It was for nothing that Muhammadu Buhari set himself the task of trying to cleanse Nigeria of the rot all over the place from 1999 to 2015, mainly lawlessness, indiscipline and especially financial recklessness of the few privileged over suffering poor millions of Nigerians.
Indeed, Buhari’s task commenced since 2002, only three years after return of so-called democracy. For 13 years, (2002 to 2015), the more he tried, not only the more he was cheated at the polls, theft of public funds became more daring. Such was the alarming situation at the 2015 presidential elections, much to nationwide provocation that even the most erstwhile hopeful or optimistic Nigerian virtually gave up and opted for a gamble on change. Never mind the lies and blackmail of yesterday’s men that there has since been no evidence of the expected change.
Meanwhile, it is, indeed, owing to the tough times (being) experienced by critics obsessed with easy money, in those days, that their frustration is couched in baseless criticisms. Such misplaced aggression from known and unknown rivals/challengers may even be tolerated for what it is – unhealthy politics, even when the target is a sitting president with his performance as a major weapon of response. What can, therefore, be disturbing is the conscious or unconscious conduct of those around such a sitting president to play into the hands of his critics on the main pillar of his policy.
No change in public perception of governance in Nigeria? Bias in (political or ethnic) the fight against corruption? Is corruption unabated in Nigeria? On all three, the target is not even the All Progressives Congress as a political party or the Federal Government. Rather, the focus of the dissidents is Muhammadu Buhari, in the belief that once he (Buhari) is discredited, the road will be open once again in a free ride back to the festival of looting public funds.
Ironically, only President Muhammadu Buhari can rescue himself. Whether he is up to the task is a different matter. The painful truth is that President Muhammadu Buhari is different from military ruler Major-General Muhammadu Buhari. In the military, there is only one constituency – the boys. Or whatever other constituency is easily contained. On the other hand, in a democracy, the constituency comprises, among others, the party, the National Assembly, friends, associates, the judiciary, the private sector, federal executive council and, of course, the media as well as civil service.
Without taking much from democracy, there is, nonetheless, its inhibition, such that creates room from saboteurs and or agent provocateur who embarrass government on sensitive issues. That is why, in the discharge of his authority as elected President of Federal Republic of Nigeria, the stage has been reached in his war on corruption when the soldier in Muhammadu Buhari must be seen to be supreme, still within democratic setting, to stabilise the front in the war. The divisional commanders should be the cabinet, the National Assembly, law enforcement agencies, the security services, the judiciary and especially the civil service. Any “deserter” or coward should be sent packing, indicating that President Buhari henceforth will step on toes whoever owns the toes. – top civil servants, law enforcement/security chiefs and judges who compromise or party members caught pants down.
For this clampdown, only the soldier in President Buhari can do the operation and this does not, in any way, violate individual human rights. All it entails is signing up to the Code of Conduct in the war on corruption. Absence of such compulsory “draft” for the war on corruption so far opened Buhari to charges of hypocrisy, double standard and bias as well as the sabotage among his constituents listed above. These charges, rightly and wrongly, have now reached a crescendo with the Abdulrasheed Maina controversy, quite unusually forcing Buhari to react to widespread public anger by demanding full immediate explanations from head of civil service of the federation who was also directed to disengage Maina.
It is, therefore, obvious that for stepping on toes – which is inevitable – President Buhari’s lot is not enviable, but he will emerge better for it as his war on corruption will emerge well-focused.
Incidentally, the alleged Maina corruption saga emerged from the administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, which appointed him Chairman of Presidential Task Force to probe the scam in Pension Fund. Unfortunately, Maina ended up in being accused of theft of unlimited billions of naira. Ordered by the EFCC to turn up for interrogation, he absconded abroad in 2013 and EFCC had to declare him wanted. Now, four years later, Maina not only sneaked back into the country but also generally reported to have been reabsorbed by the civil service, which, in 2013, dismissed him for abandoning his post. How? When? By whom? These were the questions which set the country on political fire, which, fortunately, Buhari immediately brought under control.
And for his political enemies, Buhari was the suspect for a problem he inherited. All over the world, it is standard, in fact, provided in every constitution for every first citizen to delegate power to subordinates, line security chiefs, law enforcement chiefs, civil service heads or ministers. However, the same first citizen is blamed in many cases for the consequential dereliction of duties, unless, of course, the first citizen imposes punitive measure. In the Rasheed Maina case, Buhari is a victim of group monumental conspiracy and sabotage of his war on corruption. It is, therefore, up to him (Buhari) to complement that public understanding of his plight with very stern discipline against all deserving ones.
