Six days to the general elections, President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday raised the alarm that corrupt politicians could use their loot to undermine Saturday’s elections.
Buhari, in an op-ed he personally wrote, justified his administration’s anti-corruption war.
However, the Peoples Democratic Party said the President’s declaration was a sign that he was afraid of a looming defeat in the February 16 presidential election.
The President, however, said that corrupt people had humongous resources at their disposal to engage in vote-buying and undermine the polls.
Writing on the title, “Corruption threatens Nigeria – and its election,” he stated, “The battle against graft must be the base on which we secure the country, build our economy, provide decent infrastructure and educate the next generation.
“This is the challenge of our generation: the variable on which our success as a nation shall be determined. But the vested interests at play can make this fight difficult. By way of their looting, the corrupt have powerful resources at their disposal. And they will use them. For when you fight corruption, you can be sure it will fight back.
“It even threatens to undermine the February 16 poll and – by extension – our democracy. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has raised concerns over laundered money being funnelled into vote-buying.
“This is the problem of corruption. It illustrates how it lurks in all and every crevice of public life, manipulating due process in pursuit of self-preservation and perpetuation; protecting personal, political and economic interests at the expense of the common good.”
Buhari said as President he had tried to judiciously exercise the trust vested in him to combat corruption, insecurity and an inequitable economy.
He added, “But amongst them, one stands above the others as both are a cause and aggravator of the rest. It is, of course, corruption.
“A policy programme that does not have fighting corruption at its core is destined to fail. The battle against graft must be the base on which we secure the country, build our economy, provide decent infrastructure and educate the next generation.”
‘Our critics were against our mission to stop corruption’
Buhari argued that those who were against his administration did so because they knew his mission was to stop corruption.
He noted, “Indeed, those who have criticised my administration’s anti-corruption drive are those who oppose its mission. And though their lawyers may craft expensive alibis, they cannot escape that which binds them together: a raft of documents and barely legal (some clearly illegal) mechanisms – whether that be the Panama Papers, the US Congress reports, shell companies or offshore bank accounts.
“Corruption corrodes the trust on which the idea of community is founded, because one rule for the few and another for everyone else is unacceptable to anyone working honestly.”
On the challenges his anti-corruption war faced, he wrote, “But as we have intensified our war on corruption, so we have found that corruption innovates to resist the law. This is not the sole domain of those Nigerians, but the international corruption industry: the unsavoury fellow-traveller of globalisation.
“Once the enablers are let in – as they have been in the past – the greed of those they collude with grows. We have closed the door on them, but unfortunately there still remain individuals who are willing to open the windows.”
Nonetheless, the President said he would not give up but rather build on his achievements.
“Concrete progress has been made, but there is still much to do. We have repatriated hundreds of millions of dollars stashed away in foreign banks. These funds have been transparently deployed on infrastructural projects and used to directly empower the poorest in society. More is still to come from our international partners in France, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
“We have secured high profile convictions, but greater cases remain. Lawyers table endless objections to obstruct court proceedings, whilst their clients hope it lasts until a ‘friendly’ President is voted into office. We must continue to tighten the legal framework and ensure the authorities have the investigative powers at their disposal to secure sentences. Only then will we begin to neutralise the advantages the corrupt have.
“More ghost workers must be removed from government payroll (almost $550m has been saved from identifying phantom employees). More can be recovered through our whistle-blower policy ($370m has been returned since its inauguration in 2016). More is still to come. But, together, we shall prevail over corruption.
“A Yoruba proverb states that only the patient one can milk a lion. Likewise, victory over corruption is difficult, but not impossible. We must not flounder in our resolve. I know many Nigerians would like to see faster action. So do I. But so too must we follow due process and exercise restraint, ensuring allegation never takes the place of evidence. For that is not the Nigeria we should wish to build.
“There is no doubt that this administration has changed the way we tackle corruption. The choice before voters is this: Do we continue forward on this testing path against corruption? Or do revert to the past, resigned to the falsehood that it is just the way things are done? Or that it is just too difficult – too pervasive – to fix? I know which one I would choose. It is why I am asking Nigerians for another four years to serve them.”
Panicky Buhari looking for excuses, says PDP
But the PDP has alleged that President Buhari is looking for excuses to enable him to postpone the elections.
It said there were many indices to show that the President was panicking that he would lose the election.
The National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, who spoke with one of our correspondents while reacting to the President’s essay, said Nigerians “are now tired of the same uncoordinated songs coming from their President for almost four years.”
He said by now, the President and his team must have allegedly seen the handwriting on the wall that “their days are over.”
Secondus said, “The President and the APC are aware that their days in government are numbered. They know that they can no longer deceive the people. Enough of lies and propaganda! They are looking for excuses for their impending defeat and also postpone the elections.
“This is the reason why the President that did not have time to visit the people is now talking about corruption. Is there any government that has ever been as corrupt as the Buhari Presidency?
“This is a government of deceit. They have found out that there are no more lies to tell Nigerians that could make them fall to these set of liars anymore. We will get Nigerian working again.”
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