GUARDIAN NIGERIA, DEC. 22, 2016
Babachir David Lawal, Secretary to Government of the Federation, the SGF
It is only those who have been inordinately enamoured of the Buhari presidency who are now shocked at the bleak fate that has befallen its anti-corruption campaign. But for critical observers who have been contemptuously branded as the stabilising forces for the regeneration of an era reeking with corruption, the campaign was bound to suffer a calamitous end. It was expected, like most of the policies that have been associated with the Buhari government, to be afflicted with the reverse Midas touch. Indeed, the crash of the anti-corruption campaign that has been so much-hyped as the lynchpin of the Buhari government’s quest for the development of the country is symptomatic of the failure in every other provenance of governance in this current administration.
Clearly, the policies of the government are sullied by a certain antithesis to the improvement of the wellbeing of the citizens because they have been underpinned by unrelieved provincialism that has made them turn out badly. In the case of the anti-corruption, it was bound to fail because the presidency did not pursue it in a way that would have ensured its success. There was no way it would have succeeded when it was not targeted at all corrupt persons who have benefited from the national treasury at the expense of the common good. It was rather targeted at perceived or real enemies of the president, his cronies and political party. This is why politicians who are patently corrupt keep on decamping to the All Progressives Congress (APC) to seek protection from prosecution. And this is why those who consider their political careers endangered by decamping from their parties keep on taking full pages of advertisement pledging their support for Buhari and his anti-corruption campaign. If they knew that whether they decamped or pledged support for the anti-corruption campaign they would be prosecuted, they would not bother themselves with all this.
Because it was not to serve the interest of the country, Buhari did not bother to prosecute the campaign in line with the constitution of the country. The campaign that should have been for the whole country became defined by an us versus them mentality. It was thus inevitable that Ibrahim Magu who knew that he had breached fidelity to constitutionality in a bid to please the president would end up resorting to the same illegality to enrich himself at the expense of a genuine and selfless anti-corruption fight. With the approval of Buhari, Magu prosecuted an anti-corruption campaign that brooked no obedience to the rule of law. Court judgments were remorselessly disregarded. In this atmosphere of illegality, a former National Security Adviser Col. Sambo Dasuki is being held in detention despite judgments from the nation’s courts and even the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice.
So, the fall of Magu is a sad reminder of the corruption scandals dogging some of the prime actors of the Buhari government and the double life that has smudged it. It is double life when the Buhari presidency claims to be fighting corruption and yet tolerates its officials who have been accused of corruption. Before the news broke about the scandalous patronage of Magu by those he was supposed to prosecute for corruption, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal was accused of diverting money meant for the welfare of displaced victims of Boko Haram insurgency. The chief of staff, Abba Kyari, was embroiled in N500 million bribery allegation involving MTN. The chief of army staff, Tukur Buratai was accused of acquiring property abroad with funds from questionable sources. Now, it is only the rejection of Magu by the Senate that has prompted our corruption-loathing president to decide to investigate the charges of corruption against some of his officials. And this is coming after the president’s triumphant declaration that none of his aides was corrupt. It is part of the double life when the president tells the citizens to sacrifice in the midst of a recession but he enjoys the luxury of a robust presidential fleet that was only slightly reduced when he could no longer ignore the citizens’outrage. It is double life when Buhari says he is cutting his salary but he has not given up his security vote for the improvement of the wellbeing of the citizens. Forget the reduction of salaries and allowances. After all, our political leaders do not become billionaires at the end of their so-called service because of their legitimate salaries and allowances.
To be sure, there is no altruism in the action of the Senate that has rejected the confirmation of Magu as the EFCC boss. Indeed, since most of the lawmakers are corrupt, their hostility to a Magu should be expected. Some of the nation’s lawmakers are former governors who after wrecking their states financially came to the National Assembly as a sanctuary against prosecution for their corruption. Some of the lawmakers are already being prosecuted. However, the lack of sincerity and patriotism on the part of the lawmakers should not make us, like Ali Ndume, to seek the confirmation of Magu, or like that professor who has become an uncritical defender of Buhari and his misbegotten policies, to declare that Magu must remain the EFCC boss whether the Senate approves this or not.
Buhari must see the silver lining in the Magu saga. But of course, this is only possible if he is really sincere with the campaign against corruption. The fact that the anti-corruption campaign under Magu has been discredited is an opportunity for Buhari to overhaul it. In this regard, he must not re-nominate Magu to the Senate. Thankfully, the president appears to be embarrassed by the revelations about Magu and this was why he reportedly blocked access to him.
Drawing from the sad experience with Magu, the president must be diligent in recruiting a new EFCC boss who is a person with an unimpeachable character. This person must be allowed to do his or her work without watching the body language of the president, but diligently hewing to the template of his or her constitutional duties. He should be allowed to prosecute all corrupt persons whether they are the supporters of the president or not. There is also the need to confirm the appointment of the new EFCC boss on time. An EFCC boss whose appointment is not confirmed would tread carefully to avoid hurting the president who would nominate him or her for confirmation, and lawmakers who would eventually decide his or her eligibility for the job.
The president’s proposed cabinet reshuffle is another opportunity for him to demonstrate that he is sincere with prosecuting a campaign against corruption. He cannot claim to be fighting corruption and yet appoint as ministers those who have been accused of looting their state treasuries. He must not only bring to his new cabinet those who are competent but those who would not continue their careers of corruption under the guise of serving the nation. Indeed, if Buhari is sincere with his acclaimed zero-tolerance for corruption, he must begin with convincing the public that his presidency is not weighed down by the incubus of double life.