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Magu: Garlands At A Time Like This


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By Ibrahim Modibbo

There are several ironic happenstances around the acting Chairman of  the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ,EFCC,  Ibrahim Magu,  almost to the level of the myriad of paradoxes around Nigeria as a  country.

However, of these many ironies about the man, the most interesting to me, and I think to majority of the discerning public, is the temerity of a public officer, with what in Nigeria is a huge political bridge  to cross, namely confirmation of his acting appointment, to throw all caution to the wind and embark on his work, firing from all cylinders, as the work demands.

Some people have said, “The problem of Magu is  that he acted like he has been confirmed, like he has no river to  cross.”

If one is to hazard a guess, I could say the man went into the work in  November of 2015 with the mindset of a wartime military commander – thinking of nothing else but how to surmount the assigned  task, no matter how Herculean it was. And, in tackling the  malfeasance, Magu diversified the fight with a clear focus on how to  make the Nigerian economy function; restore the confidence of foreign  investors and clean up all sections of the formal economy.

However, the most ironic of the ironies around Magu is that at the  right time when his stewardship was beginning to be assessed and rated  by the public, having reached one year in office steering the delicate  operations of the EFCC, he got drown into needless controversy around  the politics of his confirmation. This, sadly for keen watchers like  myself, threatened the dispassionate atmosphere to consider the  performance of the man bearing the torch of President Muhammadu  Buhari’s celebrated fight against corruption. But it did not take away the glows that came from different quarters, even at the thick of the  intrigues.

Magu’s gallantry and dispassionate drive has earned him, the EFCC and  Nigeria, accolades from all angles of the compass. The influential  Abuja-based newspaper, Leadership, crowned him as a joint winner of  its person of the year award. Few days later, Silverbird TV, owned by  the controversial senator from Bayelsa State, Ben Murray-Bruce, listed  him among its nominees for man of the year. Not long afterwards, The  Nation newspaper came up with Magu as its man of the year.

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Previously, several prominent Nigerians had given their endorsements  of what is happening with the fight against corruption, with credit to  President Buhari for his square peg in square hole appointment and to  Magu for being courageous and sincere about his work.

According to the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee  Against Corruption (PACAC), the fiery Prof. Itse Sagay, the country  has not had a more committed anti-corruption czar with “sterling  qualities as Ibrahim Magu” since the pioneer EFCC chairman, Nuhu  Ribadu. Interestingly, Ribadu himself has publicly acknowledged Magu’s  vision and the renewed energy he has given the anti-corruption fight.

This is what Ribadu had to say recently about Magu: “I will assure you  that the leadership of the EFCC today is one that has the same spirit  and belief in the vision of the EFCC right from the foundation and  time the EFCC was established. It is a leadership that carries itself  with integrity, a leadership that is strong, a leadership that is  honest and a leadership that works with a lot of courage. You can see  it in war that is going on.”

“Today, more than ever before, in our history, we have more cases that  are being taken. We have more in terms of recoveries taking place,  more than any time ever. You can simply say that maybe there is no one  single anti- corruption organization in the world today that is doing  the work that the EFCC is doing. So, that must be acknowledged and  that must be understood.”

International commendation is equally huge, coming from world leaders  such as President Barack Obama, the UK Government, the Commonwealth  Secretary General, Patricia Scotland, and a host of others. When the  US Secretary of State,  John Kerry visited Nigeria in August, 2016, he  specifically commended President Buhari for “making significant  progress” in the fight against corruption, as he pledged US  government’s support.

When the Nigerian delegation, led by President Buhari attended the  London Anti-Corruption Summit in May last year, Nigeria stood out.  That delegation was the toast of all with President Buhari conferring  with fellow heads of government, while Magu was the toast of the  experts from around the world.

Interestingly, as Magu approached one year in office with the  uncertainty of his appointment hanging around his neck, it was the  media, alongside civil society, as the voice of the critical mass, that began agitation for his confirmation as a tribute to his “dogged  fight against corruption”, as one newspaper put it.

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Many newspapers, among which the very credible and influential  foursome of The Punch, Leadership, The Nation and Daily Trust on  Sunday, have variously penned editorials, giving kudos to Magu for  taking the war against corruption from a mantra off the mouth of the  policymakers to a daring, resulted-oriented crusade. The four  newspapers were also unanimous in calling on those saddled with the  task of making Magu the substantive chairman of the EFCC to hasten and  do that.

According to Leadership, in its editorial of November 3, 2016: “In our  considered opinion, the best interest of the anti-corruption effort  will be served when someone who has what it takes to call a spade by  no other name is encouraged to do the work for which he is trained and  has the aptitude. At the risk of being misunderstood, Magu, from our  disinterested position, is one man who has been well primed for the  task.”

Also in November, the who-is-who of civil society organisations working on anti-corruption issued a joint press statement calling for  Magu’s confirmation as substantive head of EFCC citing these  credentials: “…the EFCC has of late stepped up the fight against acts  of corruption and abuse of public trust as exemplified in the tracking  of those remotely and directly connected with the misapplication of  monies meant to fight Boko Haram insurgency, confiscation of the  properties suspected to have been acquired from proceeds of crime  linked to politically exposed persons as well as the investigation and  prosecution of alleged owners”.

With this gale of endorsements from independent-minded individuals and  stakeholders, and with the outburst of public outrage witnessed  penultimate Saturday when the orchestrated news went out that Magu had  been relieved of his duties, it is clear where Nigerians stand on this  matter.

These two scenarios: the praises and the rage, are clear pointers that  though the anti-corruption work may be a thankless job, with majority of Nigerians, the effort is much appreciated.

And as the Latin maxim says, the voice of the people is the voice of God.

Modibbo is editor-at-large at Verbatim magazine. He can be reached  at [email protected]

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