OSINBAJO: Beyond Politics of PDP & Corruption

Osinbajo

By Ken Tadaferua

Permit me to jump start this essay with this fairly long caveat: I am under no illusion whatsoever that former President Jonathan and the People's Democratic Party, PDP, were not horribly corrupt. 

Neither will I attest that any head of state, leaders of political parties and military in power, prior and post Jonathan (the current Buhari government and All Progressives Congress party) can be adjudged corruption free.

Indeed, corruption has become so insidious, so pervasive, so systemic, it has metastasized into a horrific culture across all strata of the Nigerian society. The vermin has so permeated the moral arteries and veins of society that most folks pointing a finger of corruption at others end up with three of their own fingers pointing accusingly back at themselves.

That said, I will proceed to my core purpose: To put in perspective, Vice President Oluyemi Oluleke Osinbajo's persistent no-holds-barred excoriation of the PDP as the bastion of corruption peculiarly under President Jonathan in public fora over the past three years.

Is not Osinbajo's outrage over many allegations and some proven cases of PDP corruption justified? Of course, it is. Any sane mind ought be offended and scandalized by the sheer scale of reported wanton treasury looting by that party's leadership.

Osinbajo is therefore irrefutably right in his outrage. But as a politician and a leader of a political party, the All Progressives Congress, is he conscious of the moral of three accusing fingers pointing back at the accuser? To successfully fight corruption, it is imperative that all must come to the table with equity and integrity.

This is more so, as Osinbajo (61) is a legal luminary, being a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), professor of law, former law lecturer, master of law graduate from the prestigious London School of Economics etc. Even more so, as he is an ordained pastor of The Reedeemed Christian Church of God. If credibility and sincerity of purpose is expected of this man with his towering pedigree, that expectation can never be said to be too much.

It is an expectation that puts on Osinbajo's shoulders the burden of integrity and hope by not a few souls. It importantly therefore behoves on Osinbajo to be perceived as a nonpartisan technocrat patriotic to the national cause than the archetypal Nigerian politician driven by selfish political gerrymandering and party exigencies for the short term purpose of winning elections. One must admit that this may not be an easy task for Osinbajo who today is swimming in the same foamy waters with political barracudas.

Still it is only right to expect much of this brilliant mind. One expects that he ought be measured, balanced and equitable with the facts in his public pronouncements on corruption. If not, he stands the risk of losing credibility as a respected legal mind and pastor. I believe he is currently standing on the precarious edge of a deep credibility deficit sinkhole. He therefore needs to stand back to review his strategy on corruption for these five reasons:

One. Although it is beyond debate that the Jonathan/PDP government was corrupt, when Osinbajo repeatedly harps on this well worn fact, not a few minds wonder if Nigeria's corruption conundrum is resolved by just this broken record singsong. One wonders too, if Osinbajo's reduction of the debate on corruption to one party and government is not minimizing or trivializing the neutron bomb impact of corruption over the decades in Nigeria. If Osinbajo's purpose is purely political seeking to effectively destroy a rival political party, then he is not sincerely fighting to decimate corruption. He ought do better.

Two: While lambasting the PDP's corruption, Osinbajo appears hard put to criticize corruption in his party, the APC. Is that all PDP stalwarts who joined the APC are not corrupt? Or that corruption is not thriving under the APC government? That all government tiers from federal, state to local, ministries, departments and agencies, the army, police, customs and the private sector have become corruption free under the Buhari/APC government? That clearly cannot be. Indeed, Transparency International reports in its three years of rule, corruption has worsened under the APC. Osinbajo's narrative should not merely focus on the PDP but expanded to cover the global menace of corruption in the country. This will require courage and integrity that deals in the hard truths and facts of our sad corruption reality.

Three: To maintain the high professional dignity and well manicured integrity Osinbajo garnered before loping into politics, he must research his statistics and facts, subject them to comparative analyses and report them with equity based on historical and national realities. But I do believe that Osinbajo ignores this broad brush of intellect and facts for opportunistic and narrow political gains. Let us, in this regard, look at some data, Osinbajo crunched recently in his dogged PDP tar brushing.

He said though Nigeria earned between $100-$114 per oil barrel between 2011 and 2014, the PDP investment in capital was abysmal, spending only N139billion on five ministries (works, housing, power, transport, agriculture) in 2014. On the other hand, oil price in 2017 was between $50 - $60 per oil barrel yet the APC poured N560 billion on the same five ministries in 2017.

What Osinbajo did not say is how the APC raised the N560 billion capex. Was it anti corruption savings? Or from the huge foreign debts it has accumulated in three short years? Osinbajo ignored the side of the balance sheet which shows that the APC has uploaded more debt in three years than in all of PDP's 16 years in power. Has the corruption from high oil prices in 2014 been replaced with the corruption of high debt burden? Three years in power but where are capital projects completed by the APC only a year to the end of their tenure? The Osinbajo report is not balanced. It is jaundiced. It does not sit well with integrity.

Four: As a legal mind of no mean repute Osinbajo knows the importance of researching and establishing a strong prosecutor case within the shortest possible time to win court convictions. But as the Vice President bandies fraud and corruption allegations like confetti, instead of convictions, he is losing the tough prosecutor image and increasingly donning the magisterial toga of a comedy judge in a highfalutin sitcom political/media trial.

