The object of the war against corruption, in which successive governments in the country profess themselves to be engaged, needs to be clearly stated and constantly borne in mind. The Constitution is unequivocal that the object is the eradication or abolition of “all corrupt practices and abuse of office.” Accordingly, a duty is laid on government, federal and state, to do so, i.e. to “abolish all corrupt practice and abuse of office” : section 15(5). What, then, does the duty thus laid on government require of it?
The Rt Rev Matthew Kukah, Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, answers the question thus: The battle against corruption, he said, “is not so much going to be won by how many investigations and probes we conduct. It will not be won by how many people go to jail.” Nor will it be won by how much money is recovered from the looters of our common wealth. Corruption has to be fought in the minds and hearts of people, with a view to bringing about a change in their attitudes towards it, “a change in the Nigerian psyche.” This is not, however, to say that the anti-corruption war should be discontinued or that the corruption probes should be abandoned. They must continue with increased vigour. It only means that the eradication of corruption and the cleansing of the pervasive rottenness in our society, of which corruption is a manifestation, call for a social and ethical revolution, which in turn calls for an effective mobilisation of the people for the purpose.
Effective mobilisation of the people for a cause, a worthy cause of course, is one of the most arduous tasks of political leadership. It requires, as leader, a president with the energy of youth, an energy that will enable him to move round the country and meet with the people in their various communities, at town hall gatherings and other fora, down to the grassroots, and address them on the imperative necessity for change in their attitudes and mindset, and the need for patriotism generally. I think that at 75 a person, man or woman, whoever he or she may be, no longer possesses the sort of energy required for the purpose. For nearly three years since his installation in office on 29 May, 2015, President Buhari has not embarked on such mobilisation exercise apparently because his advanced age (75) does not enable him to do so and partly because he appears not to have the necessary inclination or disposition. The reason of advanced age needs to be remedied by prescribing in the Constitution an upper age limit for a president, as is done in some countries of the world, and as is done for non-elective public officials.
A social and ethical revolution is needed not only to rid the country of the cankerworm of corruption, but also to launch it upon a New Beginning, a new socio-political order, a more or less clean slate, unsmeared by the rottenness that presently pervades the society. A “change in the Nigerian psyche” is a radical change that requires a social and ethical revolution to bring it about.
The growing public cynicism about the sincerity of President Buhari as an uncompromising spear-head of a crusade against corruption
Given that President Buhari was initially acclaimed, hailed and idolised by the people as an uncompromising spear-head of a crusade against corruption – taking crusade to mean, not just a war, but a war fought with great passion and zeal – it is significant that, in less than two years, the acclaim is giving way to cynicism about the President’s sincerity in the prosecution of the war. Is he really the uncompromising crusader that the public had been led to believe? There is reason to suppose that the public cynicism is the by-product of the President’s Northernisation Agenda, as it is being carried into effect by his lopsided strategic appointments which are so manifestly skewed in favour of the North and against the South.
Viewed from the standpoint of the war against corruption, it is significant that all the key officials involved, even if it be indirectly, in the prosecution of the war are northerners appointed by President Buhari since his inauguration as President on 29 May, 2015. A list of such appointees shows this assertion to be an incontrovertible fact.
(i) Babachir Lawal, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF); appointed in preference to a hotly tipped candidate from the South-East; after his removal following allegation of diversion of funds meant for persons displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East, he was replaced by another northerner, Boss Mustapha, again in preference to a rumoured candidate from the South-East.
(ii) Maj-General Babagana Monguno (rtd), National Security Adviser (NSA), replacing Dasuki, NSA under former President Goodluck Jonathan.
(iii) Alhaji Abba Kyari, Chief of Staff to the President, replacing Brig-Gen Jones Oladehinde (rtd), the holder of the office under former President Goodluck Jonathan.
(iv) Ibrahim Idris, Inspector-General of Police (IGP) appointed over the heads of some Southern officers senior to him. The IGP is heading a Police Force, the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), in which 15 out of the 22 Assistant Inspectors-General of Police (AIG), who exercise much of the function of the operational control of the Force, are northerners, while 3 are from the South-West and 2 from the South-East. These blatantly lopsided appointments, all of which were made since the inception of the Buhari Administration, portray the NPF as an army of occupation deliberately designed to carry into effect President Buhari’s Northernisation Agenda in furtherance of the dream of the Sardauna to reduce the South to “a conquered territory and thereby prevented from having control over its future”. The President’s implacable opposition to Re-structuring which envisages the establishment of State Police should not, therefore, surprise us. He wants to be able to continue to exercise control over the internal security of the Southern States and to continue to hold them hostage. It caricatures true federalism that a constituent State in a Federation should be under the control and yoke of the Federal Government in the matter of its internal security.
(v) Daura, Director-General, Department of State Security (DSS) replacing Ita Ekpenyong; apart from the DG, the directors are mostly northerners.
The control of the NPF and DSS by northerners must be taken together with the fact that the Minister of Interior and the Permanent Secretary of the ministry are northerners; that the Army and Air Force are headed by northerners; and, above all that President Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner, is the Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, and has the power under the Constitution to direct the operational use of the NPF for “the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order”; his power to direct the operational use of the DSS is even more plenary. The implication of the control of security by northerners is that the security of Nigeria and Nigerians is an exclusively northern affair, thereby putting the rest of us at their mercy.
(vi) Abubakar Malami SAN, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF), a young SAN, who was raised to the rank in 2008, i.e. seven years before his appointment as AGF.
(vii) Lt-Gen Abdulrahman Danbazau (rtd), Minister of Interior.
