Probe of Past Government is Key to Effective and Sustainable Governance at this Point in the Life of Nigeria

Archbishop Mathew Hassan Kukah and Anthony Cardinal Okojie may not have conferred with each other when they made almost similar statements in response to the currently ongoing probes by the Buhari administration. Virtually every one can feel the transcendence of the investigative intentions and process to a ‘shock and awe’ point. Initially Okojie, copied the refrain of the PDP and warned against the probes being selective and a political witch-hunt. Now, he has joined Mathew Hassan Kukah to make more daring challenge to the actions of Buhari. In typical response to the views of clerics in this clime, they have consequently garnered and ennobled disciples along their lines of apprehension and latent beliefs. There position is simple: that while probe of past government regime is necessary, it should not be a substitute for governance.

While their proposition seemingly ended there, their disciples have expounded on their statements to explain why and how the probes and appointments so far made by Buhari are not synonymous with governance: probes do not define policy directions (monetary, fiscal, foreign etc); they have not and do not provide good roads or other needed infrastructure for that matter and so on. This impatience explains why about a month ago the tags of ‘Baba go-slow’ or ‘motion without movement’ were slowly gaining momentum as appropriate descriptions of Buhari’s administration even though it was barely a month and half of his ascension to presidential office. But who cares whether it was yesterday that he was sworn in. The truth really is that the Nigerian people still desperately want the so-called change they voted for and perhaps do want it more ‘instantly’ than those who won the election thinks. The more it is prolonged the more despondent they become. Fortunately for Buhari, those tags appear to be fast waning and not stuck on him. The strident momentum of despondence that was building up on account of seemingly no action on ground dissipated almost as it came when it became obvious that indeed there were strategic actions by Buhari demonstrated in some of the appointments and the initiated probes. Why did the up-swell of protestation that was quickly gaining grounds in the social media suddenly die down on account of these few developments? it is because those actions are consistent with the kind of change that Nigerians wanted from a Buhari; not from any other kind of leader.

How true is this supposition? Is Buhari’s probe truly consistent with Nigerian people’s desire for change and by extension, good governance. The answer cannot be anything but a resounding ‘Yes’. Indeed, by sincerely investigating and genuinely promising to deal with the infractions of previous governments (and its officials) the actions cannot be anything in its absolute sense but ‘change’ for the better in governance in Nigeria. What we have had in this country before now were deliberate cover up of the inordinate rape of this country and its resources by civil/public servants and politicians. Before now, probes were not different from Fela’s ‘government magic’ which were carried out essentially to hoodwink the public and make them believe that the supposed excesses being investigated will be dealt with. The outcome of such ‘government magic’ probes were never allowed outside of the Oga’s closet. In situations where probes were really being carried out, they merely ended up as political witch hunts which were also usually resolved ‘politically’ to the detriment of the rest of us. In some instances where the investigation originates outside of the government in power, there was usually outright connivance of government in power with the justice system — police, law courts etc — to frustrate the process and ensure that it comes to nothing meaningful.

Since the ousting of the Buhari/Idiagbon regime there has never been any government that has laudably shown sincere efforts to investigate the financial recklessness and thieving evil of previous governments in Nigeria? None in my short memory. Yet, all Nigerians know that the problem that have continuously crippled this country — economically, politically, socially — was because those who run the governments are mainly persons inordinately motivated by their public-fund stealing expertise. Nigerians needed a paradigm shift from that evil: a change to sustainable good governance! A change that permanently uproots the canker worm of corruption that have perpetually brought (no-electricity) darkness, unemployment, poverty, no social infrastructure etc upon the country. Nigerians — are smart enough and knew that Buhari is not an expert in economics and were therefore not expecting cutting edge economic policies; Nigerians did not know Buhari as an expert in electricty generation and so were not necessarily expecting him to design the best electricity programs for the country. Nigerians know Buhari as a disciplinarian and anti-corruption czar per excellence. He did it before and they yearned for a repeat of that life-saving feat! Nigerians know that once Buhari brings his anti-corruption style of leadership to bear on the exercise of his office that electricity, good roads, employment etc will naturally follow as a consequence. The reason is simple: peoples funds that have kept these goodies away from us and which have been tucked inside government fund embezzlers pockets will be out and used for those purposes for which they are meant.

