointing people, surprised me even more. Would not the appointees help to unravel the true situation faster for Mr President? And then this: “I met a virtually empty treasury… rules and regulations were thrown to the dogs.”

The claim about an empty has since been disputed but, someone should please tell President Buhari that we have heard enough about recovering stolen monies. We want him to start doing so. I am one of those who believe that the assignment is not as easy as it sounds. Oh yes, monies were stolen, huge sums indeed, but they won’t tumble out of the safety vaults in which they have been stashed, merely at the snap of two residentia ngers t woud reuire diigent orensic accounting and auditing rst to ocate them and second, to set up the legal logistics support to “persuade” any foreign countries in which these funds are located to play ball.

Even on the home front, getting the corrupt to answer to their misdeeds will take serious effort. We should expect long drawn out battles in our law courts, as well paid lawyers and senior advocates, who know every trick in the book, do their best to earn their huge pay and solidify their dubious reputations as the devil’s advocates. The past administration was chided often by the opposition for not doing enough to tackle corruption.

Sadly, I don’t see Buhari doing any better without fundamental changes in the Nigerian legal and judicial protocols for the dispensation of justice. This is the major stumbling block in the prosecution of corruption cases. In the weeks since Buhari came to power, a ormer goernor has een acuitted o corrution charges against him mainly on procedural grounds. Furthermore, any serious attempt to reduce corruption in Nigeria must begin with a signicant increase in the caacity o anticorrution agencies through adeuate stang or sure, the president knows all this but there is no reason to believe that he wants to do so just yet.

In any case, it will take at least nine months to recruit and train the manpower to make the ICPC and a ot more ecient and eectie than they are at the moment. n his rst incarnation as head o state and commander-in-chief, Buhari trod a harsh, dictatorial path to recover ill gotten wealth. His strategy then was opposed by the Nigerian Bar Association who asked its members to withdraw from the tribunals.

Now, with his hands manacled by the rule of law and the ethics of democratic rule, no one should really expect so much, so soon, from the government. We remember very clearly that no great loot was recovered either from the detained politicians of the Second Republic who were mostly found guilty of mismanaging the security vote or appointing cronies to the boards of government owned companies. The emphasis on his anti-corruption programmes emanates from the president’s avowed interest in the problem.

Nevertheless, the economy remains the key issue though corruption remains a major cause of the rupture in the economy. One month on, the absence of a directional signpost on the president’s economic policy is rather disheartening to a lot of citizens. The situation on the legislative front, where the executives of the president’s party insist on tele-guiding the National Assembly is just as disturbing.

I support Dele Momodu’s position on the president’s inability or reluctance to rein in the party lynchpins who want to impose on the country an obscure dictatorship known as “party supremacy.” Said Momodu to the president in his Thisday column Pendulum: “The present imbroglio in your party is as a result of your lukewarm attitude to party issues, thinking you could merely concentrate on nation-building while others deal with political intrigues… As you can now see, you don’t seem to be on the same page with your party.

While you were busy agonising over the myriad of problems besetting Nigeria, many of your resumed discies were usy ghting oer positions and control of power the way babies suae oer oios hey hae studiousy forgotten the change mantra… “You cannot sit on the fence. Whilst your decision not to interfere in the affairs of another arm of government, the legislature, is commendable and indeed your constitutional duty, you must make it clear to your party that the same non-interference must apply to them…Change has come, please imbibe it!” What more can I add? The change agents must walk their talk. Now!

Pita Okute, novelist, wrote in from Abuja. 

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