By Myke Uzendu
The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Most Rev. Matthew Hassan KUKAH has hit hard on President Muhammadu Buhari, telling him that his refusal to keep to his promises of making public his assets declarations is at the root of the problems hampering the fight against corruption.
Kukah who spoke through Very Rev. Fr. Patrick Alumuku, at the launch of a book “My Life as a Spy”, written by the former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mrs. Farida Waziri, insisted that the way we are wedging war against corruption in Nigeria is far from being tidy.
According to him, “Corruption has become so endemic that in Nigeria, it is the only thing that works”.
He explained that with the way we regurgitate issues of corruption, “the first problem I have is conceptual and definitional. First, the President for example won his elections on the plank that he would fight corruption.
“We have had such statements like, fighting corruption to a standstill, killing corruption, getting rid of corruption or, the favourite and life changing one, which is, if we do not kill corruption, corruption will kill us.
“All great soundbites, I say. And of course, having been drenched in the cesspool of corruption, only the sadist, the fool would not want to see the pool drenched.
“People have asked, how is it that the President used Justice Onnoghen’s Asset Declaration form to prove his corruption and proceed to sack him, yet the President himself has not publicly declared his own assets as he promised during his campaigns?
“The philosophical questions however for me are, How do you fight corruption? Who and where is corruption sitting or standing? What tools do you use to fight corruption? How will we know when corruption has been killed?
“What will its body look like and who will officiate at the funeral of corruption?
“In other words, will the high priests of the funeral of corruption be those who have wined and dined with it or those who have washed the garments in purity?
“I do not for one moment doubt or question the enthusiasm, patriotism and moral probity of those who have sought to fight corruption and are fighting corruption.
“I am saying that in all of these, like my fever, we are only seeing symptoms. Only a proper diagnosis can begin a process of curing us. And, in my view, we have sought to fight corruption without enough diagnostic effort”.
Sew details of his remarks reproduced below:
“My Seminarian, Michael who was brutally murdered last week is being buried to day. By the time you read this, I will have finished my Sermon at his burial taking place today in Kaduna.
“Let me first congratulate the author, Mrs. Farida Waziri who has already received a lot of commendation for writing what should go down as a very important book in many respects. Even though she has tried to enter a caveat that this is not the story of her work as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in every sense of the word, there will be no running from that reality. After all spies see and report everything but say only very little. Either way, to have taken the courage to write in these turbulent times when truths are lies and lies are truth, these days of Big brother when what you said or do not say can still be presented as evidence against you, as a means of blackmail, I salute your courage.
“I believe that every public officer who has had a chance to hold public services owes the citizens an account of their experiences. Very often, people fear that they do not wish to ruffle feathers, but the absence of the records of their experiences means that in future, the birds will not even have any feathers at all. It consigns our nation to repeating the same mistakes, it allows too many demagogues to parade themselves as heroes. It allows those who ran away from the war to claim that they led the war and things get even worse when they pass on and take the libraries of their knowledge to feed the ants in their graves.
“The book has a Reviewer and therefore I am merely making some little contribution to the debate on corruption and the future of our country. I have deliberately posed a provocative question as to whether what we call corruption is a biological necessity or a political invention.
“This question may not have an answer but I approach the theme of corruption not from the point of view of political point scoring but as an academic exercise to which we must all subscribe so as to avoid the political pitfalls of irredeemable sentimentalism.
“I studied Philosophy and I came to the conclusion that often, we require more questions rather than answers. We are not a probing nation. We are a nation of selective amnesia. We love quick answers and often, all of us have the answers before the questions are even asked. We are segmentalists: divided either by politics, religion, ethnicity or ideological convictions. Perhaps because there is so little intellectual content to our analysis and politics, the political class has come to fear intellectualism. In the 80s, the military routed the academic community by accusing them of teaching what they are not paid to teach.
“The result was the long drawn out battle between dogon turanchi and the quicksand of easy solutions and quick answers that never solve our problems. It is the reason why yesterday’s problems persist and are only given a new name and new identity.
“The first problem I have conceptual and definitional. First, the President for example won his elections on the plank that he would fight corruption. We have had such statements like, fighting corruption to a standstill, killing corruption, getting rid of corruption or, the favourite and life changing one, which is, if we do not kill corruption, corruption will kill us. All great soundbites, I say. And of course, having been drenched in the cesspool of corruption, only the sadist, the fool would not want to see the pool drenched.
“The philosophical questions however for me are, How do you fight corruption? Who and where is corruption sitting or standing? What tools do you use to fight corruption? How will we know when corruption has been killed? What will its body look like and who will officiate at the funeral of corruption? In other words, will the high priests of the funeral of corruption be those who have wined and dined with it or those who have washed the garments in purity?
“You may find my questions quite irritating because they strike at the root of what we have not thought through but they will also help you understand why corruption has not died, will not die any time soon despite our marksmanship. Here are the reasons why I think corruption will not die so soon.
