Taming the lions from the Villa

T Onwuka Nzeshi he mystical philosopher, Validivar wrote in his book, The Whisperings of Self: “There is no wound as deep as that of a ruptured ego and none that heals more slowly.” It has been many weeks full of drama.

Our distinguished parliamentarians had very interesting encounters with men of power from the executive branch of the Federal Government. Two acolytes of President Muhammadu Buhari were special guests at the Red Chamber. One of them was the President’s nominee for the post of Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu and the other was Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), the Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service. Both men had been engaged in an ego battle with the parliament for some time now.

Magu was appointed as Acting Chairman of the EFCC on November 9, 2015 following the unceremonious exit of Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, but President Buhari did not forward his name to the Senate for confirmation until July 2016.

As if there was a jinx around his appointment, the Senate did not consider the request to confirm him as the substantive head of the anti- graft agency until about five months later.

When they eventually chose to look into the presidential request on December 15, 2016, the Senate rejected Magu’s nomination and hinged its decision on an unfavourable security report it received on him from the Department of State Services (DSS). Perhaps, not convinced about the authenticity of the security report, President Muhammadu Buhari resubmitted Magu’s name for confirmation. Many political pundits have assumed that with the blossoming romance between the executive and the legislature, Magu’s confirmation would be a fait accompli.

Those who followed the frequency at which the President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki was visiting the Also Rock Villa and holding private discussions with Buhari had concluded that even the renomination of Magu was negotiated during one of those Friday’s when Saraki prayed with Buhari at the mosque in Aso Rock.

In fact there were whispers that Saraki might have used Magu”s nomination a bargaining chip to extricate himself from the asset declaration suit hanging around his neck.

But alas, on March 15, 2017 when Magu made his second missionary journey to Red Chamber, the oracle rejected him again. Recall that in the first journey, he was rejected without the privilege of being admitted to the chambers and those who wanted him cleared by all means argued then that the lawmakers acted in error. So, this time around, they took him right into the inner temple and went through the legislative rituals before returning the same verdict.

In the process, Magu’s character flaws were exposed to the whole nation. One man who was thought to be as bold as a lion and wise as the serpent came out as an incoherent fellow who couldn’t express himself and battled with anger whenever questions bordering on his integrity were thrown at him.

He walked into the chamber in all the chips on his shoulders but he left the place downcast and crestfallen. The parliamentarians dealt a heavy blow on the ego of Magu that it would be difficult for him to forget the heat that flashed through his brains when he struggled to pick the shattered pieces of what was left of his esteem in the Red Chambers. If only he, like Julius Caesar, had known that it was the Ides of March, he would have asked for another day when the elements would be in his favour. It was too late!

As the mystical philosopher, Validivar wrote in his book, The Whisperings of Self: “There is no wound as deep as that of a ruptured ego and none that heals more slowly.” In the second episode, the Senate had an uphill task of clipping the chips on the shoulder of yet another of Buhari’s men. Colonel Hammed Ali is one of those very close allies of Buhari who believe they are too close to the seat of power that nobody could dare challenge them.

Ali, an old war horse had served as Chief Security Officer (CSO) to General Muhammadu Buhari (GMB) as he then was before the 2015 elections. Some had predicted that Ali would naturally transform into the Chief of Staff at the Presidential Villa, but he got a more visible position as the Comptroller General of Customs. As head of the agency, he has always thrived in controversy because of his penchant to indulge in policy summersaults and promulgation of rigid rules and regulations.

Nigerians tasted the first dose of his bitter pills when he announced the lift in the ban on importation of rice, a policy that rubbished the enormous gains the previous administration made in terms of growing the local rice importation. The latest of bizarre policies was the revalidation of import duties on all vehicles on Nigerian roads. It was a policy that was targeted at punishing the average motorist and vehicle owner for the sins of the importers and dealers of automobiles and the negligence of the Nigeria Customs Service.

The Senate evaluated the policy and found it unpalatable. They wanted to engage the headship of the Nigeria Customs Service on putting a halt to the policy but met a brickwall. Ali was unprepared to shift grounds on the policy but was also found to have been running the system like an emperor. Even at that, he was a king who loved the thrown but detests wearing the crown…

Ali said he would not wear his uniform and rank because he was yet to find any law that compels him to dress in the full regalia of his office. He said this much in his brief appearance in the Red Chamber, but the parliamentarians were able to show him reasons why he should lead by example.

Like Magu, Ali was on ego trip believing that he was above the law and therefore, untouchable. He had his wings lowered in the Red Chambers as he was turned back and told to return at a later date. One only hopes that those wings would be eventually clipped when Ali returns to the chamber.

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