By CHRIS NWAOKOBIA JNR
”YOU may either win your peace or buy it win it, by resistance to evil; buy it, by compromise with evil” John Ruskin 1819-1900, English Art Critic.
I cannot take my eyes away from the many contradictions that define our journey to nationhood, on the one hand I hear Nigerians calling passionately for a new paradigm and a new tendency in governance, and on the other I read a plethora of press calling for cessation of probe if perhaps it will not date back to 1960. It is a chequered debate that torments the carapace of my mind.
However, I must state without fear of querulous critics that not a few of the dyed-in-the-wool supporters of President Muhammadu Buharia clan to which I belong are amused by the posturing of a certain National Peace Council whose bidding is perhaps to negotiate soft landing for those who plundered our collective patrimony. To us it does not matter what peace they seek to foster because it is an incontrovertible fact that corruption has done greater violence to our nation than any contrived negotiation can settle.
Someone must tell Gen. Abdusalam Abubakar rtd., Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, and Rev Matthew Hassan Kukah et al that true peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of justice. The justice that the urgency of now makes imperative is the altering of a historicity that reeks of corruption, sleaze, fleece and malfeasance. The sweltering Harmattan of popular discontent is with corruption and avarice. Nigerians congregate at the Isle of New Hope, hope that governance will cease to be a Bazaar and a cesspool of filth. And hope that leadership shall forthwith be responsible and responsive to the people.
It must be made manifestly clear and profound that the minimum Nigerians crave is a new paradigm of rectitude in governance; one that must water the tree of anti-corruption, of moral rebirth, of patriotism, of service and of commitment to a new propensity and proclivity in the discharge of public trust. Yes, one that must create monuments of deterrence and those of reference through the pooh-poohing, lampooning and punishment of thieving and corruption, such is the pervasive minimum.
I cannot be taken by the inveigle that seeks to define, and or redefine the moral plexus of anti-corruption. The fight against corruption will definitely inconvenience the suspects and the society. It is a purgation of sorts as such a two edged spectacle, but whether it is anti-peace and may become a precursor to the breakdown of law and order is the fallacy we must not allow.
It is axiomatic to note that when you fight corruption, corruption fights back with every ounce of strength, it romances every force that denounces the new urgency, it pronounces you rigid, it renounces your passion and announces to the world that you are vindictive. We must therefore not swallow the invidious pill of gradualism or flounce this auspicious moment; with superior logic we must trounce those who seek soft landing for corruption knowing that the margin of the CHANGE we preach remains NO LONGER BUSINESS AS USUAL.
I am nonetheless worried that those who repudiate the anti-corruption resolve and posturing of the present regime do so out of prejudice, some out of the prejudice of religion or region; some out of the prejudice of Party, or in furtherance of revanchist propensities; and others from the primordial cocoons of ethnicity and nepotism. In this, many deliberately weave traps to ensnare the resolve of Mr President, but the urgency of now is that the fight against corruption must be sustained without sacred elephants and that our chief steward must remain at all times above board.
The Law presumes everyone innocent until proven guilty, very true, but in the fight against corruption civilised democracies and serious minded nations have dealt with the monster through the adoption of the reverse, yes nations have shifted the onus to the accused or suspect, the praxis has become ‘prove your innocence’. This obtains because of the monumental rupture of societal balance that stems from corruption. I must say that unemployment, poor infrastructure, decrepit roads, societal conflict, violence and brigandage are concomitants of corruption.
Terror festers because there is a monstrous army of the jobless. Violence thrives because everywhere we have monuments of anger and hunger rather than those of hope and faith. Robbery and kidnapping sustains because corruption has plundered all vestiges of decorum, decency and discretion. It was providence and the supreme inevitable protocol that bludgeoned our space and enabled the candidate that held on to anti-corruption as the linchpin of his campaign to victory at the last polls. It was Zeitgeist, and no convoluted or skewed preachment of peace should be allowed to do violence against the prevailing fervency.
The rework of our collective values must begin now. The overhaul of our national morals and mores is inevitable. The extermination of corruption is of primacy. The philosophies of ethical rebirth are imperative. And the minimum praxis in public life must be service to nation. It must always be COUNTRY FIRST, that way we can subsume loyalty to big-men with service to all-men.
Countrymen and women, we must not allow those who seek to retain looted and ill-gotten wealth to delineate the margins of our societal interaction. We must support every effort to etch accountability and due process as great values on our corporate canvass. We must remind Mr President of that inimitable quote of his, ‘Nigeria must kill corruption or corruption will kill Nigeria’, and we must admit without equivocation that the greatest individual threat to national peace is corruption.
Corruption is the reason our hospitals are mere consulting clinics. Corruption has made our educational system mediocre. Corruption has depreciated our moral premium. Corruption has diminished the force of our character. And corruption mocks every effort at uniting our people under an atmosphere of true love and brotherhood. This heart-breaking reality calls out for unison of purpose in nudging the entrenching of a new paradigm in governmental appointing and contracting, henceforth it must be square pegs in square holes and round pegs in round holes, such should be the allowable minimum.
Now is the time to raise the moral bar and purge the Nigerian atmosphere through exemplary leadership. Now is the time to consign the culture of looting, over-contracting and sleaze to the dungeons of history. Now is the time to make egocentric watch shibboleth. Now is the time to make excellence the chief driver in the national convoy. And now is the time to compel all those who seek to paint on our socio-political canvass to come with fair and just brushes.
In the final analysis I repudiate all and every effort, concert and concessions that may work against or make mild the imperativeness of a far-reaching anti-corruption regime, it must be known that the short cut to genuine peace in Nigeria is transparency in governance. It must be known that when leadership becomes responsible and responsible to the people violent crime shall diminish. And it must be known that the way to hand over a veritable national challenge to posterity is to honour hard-work and punish corruption. God Bless NIGERIA.
• Prof. Chris Nwaokobia Jnr is Director General of Change Ambassadors of Nigeria.