By Martins Oloja
Verily, verily, we should say it to President Muhammadu Buhari and the men and women who are assisting in running his government that this is not the best of time to say ‘silence is golden’. Surely, silence can’t be a strategy in Nigeria at this time when there are serious concerns and questions about the future of the most populous black nation on earth.
Before the president’s reputation managers start screaming blue murder and resume their blame game on the previous administration, the concerns raised today are not about them. They (concerns) are about the office of the president from the office of the citizen. The president and his men should note that before they begin to raise huge funds for the 2019, there are weightier matters of governance, especially about corruption that they should settle quickly, lest they will be the last in 2019.
Indications are daily emerging that politicking around 2019 is beginning to becloud sound judgment in the presidency. As I noted here last week, there is no need reading the president’s lips anymore: I advised us to read his leaps in Kano the other day.
Now, there is the need to draw attention of the president’s reputation managers to some lessons of history that should not be ignored at the moment. They are lessons that past leaders ignored and regretted. And the president and his undiscerning men are beginning to fall into the booby traps – of obsession with a second and more terms in office. Our amiable General Yakubu Gowon once listened to a strange voice that told him 1976 terminal date set “was no longer feasible”. He regretted it.
Even the coup speech that toppled the Buhari administration (1983-1985) appears fresh today as if it was written in 2017. I read it again last night and shook my head that not much has changed, after all. What is worse, the man who would have been our hero of democracy around June 12, 1993 presidential election organised a remarkable election result adjudged to be the best and the cleanest ever. But Professor Omo Omoruyi, the chronicler and a witness to that dark history said General Ibrahim Babangida decided to listen to a strange voice of one mystery Khalifa who asked him to tamper with his country’s destiny: He annulled the result and today we are still nursing the wounds. But no one would believe the report of IBB about June 12-23 1993.
And another man who advertised himself to us in 1998/1999 as “a man we can trust” again decided to plot a blighter called “third term” instead of paying attention to critical governance issues that would have made him a natural successor to Nelson Mandela, and the original icon of Nigeria’s democracy development. That was how General Olusegun Obasanjo too lost steam and Nigeria: He too ended up handing over his ailing presidency to an unhealthy good man who was being assisted by an unprepared deputy who later won election for a full four-year term- as we say here ‘with nothing to show for it’. Who today will believe the report of General Obasanjo on third term agenda?
Specifically, Obasanjo was warned. He had big dreams for Nigeria. His second term was full of exceptionally resourceful men and women who could have helped him to achieve greatness. He was restless. I was covering the presidency and Abuja then as a Bureau Chief for this newspaper.
I was well aware, for instance, that the workaholic called Obasanjo planned to disband the entire police force for reorganisation and operational efficiency that could well serve the world’s most remarkable black nation. I knew who he wanted then to head the police force in that strategic plan. I was also in the know then that Obasanjo the institution, was already aware that the judiciary was getting corruptible. His intelligence chiefs had confirmed to him that judges even at the apex court then were beginning to write two judgments on the same case, waiting for the higher bidder. And he was set to strike.
He wanted to nominate, for instance, Olisa Agbakoba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, a man he could trust even as Chief Justice of Nigeria. And some private lawyers were to be nominated to the apex court. The constitution allows the president to nominate a lawyer that has had a 15-year-post-call experience into even the Supreme Court or as Chief Justice of Nigeria. The man had other big dreams that the third-term hidden agenda destroyed inside Aso Villa where big dreams always die.
All these historic and historical contexts are to advise President Buhari about the danger of allowing his men to run away with fixation on a second term plans without clearing his name, specifically from serious allegations Abdulrasheed Maina has levelled against him and his men.
This is another time to remind Team Buhari that there are documented impurities in the anti-corruption crusade that will definitely affect his campaigns for a second term. The only reason people tolerated even electoral malpractices in key zones to get Buhari elected in 2015 was this firm belief in the former head of state’s integrity he could depend on to fight Nigeria’s Number One Enemy, rampaging corruption! It is that integrity that his aloofness, his poor attitude to governance is seriously threatening. That was why on 8th October, I asked a difficult question in this column, Is President Buhari’s integrity overrated?
