MEMO TO MUHAMMADU BUHARI, PRESIDENT, C-in-C. 3
Your Excellency, as I conclude this three -part memo as my humble contribution to support your historic assumption of office after a record lengthy struggle, permit me to give my thoughts on some of the very critical issues on which you have promised the Nation significant, if not revolutionary change. I have chosen to write on them last because, in my candid opinion, these are the areas you need the best advice and the greatest help. This is so,because when all is said and done, these are the sentiments on which you won the election and it is on these your success will be measured:
FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION
Nigerians can and do disagree on many issues. But when it comes to corruption, ALL Nigerians agree that the level of corruption in Nigeria is very high. When the Transparency International places us year after year at the bottom quarter of the Corruption Perception Index(CPI), they are only reflecting what we Nigerians and our friends say about ourselves. They do not do so out of hatred or bias. Therefore, since there is this unanimous recognition and acceptance of this national malady, it should be relatively easy to cure it, because as we say in Healthcare, the successful diagnosis of a malady, is half the solution. But the problem we have in Nigeria is that while everybody accepts and confesses that our Country is corrupt, very few are willing to accept that they are part of the corruption. The General tendency is to see the corruption everywhere else, outside of ourselves. It is always that some one else or some other organization or some other group or sector is corrupt. And not us.
Often, corruption in Nigeria is said to exist only in the government, and every other sector is clean, only politicians are corrupt while other professionals are not. It is only the Police that is corrupt, but we who commit traffic offense and bribe the Police to let us off the hook are not corrupt. The taxi driver who cheats or overcharges his passenger does not see any corruption in what he is doing but is quick to accuse the Police at the check point who collects twenty naira from him as corrupt. The electorate who demands money or gifts from the politician before he casts his vote for him on Election Day, does not see that as corruption but shouts at the INEC official who connives with another politician to change results. The Private sector employee who makes a false claim on his tax form of having four Children and two aged parents, when he has only a child and his parents are long dead, does not see that as corruption but will ask that the Legislator who collects "oversight" ticket from the Securities & Exchange Commission(SEC),should be sent to jail for being corrupt. Even the Journalist who demands or expects a brown envelope before he writes a story or publishes an article seems oblivious of his corrupt Behavior but is ready to ask for the head of a soldier who rides in a bus without paying the fare.
Your Excellency we can never win the war against corruption until we have a common definition of corruption. To us Nigerians, corruption means different things and majority of us are blind to our own corrupt activities. I believe this is one of the frustrations that your immediate predecessor, Dr Goodluck Jonathan expressed when he tried to distinguish stealing from the omnibus word -Corruption. But the same hypocritical Nigerians made a joke of a serious matter. So sir, my first advice on this subject is that we need to define corruption in the Nigerian context. In the event that you plan to retain the National Orientation Agency(NOA), this might be a worthwhile assignment. You may wish to rename them National Anti corruption Agency( NAA) .We need to agree on what corruption means and how it manifests and they should impress it upon every Nigerian. It should be taught in our schools and we must find a way of testing every Nigerian's full and unambiguous understanding of what corruption is and how it manifests. May be we should include it in the test for driver's license renewal or what ever. Let Nigerians know that corruption is not only the taking of Bribes or awarding of inflated contracts. It is much much more. Let the NAA carry out a campaign on this as the first shot to be fired in this war.
Sir, the second recommended step is to ensure that all law enforcement officers from the Police, the Federal Road Safety corps, and Regulators of all kinds,to the Judicial officers at all levels are well paid and well maintained. Hungry men can never successfully enforce laws, nor can they successfully resist temptations to be corrupt. Some of those we arm to fight crimes or maintain the law are paid 'starvation' wages and many have become 'official' armed robbers.My point is that if we must make the war effective, and sustainable, we must take good care of those who will be directly involved in the war fare, other wise the hunter might end up being the hunted.
Third Sir, is that the Governments of the Federation must become responsible employers. They must not hire people, if there is no budget to pay them. Employees must be paid on due dates and all of their other entitlements paid as at when due. Government must never again wait for workers to threaten strike or go on strike before their legitimate demand are met or before promises are fulfilled and agreements implemented. Your Excellency, I do not know your experience, since for most of your life you have lived on government largesse,( Officer Cadet,Commanding officer, Minister, Head of State, Retired General and now President), perhaps in your younger days as Junior Army officer you may have experienced it; it is very very difficult for most working Nigerians to survive on their salaries without 'additional income'.In the frank absence of social safety,they bear many burdens for themselves, their families( nuclear & extended) and the community. Now how are these workers expected to survive when salaries are delayed, and as happens very often in States, workers are owed six months salary. Believe me Sir, it will be difficult to fight a war against corruption in such a milieu, not to talk of ever winning.
