The major news item in Nigeria today has to do with Ibrahim Magu and his handling of the EFCC with respect to discharging his responsibilities. Even when there were reports of an ambush against Nigeria Military by the insurgents, and over 36 soldiers were reportedly missing, it didn’t attract the kind of attention that Mr. Magu has generated.
By the time you take time to read all the snippets of the report or even detailed perspectives, what you find is a country that is perpetually in contradiction. Immediately the announcement was made that another Acting Chairman has been appointed, one Mohammed Umar, the parade suddenly took a different dimension.
All police personnel earlier deployed to the EFCC offices have been recalled, new ones have been posted, and the entire EFCC environment is locked in one discussion after another, with staff wondering what is the new direction.
Those who are “Magu Boys” were caught in a fit of awe, while others are seeing that this is their own opportunity to call the shots too. Magu, no doubt, has become a sacrificial lamb of the power oligarchs who feel it was time to say goodbye to a gadfly who was sold to his job with a sense of patriotism.
Magu was carried away by the aplomb of office, thinking he was going to make a mark that will surpass his predecessors; Ribadu, Lamorde, and Waziri. He became a victim of invidious power game in a country where actions are taking for the president in quick succession. Magu was already suspended before the presidency endorsed it. The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice was using one hand to pen Magu’s suspension, while his other hand was organising a lavish wedding for his son in Kano and Kebbi to show that he has arrived. A little unknown lawyer who became the chief law officer of the Federation, and has now become so powerful and rich before our very eyes. Too many chichidodo birds masquerading around like angels looking for new territories to occupy. As the lavish wedding was going on, with chattered jets touching down Birnin-Kebbi’s serene airport, the NDDC Interim Management Committee (IMC) were being exposed over billions being misappropriated. You may not like Magu because he does not appear to be a brilliant and articulate EFCC operative, but he has been a thorn in the flesh of many filthy fingers. Even those whose alleged corruption profile is visibly legendary, are the ones making the loudest of noise, like former Governor Ayodele Fayose, shouting to the roof top about Magu. There is no anti-corruption czar that can win a popularity contest in any country or have an approval rating that is above average. All anti-corruption czars are often unpopular, demonised, castigated and talked down to by those who have been victims of their operations, rightly or wrongly. It becomes more telling in a country like Nigeria with a sense of communalism or ethnic solidarity, where family ties and relationships are woven together like unbroken chain.
So, what you get in EFCC is the reality of the Nigerian situation; institutional haemorrhage that promotes individual’s strength rather than build a functional system that can outlive individuals.
That some operatives of the EFCC are corrupt is no news and we are the ones helping them to ply their corruption trade. If there are no cases of corruption, EFCC will have less job to do. But in a country where corruption is both endemic and pandemic, killing the very soul of a nation in search of direction, EFCC cells will always be populated.
Those who have been victims of Magu’s intemperate hands, who have had one encounter or the other, or those who have been jailed, will naturally celebrate and scandalise Magu’s present ordeal. Rather than build confidence in the system, it will destroy the very fabric of the fight against corruption and make the work more of a thankless one.
If Magu’s present predicament were to be carried out by a system that is insulated from corruption, the attraction would have been more compelling, but when you mention Abubakar Malami’s name, the lavish wedding of his son stares you in the face. I have been reading rebuttals from his media handlers, trying to wish away the media interrogation of his son’s wedding, yet that is the man who has become Magu’s Achilles heel.
As a friend, I do not see Magu in the mould they are branding him. I have interacted with many operatives in the last couple of days and some of his “sins” are more of style of leadership, and not about dipping his hands on the jar. A lot of the operatives I spoke to said Magu is almost at lone ranger, because he wouldn’t want to compromise any investigation. He is known to be tough and unyielding when he has every cause to see through abuses, corruption and malfeasance.
He is not known to be acquisitive and materialistic. He may have fallen victim of high-wire power game that wants to extract their pound of flesh for daring to pry into illicit corruption trade, to demonise and scandalise him in such verbiage, is to drag Nigeria backward in its anti-corruption crusade. The new man would now dance to the dictates of an Attorney General that has not shown any traits of being guiltless. All past EFCC chairmen exited their position under curious circumstances. Lamorde left with a bloated stomach, Ribadu left with a flat stomach, while Farida Waziri was harangued out. She has since written a book to document her travails and the uneasy work of a spy and a detective, in a volatile nation, where impressions, perceptions and inside story are at variance. I truly sympathise with Magu, irrespective of the noisy noise that has enveloped the investigation, mixing substance with balderdash, confusing scenarios with reality. For Nigeria to grow, you need men who can stand their own and take actions with boldness and character. When we use power game to destroy the process of building strong institutions such as an anti-corruption agency, it gets to the very root of why we have been detained inside the cesspool of corruption. The next occupant of that office, rather than carry out his responsibilities independently, will apply caution when dealing with those who showed Magu the exit door.
That in itself will impede the jobs for which he was recruited, and will affect the entire gamut of the anticorruption crusade. Already, Police personnel are lobbying to be among those to be deployed to the EFCC. And that has always been the pattern.
peratives often lobby to get employed into EFCC each employment year. Complimentary notes, recommendation letters and lobby notes are often handed to preferred candidates, not on the basis of merit, but on account of man-knows-man basis.
The treatment presently meted out to Magu is unhealthy for a man who has laboured for five years at the risk of his life, to sustain the anti-corruption crusade of a government that has shown enough symptoms of hypocrisy, cronyism and nepotism.
EFCC is dotted with many cabals and cells based on the chairmen that have presided over the agency. You have Lamorde boys, Ribadu boys, Farida boys and Magu boys.
This on its own makes unity of purpose difficult to contend with. When cases come, depending on whose interest is at play, the factors would easily manifest. We may all laugh at Magu for his present ordeal, but it is the fate of a nation that is grappling with getting its adrenaline right.
It is not Magu’s failure, it is the collective failure of a nation that has become endemically corrupt, and not ready to leave it. You may choose not to empathise with Magu, but if there is no corruption, there won’t be a Magu, Lamorde, Ribadu or Farida.