I hope the president’s men are telling the president that the last straw has been the Mainagate, which has become what Awonoor Williams calls “the chameleon faeces” into which they have stepped and when they clean it cannot go!. Yes, Mainagate has become a big albatross from revelations that have affected almost all the president’s key men and the president himself. It is not too late to speak up. It is another truth in a grave. It will surely rise up before 2019.
Even the president’s wife who has been so frustrated, has defied the subculture in the far north and cried out against the husband’s poor attitude, presidential procrastination, especially in dealing with unspeakable impurities associated with the president’s men. It is getting more curious that the president who has only two-point agenda – fighting corruption and insecurity – continues to tolerate these corrosive impurities in his domain, already noted as a house of commotion.
It is still baffling that even at the weekend, there was no indication that the Presidency was ready to react to an allegation by the fleeing former Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, Maina, that President Buhari actually mandated his recent re-absorption into the civil service, despite being a fugitive.
Maina had earlier been declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to explain his role in the alleged disappearance of over N10 billion worth of pensions funds. At the time he was to be tried during the last administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, he reportedly escaped justice by going on self-exile.
But barely three months ago, the embattled Maina was sighted at the Ministry of Interior where he had been re-deployed as an acting director. Following revelation of this drama, President Buhari, apparently embarrassed, especially with the public outrage generated by the incident, ordered Maina’s sack.
But the former pensions task force’s boss, believed to be hiding from the long arm of the law, has been spilling the beans. He recently accused President Buhari of having foreknowledge of how he was re-employed, claiming that the President sent an emissary to him in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, led by the nation’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN).
This is not an ordinary allegation. Part of this serious allegation has been confirmed at the National Assembly where both the Attorney General of the Federation and the Director General, Department of State Services had confessed to contacts with Maina in Dubai.
Maina specifically revealed that the President’s delegation came to convey a message begging him to come back and take up his job as it had been realised that he was actually cleared of any wrongdoing by the law courts. Buhari, he claimed, had set the stage for his secret re-absorption into the civil service. He added that to reciprocate the gesture, he hinted the visiting minister of how to retrieve a missing N1.3 trillion. These are too grave to be silent about!
Meanwhile, there have been some dark spots on the anti-corruption war the president has to clean up before 2019 politicking begins. One is the issue of the EFCC boss who has been acting as Chairman since 2015. The Senate has refused to clear him. This followed two letters the Director General, DSS also wrote to the same Senate saying the president’s nominee was unfit to hold that office. Certainly, the status of the EFCC chairman will surface sooner than later when campaigns begin soon. Who will history record as the Chairman of the EFCC from 2015 to 2017/2019? The answer should not continue to blow in the wind in a serious country.
In the same vein, there are still unanswered questions about the authenticity of Ikoyi Osborn Towers Flat and NIA’s $43 million allegedly found. From testimony credited to the former DG, NIA, Ayodele Oke and even the Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, was there really a whistle blower who was just paid more than N400 million? Who owns the flat? Who posted the NIA operatives reportedly found at the Flat when the EFCC operatives struck? Was there any missing money? What is the executive summary of the report of the presidential panel headed by Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo on the issue?
We the people should know to clear our doubts about the authenticity of the EFCC’s curious raid. The operation on the Osborn Tower is still shrouded in mystery especially as it was reported in the beginning that the NSA was aware of the N13 billion allegedly kept in the Flat for curious “covert operations”. This too is one other dark spot in the fight against corruption a newspaper editorial just described as “overhyped”. In the main, the president and his men should note that silence on the Mainagate, status of EFCC boss, Magu and the mystery whistle blower on Ikoyi Osborn Flat is not golden, after all. That silence should be broken so that we will not return to the question of whether the integrity of the president has been overrated, after all.
Martins Oloja was former Editor of The Guardian Newspaper from where this article is culled.