General Muhammadu Buhari as military head of state of Nigeria in 1984
General Muhammadu Buhari as military head of state of Nigeria in 1984

President Muhammadu Buhari was vaulted into office partly because of his convincing anti-corruption stance. However since assuming office on May 29, 2015, whether in error or as intended, his narrative has narrowed to focus mostly or solely on the tenure of his recent predecessor, former President Goodluck Jonathan, which constitutes a tiny fraction of the period during which our national wealth was stolen.

If this prevailing narrative is correct, then Buhari has lost the war on corruption before it even began.

In medicine we are taught that for a deep seated decaying wound to heal, the best method of treatment goes beyond cleaning out the wound opening on the skin, applying antibiotic, and suturing. Doing that potentially creates a medium for full blown infection and death. Instead what is required is an aggressive painful, bottom-out debridement of the wound before pharmacological intervention. Nigeria’s rot is deep and must be managed likewise, holistically.

Since becoming a republic in 1963, 52 years ago, Nigeria has been governed by 15 heads of state – eleven from the North and four from the South (Aguiyi Ironsi, Olusegun Obasanjo, Ernest Shonekan and Goodluck Jonathan) of which two (Ironsi and Jonathan) are from the East. Also cumulatively, the North has had the lion share of number of years at the helm, compared to the South- 34.5 years vs 17.5 years. Zooming in further reveals that, the leadership tenure of the other regions combined compared to the East is approximately 46 years vs 6 years (88 vs 12 %) respectively.

According to a report issued in May 2015 by a UK firm, IRN Security, since its independence in 1960, Nigeria has raked in over $600 billion from oil.“From the $600 billion in oil revenue that has flowed into the government’s account since the country’s independence in 1960, an estimated $400 billion has been diverted, misspent or stolen,” the report says.

Now enters Buhari, in 2015, a second timer as head of state, narrowing his war against corruption on Goodluck Jonathan (Easterner)’s administration, which constituted only 12% (6 of 52 years) of the period during which our $400 billion was stolen, while ignoring the regimes, headed by Northerners, that were in place for 66% (34.5 of 52 years) of the time during which the $400 billion of our wealth was stolen

While we applaud all credible efforts to check corruption in our polity, such effort will fail if it comes across as prejudiced or witch-hunting. To succeed any anti-corruption effort must be holistic!

However, Buhari’s history does not give one confidence that he will be fair. When he overthrew a democratically constituted civilian government of President Shehu Shagari and Vice President Alex Ekwueme in 1983, he found it justifiable to put Ekwueme, the vice president with marginal executive powers, in jail, while Shagari the President was put in a guest house “under house arrest”.

It appears history is repeating itself. It failed then and unless there is course correction, it will fail again!

Edward Oparaoji is a professor of pharmacy and chairman, Nigerian-American Leadership Council, a Washington DC Based think-tank. Connect with him on Facebook.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

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