Editor’s note: The subject of discourse in this piece is based on the ministers-to-be and the issue of assets declaration. Just like President Muhammadu Buhari and his deputy, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, did declare their assets publicly, the question as to whether or not the ministers-designate will follow suit is anyone’s guess. Steve Osuji, in his column with The Nation, examines what he describes as Nigeria’s political robber barons stressing that they had become the very bane of the country.
Two leading front page reports of the Saturday Punch (October 31, 2015) are quite paradoxical and telling about the current epoch of Nigeria’s political development. The prime headline rendered in perhaps, the boldest of letters available screams: “Nigeria Broke, Can’t Pay Ministers – Buhari”.
But a less striking headline below the one quoted above reads: “Nigerians demand public asset declaration from Buhari’s ministers” while the ministers-designate are reported to have retorted that they would not make a public declaration of their assets. Even the bold cover photo on this page lends an epic corroboration to today’s thesis. It is the picture of a failed portion of the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway. It is an unsightly picture of vehicle wading through a deep, water-logged trough right in the middle of the road. It is a picture of abjection, stagnation and soulless dereliction seen only in extreme war conditions and failed states.
Did you ever hear of the failure of a portion of highways anywhere else in this age? Let us take the liberty to point out a few more grisly stories highlighted on this front page: “South Africa to return seized $9 million currency to Nigeria on November 30,” it says. This is the story of Nigeria’s ‘raw’ cash, ignominiously caught-up in the middle of an official money-laundering heist last year under the guise of trying to purchase arms. And one more: “Customs retires three ACGs and 26 others.” Here about 40 senior officers of the Nigeria Customs Service were swept out of office just by a wave of the hand. If they were found guilty of abusing their high positions and gouging themselves with revenues accruable to the nation’s treasury, we were not told. Whether they had tainted the high offices bestowed on them, it did not matter. They were just shuffled out. No points made, no lessons learned, highly trained top officers just flushed out: perhaps to go and enjoy their ‘good fortune’.
The question of assets declaration
But we digress. Today is actually about our ministers-designate and the question of public assets declaration. Some of the screened men and women who would handle some of the most important jobs in the land soon were asked if they would declare their assets following in the footsteps of their boss, President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB), but the majority of them had promptly objected to such prospect.
According to the report, a good number of those called up on the phone noted pointedly that they were not constitutionally bound to make their declarations public. They did not have to follow in the footsteps of the president and his deputy, some of them said. Recall that President Buhari and his deputy, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, recently set the example of making their assets public.
Ministers say they will not declare assets
Some ministers-designate indicating they would not let the people they would serve know what they are worth, immediately reminds one of America’s 19th century ‘robber baron’ businessmen, who deviously amassed wealth and became very affluent and powerful; often beyond the control of the state. But while those were businessmen who deployed rough and untoward tactics to corner the commonwealth, most of our politicians of today can easily pass for baron politicians or robber public officials who hijack premium political positions and offices and convert same to personal estates.
Since independence and particularly in the last 16 years, having acquired a huge chunk of the state, they go on to begin to subvert the state and all her institutions or tinker with them to suit their purposes.
Buhari’s Sisyphean huddles over the years, Nigeria’s political robber barons have grown unchallenged and set in their ways. They had become the very bane of the country; growing in means, growing in number and making Nigeria a banana republic where the rule of law had taken flight. Now for Buhari, tackling this ugly phenomenon would be akin to Sisyphus the storied King of Corinth condemned pushing this giant rock up a hill and each time, being trolled back to the base.
For the first time since independence, Nigeria’s political robber barons are facing a modicum of scrutiny with the advent of the Buhari presidency and it seems now or never to break that killer mould. Does the president have the resilience, capacity and the ruthlessness to extirpate this monster?
The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of Naij.com.
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