By Andrew A. Erakhrumen
Nigeria’s federal governance system is close to totalitarianism and far from democracy. This should not be unexpected as it is operated by neo-military civilians. Accordingly, undemocratic traits in past military regimes are still retained in today’s ‘democracy’. Here, we are talking about a ‘federal’ system in which the ‘federating’ units are not, really, what they are called! In reality, Nigeria is still practicing a type of autocratic unitary system of government. This is not in dispute. Its practitioners, themselves, know. This is a part of the warped structure those clamouring for “restructuring” are kicking against. In line with this kind of presidential system of government that Nigeria currently practices, “the buck stops” at the president’s desk – using the phrase popularised by Harry S. Truman (1884–1972) the 33rd United States of America’s president. This line of argument, buttressed using Truman’s popularised phrase, has been advanced severally in our past interventions. The truism in the foregoing is so basic that government’s blame game and buck-passing become exercises in futility in trying to continuously delude clever people.
Unfortunately, blame game and buck-passing have characterised everything about the current federal government since its inauguration on the 29th of May, 2015. While this central government is approaching the end of its second and final term of office on the 29th of May, 2023, all its communication strategies are still very much anchored on witless blame game and buck-passing. It is either the previous political party in government ‘damaged’ many things for sixteen years or the current president was/is not aware of all the things that are currently getting ‘damaged’. Wonderful! Without conceding our earlier position, we are not oblivious of the unarguable fact that the president, or any leader, cannot be omnipresent. This is why (capable) assistants are appointed for, and/or by, these senior public office holders. Irrespective of the actions/inactions of these assistants, the success or failure of such administration will (almost) always be solely that of the leader’s. Really, the buck stops at the leader’s desk! This is why we sometimes ‘pity’ the Nigerian president – Muhammadu Buhari – when his speechwriters slyly, (perhaps with presidential permission to?), insert obnoxious phrases into most of those his basically uninspiring prepared speeches.
For instance, Buhari personally read out a prepared speech containing some allegations at the fourth National Summit on Diminishing Corruption in the Public Sector, jointly organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board, held at the banquet hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja on the 4th of October, 2022. These allegations were well reported but we will quote, copiously, from Vanguard newspaper of the 5th of October, 2022, with a screaming headline: Strike: ASUU aiding corruption in varsities – Buhari. In it, “…..Buhari…..accused the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, of being complicit in corruption in the tertiary education sector in the country…..[he] accused lecturers of deploying disguised terminologies to perpetuate corruption in the ivory towers, a development he said, impinges on the fight against the menace in the education sector.”
Buhari also had it in the said speech that “incessant strikes, especially by unions in the tertiary education, often imply that government is grossly under-funding education, but I [he] must say that corruption in the education system from basic level to the tertiary level has been undermining our investment in the sector and those who go on prolonged strikes on flimsy reasons are no less complicit”. He went further to state that “…..there is sorting or cash for marks/grades, sex for marks, sex for grade alterations, examination malpractice, and so on.” Also, he said that “sexual harassment has assumed an alarming proportion. Other forms of corruption include payroll padding or ghost workers, lecturers taking up full-time appointments in more than one academic institution, including private institutions, lecturers writing seminar papers, projects and dissertations for students for a fee, and admission racketeering, to mention only the most glaring corrupt practices…..” These are allegations and lamentation from a president with almost ‘illimitable’ powers! Implausible claims! What can be more preposterous from a Commander-in-Chief?
We are referring to a Commander-in-Chief in total control of Nigeria’s armed forces, paramilitary, investigative, prosecutorial and undercover agents; some of which were deployed in capturing a fugitive in Kenya! If the Commander-in-Chief is lamenting like a ‘Bewailer-in-Chief’, to whom does he expect our lamentation to be directed? Like Omawumi (a Nigerian musician, in her song) we also ask “…..If you ask me na who I go ask?…..” Are leaders no more elected/appointed/employed to solve problems? We agree that followers are part of the problem; however, leadership is the problem! This president is always lamenting! He asks questions he is expected to provide answers to! Mr. President, with due respect, sir, where is your government’s White Paper on the 2021 presidential visitation panels to federal universities? It is needless to waste reader’s time here. We will only remind the president and his stodgy, pixilated and impish speechwriters of an ASUU’s unappreciated effort at tackling corruption. Quoting Afe Babalola, SAN, briefly: “…..under the presidency of Dr. Oladipo Fashina, [ASUU] petitioned the ICPC in July 2002 to investigate the University of Ilorin’s management for financial mismanagement and corruption…..”
We are unaware and/or unsure if anything concrete came out of ICPC’s investigations concerning the aforementioned petition. Consequently, many of such petitions died even before they were conceived! Nevertheless, we still urge governments to take up this kind of task if any malfeasance is suspected and/or noticed in any of the Nigeria’s (public) universities! Of course, government will not ordinarily take up such task except – if and only if – its political enemy/enemies is/are to be hounded! The governments currently in the saddle and their predecessors are/were not interested in building any sustainable strong institutions for the future! Expectations of positive change from the government at the centre were high at its inception! Regrettably, it has only succeeded, since 2015 (2013?) in engaging in an initially-intensified but now-moribund vapid anti-corruption sloganeering! This central government – we later understood to be unprepared for governance – was completely carried away by sudden political power, fame, corruption and vain ego! Thus, it was preoccupied with fruitless political vindictiveness and worthless blame game!
This central government has presented itself as a good example for corroborating a thought of Winston L. S. Churchill (1874–1965). His words: “…..if we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future…..” This government’s anti-corruption propaganda is an embarrassing insult to intelligence! It is now clear that – ab initio – there was no plan for any war against corruption by those now in power. This group in power and the one it took over from are, simply, two sides of the same coin! Huge corruption is now in full-scale! The ensuing gruelling economic burden is too much for innocent Nigerians to bear! Therefore, it amounts to pointing at a speck in other’s eye when yours has a log in it by accusing any section of the Nigerian society of corruption and lack of moral rectitude! Is the same group of people accused of corruption yesterday not firmly in charge of this government’s proceedings today? It should be well known by now that head or tail, politicians win in the game of politics. Hence, electorates should minimise their losses by using their permanent voter cards wisely in the upcoming 2023 elections!
*Andrew A. Erakhrumen currently teaches at the Department of Forest Resources and Wildlife Management, University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria.