The All Progressives Congress and President Muhammadu Buhari are smart thinkers. Having reviewed their three years in office and come to the realisation that there is no major achievement to flaunt in the build-up to the 2019 election, they have decided to make corruption, which is not tangible and easy to measure, the centre of their campaign. Interestingly, the Peoples Democratic Party has fallen for this strategy.
Last month, at the 2018 Bola Tinubu Colloquium in Lagos, Buhari spoke about corruption by the past administration; Vice President Yemi Osinbajo spoke about corruption by the past administration, and Chief Bola Tinubu, who is the National Leader the APC, spoke about corruption by the past administration. Rather than talk about the insecurity and hunger in the land, the two parties began to publish names of alleged corrupt people.
If you ask President Buhari or Vice President Osinbajo a question about the killings in the country, he will find a way of linking it to the issue of corruption and then start talking about corruption. The reason is simple. There is nobody to blame on the issue of killings in Nigeria (even though last week in London, Buhari shockingly blamed Col Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, killed seven years ago, for the killings by herdsmen).
They know that corruption has become an endemic problem that has stunted the growth of Nigeria and impoverished Nigerians. Nigerians are angry at the way their rich nation has been stolen blind over the decades. They know that if even half of what is daily stolen from Nigeria is saved and used within Nigeria, there will be a great turnaround in the fortunes of Nigeria.
Therefore, Nigerians look up to any leader that promises to fight corruption as the saviour of Nigeria. The APC and Buhari realise this and exploit it to the maximum, portraying themselves as leaders who have no tolerance for corruption.
Sadly, the records do not show that this administration is serious about fighting corruption. Corruption is still as widespread as it has always been. Those who thought in 2015 that Buhari’s entry as President would see corrupt officials smoked out and punished in all sectors noticed that there was nothing serious being done and therefore continued with their corrupt ways.
In three years, the Buhari administration has prosecuted corruption cases more in the media that in the law courts. It has also not led by example. It seems the administration gets its greatest satisfaction from addressing press conferences or issuing press releases about those who are alleged to have engaged in corrupt practices, especially those who are not members of this current administration. Once the masses take up the hoopla and start talking about the announced case, the case gradually dies. The case usually gets thrown out by the court or even delayed by the same government that is prosecuting the case, like the case of Col Sambo Dasuki (retd.), who is accused to be the arrowhead of corruption of the last administration, but whose case has been put on hold by the current administration in the past three years.
The accusation made last year by Senator Shehu Sani, who is a member of the APC, that the administration of Buhari uses deodorant to fight corrupt in the Presidency captures the selective attitude of this administration to corruption. It reminds one of a symbol of justice who wears a blindfold that covers only one eye but leaves the other eye open. No doubt, she will dispense justice with sentiments.
It is not surprising that Amnesty International’s report released in February 2018 showed that perception of corruption in Nigeria worsened between 2016 and 2017, dropping from 136th position to 148th position among 180 countries, on the annual Corruption Perception Index.
But the Buhari administration knows that there are people who will believe whatever this administration says because of either ethnic loyalty, religious loyalty or party loyalty, or a combination of two of them or all three factors. These people will justify anything this administration says and defend it vehemently.
The administration also wants to use fear to make the people re-elect Buhari and the APC in 2019. The message is that if the PDP or any other candidate is allowed to take over power in 2019, corruption will return with viciousness and cripple Nigeria. But if one does not want that to happen, the option is to vote for Buhari again to ensure that he cleans up Nigeria.
This message is repeated at every opportunity and re-enforced whenever there is an opportunity by the APC top officials to speak to the people. This is the APC strategy. It is what will be talked about until the 2019 election is over.
This way, Buhari will not be called to question on what he has done as regards security and the economy. If you ask him why the economy has been performing badly, it will be blamed on the “massive looting” by the previous administrations. If you ask why millions of jobs are being lost, it will be blamed on the “pillaging” that was done by the past administrations. If you ask why people are being killed every day by killer herdsmen and Boko Haram, with the government doing little or not, contrary to its promise to fight insecurity headlong, you will be told that it is because of the “daylight robbery” by the past administration that made the police and the army not have the necessary weapons and tools to combat insecurity. If you ask why the current government has not been frugal or why different agencies have been embarking on secret recruitment, you will be told that the “brigandage” done by the previous administration has devastated the nation that many people do not appreciate the sacrifices this administration is making for the people.
So rather than have a terrain where achievements are discussed for the public to see, the APC perennially ensures that the PDP will be busy defending itself against allegations of corruption that it will not have the time to discuss concrete achievements of the PDP and the APC. Ironically, the APC that accuses the PDP of corruption is filled with past PDP top shots, from the Senate President to the Speaker of the House of Representatives to ministers to legislators to governors and to the APC party officials. Once they cross over from the PDP to the APC, they are washed clean and become saints. Ironically, sometimes even those who left the PDP three years ago to join the APC are the ones accusing the PDP of corruption.
Some may think that the APC is deluding itself and will not be heeded. But the APC knows what it is doing. It is a strategy used in advertising. When a brand has no special unique selling proposition to flaunt, the advertising agency uses razzmatazz. Razzmatazz cannot be quantified because it is not tangible. It can only be assessed through perception, which is based on sentiments. And the more it is repeated, the more it sinks into the subconscious of the audience. You can show them all the logical and rational reasons why such a brand is not the brand to buy, but they will still tell you that whatever you say, they will stick to their brand.
In line with this, whatever the PDP does to have a presidential debate in 2019, the APC will find wonderful reasons not to attend it, because it will be an avenue to ask questions and show concrete achievements. Such a debate is not in line with the strategy of the APC for the re-election of Buhari in 2019.
If the PDP wants to beat APC corruption strategy, it has to come up with its strategy to counter it. The primary thing is that the PDP must stop allowing the APC to dictate what should be discussed. The PDP must move away from the defensive to the offensive.