Nigeria: To Fight Corruption Africans, Especially Leaders, Must Have a Change of Mindset - Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari.
29 January 2018

President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, met former President Olusegun Obasanjo on the sidelines of the ongoing African Union summit in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia, with the controversy generated by last Tuesday's statement by the former president on the incumbent not to seek re-election still gripping the polity at home.

Meanwhile, the former President's first daughter, Senator Iyabo Obasanjo, was at the weekend forced to hit back at apologists of the Buhari administration after the regime's supporters sought to raise past but settled acrimony between the two family members.

President Buhari, and Dr. Obasanjo after shaking hands, had a brief chat that lasted about two minutes, at the opening session of the 30th African Union Summit. They were subsequently joined by former military head of state, General Abdulsalam Abubakar, for a photo opportunity.

The two men did not betray the tension that has gripped the polity on account of the statement issued by Dr. Obasanjo last Tuesday in which he charged the incumbent, who he supported for his first term in 2015, not to seek re-election upon failed hopes.

Listen to my dad -- Iyabo tells Buhari

However, yesterday one of the leading public canvassers of a second term for Buhari, the Buhari Media Support Group, BMSG, denied any involvement in the recycling of the old letter written by Iyabo to her dad.

"We were not involved and are totally ignorant of any such move," a senior BMSG official told Vanguard.

Aides to the President were not available for comments on the issue last night.

On issues raised and FG's reply

Senator Obasanjo, who is now a university teacher in Virginia, United States, told Vanguard that she had in the strongly worded statement issued from her Virginia, United States base, flayed the Buhari administration for dodging the fundamental issues of bad governance raised in the statement issued by her father, Dr. Obasanjo, last Tuesday.

[View the story "PMB, OBJ POLITICS WITHOUT BITTERNESS." on Storify]

Instead of drawing wisdom from the letter issued by her father, she expressed dismay at what she described as the cheap tactic of the Buhari apologists in drawing unconnected issues to run away from the "advice and admonishment of one of the most brilliant leaders to ever emerge in modern Africa."

Senator Obasanjo said: "My attention has been drawn to the republishing (in social media) of a letter from 2013 that has since been overturned by events. I am surprised that agents of the current Nigerian administration who should benefit from the advice and admonishment of one of the most brilliant leaders to ever emerge in modern Africa have resorted to a cheap tactic that further reiterates the message that they found abhorrent enough to start looking for unconnected issues to put together to make their point.

"To say that Nigeria has problems is to make an understatement. The wise should listen, wherever help and advice come from. Those who republished the old letter should have spent time to respond to the content of the said statement which, among other things, called on President Buhari to join the rank of retired elder statesmen in 2019. I would think this was appropriate and even unnecessary advice, given the serious medical problems he has had over the last few years.

"I have had no connection with his administration or to the previous one after I left the Senate in 2011, and to try and use me and my name as some excuse is shameful. I agree with the contents of the open letter and like all people that wish Africa well, hope that Nigeria someday comes out of its death spiral to become a leading nation in the world.

"It is tiring to continue to be part of the Nigerian conversation when there is no positive impact to it. I really do not want to be part of it, as I have found over and over again that speech and words are wasted on people who have no understanding of the responsibility on us as black people on this planet."

Fight against corruption

Meanwhile, President Buhari has renewed his commitment towards the fight against corruption in Nigeria, saying there was no going back.

While unveiling the AU's anti-graft Campaign at the summit of Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU, Buhari said he was determined to fight corruption "today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow."

He told African leaders at the summit with the theme, "Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to African Transformation," that his administration had gone far in its change agenda of which the fight against corruption was an important part.

The President described strong institutions as necessary condition for winning the fight against corruption, stressing that for the corruption war to be won, African leaders must empower anti-corruption agencies and insulate them from political influence.

He cited a report that revealed that the African continent lost $50 billion annually to illicit flow of capital and stated that the manifestation of corruption in Africa was a demonstration of need for strong leadership.

He called on African nations to build synergy between the executive, judiciary, and legislature to entrench good governance.

Buhari said Africans, especially leaders, must have a change of mindset by prioritising accountability and transparency to succeed in the fight against corruption.

But he also told participants at the summit to be battle ready in the war against corruption as it was not going to be a straight forward task, emphasizing that corruption will always fight back.

He, however, admonished African leaders to remain resolute irrespective of the setback they may encounter in the bid to rid the place of corruption.

He recommended, among other things, that an African youth congress against corruption be organised, and criminal justice system be strengthened in order to win the anti-graft war.

The President, who noted that Africa has made some significant strides in enacting legal and policy frameworks such as the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC) to address the vice, said the desired impact had been lacking.

"Fifteen (15) years after the adoption of the African Union Convention, 2018 provides a good starting point to take stock of progress made so far, assess what still needs to be done and devise new strategies to address new corruption challenges," he said.

According to President Buhari, in spite of sustained economic growth on the continent for the past two decades, "public confidence has been eroded by a focus on short-term priorities and payoffs, propelled by corruption, which too often leaves projects uncompleted and promises unfulfilled."

He identified other negative effects of corruption as, posing a real threat to national security; eroding the development of a universal culture of good governance, democratic values, gender equality, human rights, justice and the rule of law.

In tackling bribery and corruption, the Nigerian leader said the crucial place of strong institutions cannot be over-emphasised.

Justifying further the imperative to defeat the evil which corruption represented, President Buhari said:

"It is evident that Corruption has a devastating impact on marginalized communities especially the youth, women and children. Corruption breeds unequal societies, renders vulnerable groups prone to human trafficking, as well as recruitment into armed groups and militia. In effect, corruption deprives our young citizens of opportunities to develop meaningful livelihood."

He listed his priorities in the campaign against corruption in 2018 to include, organising African Youth Congresses against Corruption "in order to sensitise and engage our youth in the fight against corruption;" mobilising AU member states to implement the extant legal framework on corruption; and canvassing "for the strengthening of the criminal justice system across Africa through exchange of information and sharing best practices in the enforcement of anti-corruption laws."

The President, who called for the strengthening of the AU Advisory Board on Corruption to make it more proactive, also proposed to enlist the support of parliamentarians, women associations, the media, business community, faith-based groups, the youth, educational institutions and traditional rulers among others in the campaign.

Drawing the attention of his colleagues to the "corrosive role that tax havens and secret jurisdictions play in concealing ill-gotten assets," President Buhari said the continental body "must do more to stop the continuous assault on our economic and financial resources by multinationals in collusion with some of our citizens."

Observing that tackling corrupt acts and greed required a reorientation of attitudes and perceptions, he declared:

"To win the fight against corruption, we must have a CHANGE of mind set."

The Nigerian leader, who said he was inspired to champion the campaign against corruption by the commitment, encouragement and support of his colleagues, said:

"In Nigeria we have gone far into the implementation of our CHANGE Agenda, which is primarily aimed at fighting corruption."

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