For three years and counting, Nigerians have been repeatedly reminded how the PDP pillaged the Central Bank of Nigeria, collecting $289 million two weeks to 2015 elections, N10 billion in November 2014 for PDP Presidential Primaries and another N60 billion for campaigns at a latter part of 2014. Our ears are full of the loud braying about returned loots. 

What is hardly heard are reports of convictions. The key suspect in these cases, the trial of the PDP national security adviser is stalled for the most mysterious reason. The NSA wants an open court trial. But the APC government prefers a secret trial. The NSA remains in detention. Osinbajo keeps spewing corruption data. It is a stalemate. And Osinbajo's credibility is at stake.

Five: It is imperative to re-establish that one's expectation of Osinbajo, the highly cerebral law professor and respected pastor, goes beyond the regurgitation of the crass joke which our leaders call anti corruption war. I had thought that Osinbajo will bring to bear, his wide research capabilities, deep power of intellect and strategic thinking to deal with the corruption morass. 

I expected he would commission a wholesome study of our endemic corruption affliction. That he would help put together the brain power to provide in depth solutions to these questions: Why is corruption so prevalent? Why is corruption so easy in high places? How can corruption be stamped out? 

For instance, I believe strongly that our deeply centralized and militarized unitary system of government is a major reason for easy corruption in government. A system that shares free money to hundreds of economic and political units every month, every year, for decades breeds complacency, indolence, cronyism and stealing. 

It attracts thugs, rogues, incompetents and criminals to government. It kills productivity and growth.
Imagine the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, just doling out billions to rogues in power. In 2014 as it was with the late Sani Abacha collecting billions from the CBN without controls or public knowledge. 

Imagine the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, that octopus of corruption run with structures and reporting lines, so opaque and limited to men of political power, so that the President can singlehandedly approve oil blocks and multibillion dollar deals on his whim. Sharks and barracudas swim all over the NNPC gobbling up oil acreages, lifting crude oil illegally, importing tonnes of refined oil products, winning major contracts hardly executed. Nigeria has been losing trillions of dollars over the years to these corrupt structures and systems that our leaders make short work of.

Has this signature corrupt structure and systems of the NNPC changed? No. Instead it is reinforced by a President doubling as oil minister and all by himself, signs opaque multimillion dollar oil contracts. Has the CBN changed? No. Look at all the hundreds of ministries, agencies and departments littering Nigeria, collecting free monthly allocations and signing corrupt contracts and deals. Has any one of them changed? Show me one, just one of the MDAs where corruption is not raging up until today. Not one.

We have a major epidemic of corruption on our hands and teeming with stinking corruption vermin. And somehow, we think the plastic public upbraiding of the PDP so as to win elections is our most pressing anti corruption war strategy?

It is great to have Vice President Osinbajo bellyache about PDP corruption. But is it not sanctimonious to neglect the mushrooming corruption in all spheres of our lives? The PDP is corrupt propaganda was a winning strategy for the APC in 2015. It still sees it as a tantalizing winning formula. Maybe. Maybe not.

I would not write this about Osinbajo if I do not think that he is uniquely gifted and positioned to take the anti corruption war beyond merely knocking the PDP for election purposes. I think he needs to worry about the corrupting economic and sociopolitical structures and systems under which corruption hS mushroomed in decades and seek change to the structure. 

He should worry about the foolish, wanton sharing of free oil money entrenched in the constitution through the Federation Account, that veritable cesspool of legalized corruption. He should worry about the CBN and NNPC and about the President as minister of oil, signing multi billion dollar deals singlehandedly? 

He should worry about the absolute lack of productivity and lack of transparency by state governors who every month collect and steal federal allocations (plus intervention funds plus Paris Club refund) yet owe workers and reduce their states to massive refugee camps. He ought be championing the cause of the restructuring of this debased polity to kill corruption and enthrone positively competitive productive wealth creation. There is so much to be done.

Osinbajo can lambast, as much as he wants, the PDP for its well known corrupt ravages. He can also avoid talking about corruption in his party, the APC. He may get political mileage with this strategy and perhaps even win the next election. But let him be sure that posterity will judge him harshly, if as technocrat, law professor and pastor first, before being a politician, he fails to employ his many gifts to confront corruption devoid of political partisanship, with integrity, truth and a global strategy. 

One that diligently examines the multifaceted faces of the corruption that has permeated, like dry, dusty, Sirocco winds, our homes, schools, offices, legislature, courts, everywhere.

Osinbajo ought take the lead to address the nagging questions of a rogue national political structure. There is much to be done beyond the shameful you-be-thief, I-no-be-thief mudslinging with the PDP and beyond the regular police work of investigate-arrest-prosecute-convict corruption suspects, which this government has sadly turned into full blown statecraft with all the trimmings of a circus. 

One that showcases night raiding of suspects, smashing of doors at gunpoint by masked security men, pictures of bags of mountains of cash and massive media trials. Fighting rampaging corruption in Nigeria really has to be more than such foolishness.

When a headmaster's own personal children are dirty and wayward with his school unkempt, it is the height of hypocrisy for the headmaster to publicly upbraid parents whose wards uniforms are stained and rumpled. 

Thus a good starting point for our cerebral Vice President and respected pastor will be the biblical injunction:

"You hypocrite! First remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother's eye." (Matthew 7:5). From there, Osinbajo can move on to more realistic, wholistic, structural, systemic resolution of the corruption conundrum confounding our country.
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