IS it strange that the strongest defences Nigerians deploy against allegations of corruption is that past suspects, even offenders, were not punished? Impunity creates continuity in how we view suggestions that corruption should be punished.
We are comfortable with corruption. We expect it. We defend it. We justify it. We reduce corruption to bar room gossip, and sometimes topic for abusing each other. It ends there.
Two prominent Nigerians – Olusegun Obasanjo and Aminu Tambuwal – are accusing President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration of corruption, openly, directly. Their positions are in the public domain. Would they present formal petitions to the anti-corruption agencies that are well known to them?
Public outrage about the latest allegations rages in dissipate directions. Some wonder how they dare speak about the President in this manner. Others tag the confrontation a class war with nothing for ordinary Nigerians.
Other commentators have been more concerned with the profile of the newest wavers of the anti-corruption banner than their message. Obasanjo is the only one to have ruled Nigeria twice, first for two and half years as a military Head of State and for eight years as a civilian President. Tambuwal is Speaker of the House of Representatives, and a member of the government that he alleges is corrupt.
They are both members of the Peoples Democratic Party, the party that has produced governments at the centre since 1999, with majority in the National Assembly and governors in more States than all the other parties combined.
PDP is in turmoil. The statements are more of externalisation of the party’s internal wrangling than the more important war to secure Nigeria’s future.
What the duo say about corruption, or any matter, has to be taken serious. They speak from their vintage interactions with power and the national purse. People are however dismissive of them because corruption is seen along sectional lines.
Nothing is new in this treatment of corruption. Michela Wrong’s 2009 book, ‘It’s Our Turn To Eat’, details how corruption in Kenya was simply seen as a revolving bonus that comes with power. It was expected that the Kalenjins, Daniel arap Moi’s tribe, should after 28 years in power, realise the Kikuyus, Jomo Kenyatta’s people, had rights to disperse the common wealth among themselves.
The attitude in Nigeria is about the same. Corruption appears to be accepted as part of power. Those in power do not account for their tenures. One of the most complicating issues about corruption is the impunity that surrounds it, borrowing hugely from the immunity we offer our leaders. Nigerian leaders often ignore the implications of precedents.
Nigerians are judging Obasanjo and Tambuwal with precedents. They find little to comfort them.