23 August 2017

Nigeria: Why Nigerians Must Apologize to Farida Waziri

The quintessential Farida Waziri is not only a lady of substance but a crack detective who rose to the coveted rank of Assistant Inspector-General of Police. She then retired and later headed the EFCC under the sedate presidency of Umaru Yar'adua of blessed memory. In her days in service as an archetypal paragon of beauty, brains and brawn she busted so many major crime syndicates that she eventually headed the Fraud Office which mutated into EFCC under OBJ that was first headed by Nuhu Ribadu her one-time aide. Little wonder as a lone but courageous woman in a male dominated field she not only generated controversy but had monumental challenges that trailed her which as a result she was vigorously vilified for proposing negotiating with looters.

The nation went to war against her throwing as they say the baby with the bathwater, while the ancient Romans would have called her 'autore' we disparaged her - "the word authority comes from the Latin root autore meaning author - a person who creates something new. This could be a work of art, a new way of operating in the world, or new values. The health of any society depends on those who infuse it with such innovations". Madam Waziri's entrenched position was that government money had been stolen and needed to be recovered this as far she was concerned should be done classic Deng Xiaoping style - "a black or white cat catching mice by any means necessary". Historically the anti-corruption war of EFCC has always had 3 fronts - legal, political and moral. Then there is the current economic recession that clearly needs some clarity of thought outside the box. The message of Madam Waziri's panacea is here the fundamental issue not her score card as EFCC boss.

It is often said whenever one is holding a "Monday" hammer every problem begins to look like a 6-inch nail. Unfortunately, with the likes of Ibrahim Magu the current EFCC czar holding any kind of hammer, the on-going anti-corruption war of naming and shaming of alleged looters by arrest and arraignment will certainly fail - as it is increasingly doing. Interestingly, Sonala Olumhense arguably Nigeria's most widely read columnist recently put it on the Federal Government's vacillation that - "words, are largely all that we have heard; the government has demonstrated little by way of will and action" adding with a poser - "yes, the government says it is fighting corruption, but if you set the day aside to paint your house and it is approaching the dinner hour and you are still painting the gate, what kind of painter are you?"

Plea bargain and other forms of negotiated agreement are the best options under the current circumstances of economic down turn for the nation to resort to. This novelty as proposed by Madam Waziri was back then an idea before its time but today it is based on sound economic expediency. For any given economy like ours there are only three main sources of growth: consumption, net exports and investment but as every motor park economist knows public consumption cannot take place without increasing revenues which in turn comes from oil exports and in the near future Audu Ogbe's yams, also private consumption cannot grow without rising wages or tax cuts which Kemi Adeosun will not allow or reduced tariffs which Hammed Ali will neither tolerate. Oil exports cannot grow without regulatory certainty, peace in the Niger Delta region or price increase in the international market. That leaves investment as the only viable option for national economic growth in Nigeria. The challenge is for Nigerians to contradict this Economics 101, if not how then will the nation generate such investment? Certainly not from foreigners given the current security situation across most of the country. The solution is clearly home grown.

The PMB administration must therefore urgently rescue the colossal proceeds of corruption from within Nigeria and even beyond by compelling its "custodians" to invest in the economy without fear of recriminations by giving repented looters who come forward a form of respite albeit temporarily as more institutional probity and transparency is concurrently built into the system. Or as it is very enormous and dormant funds will remain in the hands of our lazy and unimaginative elites with the active connivance of certain less altruistic legal practitioners. When these illicit stashes unfortunately hibernate they will be mainly used for conspicuous consumption and marry more wives and acquire more mistresses each decked with jewelry proportional to the standing of their men in the nation's power equation. Flashier cars will continue to be bought, more near empty shopping plazas and bigger mansions built with more unaffordable "To Let" signs coming up across the country. More travel will also be done abroad for rest & recreation as security worsens and health tourism increase as our hospitals will still remain "mere consulting clinics". Much more stupid sounding traditional titles will be handed out and more patronage continuously extended to religious leaders across the divide to build bigger churches and mosques.

Finally, at the bottom of the Nigerian food chain more "welfare" and "donations" will be to be given in trickles. Truth is the generality of Nigeria doesn't need that kind of charity. The nation's masses are hardworking and conscientious. They just need the necessary tools and enabling environment to excel. What we also need is a pragmatic Robin Hood government of sorts which by any means necessary reinjects the economy with the proceeds still lying idle in bank vaults held by a few Nigerian loan sharks masquerading as bankers. The nation does not need an anti-corruption war that is riddled with political vindictiveness, legal incapacity, institutional sabotage, lack of proper accountability and grandstanding. With barely 15 months before the swing of presidential primaries the PMB administration cannot afford to wallow under the worn out excuse of "corruption still fighting back". The president and his handlers must now have the candor to admit their 1984 matrix has partly failed and with a sense of urgency embrace the Farida Waziri template.

Yahaya Joe wrote this piece from Wusasa, Zaria.

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