The anti-corruption crusade of the Muhammadu Buhari administration has been suffering from momentary mutability in the last six months. There are too many drumbeats from those who are fighting back and trying very hard to discredit the entire crusade as one lacking bite and gusto.
They say the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) does more of media trials than the actual prosecution. They also talk of selectivity. There are too many fluctuations, with tempers rising to dizzying heights thus subjecting the entire crusade to serious integrity test with a pre-meditated end.
But fighting corruption isn’t a tea party. It comes with its storm and stress, especially in a country like Nigeria where corruption has become so endemic and pervasive and almost becoming the second nature of everyone. Even the man under whose regime the EFCC was established, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, cannot pass the integrity test. When he was released from prison, his farm business had collapsed and life had generally become difficult for him.
He was bankrolled by his military friends who packaged him to fill the void of the June 12 debacle. Today, Chief Obasanjo has bounced back, reaping more harvests from his once desolate farm, coupled with a tertiary institution that has enjoyed some level of concentrated investment in the last 15 years and a presidential library whose cost and source of funding cannot be easily ascertained.
Obasanjo may not be a good example of an anti-corruption crusader, but credit must be given to him for establishing the EFCC. And the EFCC “noise” alone has its own vibrations across the land.
Even if not totally effective, the activities of the commission are enough to put caution on the lips of everyone. Despite the shortcomings of the EFCC, in terms of shortage of manpower and capacity building, the commission has tried to redefine governance and the appurtenances of power distribution.
Those who have become perpetual looters see EFCC as overbearing meddler that represents a stumbling block to easy funds. Since the beginning of this year, Ibrahim Magu, the present Acting Chairman of the EFCC has been at the receiving end of Senate’s long stick.
The upper legislative chambers will have nothing to do with Magu over somewhat uncomplimentary reports credited to the Department of State Services [DSS] about the EFCC helmsman. Twice he has been invited before the Senate, twice he has been rejected.
Reason: a supposedly written report from the DSS seems to have punctured Magu’s erstwhile untainted puritanical armour. The last appearance of Magu at plenary was like a final death knell on his confirmation process. The ‘ayes’ have it: that Ibrahim Magu will not be confirmed again.
The Senate went a step further, asking Mr. President to sack Magu with immediate effect, failure which the Resident Electoral Commissioners’ nominees would not be screened. The way the senators voiced their anger against Magu’s appointment made me to have a rethink that President Buhari truly needs Magu to prosecute his anti-corruption war. There must be something unique about him. Despite all the darts thrown at him, Magu’s lifestyle is not one that typifies any ostentation.
From the inception of the EFCC, Magu has been a top management staff of the EFCC who has successfully worked with three chairmen of the commission without blemish; [DSS report not withstanding]. Until his recent appointment by Buhari, Magu has been reportedly residing at Karu, in a threebedroom bungalow. Those who know him closely observe that the EFCC czar is actually fighting with his strength and might, and a patriotic fervour, to see a better Nigeria.
But his combat is a double edged sword; one, with looters of the treasury from the corridors of power and second, from within the EFCC geo-politics. In both cases, the man remains undaunted, holding tenaciously to his belief that Nigeria could indeed be redeemed.
I had argued some time ago on this platform that Magu does not have to insist on being confirmed especially with the credibility issue occasioned by the DSS report, but with further introspection, I feel very strongly that President Buhari needs Magu. Nigerians also need Magu. Expectedly, anti-corruption fighters and tax officers are usually individuals that cannot easily pass any popularity contest. They remain a permanent pain in the ass of the people.
They offer constant reminders to anyone who wants to bend the rules. They like to poke-nose in everyone’s business. They are itinerant ombudsmen always going for anyone’s jugular. They are never loved, but their jobs are the most important to keep the stream of governance flowing.
The ongoing Magu’s dingdong affair between the executive and the Senate is no exception after all. I have listened to arguments of some analysts who observed correctly that the Senate is an institution of our collective sufferance; agreed! But the Senate is populated with sinners and not saints who must also come under very close monitoring and scrutiny especially when we consider the importance of their respective assignments; lawmaking.
We have been hearing all the vibrations of corruption from the National Assembly but when the people raise a voice, they get summons. From the National Assembly alone we’ve heard of budget padding, we’ve heard of how Senate allegedly altered its own rule to suit the bulbous ego of ambition seekers, we’ve heard of the controversial imported SUV without appropriate duty, we’ve heard of certificate scandals, we’ve heard of false declaration of assets, Paris Club refund fraud and so many other ridiculous emanations.
We’ve seen questionable suspensions; the house member who raised a voice against budget padding is still serving suspension while the senator who alerted the Senate of media reports that tended to discredit the institution of the Senate is also serving suspension.
Suspension without trial easily concluded once members shouted a deafening ‘ayes’. In trying to stay credible, the members of the Senate must live above board. As a lawmaking body, they must be seen as helping to fight corruption and not complicate the fight against corruption.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) as a ruling party must play its own interventionist role. It has a disciplinary oversight function on its members. The president who should have assumed his role as a leader of the party is also encumbered by characters that have fallen short of the integrity of high office. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation [SGF] and the Chief of Staff (COS) to the president, all have queries to answer.
The presidency appears fragmented. The president presented Magu’s name a second time, the DSS reportedly presented report a second time. It doesn’t show synergy, collaboration and administrative harmony.
President Buhari needs Magu as his anti-corruption czar. Whatever becomes the success story of this administration would be determined by how far the president is able to go in his anti-corruption fight.
This country was brought to its knees by the financial profligacy of the previous government but the symptoms we are seeing today are already making the previous government heroes of the past.
The immediate past government plundered the country like economic buccaneers and rendered us prostrate. They shared our collective patrimony with reckless abandon. When they were tired of using the banks, they found septic tanks, dug-up well and soak-away handy.
Only Magu could discover such thievery with ingenuity. How does anyone think the corrupt wouldn’t fight back? The consolation would be for President Buhari to protect his anti-corruption fighter irrespective of the propaganda against him.
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