Not long ago, the Nigerian Green Passport was considered by many Nigerians as a disadvantaged international travel document for many reasons. The initial treatment meted out by Immigration Officers at point of entries in foreign Countries to the holders of the Green Passport leaves a kind of defeatist feeling and a sense of unwelcome feeling from the host Country officials, Yes it has happened to me as well. Part of the reasons why the Nigerian Green Passport was not respected outside the Country was the perception of the Nigerian Citizens and the Country as a whole, Fraud and Corruption is what readily comes to minds of foreigners when dealing with Nigerians of before, and as it is said perception is often a reality.

Some foreigners you may encountered in your journey outside the Country may go a little off and ask sarcastically if you are also a “Prince of Nigeria with trapped Millions of Dollars and in need of help” with an arrogant and sheepish smile, this was in reference to the Yahoo-Yahoo boys Email Fraud which has became global knowledge and a brand for Nigeria, if they are friendly enough, they may occasionally throw in “but Nigeria is a good football Country” seeking your approval, and they will often follow with “How is Jay-Jay Okocha and Kanu Nwankwo” doing these days?, or if they are from the literary society they will remark something like, “I like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie”, in an attempt to show you their understanding of the good side of your Country. Not long ago, a former Prime Minister of United Kingdom, David Cameroon called Nigeria a Fantastically Corrupt Nation.

I have come across Nigerians who were willing to travel outside the Country with Ghanaian and Nigerien Passports respectively only to find out they are actually Nigerians avoiding the usual “Profiling” and Stereotype treatment internationally. But, Nigerians are not all bad and not all Nigerians are corrupt, this was what I have always tried to explain to many people I came across in my travels, some I manage to change their initial perception, some might still continue to hold that perception.

But generally the perception is changing for the good, I noticed this when I travelled to the United States in September last year (2017), My Green Passport was no longer a burden, in fact I was treated with utmost respect at the John F. Kennedy Airport, New York, the immigration officer asked, “are you here for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)”, I responded yes, partly for that, he smiled and asked is your President coming? I responded with I hope so, and as he was returning my Passport while smiling, he said “Buhari is good and a Man of integrity, welcome to New York Mr. Abdullahi”. I retorted, yes, you are right, he is a good man, and thank you, have a nice evening.

The African Continent is also not spared from this perception of corruption, and largely this is a correct assessment as indices of development has shown over the years as most African Countries remained underdeveloped because of corrupt leaders and system. Some of the African Nations largely depends on Foreign Aides from Developed Countries for their infrastructure development and sometimes even for their basic needs for survival particularly war torn Countries and those without natural resources.

These Foreign aides comes in many forms and hardly achieves its sets of objectives due to corruption in recipient countries, although as recently pointed out by a colleague, that this may not be totally true as 60% to 70% always found its way back to these Donor Countries through an over bloated recurrent expenditure from the various donor/supervisory Agencies with a larger portion paid to Consultant who always writes some fancy reports with little or no development on the ground, hence the Donor Countries always assume Africa as a Continent bedeviled by corruption hindering its development, perception or real, and perhaps both.
So, it is no surprising when the Continent decided to put the fight against corruption as one of its cardinal agenda through the regional body of Africa Union (AU) some fifteen years ago. Although the Continent has made some significant strides in enacting legal and policy frameworks such as the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC) to address the vice, the desired impact had been lacking as observed by President Muhammadu Buhari in his speech at the recent AU 30th Summit in the Ethiopian Capital, Addis Ababa.
It is at this Summit that Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari was unanimously selected to lead the all important crusade (the fight against corruption) in the Continent by a body comprising of not less than 52 Countries. The new Chairman of the AU, Rwandan President, Mr. Paul Kagame called on all the African Heads of States to emulate President Muhammadu Buhari in the fight against corruption in their Countries. This is no doubt a great confidence on the ability of President Muhammadu Buhari and a testament to not only his personal integrity but also for the work his Government is waging against corruption back home.
One may wonder why President Buhari? And the simple answer is why not. As it stands, President Buhari is perhaps the only African Head of State past or present (that spent 2 years and the half on the Seat) without a foreign Bank Account, a property outside his Country, a holiday home outside the Country, or an investment in any form outside the shores of his Country.
His record of fighting corruption back home the envy of many African Citizens, in the short period of his Administration, Institutions are being strengthened to fight corruption like never before, those perceived to be untouched were touched as there was no sacred cow.
His Administration has gone after powerful individuals both members of his Party and the major opposition Party who were inn Government for the past sixteen years. Serving Senior Military and Ex-Service Chiefs were not spared, the Judiciary also got its own share of Buhari’s fight against Corruption and we are beginning to see an otherwise toothless National Judicial Council to one that can bite.
Cases of high profile people are still in court being prosecuted, we have seen recovery of looted funds like never seen before. The Government of President Muhammadu Buhari did not stop there as it mustered the political will to also block loopholes otherwise explored by corrupt public officials through the implementation of Treasury Single Account (TSA) which require all Agencies of Government to have one account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) where all earnings flow directly in to the account, more than 6 trillion Naira has since been realized.
Little wonder we now see Nigeria Customs Service exceeding their projected revenue by far, some Agencies that has failed to remit a single kobo in the years before the Buhari Administration such as Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) are now showing a huge positive balance sheet and remitting revenue to the Federation Account, only recently, the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) declared a revenue flow of 4 Trillion Naira, never realized in the history of the Agency.
Another systematic fight against corruption employed by the Buhari led Administration is the Bank Verification Number (BVN) implementation which mandated all accounts with Nigerian Banks to be linked with an individual thereby, the era laundering money or using fictitious companies or what is known as shell company to hide ill gotten wealth became a thing of the past, many were caught from this even among top civil servants under this administration, most didn’t make the news but they were punished accordingly and such monies in their accounts legally confiscated by the Government, the half clever corrupt past officials began to hide their ill gotten wealth in all manners of places, from safes in their abandoned houses, warehouses, to digging trenches in their farms, to hiding it in water tanks and WC Latrines, many were caught as I am sure many must have escape being caught.
The newly whistleblower policy introduced by the Buhari Government as a tool to fight corruption also recorded huge success, the 44 Million USD in Cash from the Ikoyi Apartment, the 9.3 Million USD in cash found at a remote hideout house belonging to a former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, Mr. Andrew Yakubu in the slump area of Sabon Tasha in Kaduna, the Lagos Market Stall full of Cash and many others in cash, accounts and assets are direct result of the whistle blowing policy put in place by this Administration.
Now that President Muhammadu Buhari has been made the Chief Crusader and Champion of fight against corruption which no other African Leader was ever bestowed with, this has brought back Nigeria’s glory and placed the Country as the true giant of Africa, but this is also a challenge to the Buhari led Administration that the Continent is following and Nigeria is leading, and you cannot falter once and twice and expect the followers to continue following.

I see this as a great challenge for the President for a renewed commitment of his fight against corruption as one of his major agenda for “Change”, and as he advised other African leaders in the AU Summit that Leaders attitude must change. In the same vein, just as the benefits accrued with this honor is not for President Buhari alone, so is the challenge of fight against corruption, it must be owned by the Citizens as well. As Nigerians, we must make conscious efforts to support if not lead the fight against this menace, or else as the President himself often said “If Nigerians do not kill corruption, Corruption will kill Nigeria” I do not have any other Country but Nigeria, do you?

Aliyu Abdullahi is a Lawyer and a Policy Analyst, and can be reached on twitter via his handle @AliyuAbdullahA