First was signing of Executive Order No. 6 on July 6th, 2018, followed by declaration of plan to identify and send for trial politicians suspected to be organizing mass killings across the country. The Executive Order has a search and seize dimension even outside Nigeria. This has set tongues wagging as to how the deployment of these latest arsenals in the war against corruption in Nigeria might be understood – nemesis for corrupt people at last as a president deploys his last card to enforce peace and security in the country after all or a president’s desperate moves in crisis management?
The question is warranted by the theoretical tension the current phase of the anti-corruption war in Nigeria speaks to. The phase which has seen a few former governors sent to jail is, surprisingly, being superintended by a member of the establishment (Buhari) rather than a radical from the lecture halls manned by those who were “teaching what they were not paid to teach”. Such was what members of the elite feared all along and hence their decision to descend on the universities, send away those who were considered radical, got the National Universities Commission, (NUC) to impose deadening uniformity in course offerings throughout the university system and make acquisition of good liberal university education almost impossible or worthless.
However, each phase of the anti-corruption war has been led by members of the same ruling elite. Except Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, not one of the leaders of the intra-class assault has been a product of the so-called radical teaching in the university. President Buhari who is leading the current phase has not been a student in any Nigerian university all his life. Although his own phase of the war on corruption has been heavily criticised for selectivity and hot pursuit of enemies, so also was former president, Olusegun Obasanjo’s which lasted between 2003 and 2007.
All these point to a complexity that must be food for thought for many because of the ambiguity or indeterminacy more than anything else that is at work vis-a-vis the question of what makes the world work the way it does. Given the elements of indeterminacy and ambiguity, who can ever be sure about who will be winner and who will be loser in this war?
What that means is that it is no longer a question of whether a particular phase of the anti-corruption war is free of allegations of one motivation or the other. It is rather that however it is done, it will be controversial because corruption, according to radical political economists, is an inherent feature of primitive accumulation: the process by which members of the capitalist class in an economy such as Nigeria’s accomplish their transformation from the status of ‘baby capitalists’ to that of mature capitalists through theft of state wealth. Radicals and conservatives agree on this but are all dismayed that ‘baby’ capitalists in Nigeria steal the money and take it out of the country instead of investing in the Nigerian economy. Surprisingly again, the foreign countries accept to keep the money in their banks in spite of their laws, civilisation, morality and claims to human rights, to quote Obasanjo in his quarrel with then British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, in 2002.
However, the current anti-corruption moves are coming against a gubernatorial contest in Ekiti whose outcome will say a lot about what 2019 itself would be like; president’s loss of the legislature as it were; fragmentation of the president’s party; a judiciary signalling everyone of its decision to stay off partisanship; killings that are increasingly being narrated as genocide, (US, UK) and as violations of international humanitarian law, (UN) – narratives that specify certain actions in international politics and, finally, heavy claims of complicity against the president, fair or unfair. This is not to ignore the deep division at the very upper crust of the elite, irrespective of what this might be traceable to.
As it is, the legal texts upon which the impending search and seize phase of the anti-corruption war will be fought are now rolling out. The target is what goes by the tag of unexplained wealth which President Buhari isolated while speaking during a recent trip to Bauchi. At that time, he said his second term ambition is to return Nigeria to the owners as opposed to those who have pocketed the country, using their position in power to amass wealth and leave everyone else pauperised.
Particularly interesting about the Executive Order No. 6 is the foreign component, the main text of which must be the British Criminal Finances Act of 2017. It is a 192 page pdf document written in dense legalese. It has clearly stipulated procedures in place but could be equally lethal in the hands of a Nigerian government in a rule of law compliant society as in the UK. The minor component is the Country Statement from Nigeria to the 2016 London Anti-Corruption Summit which, in the current situation, provides a framework for operationalising the Executive Order.
Although the People’s Democratic Party, (PDP), Nigeria’s main opposition is crying foul against the order, calling it a return to dictatorship by the president and threatening to go to court, it is unlikely that the new phase will be stopped. This is more so in the light of documents circulating freely online about corruption details that touch on very key figures in the society as well as in the politics of 2019, some of which are bound to hit the headlines in the Nigerian media very soon. The content of some of such documents might not be provable in a British Court eventually but they would still have successfully undermined the political ambition of certain front rank politicians in a society fed up with images of its elite as far as corruption is concerned.