There is no Goodluck in Corruption, By Femi Aribisala

Femi Aribisala, Ph.D
Femi Aribisala

Like a contagious life-threatening disease, PDP has been an affliction on Nigeria for the last 15 years.

In its days of arrogance, when some of its members boasted they would rule Nigeria for a proverbial thousand years, the PDP (Peoples Democratic Party of Nigeria) proclaimed itself the largest political party in Africa. Today, the party is afraid that the rival APC (All Progressives Congress) would declare far larger membership strength than the PDP as a result of its recent membership-registration drive. What a difference a day makes in Nigerian politics.

Rather than being the largest party in Africa, a more accurate description of the PDP is that it is the most fraudulent. The PDP is a party of thieves, rogues, swindlers, charlatans, extortionists and 419 experts. If you don’t believe me, take a look at this who-is-who of PDP governors who were indicted by the EFCC on charges of corruption. James Ibori ( PDP Delta); D.S.P. Alamieyeseigha (PDP Bayelsa); Lucky Igbinedion (PDP Edo); Peter Odili (PDP Rivers); Chimaroke Nnamani (PDP- Enugu); Joshua Dariye (PDP Plateau); Ikedi Ohakim (PDP Imo); Ayo Fayose (PDP- Ekiti); Rasheed Ladoja (PDP Oyo); Alao Akala (PDP Oyo); Gbenga Daniel (PDP Ogun); Jolly Nyame (PDP Taraba); Abdulahi Adamu (PDP Nassarawa); Boni Haruna (PDP Adamawa); Saminu Turaki (PDP Jigawa); and Orji Uzor Kalu (PDP Abia).

Like a contagious life-threatening disease, PDP has been an affliction on Nigeria for the last 15 years. The jury is still out on whether Nigeria will survive its contagion. But there is some indication that finally, gradually, the PDP is being cut down to size. The emergence of the APC and the massive defections from the PDP to it; have sent shocks to the PDP system. As a result, it has sobered up. The old arrogance has gone, or at least, is in remission. The cavalier contempt for Nigerians has disappeared. It is time for a massive self-introspection by this PDP albatross, if it is not soon to be consigned wholesale into the dustbin of history.

People deceiving party

At a service held at the Ecumenical Centre in Abuja to commemorate the 2012 Democracy Day, Reverend Peter Akinola challenged President Goodluck Jonathan, his wife and some PDP governors and ministers to pray against corruption in Nigeria, but they refused. Akinola publicly berated them. He exclaimed: “There you go! Oh, corruption! So, you are not ready to fight it, because you are all beneficiaries of it. Who is deceiving who? You are only deceiving yourselves, not God. And you who is stealing government funds, subjecting the poor to untold hardship; you who steal oil subsidy money, you who steal funds meant for improving our power supply, deliberately making Nigerians live a life in utter darkness, will you repent today? I doubt it!”

Indeed, the PDP is a citadel of corruption. Under it, Nigeria has earned the largest amount of income in its 54-year history. Simultaneously, the country has witnessed the most outrageous amount of theft and graft. President Jonathan seems incapable of tackling this. Under his watch, no high-profile public official has been jailed for corruption. In the Nigeria of today, you might go to jail for stealing a goat. But if you steal 100 billion naira, the worst thing that can happen to you is that you might be charged to court where the case will die after receiving the initial publicity.

Disappearing funds

Astonishing amounts of public funds keep disappearing, without satisfactory explanation as to what exactly happened to them. Oby Ezekwesili, a former World bank Director, stirred up the hornet’s nest a few years ago by declaring that the combined administrations of Musa Yar’adua and Goodluck Jonathan misappropriated literally billions of dollars. She pointed out that Obasanjo left $45 billion in Nigeria’s foreign reserve account and another $22 billion in the excess crude account when he left office in 2007; being direct savings from increased earnings from oil. These savings completely disappeared without trace. So far, no explanation has been given as to where the money went.

More recently, the Central Bank Governor, Lamido Sanusi, told the members of the House of Representatives that NNPC failed to remit a whopping $20 billion to the Federation account. Instead of just telling us where the money went, the Minister of Finance said forensic agents would be employed to audit NNPC accounts. Forensic audit of NNPC accounts can only reveal one thing; the NNPC has been a vehicle for defrauding the country of billions and billions of naira under successive PDP governments.

