What statistics say about Buhari's anti-corruption war [Analysis]

Buhari claims he has significantly reduced corruption in his five years as president, but the numbers don't add up.

One of President Muhammadu Buhari's major strengths has always been his ability to squash corruption (or so he says), but five years after returning to Nigeria's highest political office, figures show he might have oversold himself [EFCC]

For Instance, Denmark and New Zealand are currently tied as the least corrupt countries in the world with a score of 87 out of 100; a very healthy state but not the perfect score every parent wants their children to hit.

This score is courtesy of Transparency International which uses a Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) to rank 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, based on the informed views of analysts, business people and experts around the world.

It uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.

The index doesn't necessarily capture the individual frustration of citizens of any particular country, as Transparency International itself would admit, but it's some reflection of the daily reality of people living in ranked countries.

Now, while the likes of Denmark and New Zealand flirt with a perfect score of 100 that's the holy grail no one can get a taste of, countries like Somalia (9/100) and South Sudan (12/100) dance around the bottom of the pile.

Five years into his Muhammadu Buhari's stint as Nigeria's democratic president, the performance of the 'giant of Africa' continues to leave a lot to be desired.

Now, anyone that knows Buhari knows words of affirmation is his love language and you only need to know the man for one minute before he tells you how much he hates corruption and how committed he is to cleaning up the country come rain or shine.

He's the kind of president you hand a crowbar and point in the direction of corruption so he can beat it to joyless death.

This is the narrative that's served him well for decades and was pivotal to getting him elected the first time in 2015, and a second time last year.

Corruption is not exactly the easiest thing to measure, so every time critics have pointed out that Buhari has not done the great job he promised, it's always quite easy for him to wave it off and point at something that has a vague sense of legitimacy to prove that things have, in fact, improved under him.

He'd get away with it easily too if only the CPI didn't exist; but it does exist and it's not been pretty reading for the 76-year-old.

When Buhari was sworn in in 2015, Nigeria's CPI score had been 27 (out of a possible 100) in 2014, and when the 2015 report was released, Nigeria dropped a point to 26, still retaining its 136th position from the previous year.

That drop wasn't entirely his fault because a different person was president for almost half of the year, so he gets a considerable pass.

And this was reflected in the 2016 ranking, Buhari's first full year, when it was announced that Nigeria had improved by 2 points, scoring 28 but yet again retaining the 136th position.

He couldn't keep it up the next year as Nigeria dropped a point to 27, finally dropping to 148th position, a development that wasn't well received by the government, especially as it came just a month after Buhari was announced as the African Union's first ever anti-corruption champion. It simply was bad optics for the great anti-corruption crusader.

This didn't get better in the 2018 ranking as, even though Nigeria moved to 144th position, it maintained its 27 points.

The latest 2019 ranking has now seen Nigeria drop to 146th position with 26 points, the same number of points Buhari's administration started with in 2015, a moonwalk in circles, essentially.

While disagreeing with an interviewer during a rare media chat last year, Buhari bizarrely said he worked with facts, not figures.

The president is simply not the kind of man that you'll see admitting any sort of failure in the feats he believes he's achieved since he took office five years ago.

However, figures do not care about feelings, and the figures show that his anti-corruption crusade has not yielded commendable enough results.

To properly crystallise his government's failure to improve the nation's corruption perception, Seychelles, Africa's least corrupt country, has steadily progressed from 55 points in 2015 to 66 points in 2019.

Angola has steadily risen from 15 points in 2015, and now tied with Nigeria in 146th place with 26 points in 2019.

Gambia, another African neighbour, has steadily progressed from 28 points in 2015 to 37 points in 2019. Tanzania has gained seven points in the same time period, while Tunisia (5 points), Eritrea (5), Ethiopia (4), Sierra Leone (4), Guinea (4) are other African neighbours who have improved their corruption perceptions while Nigeria danced in circles back to where it was five years ago.

Predictably, Buhari's administration has failed to take the latest rankings in its stride and aspire to do better work.

"It is not fact-based but based on secondary data; information collected here and there," Buhari's media aide, Garba Shehu, said during an interview.

Bizarrely, Nigeria's foremost anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), also pretty much got into its feelings about the 2019 ranking, taking it as an attack on what it considers the incredible work it has been doing.

The agency's strong statement was notably laughable for the assumption that corruption is narrowly defined along the lines of what it primarily tackles.

For full measure, Transparency International considers corruption to be the abuse of entrusted power for private gain at three levels - grand, petty, and political.

"Grand corruption consists of acts committed at a high level of government that distort policies or the central functioning of the state, enabling leaders to benefit at the expense of the public good.

"Petty corruption refers to everyday abuse of entrusted power by low- and mid-level public officials in their interactions with ordinary citizens, who often are trying to access basic goods or services in places like hospitals, schools, police departments and other agencies.

"Political corruption is a manipulation of policies, institutions and rules of procedure in the allocation of resources and financing by political decision makers, who abuse their position to sustain their power, status and wealth," TI's guide reads.

The EFCC is terribly misguided to think it's done enough to curb this since 2015, or capable of even covering that entire spectrum of what constitutes corruption.

Ibrahim Magu, the head of EFCC itself, has been acting chairman since 2015 because the Senate rejected his appointment, twice, due to a corruption cloud hanging over his head.

While addressing journalists last week, the head of Transparency International in Nigeria, Auwal Rafsanjani, said selective adherence to the rule of law and corruption in political parties were some of the reasons for Nigeria's poor ranking.

To get a load of this, you don't have to look any farther than Buhari's party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), whose national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, was accused of taking bribes in the millions of dollars to favour certain candidates during the party's primary elections in 2018.

Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, a very close Buhari ally, was caught on camera receiving bribes, but he escaped scrutiny and retained Buhari's public endorsement that contributed to a controversial successful re-election.

The APC's national leader, Bola Tinubu, also came under fire hours to Buhari's re-election victory in 2019 after two bullion vans were spotted entering his Lagos residence, fuelling speculations that it was to buy votes.

Several petitions to the EFCC to investigate that particular event has been met with radio silence from the Magu Boys, as EFCC agents so fondly appear to like to be addressed these days.

Important public institutions, such as the Police Force, also continue to come under fire for widespread corruption that have not been sufficiently addressed despite public pressure.

Nigeria is the fourth most corrupt country in the West African region, and no amount of chest-thumping by Buhari and his administration can change that.

He might believe he's doing his best, but his best is not anywhere close to being enough to what he promised before he ascended to the highest political office in the country.

Figures are figures, and figures are facts. If the figures show that the president's anti-corruption fight has had little success, then that is the fact.

Buhari and his administration should get to work and stop fighting the wrong enemy.

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