After five years in office, you would be forgiven for hoping that the Buhari government would have gotten its act together, although that would have been based on a forlorn hope.
Nothing in the character of this government gives any indication that it is capable of pulling its resources together; or acting decisively and in the best interest of Nigeria and its people most times. Rather, everything seems to be descending into a farce. Lately, the handling of the fallouts of the Covid-19 pandemic have become confused and are confusing.
One day, we are told that schools can reopen. But the next day there’s counter instruction that they cannot. And then more guidelines are rolled out to underpin how schools will reopen, but no date is given. The federal government seems unable and incapable of making up its mind. The confusion is real and the tension this brings is so palpable, people are already praying that 2023 comes quickly so they can be rid of this blundering government.
However, this is just symptomatic of the character of this Buhari administration. In the early days of his presidency, much was made of President Muhammadu Buhari’s body language. An incorruptible man himself, as he was presented, much was made of his aversion to corruption and corrupt officials. So, it stood to reason that his body language was to be the spark that would help grow that spirit of uprightness in government; a government in sync with what the president wanted.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, what has happened is that no one really knows what that body language truly means anymore. Or if his officials know, they really do not give two hoots about it. This presidency is like a house in turmoil with different actors pulling in different ways. The point of all this is the ongoing investigation and removal from office of the man that has been anchoring the president’s anti-corruption crusade, Ibrahim Magu. What is happening to him is a disassembling of his time as the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
Ordinarily, you would think Magu’s travails is another evidence of the “no sacred cow” approach of the Buhari government to fighting corruption; as his minders and handlers have been presenting it. However, you would be wrong. The truth is that that is just a convenient explanation, an attempt to salvage an awfully bad situation. One clear thing it shows is that this president appears to be a bad judge of character.
So how did we get to this point?
When the president appointed Magu in 2015, his name was sent twice to the 8th Senate led by Bukola Saraki for confirmation. But twice, the Senate refused to confirm him for the EFCC job. Not a few thought at the time that the Senate was at daggers drawn with the presidency; particularly because Saraki was neither the president’s nor his party’s choice for Senate President. But in a scenario that still befuddles even now; the Senate was acting on the basis of a Directorate of State Security, DSS, report on Magu.
Mr Lawal Daura, director general of the DSS had sent a scathing report to the Senate. He had called Magu’s integrity to question; generally dismissing him as not a fit and proper person for that job. Was the president or the presidency not in the know of the report? It would have been the job of the security agencies to vet and report to the president on individual nominees. How would the president have missed the report on his appointee?
For this blunder to have happened early in the life of the administration; it was a pointer to the chaos that would eventually be the hallmark of this presidency. And rather than lobby the Senate for Magu’s confirmation or seek other political solutions; government found some loophole in the law that allowed Magu to serve as acting chairman of the EFCC. Specifically, Magu retained the position from November 9, 2015 until his suspension on July 7, 2020; as well as eventual replacement with another acting chairman, Mohammed Umar.
Former Senate President Saraki, commenting on the decision of the senators not to confirm Magu, said in 2017; “This is about institution. Let us say you are screening the governor of the Central Bank and the EFCC reports that the man lacks integrity and that he is not honest, will you disown that? Even if you do, years later you are weakening the institution.”
For Magu, it would seem as if his days in office were numbered once his biggest supporter in the presidency; Abba Kyari, died. He became the big masquerade dancing naked in the market. It was only a matter of time that butting heads with the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami; who heads EFCC’s supervising ministry, would become a major headache for him. Magu did not have much use for Malami’s supervision.
So, rather than build a system, he succeeded in building a cult of personality around himself; the same mistake the first Chairman of the organisation, Nuhu Ribadu, made. The news about town now is that Magu was so power drunk that he rattled the cages of both the former head of state, Abdulsalami Abubakar and former chief of army staff and minister of defence in President Obasanjo’s government, T.Y. Danjuma. It was one misstep too many and that finally tipped the scale against him.
With a damning report from Malami, Magu’s and his time at EFCC are now facing scrutiny; specifically, from the Justice Ayo Salami panel set up by the government. He is being asked to answer questions on why recovered assets were sold without recourse to the Ministry of Works and Housing and why he had not given a proper account of recovered real estate and money. He is also accused of not submitting EFCC’s audited account for four years. It is not a pleasant time for a man who had tremendous power but probably failed to use it judiciously.
What would become of Justice Salami’s panel’s investigation is not clear. Neither is it clear if Magu would be found guilty of the offences he is now said to have committed. What is sad about this situation is that we did not need to be here if President Buhari was in firm grip of his government and his appointees. After all, they serve at his pleasure.
Indeed, opposition to Magu had been simmering for years. Buhari ought to have cut the cancer once his former DSS director general had written to the Senate he was not a fit and proper person for the job. It would be a shame if the man Buhari appointed to lead his corruption fight is now confirmed as corrupt himself.
What an irony that would be for him to be a re-looter of the loot.