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Buhari’s corruption war herculean - Kwande

Yahaya Kwande was a former Ambassador to Switzerland and currently a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview with journalists in Jos, he spoke on Buhari’s fight against corruption and other sundry issues. Ado Abubakar Musa was there.

President Muhammadu Buhari has currently embarked on anti-corruption war in the country and many Nigerians have expressed divergent views on it. What is your take on this?

Well let me tell you, we knew that somebody must come in one day to correct Nigeria. As the president said, if we are not careful, if we don’t kill corruption, it will kill Nigeria. It has been here for the past 25 years and instead of reducing, it has been growing to an extent that it is now a normal practice in Nigeria. We knew a particular time in Nigeria that the giver and the receiver were afraid as well. Now nobody cares, and that is why the whole thing has grown bigger. 

My take on the question of corruption in Nigeria is that it has been planned from time immemorial and it has eaten into the minds of Nigerians. If you go to an office today asking for your file, you would be told that it is missing and it is an ordinary messenger that will steal your file and hide it somewhere. I have repeated it severally that even the structure of government was being dismantled.

Even a section of the ministry as of then, nobody will take money out without it being examined and internally audited. Your voucher will not go through, and despite all that, you are expecting an auditor to audit all transactions and so it is even cumbersome to still or manipulate things for surreptitious objectives not to talk of sending the anti-graft commission to a public office holder.

However, the deterrent effect is no more; you cannot stop corruption unless you stop the beginning of it. But if you allow the system to be investigated by a third party, you are making a mistake.

What I would like President Buhari to do is he should go down to the level of an ordinary man and stop it. There must be a way of telling people that corruption is evil and believe me some of us don’t understand its magnitude. The police should stop collecting bribe, stop messengers from hiding files, make civil servants to sit up and receive people at will it is their responsibility and let them respect the ordinary man. 

At the moment, the ordinary Nigerian has no confidence in the country, the only confidence is that Buhari is in the saddle to salvage him. So my take on corruption in Nigeria is that it has become so enormous that I pity the president with his ambition to fight against it. 

 

Of course, I know he will reduce it. I wish we have no tenure limitation in Nigeria, but I really pit him because the damages are too heavy to be lifted within the blink of an eye.

A peace committee set up by former president Goodluck Jonathan to douse any tension before and after the 2015 elections recently visited Buhari and the visit attracted allegations that the committee went to plead on behalf of Jonathan. How do you view this development?

 I don’t think that the visit to Buhari by the committee is bad. Although I don’t know them all but sincerely speaking none of them is a professional politician who would have used different language in pleading for the peace of this country. 

So, because they are not politicians, their message to the president had offended many Nigerians. They might not mean what they said in the way they said it. Nigeria is a complex society that cannot be handled with ease. They might have got things to tell him more than the way he will actually curb the excesses of corruption. People should take it easy and listen to what had been said. They shouldn’t be attacked anyhow. I don’t believe that a sensible person will tell Buhari not to go after corrupt people because he has already said he will do so.

President Buhari also set up an advisory committee to advise him on the war against corruption. Why do you think the president came up with that idea?

You know, certain things are there not because one is afraid or one is trying to run away from it. President Buhari is asking people to advise him so as to take the rightful and easiest way to stop the carnage that is happening in Nigeria. So I salute him for his readiness to accept other people’s views in managing the affairs of this country. I am very sure that the president wants things correctly and that is why he is asking people to advise him.

There have been allegations by many Nigerians that in recent past, government-owned properties were privatised illegitimately which prompted Mr. President to set up a committee to investigate the process. How do you view it?

 I am one of those that don’t like privatisation because it doesn’t help. In this country, we often do things the other way round. We are sometimes faster than our shadow wanting to go before our legs which is very difficult and impossible. Let me tell you, I was involved in privatising two federal companies. If you are to look at them now compared to five years or six years back when they were owned by the government, you would see that they (companies) were in a better shape. 

I was the chairman of NICOM Insurance Company at the time it was privatized. Before it was privatized, we were self-sufficient and not asking anybody for funds. We were infact owing the federal government even though they were the owner of our company. At that time, we didn’t receive subvention from the government in managing the affairs of the company.

The company was a very strong one that could depend on its own. I could remember that there was a time we went for a conference in Addis Ababa, where other African countries were praising us wanting to come and study our company. We were so buoyant in our current account where we had almost about six billion in our takings apart from our properties but only for us to be privatised into the hand of an individual authority. It was like given away the property. And if you see how it was sold, you would be amazed. My biggest problem in the privatisation of this company is that, is it now a better company than before it was sold? It is not.

I am with Buhari in that regard. The negative aspect of it is what you are seeing today in some of the companies that had been privatised where most of them are not flourishing better than it was before.

Political opponents of Governor Lalong in Plateau State have been complaining that he has not appointed his commissioners and other government officials which, according to them, has hindered the execution and implementation of government activities. Do you share same view with them?

I am not part of this school of thought because Lalong is not the only one that has not appointed commissioners. I think we all agree that the country was in a state of collapse and that is why somebody needs to critically look at the whole thing before embarking on any decision. Allow the young man to do what he is doing, he is doing very well, nobody expected that Plateau would change to this point within a short period of time. 

When he came into the office, apart from the security challenges he inherited, even the past administration was equally lopsided. So the governor is working hard to even get his feet on ground because the last administration was so bad that he had to be careful otherwise he will miss the road. So as far as I am concerned, the man is doing well.

 

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