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Fighting corruption: tooth, nail and blood

*We must kill corruption or it kills us

From Tajudeen Kareem

As we approach 2019, the contest for political relevance will become very contentious; so will the battle to combat corruption or expose corrupt tendencies, especially in official circles.

The tone of this battle was revealed last week by no less a ‘combatant’, Mr. Ibrahim Mustapha Magu, the dreaded anti-corruption czar. Hear him: “For us as a country, the fight against corruption is a do-or-die affair; we have to win the battle or die trying. Corruption, as agreed by every consensus, is our number one enemy and as President Muhammadu Buhari correctly prescribed, if we do not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria.”

Magu was speaking after a street rally to mark the yearly International Anti-corruption day.

“The fight against corruption is now a war in which there is clear line between forces of evil and those of good; between agents of progress and reactionary elements who mean no good. For those of us on this side; in the anti-corruption agencies of government, in the media and the civil society, the dagger is drawn and I believe I am speaking the mind of everyone. On this side, we will neither retreat nor surrender in our noble intention to cure our country of the evils of corruption,” he was quoted.

Mr. Magu said the Commission was “relentless” in its duties but warned that EFCC alone cannot win the fight. “As I often say, our bit is not enough. Winning the war against corruption is the aggregate of our collective bits and pieces. No Nigerian can afford to be on the fence in this effort to rid our country of its Enemy Number One,” he told journalists..

If anyone thought Magu was grandstanding, the disclosure in Abuja by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development should open our eyes to the devastation caused by the cankerworm called corruption. Indeed, Nigeria is bleeding from the injury inflicted by corruption.

Head of DFID office in Nigeria, Debbie Palmer, disclosed that about $32 billion was lost to corruption in the six years Dr. Goodluck Jonathan held sway as president. This huge amount is about 16 per cent of government’s resources that could have been used to build well-equipped classrooms, health centres and safer roads, among modern facilities other African countries now take for granted! But sadly, the bulk of the stolen money is stashed in foreign accounts; a notorious fact confirmed by Palmer who said that millions of dollars are tied up in legal challenges in many countries, including the UK.

She was actually addressing a group of young people under the banner Youngstars Development Initiative. While the country is presently deprived of basic amenities as good roads, functional hospitals and potable water, the future is also pregnant with danger. “That is a staggering amount of money. And that is money that is lost to all of you and to your future. That is why we all should care about corruption” said Palmer.

Palmer’s sermon should be regarded as a wake–up call. “The future of this country matter to the youth and the real cost of corruption will be felt more severely in future years. It will cost you money. It will cost you freedoms, it will cost you economic opportunities and so you should care”, she emphasized.

Many are wont to ask why Magu is sounding combative now. Is he getting frustrated with official bottlenecks, including the antics of those entrusted with the dispensation of justice? The EFCC, derided in the past as a tool for settling political scores, may have regained its steam, thanks to President Buhari for recognising the leadership and professional qualities in Magu, and believing in his capacity to lead the battle.

On several occasions, President Buhari has spoken extensively on his iron-cast resolve to deal with the cankerworm that has held the country down. In this battle, he repeatedly vowed that there will be no sacred cows; no untouchables, no friends and no foes. For quite awhile, it seems that the president has been standing alone on this crusade. Now the judiciary has shown some commitment by putting its own house in order with the ongoing investigation and sanction of erring judges. The National Assembly is yet to show any serious commitment. This is indeed worrisome.

As espoused by Magu, the war against corruption requires the deep commitment and sincere support of everyone who loves this country, truly.

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