Fourth Sir, we must all lead by example. And I believe you will lead by example. But it is critical that all other leaders and office bearers in your administration at all levels must be made to lead by example. When a head of department or agency is abusing his office, it is futile to expect those under his or her command or supervision to be angels. The fish begins to rot from the head. So we need to keep surveillance over all leaders in the government. This must be some agency's responsibility. If you intend to keep the ICPC, this should be their assignment or if not, you may assign this to the bureau responsible for public officers asset declaration- Code of Conduct Bureau. In which case their mandate will be to investigate any officer who is living above his means. They must not wait to receive petitions or complaints, they should work like internal auditors who routinely check that things are going according to plan, and where they notice incongruences, people are invited to prove their innocence. In Abuja, many people know many Mid level and Senior Public Servants( retired and serving )who own high rise buildings in Maitama and Wuse and yet no body is questioning them,perhaps because everybody is playing the same games.
Your Excellency, Focusing only on political office holders and throwing them into jails as you did the last time will not work and I believe that you know that it did not work even then. That is why I am making these suggestions. We must begin this fight from first principles, so that the impact will be far reaching. I am not suggesting a police State. What I am saying is that People must be conscious of the consequences of corruptive activities and must feel that they could be caught. We must not allow those who have become adept at covering their tracks to continue their dastardly acts and believe they would get away as they have done in the past. My point is that there must be deterrence, if the battle will be won. All over the World, including the most developed Countries there are men and women who are pushed by their lust to abuse Public trust, but they ultimately get caught, not necessarily that some body complained, but because' Uncle Sam is watching' as they say in the United States of America.
If you ask me, I will suggest that you do not spare costs in revamping, rekitting and rebuilding our security infrastructure. Sir, you have said it and it is well established that the first responsibility of any government is to protect lives and property of its citizens. When a government fails in this primary responsibility, for what ever reasons( defensible or not), then its legitimacy is called to question. We know there is Bokoharam terrorism in the North, which is significantly under control, but it took the military time to achieve this feat, most probably due to poor equipment and morale. But as bad as terrorism is, it is not the only security challenge that Nigeria faces. To be sincere to you, most Nigerians and our foreign business associates feel that Nigeria is Unsafe. In Nigeria life is cheap. People are murdered in broad day light, and the criminals disappear like 'spirits' never to be found, except perhaps if the person they killed is a Policeman!. So rather than give free meals to students or invest limited National income in some public sector funded physical Projects, let's first rebuild our police force, develop a robust intelligence gathering capacity and ensure that no criminal escapes speedy justice in our country.
LAW & ORDER
Your Excellency, if you can turn the image of our Country from that where anything goes to one where law and order reigns, you would have met the expectations of most Nigerians, including those of Nigerians yet unborn. In this you will need the support of the other arms of government ( legislature and Judiciary) and other tiers of government( States and local governments). But you will have to lead. Truly, we may not necessarily need new laws. Let us obey and enforce all existing laws in our Statute . If one keeps the laws and follows the rules, he will get all that are due him and he will be protected by the State. If any breaks any law( minor or major), the State will go after him in line with due process and he will be made to pay. No friends, no foes. No bias , no favour. No exemptions. No exclusions. " I belong to Nobody but I am for everybody"
Your excellency if you spend all your time fighting corruption justly, keeping Nigerians safe where ever they live or work, going after criminals and law breakers and Enthroning law and order, you would make Nigeria A preferred investment destination. Then the Private Sector( Domestic and International) will bring in the investment to support the building of infrastructure, and the establishment of businesses that will create employment and generate wealth, thereby reducing poverty.
RELATIONSHIP WITH THE PEOPLE
Finally your Excellency, please do not allow your self to be held hostage by your aides or officialdom. You freely moved around the People when you canvassed for their votes. You held town hall meetings and village hall meetings to explain yourself to the people. Please do not allow anything keep you away from the People. Find regular opportunities to shake off officialdom and touch base with the Real People and get first hand information on how things are going. Do not allow yourself to be shielded from Reality. Remember that you met them on your way to the top, and that they will still be there on your way down. May the grace of God give you the Solomonic wisdom to lead Nigeria successfully. Thank you so much for finding time to read my memo . Respectfully submitted.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR