To celebrate the acquittal of the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, of charges of false asset declaration by the Code of Conduct Tribunal as a personal triumph, amounts to denying the event the significance it deserves. As tempting as that option is, the development is veritable indictment by providence of vendetta that was palmed off as war against corruption.
Indeed, every Nigerian agrees that it is necessary for the Federal Government to fight the malignant monster of corruption to a stand still. But as every patriotic citizen also agrees, the war will neither be won convincingly nor its desired advantages realized if the fight is prosecuted hypocritically or deployed as a pretext to settle personal political scores.
As President Muhammadu Buhari himself noted, it is in the best interest of the country for the war to be fought and won convincingly because it is either corruption will kill Nigeria or the country will kill corruption and sever its head in the manner of true victory at the end of a fight.
Indeed, the aggregate cost of corruption to the country cannot be over-estimated. But if the war must be fought at all, it must be fought with conviction and sincerity, not washing the body from the waste up and truly expect the country to be restored as we have struggled in vain to do since the drama began.
The need to rid the country of corruption is transparent. But in setting out to do this, it must be conceded from the outset that the rot has eaten deep into available stratum and fabric of the nation. As I have consistently maintained since the rowdy campaign began, the fight should begin from the root, not the symptoms, which is the reason yours truly has been misconstrued as overly critical of the defining programme of this political dispensation.
The country cannot possibly be serious about fighting corruption by merely scooping the froth from the keg of corruption, as it were, and ignoring the dregs of which is the drama government elected to dramatise by insisting that investigating how the country got to this sorry pass amounts to distraction.
Indeed, it amounts to rowdy showmanship for the Senate President to have been targeted for prosecution while no other ranking official in the college of influence peddlars in the administration has declared his or her assets as demanded by the constitution of the country.
We could not possibly be serious about fighting corruption when most of the people alleged to have pilfered public funds conveniently decamped to the ruling party and were instantly converted into saints. The country cannot possibly be serious or sincere about fighting corruption when the government is shielding some people from scrutiny and exposing others to ridicule.
It can not possibly be either serious or sincere about fighting corruption when there seems to be a deliberate official conspiracy to wallow in selective perception of what constitutes corruption and what does not. It can not be serious about fighting corruption and simultaneously uphold the hilarious misconception that only theft of public funds constitutes corruption.
The process that selectively prosecuted Saraki for alleged corruption was bound to ridicule itself by simultaneously refusing to admit that other flourishing inelegant practices than theft of public funds actually offend more than the theft genre of corruption.
As a matter of fact, without bothering to render the full inventory, there are many flourishing inelegant practices that bleed the country more than outright theft of public funds upon which the government is fixated. Until such practices are isolated and duly investigated, the regrettable presumption that government is deliberately mis-perceiving the incidence of corruption in government will persist.
For example, many folks find it hilarious that while security has deliberately been manipulated to make it possible for rogue and evil foreign herdsmen to terrorize innocent citizens, government is yet to discover the courage to admit that this is a worse form of corruption than theft of public funds. Sustaining this hypocrisy simultaneously with the prosecution of the senate president merely reinforced ridicule for the anti-corruption war as prosecuted by the administration.
There are other elements of unseriousness and hypocrisy in the wrong-headed war that requires review. And until the necessary review of strategy and focus is effected, discerning folks will continue to hail the war with cynicism.
This is the significance of the acquittal of Saraki by the Code of Conduct Tribunal. The development presents the administration with a huge window of opportunity to go back to the drawing board and re-appraise its strategy and conviction about fighting corruption. Until a man pours water over his head, duly applies soap to form lather and scrub himself with, he cannot seriously claim to have had a bathe.
Too many generals in the war against corruption are yet to declare their assets, either rightly or otherwise. To have single Saraki out for prosecution amounted to approaching equity for recompense with dirty hands. That explains public suspicion for this brand of war against corruption.