What this means therefore is that governance that is sustainable can only be built on a strong foundation. Good governance can only be the consequence of series of actions top of which — given Nigeria’s history of decadence —is fight against corruption that inevitably founds and strengthens our institutions and processes. Therefore, the probe of previous administration’s activities is — in the order of such factors — the strongest and most efficacious way of building strong and well-functioning institutions for a country. Strong institutions in turn is the bedrock of good governance that lasts. The key word here is sustainable good governance. Weak institutions on the other hand only perpetuates the vicious cycle of corruption and its mass impoverishment cataclysm for the entire country. Weak institutions is the single most potent factor which fired by corruption (and in turn driving corruption) that have continuously deprived us of governance that is both effective and sustainable. That on the other hand is what Buhari and his cohorts have so far been offering us: the foundations for long-lasting good governance. Many of us can attest to how electricity have improved across the country even when Buhari has not done any appreciable thing in that sector. Many of us can attest to the improved professional conducts across Federal Ministries and Parastatals. Why? No head of a Ministry or Agency wants to experience what the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is going through.

Like Buhari himself says, we have to kill corruption or it will finally kill us, Nigerians were overjoyed by the restructuring efforts at the NNPC which is synonymous to killing one of the breeding grounds of national corruption. A friend of mine told me that Jonathan has had these interventions in mind but was waiting to return in 2015. Unfortunately he did not make it. Well my answer was that what actually differentiates one leader from the other is the degree of courage they demonstrate to embark on what is noble and socioeconomically heroic. So far, Buhari has displayed rare-but-expected courage in carrying out the surgery that other leaders have failed (or refused) to perform at the NNPC. As generous fountains of illegitimate opulence for the civil servants and political office holders, NNPC and other Agencies in that order were consciously spared by previous governments from badly needed investigation. Invariably, previous leaders so-to-say made an unstated pact among themselves to enrich themselves and impoverish the rest of us by selfishly exploiting our common heritage through these weakened institutions. By rejecting this seeming pact and going ahead to investigate what is going on in those places as well as recover our looted heritage, Buhari is showing the rare courage to deliver the ‘change’ that Nigerians are asking for.

So what is the purpose of this exegesis? It is clear that the problem with the statements of the two clerics — Mathew Hassan Kukah and Anthony Okojie — is that they were treating the investigative actions of Buhari as substitutes for governance. When seen and interpreted that way, then the comments may make some sense albeit jaundiced. Buhari’s investigative actions should rather be seen rightly in the context or from the prism of a result chain or cause and effect sequence. The result chain would ask: what inputs and processes should deliver the anticipated high quality impact? Clearly, the probes and investigations are indisputably the most necessary inputs at this point in time that will birth the strong institutions that will be most sustainable and effectively impactful on socio-economic lives of Nigerian citizens. Not doing that (i.e. not extensively probing the previous governments) will in itself constitute huge disappointment to Nigerians and can only result in shallow and jaundiced implementation of the desired ‘change’. The positive change we desire going forward need to be predicated on very solid institutions where a culture of intolerance to impunity will be upheld.

Understanding the transmission mechanisms of these investigative actions to good governance starts by asking ourselves what these institutions are set up to do in the first place. They are set up to plan and provide all those elements of good governance: good roads, electricity, policing, health-care etc. At present we are beginning to see behavioural changes that will make them possible. Electricity supply which has suddenly improved across the country is a good example. The culture of impunity which have deprived us of all these are under attack. One would as they have often asked: does it mean that Buhari does not have his own policy direction? My answer is that if Buhari has not so far done anything that demonstrates that he is frontally opposed to subsisting policies, then the policies that are currently in operation suffices for him. The reality is that our problem has never been about the policy that supposedly provides the direction for governance. the problem has always been the conscious undermining of the operation of these policies through the corruption of those in power. It is this change from this pernicious trait and the birthing of the institutions for enduring impactful governance that Buhari is implementing. Let us support him.

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