President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday declared that there will be no friend, no foe in the fight against corruption and that Nigeria must resolve to curtail corruption in all facets of the society for there to be significant success in the fight to eliminate it.
He stated this in his keynote address titled, “Incorruptibility: a Spiritual Premise for Material Wellbeing”, at the annual Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe Foundation lecture held yesterday at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.
According to the president, “The topic of discourse at this session, which is corruption, significantly ties into my vision for our great country, Nigeria, that we must kill corruption before corruption kills us.”
The President said: “In Nigeria, two problems stare us in the face. First is that our laws need to be strengthened if we must realistically contend with the haze of corruption. The second is that we must correct the gaps in our legal system that are exploited to frustrate the process of justice. A number of anti-corruption cases have been rendered inconclusive due to legal limitations.”
Dealing with corruption requires the collective will of every Nigerian, he said.
“Without our collective will to resist corrupt acts as a people, it will be difficult to win the war. We in the leadership will provide the right example. We will not pay mere lip service to corruption. We will eschew it in every aspect of our lives. However, we are but few, in a country of more than 170 million people. We need the mass army of Nigerians to rise as one man, and stand for probity in both public and private lives. It is only then that we can be sure of dealing a mortal blow on corruption, which will engender a better country.
“Quite frankly, the anti-corruption war is not strictly about me as a person, it is about building a country where our children, and the forthcoming generations, can live in peace and prosperity.”
Corruption, Buhari said was responsible for dilapidated infrastructure round the country; poor healthcare; collapsed education; lack of public utilities; decayed social services, stressing that they “are all products of corruption, as those entrusted with public resources put them in their private pockets.
“That must stop, if we want a new Nigeria. And that was why I said at another forum that people need not fear me, but they must fear the consequences of their actions. Corrupt acts will always be punished, and there will be no friend, no foe. We will strive to do what is fair and just at all times, but people who refuse to embrace probity should have every cause to fear.
“Look at the corruption problem in the country, and tell me how you feel as a Nigerian. Our commonwealth is entrusted to leaders at different levels of governance, and instead of using the God-given resources to better the lot of the citizens, they divert them to private use. They then amass wealth in billions and trillions of naira, and other major currencies of the world, ill-gotten wealth which they cannot finish spending in several lifetimes over. This is abuse of trust, pure and simple. When you hold public office, you do it in trust for the people. When you, therefore, use it to serve self, you have betrayed the people who entrusted that office to you.”
He wondered how Nigerians feel “year after year, when Transparency International (TI) releases its Corruption Perception Index and Nigeria is cast in the role of a superstar on corruption.”
The President continued: “In 2011, out of 183 countries, Nigeria was 143 on the corruption ladder. In 2012, we were 139th out of 176. In 2013, we ranked 144 out of 177, and in 2014, we stood at 136th out of 174. Hardly a record to inspire anyone. In fact, it is sad, depressing and distressing. Our country can be known for better things other than corruption.”
In the process of trying to recover stolen funds now, he said the government was seeking the cooperation of the countries were these loots were taken. “Time it was, when such nations may have overlooked our overtures for assistance to fight corruption. However, we now live in an era where corruption is anathema, looked upon as something that should be tackled head-on because the actions of the corrupt can have global impact.”
Resolving the problem of corruption, he said transcended merely arresting and trying people that have held public office, “because, to curtail corruption, we have to reorder the mindset of all. Empirical facts have shown that even those who are critics today are most times not better than those they criticise.
“When they are availed the same or similar opportunities, they act likewise. In other words, those who didn’t have the opportunity criticise and blow whistle but when they get into office; they become victims of the same thing they criticise.
“Nigeria must grow beyond that point, and be populated by people with conviction, a new breed without greed, radically opposed to corruption. This points to the fact that curtailing corruption might require a more broadened social engineering. It, indeed, requires conforming with every mindset in the social order to the moral tenets in which propriety anchors as a way of life.”
Nigeria, the President said had been brought almost to her knees by decades of corruption and mismanagement of the public treasury.
“We must come to a point when we all collectively say Enough! That is collective will, and that is what will bring us to a new state and status. If this country will realise her potentials, and take her rightful place in the comity of nations, we must collectively repudiate corruption, and fight it to a standstill. It remains eternally true: if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria.”
The President noted that his presence at the lecture was deliberate “as it emphasised the resolve of this government to interface with initiatives that are fundamentally patriotic and assisting in our path to socio-economic and political recovery.”
Nigerians, he said sent a strong signal during the last general elections that they “needed leadership that could be relied upon to tackle the orgy of corruption in the country.”
He lauded the Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe Foundation “for its impact on the development of ideas through its annual lecture series.
The President said, “The fact that the themes of the lecture series have focused on critical puzzles bordering on human development lend credence and justification for the sustenance of the lecture series.
“The decision of the Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe Foundation to choose corruption as the topic of discourse at this session is, therefore, encouraging to this government, pursuant to our vision that winning the war against corruption requires our synergy, a collectivisation of our resolve that corruption must be eliminated in the social psyche of the Nigerian nation.
“It is no doubt that an event like this demands a lot of sacrifice financially and otherwise. Apart from the contribution of the lecture series to human development, it has also unveiled the genius personality of Emmanuel Onyechere Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe, whose philosophical insight is gradually finding place in the psyche of academics globally, particularly at a time when Africans are determined to rewrite their own history.”
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