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I watched with dismay on Channels Television as Mr. Ibrahim Magu, the Acting Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) wasted an opportunity to address one of the biggest problems of not just Nigeria but Africa in general. What is the problem? “Building Strong Individuals Instead of Strong Institutions”. The presenter, Maope Ogun repeatedly explained to the EFCC boss what she meant by her question “How do you intend to institutionalize the fight against corruption rather than, as usual, leaving it to the whims and caprices of whoever is in charge at any given time?” To answer the question, Magu was busy marketing the newly commissioned EFCC Headquarters. Does it mean he didn’t understand? Does it mean he intentionally ignored/avoided the question which to me would be very unfortunate. There’s a difference between mixing words like transmission and all that and not understanding a key problem in the society where you are a leader. A situation where a leader does not have the  answers to a fundamental  problems of growth and sustainability simply means that the problem has come to stay.

I tell those who care to listen, that any idiot can be a leader in a society where you have strong institutions, but weak institutions with strong individual leaders can only function optimally when the strong man is still there and may collapse when he leaves office. That brings me to this question to Magu, if you fight corruption optimally when you are there and your boss, the President supports you too, what happens when you leave and another person takes over? What is it that will keep up the fight even if the new boss is not like you of course he obviously won’t be because no two persons are the same and probably if he has interferences here and there from the president? This is what the presenter wanted you to address. EFCC should have organs that will address all of these.

 We are very good at promoting administrations instead of promoting institutions. You hear things like: The PMB Administration, The GEJ Administration, The Obasanjo Administration, The Ambode Adminsitration. What else is the definition of self aggrandizement? The Late Prof Dora Akunyili fought tirelessly to clean up NAFDAC and when she left, what else do we here about NAFDAC?

Nigeria needs strong institutions and not strong individuals.This is why we move one step forward and two steps backward. When Trump was campaigning for Presidency in the United States, many of us thought he was going to set the world on fire, many even threatened to tear their green cards if Trump won the elections, but what happens now? The US has functional institutions to put President Trump under restraint. Even if he still goes off the tangent at times, it’s not as bad as we all envisaged. The United States is still the United States and President Trump is leading her irrespective of what we think or believe.

We need heads of institutions who will put plans in place to strengthen the institutions. We need heads who will effect drastic policy changes that will stand the test of time irrespective of who is there. May be Magu is doing this. May be he has sent bills to the National Assembly  seeking for the establishment of special courts and appointment of special judges to handle corruption cases. May be he is pushing for a total separation of EFCC from the Nigeria Police to make it truly independent. May be he has a dream to make EFCC appear like the International Court of Justice. He might have these plans and dreams but…he didn’t say it.

We want a situation whereby all Nigerians  will respect the President and not Mohamadu Buhari, fear  the EFCC and not Ibrahim Magu. We want to obey the Customs and not Hamid Ali and so on. The institution should be the back bone of the individual and not the other way round. In developed world, you see heads of institutions going back to their businesses or jobs after serving their country but in Nigeria, you see the individuals become so rich and so powerful after serving the country. Yet the institution they served in and the country in general is not any better. Let us build strong institutions and not strong individuals.

Steve Obiakor.