Renowned audit and advisory consultancy agency, KPMG, has already exposed massive corruption in the NNPC in a report handed over to Ministry of Finance a year ago. Massive petroleum subsidy claims, running into 28.5 billion naira between 2007 and 2009 alone, were paid where no petroleum was imported. Huge sums, again running into billions of naira, were diverted from the Federation accounts between 2010 and 2011.

Bad luck corruption

President Goodluck Jonathan undermined any pretensions to be anti-corruption by granting a presidential pardon to Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, the former Governor of Bayelsa State. Alamieyeseigha is a convicted felon. He was arrested in London for money-laundering, where over $1 million in cash was found in his house. He jumped bail, escaped from the country disguised as a woman, and fled back home. He then sought refuge in his constitutional immunity from prosecution as a governor. However, he was promptly impeached, charged with corruption and sentenced to two years in prison.

As governor, Alamieyeseigha was a common thief. According to Nuhu Ribadu, former Chairman of the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) which prosecuted him, over N43 billion in stolen funds were recovered from him alone. All this makes his presidential pardon unconscionable. President Jonathan himself has refused to declare his assets. During a June 24, 2012 Presidential Media chat, the President said that he could not give a damn what the people think of him in response to the demand for him to declare his assets publicly.

More recently, he appointed Chief Tony Anenih, former Minister of Works during Obasanjo’s first term, as Chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority. Anenih is well-remembered by Nigerians as the Minister who had a budget of N300 billion for the building of roads in President Obasanjo’s first term and delivered precious little. This same man has also now been elected chairman of the Board of Trustees of the president’s party; the PDP.

In effect, Nigeria is now a haven for corruption and for the corrupt. Recently, a man stole N23 billion in a pension scam and all he had to do was pay a fine of less than one million naira. The message was heard loud-and-clear around the country: corruption pays in Nigeria. The EFCC occasionally goes through the motions of prosecuting and convicting some high-profile corrupt government official, but most escape serious sanctions. Cecilia Ibru of Oceanic Bank returned over N225 billion in stolen money and assets, but she only spent six months in a high-society hospital in lieu of going to jail.

Game-change

The emergence of the APC might have changed the psychology of the PDP and that of President Jonathan. The president that did not give a damn what Nigerians think is now beginning to give a damn. He has just fired the Aviation minister, Princess Stella Oduah, who was involved in a scam of purchasing two bullet-proof cars for the ridiculous sum of 255 million naira without adhering to laid-down procedures. Time was when the president might have ignored the public outcry this produced. But in the new political climate of high-profile PDP defections to the APC, the PDP is developing new respect for public opinion and Mr. President has now found it expedient to give the public the impression that he now has zero-tolerance for corruption.

However, the emergence of the APC is likely to heighten corruption and not lessen it, as the PDP offers money to defectors to come back, to APC members to defect, and to PDP members to stay put. Indeed, by every indication of missing monies and financial shortfalls, it would appear that a PDP war-chest is being prepared for fighting the 2015 elections. Unfortunately for Nigerians, the APC is also a collection of thieves and robbers. A lot of noise is made about the anti-corruption stance of Muhammadu Buhari, but if so, why is he an ally of Bola Tinubu? Nobody would accuse Tinubu of being an apostle of anti-corruption.

Last chance PDP

The PDP has a golden opportunity to redeem itself. Contrary to all the hype, it can only be dented; it cannot be defeated by the APC in the 2015 elections. For the last fourteen years, the PDP has been the only national party in Nigeria. It has roots and formidable institutions in virtually every state of the federation. These cannot be overrun by a slipshod APC alliance of barely one year.

It is not enough for a PDP governor to defect to the APC, he cannot carry the PDP party machinery in his state with him. That machinery will still be difficult to confront and defeat in 2015. A defecting governor cannot build between now and then rival APC political machinery that will truly give the PDP a run for its money, especially in view of the fact that PDP is in power at the center, and has big bank-accounts.

The APC might conceivably become a formidable opponent of the PDP by 2019, provided it lasts that long. However, it is more likely to unravel if it loses in 2015. The glue holding it together is the desire for power at the center. Should it lose in 2015, most of the political prostitutes that have bailed to it from the PDP can be expected to bail back unabashedly with immediate effect.

In the meantime, the APC would have done its job, which is to scare the PDP into reform. Nobody would blame Goodluck Jonathan if he cleans up the Augean stables of the PDP before the next election. The good news is that, thanks to the APC, the PDP may be wise enough to re-invent itself. The bad news is that the gang-thieves of the PDP are likely to be with us a little longer, at best with refurbished sheep’s clothing.


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