By Mbasekei Martin Obono
In Nigeria, the most reoccurring factor that has determined all previous regime change, coups and counter-coups is corruption. Corruption is the bane of political instability in Nigeria. It is the reason for the continuous lowering of public confidence in government and institutions. One question that needs to be asked, however, is whether the decision and modus operandi for fighting corruption should be left in the hands of the citizens or politicians alone?
The build up to 2019 general elections presents Nigeria a fresh start between political parties, candidates and citizens. Political parties and their candidates must provide a work plan on how they intend to address issues of corruption. Citizens must put corruption on the agenda for 2019 elections. This is because the most important element of an effective anti-corruption strategy is honest political will from those in government, or else the anti-corruption war would be deemed mere rhetoric.
The present administration came into power with the promise of demonstrating political will in the fight against corruption. However, a considerable amount of literature has been published on the administration’s approach towards fighting corruption. Majority of these studies have accused the government of persecuting opposition party members, while shielding government allies. This led to the legendary remarks by Senator Shehu Sani in January, 2017 that, “when it comes to fighting corruption in the larger Nigerian sectors, the president uses insecticide, but when it comes to fighting corruption within the presidency, he uses deodorants.”
Transparency International, a globally respected international organisation, released its report on the corruption perception index in 2018. The data shows that in 2015, Nigeria was 26th on the corruption perception index. In 2014, the country scored 27th and 25th in 2013. The report shows that under the Buhari administration, corruption is at a all-time high, with Nigeria taking 28th position. The colossal failure of the present administration’s anti-corruption war may not be far from the absence of a practicable strategy.
Prior to 2015, there was no working document on how President Buhari would fight corruption. And while we all anticipated the president to unfold his plan, it became increasingly difficult to hold the administration accountable, because neither the APC nor Candidate Buhari had an anti-corruption plan.
In 2019, we are obliged to do things differently. The two major political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and their candidates, President Muhammadu Buhari and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, are required to present Nigeria with an anti-corruption strategic plan.
It will be the obligation of citizens to demand for a concrete and workable framework on the anti-corruption struggle, transparency and accountability. Electorates must not consider any candidate with hollow anti-corruption promises. They must demand the step-by-step implementation of every anti-corruption campaign promise made, with their performance dates. That way, it will be easier to track the development and growth of our democracy.
It is pertinent to note that corruption must not be limited to grand corruption. Political parties must find means of addressing all forms of corruption, including, political corruption, nepotism, favouritism, abuse of power, and bribery, amongst a host of others.
Citizens and the electorates should demand that political parties and their candidates must have anti-corruption strategic plans. Each political party must have its own version of the plan, which its members and candidates must subscribe to. The strategic plan must be detailed enough to provide steps that would be taken by the party on a quarterly and yearly basis. It must show in details how the party intends to engage the legislature, executive, judiciary and the fourth estate of the realm towards actualising its plan.
The anti-corruption strategic plan must be innovative and contain ideas like the Bank Verification Number, Treasury Single Account, whistleblowing policy amongst many other brilliant ideas. Ideas like these have transformed and shaped our national life for the better and we should encourage more of them.
2019 elections should not be about lip service. For every campaign promise made by a political party or candidate, citizens must learn to respond with a corresponding question of “how” and “when” they hope to implement it. This way, it would be easy to have SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound) campaign promises.
Mbasekei Martin Obono tweets @martobono