Awaiting a night of the long knife? Obviously, in anticipation of such development, every suspect is disowning responsibility. First among them, Head of Civil Service. When did that office realise it was not involved in re-absorbing Maina into civil service and posting him to Ministry of Interior as Acting Director? Only after President Buhari demanded full explanations and ordered Maina to be disengaged. Before then, according to the PUNCH newspaper, office of the head of service stoutly justifies Maina’s promotion and posting to the Ministry of Interior. The Director of Press Affairs of the office of Head of Service, Muhammed Manga, boldly told the PUNCH, “before we begin to talk of re-instatement, was Maina dismissed from office at any point? If you say Maina was dismissed from service, who dismissed him?
If EFCC is looking for him, what did he say? What was the end of its investigations? Let us find out if he was dismissed. Who re-instated him and why? (PUNCH, October 23, Page 9, middle third column up to top fourth column).
It is impossible to believe that office of Head of Service (admittedly through the Director of Press) did not know Maina was dismissed in 2013? Why therefore was the hostile questioning of the PUNCH reporter?
Maina’s dismissal was widely publicised on radio, television and newspapers. Also, Maina challenged his dismissal in a suit at Abuja High Court. That the head of service was disputing Maina’s dismissal (in argument with the PUNCH) could therefore not be reconciled with the denial of office of head of service of involvement in the promotion and posting of Maina to Interior Ministry.
Furthermore, that Maina’s suit challenging his dismissal is yet to be tried is evidence of the conspiratorial lethargy of our judicial system in such shady matters.
And despite Maina’s notoriety, if the office of the Head of Service of the Federation stoutly argued with a reporter that Maina was never dismissed or secretly promoted and posted, now could the same Head of Service (through Director of Press) turn round to deny that the office was involved in the embarrassment caused President Buhari with the Maina saga?
Interior Minister Dambazau worsened the case for the office of Head of Service by saying Maina was posted to him from the Head of Service. What is clear is that either the Minister or the Head of Service is not correct in their respective submission. Could Maina have posted himself to Interior Ministry? Could he have promoted himself? The chances are that all documents relating to Maina’s dismissal from service, as announced to Nigerias in 2013, would have disappeared from the office of the Head of Service or headquarters of Federal Civil Service Commission or both, to make Maina’s re-instatement, re-absorption and promotion perfect.
There was also a poor job by Interior Ministry when it conveniently claimed that all matters of recruitment, promotion, appointment, discipline, posting, dismissal etc, are handled by the office of the Head of Service and that no minister has any power over such matters. That wasn’t smart enough. How about this? If a Chief of Army Staff declared a soldier (say a Lt. Colonel) Absence without Official Leave (AWOL), dismissed the officer concerned and announced same to Nigerians, can a GOC (General Officer Commanding a Division) four years later accommodate the hitherto dismissed officer purportedly posted to his unit without inquiring the latest situation from the Military Secretary’s office? Would a Chief of Army Staff condone the action of the GOC?
Critics blaming our Secret Police (DSS) for not detecting Maina in his going out and returning to Nigeria are not facing realities of security of national borders all over the world. How do Chencheyan terrorists and other Muslim fundamentalists enter Russia to hold hostages in a city like Moscow? Till today, Mexicans sneak through the Texan border into United States. Accordingly, in Nigeria, NADECO route is still alive. All these are very valid explanation DSS could have made. For that security outfit to claim never to have put Maina on its watch or something to that poor defence was not tenable if not unnecessarily self-incriminating.
The EFCC at a stage of its investigation into the financial crime of Maina declared the man wanted all over the world. On that same day, Maina became a person of compelling interest to Nigeria’s DSS. But because there is no completely secure national border anywhere in the world, the DSS cannot be faulted for the Maina affair.
Curious questions were asked how Maina left and re-entered the country. Who ever asked NADECO members how they beat General Sani Abacha’s security men at Nigeria’s borders? Liberia’s Charles Taylor was caught at our northern border because the very one who hosted him in Nigeria also betrayed him to his captors.
It seems even President Buhari is underestimating mighty Maina, whose antecedent should be frightening. At the initial stages of the criminal allegations against him in 2013, Maina, from very reliable sources, portrayed his plight as a struggle for ex-President Jonathan’s political survival. Through a lobbyist, Maina, in a private audience, told Jonathan: “My accusers are really after you and not after me.”
If that sounds incredible, not many Nigerians were aware that his publicity handlers dropped his name in the media as potential deputy governor in one of the North-eastern states where a deputy governor had just succeeded a state governor who died in office.
This must also interest President Buhari. If it was true Maina paid two million dollars cash for a house, who was the bank manager and which bank collected such huge amount without alerting appropriate authorities as mandatory under Nigeria’s financial regulations? The only saving grace is that there is no proof of that media report.