“First, corruption is not a physical thing that we can fight or defeat. Plus, if we cast our metaphor within the concept of a fight it means we must contemplate the possibility of losing the fight or it may be a draw and we have to fight another day.
“If you see me shivering, you can sympathise with me and you of course know that I am not well. However, as you know, many of my friends are likely to come to different conclusions as to what is wrong with me. In these days when everyone is a doctor, each time you complain of not feeling well, all your friends will give you different prescriptions. Some will tell you to take Chinese tea, to drink soup from the left leg of a female frog, to mix the liver of a blind cat with onions or to boil raffia palm fronds, a put a towel over your head and inhale the steam from a black pot. “All will mean well, claim expertise but they cannot all be right. Their enthusiasm may be accurate and they may genuinely want you healed, but mere sentiments will not heal you.
“I do not for one moment doubt or question the enthusiasm, patriotism and moral probity of those who have sought to fight corruption and are fighting corruption. I am saying that in all of these, like my fever, we are only seeing symptoms. Only a proper diagnosis can begin a process of curing us. And, in my view, we have sought to fight corruption without enough diagnostic effort. And this brings me to the first section of my question, namely, is corruption a biological necessity?
“My answer is yes, corruption is a biological necessity because as a Christian, I believe that corruption is part of the manifestation of our inheritance from the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and we were born with it. Its seeds are therefore innate in us and can only be cured by conversion and repentance.
“To that extent, its eradication is not so much based on the erection of institutional barriers but the conversion of the heart. Baptism cleanses us from the sin we inherited from Adam and Eve and therefore living a truly Christian life, dealing with Sin and Repentance as taught by the Catholic Church through Confession is the key to living a life free from corruption. The law of God is therefore written in our hearts (Rom. 2:15).
“Am I saying that the Laws are not important? By no means. After all, as Scripture says: The Law is not meant for the righteous but for lawbreakers (1 Tim. 1:9). The real world is not made up of just good and bad people. We are all living together and therefore, the critical question is now to define the boundaries between the corrupt people and those who are not corrupt.
“The next issue is how do we define the corrupt? Who is corrupt? When power is used to shield those at the top, it is one of the worst forms of corruption. Often, those in power can subordinate the apparatus of state to hide their own corruption and leave the poor and ordinary people vulnerable.
“We create all kinds of fireballs of protections around those who govern us and we call is Immunity. When the politician controls the security agencies and the judiciary, when all these are made to serve the people in power, then we must find another word for defining corruption.
“A man of integrity and piety and we can call in incorruptible. However, what happens if the thief pays his rent, sponsors his political career, or donates proceeds from his or her theft indirectly to the friends, family and cronies of those in power? Is the canvass of their piety or integrity and honour wide enough to cover the stench of corruption or do we only see the agent of corruption?
“Over the years in Nigeria, we have come to see corruption as something that those in government and government offices are engaged in. For those of us on the other side, whether we are Priests or Bishops, our inability to render proper accounts of the resources entrusted to us cannot be hidden by our clean cassocks.
“Corruption has become so endemic that in Nigeria, it is the only thing that works. We have constantly modified the language of corruption. The word corruption is too harsh and so we have softened it. Its synonymn are any of the following words: Chop, Egunje, Dash, Family Support, Self Help, Kayan Aiki-Backhand, Underhand, Padding, Mobilisation, Eating etc.
“Is corruption a political invention then? To ask whether it is a political invention is perhaps better to speak to whether it can be a weapon for politics. In 2005, the trial of the then Senate President for corruption, Senator Adolphus Wabara had a political ring to it largely because of it was timed to coincide with the Commonwealth Conference that was by the corner. Amaechi’s K-leg was later straightened by President Obasanjo when it became political convenient. I believe there are many cases that we have seen in which saints and sinners changed places depending on political loyalties and conveniences.
“It is important to state that corruption exists everywhere but few are fighting it the way that we are. What we call fight against corruption can better be addressed at two critical levels, one, the development and adoption of technology across every spectrum of life.
“If we achieve this, then people will obey technology. The traffic light, the ATM machine, do not recognise a Bishop, a Sultan, President or a Senator. Locally, we can manipulate them but you cannot beat traffic light in New York and say you are Bishop or Senator! Secondly, a qualitative improvement in human development will turn our people into corruption czars because human beings are utility maximisers. They will obey only a law that benefits them.
“On a final note, let me ask two or three questions that I have heard being asked. First, it is in the Law that the Chairman of EFCC must be from the Police Force and a Muslim from Northern Nigeria? Two, people have asked, how is it that the President used Justice Onnoghen’s Asset Declaration form to prove his corruption and proceed to sack him, yet the President himself has not publicly declared his own assets as he promised during his campaigns? Thirdly, why has Mr. Magu not been confirmed as EFCC Chairman and what is the state of the trial of those who attempted to kill him in December, 2017?
“Thank you for your kind attention”.