(viii) Magaji Abubakar, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Interior; he has publicly admitted to have wrongfully sidetracked the Head of Service (HoS), Mrs Winifred Ekanem Oyo-Ita, a southerner, in the reinstatement of Abdulrasheed Maina, and has apologized to her accordingly: see the Vanguard of December 1, 2017.
(ix) Ibrahim Magu, Acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); still kept in office in an acting capacity since 9 November, 2015 because of repeated refusal by the Senate to confirm his appointment.
(x) Hamed Ibrahim Ali, Controller-General, Nigerian Customs Services; Customs is the underbelly of corruption in Nigeria.
(xi) Mohammad Babandede, Controller-General, Nigerian Immigration Services; immigration stands implicated in Maina’s escape out of Nigeria after his sack from the civil service and his subsequent re-entry into it.
(xii) Amb. Muhammed Dauda, Acting Director-General National Intelligence Agency (NIA), replacing Ayo Oke, a southerner; after he was sacked, following the discovery in the NIA offices in the Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, of the sum of $43 million, £27,800 and N23 million.
(xiii) Alhaji Ahmed Idris, Accountant-General of the Federation, replacing Jonah Ogunniyi Otunla, a southerner.
(xiv) Maikanti Baru, Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), replacing Ibe Kachukwu, a southerner, who, as Minister of State for Petroleum and Chairman, NNPC Board, was sidelined by Baru in the process for the award of some NNPC contracts; earlier he has been downgraded from Minister of Petroleum to Minister of State for Petroleum, with the President taking over as his own Petroleum Minister.
(xv) Abdulrasheed Maina, Chairman, Presidential Task Force on Pension Reform; although his initial appointment took place before the Buhari Administration, his reinstatement after he was sacked occurred during that Administration, with the President’s approval as the evidence shows.
The 15 appointments listed above are the strategic appointments as they relate to the prosecution of the war against corruption. There are of course other lopsided strategic appointments, such as the appointment of Professor Mahmood Yakubu as Chairman, Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) and Hadiza Bala-Usman as Head of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA). The listed appointments raise critical issues as to the intention or design behind them. They look like a swoop on the South, a jihad designed to foist Northern domination, or even subjugation, on the South in pursuance of the Sardauna’s agenda, announced as far back as 1960, to “subjugate” the South and “reduce it to a conquered territory”, with the object of preventing it from having “control over its future,” an agenda which President Buhari, in a speech in May 2015 as President-elect, re-echoed and vowed to carry to a “finish”. What other reason could there be for concentrating in the North the appointments to all the positions vital to the effective prosecution of the war against corruption? We need to be told. One hopes that the order for the purchase of war planes from the U.S., ostensibly to fight Boko Haram terrorism, is not connected with the hidden agenda for a jihad.
The 15 appointments stand uncontroverted. And yet in a futile attempt to controvert the incontrovertible, the President, responding to a newspaper report that 81 of 100 appointments made by him were from the North, published a list of 159 appointments made by him, 85 of which were from the South and 74 from the North: see the Vanguard November 6, 2017. We are being treated again to another irrelevancy designed to befog a critical issue and to hoodwink the Nigerian people. The President is simply preying on the gullibility of the public in anything that comes from him.
What all this means is that corruption is being fought, not by an all-inclusive team of officials, but by officials drawn from one section of the country, the North, separated in interests, outlook and attitude from the South, which makes the war look like an exclusively Northern affair. Hence the increase in public cynicism about the President’s sincerity as leader. The cynicism seems to have reached its peak in the Maina case, tagged by the media as the Maina saga or Mainagate, involving several billions of naira allegedly stolen from the pension fund scheme superintended by the Presidential Task Force Reform Team of which Abdulrasheed Maina was Chairman.
The aspect of the Maina case that aroused great public interest and heightened public cynicism about the sincerity of the President as leader of a crusade was the threat by the Chief of Staff to the President, Alhaji Abba Kyari, a northerner, to “query” the Head of Service of the Federation (HoS), Mrs Winifred Ekanem Oyo-Ita, a southerner, for saying that she informed the President of Maina’s reinstatement which was effected against her opposition. The threat was made in the view of people, including the Vice-President, arriving at the Council Chambers for the weekly meeting of the Federal Executive Council. The threat and the HoS’ instant but angry response triggered public reaction. Is the HoS under the authority of the Chief of Staff as to make her amenable to a query by him? Why should he publicly utter such a threat, except perhaps as an over-zealous show of solidarity for a master from the same section of the country, the North? Was the motive a concern to shield a fellow northerner? The public was not told anything more about this scandalous exhibition of sectionalism other than that the controversy had been settled by the President meeting privately with the two quarreling officials.
But the public cynicism remains. Was something being concealed from the public about the whole Maina saga? Was the President in fact privy to Maina’s return to the country and his reinstatement into the civil service, and did he authorise it? Maina’s testimony came on 29 November, 2017, as reported in the Vanguard of that day. He said:
“When this government came in, the president gave his note that go and sit down with Maina. I have given you the approval. They sat down with me…..The process of my reinstatement started after the Attorney-General, Mr Malami, visited me. As soon as the present government decided to sit with me, and after sitting with me, I told them I will not leave you to go back to Nigeria without something in your pocket. I’m going to give you something in your pocket, and the Minister laughed.”
Maina’s testimony has not been countered by government.
The eradication of corruption requires the concerted efforts of all Nigerians fighting together as one people under an all-inclusive government, not a government perceived to be one for one section of the country only, the North, and from which the other section feels alienated.
Professor Ben Nwabueze
8th January, 2018