By Adewale Sanyaolu Despite being a country with the second largest deposit of bitumen in the world, Nigeria, according to Foraminifera, a marketing and research firm, spends about N2 billion yearly on importation of asphalt, a derivative of bitumen. The occurrence of bitumen deposits in Nigeria is twice the amount of existing reserves of crude…
Three issues have dominated public discourse in recent times: Ali, Magu and Melaye. They have held the nation by the ears, and as we enter a fresh week, the issues are unlikely to fizzle out.
You know the men, don’t you? Meet Ali, the grey-goateed, ex- Col., ex-NA. Enter Magu, thief catcher-in-chief. And Dino Melaye, the senator many love to hate or hate to love, but simply can’t ignore. The three men are expected to do all they can to wriggle out of the tight corner they have been boxed into by circumstances, within and beyond their control. Can they get out of the jam? It’s anybody’s guess. But, surely, Nigerians are enjoying the high-octane show.
It is not clear which is the oldest running soap, between Ali and Magu’s drama. But they both have provided us with entertainment in these tough, terrible times. They have been so trivial and serious, that Nigerians don’t know whether to cry or laugh; whether to weep for our dear nation or to weep for their misfortune of being trapped in a country, where simple matters are often compounded, where life has been reduced to perennial politicking.
When we would have spent all the time bickering, fussing and pussyfooting over otherwise straightforward matters, what time is left for the serious business of governance and provision of democracy dividends for the people?
Hameed Ali, the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, provides material for the first comic show. He is embroiled in a crisis with the Nigerian Senate over two issues: He would not wear the Customs uniform to appear before the senators as directed; he would not suspend the retrospective policy of vehicle validation after purchase and clearance, as also ordered by the men and women in the Red Chamber, the upper legislative house.
These ‘recalcitrant behaviour’ of the Customs’ boss has so irked the Senate, that they have fired two deadly arrows at Ali. He should resign or be fired; he was declared unfit for any public office!
Before the pronouncement, the embattled CG, had made it categorically clear that he would not be honouring the invitation to reappear before the Senate, after he had been sent out for failing to appear in appropriate uniform of his service and office. He hinged his refusal on a lawyer’s suit seeking to stop the Senate’s insistence on his being dressed in Customs’ uniform before he can function in the capacity of CG. And that drew the ire of the Red Chamber, that had been baying for Ali’s blood for a while now.
What is Ali’s reason for not donning the Customs’ uniform? After serving in the army and rising to wear a colonel’s epaulette, he would not be found ‘dead’ in an ordinary Customs’ uniform, even if he would be called ‘field marshal’ of Customs. Some of his supporters have also argued thus: What has uniform got to do with performance? Wearing the uniform is optional? He has generated so much revenue that it doesn’t matter if he wears shorts or pants to office, as long as he’s delivering!
My comment: Absolute nonsense! If he won’t wear uniform, he has no business being called Comptroller-General of Customs. It doesn’t matter if he is generating a trillion naira every day. Customs, like the Nigerian Army, where he served is a disciplined organisation. Every day, the officers and rank/file of the Service see their number 1 man in mufti, diminishes their sense of worth in service; it makes them feel little.
To be sure, Ali has a right to decide he won’t wear the Customs’ uniform, but he has no right to continue to keep his job. He can’t decide what to obey in the Customs’ Act: He collects the CG’s salary, benefits and emoluments, rides the CG’s car, but disdains the uniform. What a country!
If this is not impunity at its worst manifestation, I wonder what else it should be called. But, can you outrightly blame him, when the Senate had over the years turned itself into a House of clowning, sleaze and the scandalous? The day you start insulting yourself, others join you. But, still in the drama of the absurd on the Ali issue, the mufti-wearing CG is wrong in capital letters.
Ibrahim Mustafa Magu: A tough, no-nonsense, super cop. I first met him sometime in 2007. I am sure he won’t remember. He was head of the Economic Governance Group of the EFCC, and I was directed to meet him by my good friend, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, who was Magu’s boss. I wanted to see my boss, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, who had just been picked up at the Abuja Airport. Magu was nice and affable, as he directed one Segeant Etim to lead me to Karu, where I met Kalu, Jolly Nyame, Bafarawa and Joshua Dariye. For a man with a tough, unyielding mien, his reception was a surprise. Maybe because I was coming from his boss, I don’t know.
Ever since, I have watched him rise to the position he is today: Acting Chair of the EFCC, albeit in turbulent and controversial circumstances.
When he visited The Sun newspapers, after his appointment, he made it clear he would fight corruption frontally, no matter whose ox was gored. He has been doing so faithfully, say his friends and admirers. But his critics swear, he had been fighting and ‘eating’ at the same time. The DSS, the secret police, seem to align with those who believe Magu has not been as straight as he claims to be in the anti-graft war. Evidence one: He allegedly lives in a mansion owned by an alleged super suspect, and two, he had also flown in first class, contrary to Buhari’s directive to officials of government.
Twice, they have written two damning reports to the Senate, seeking his non-confirmation for the job he currently occupies. Magu screams ‘foul’ and swears it is corruption fighting back, using DSS and the Senate, which has hidden under the security report to withhold its assent, declaring Magu’s matter ‘dead and buried.’ Will the Presidency re-present Magu, and what happens if he’s again rejected? Nigerians are watching with bated breath.
My view: If I were Magu, the path of honour is to let go, once it becomes clear that those who want me to do the job are not so keen about my confirmation. It is being whispered in loud tones that Magu’s problems are from within, that his bosses are not keen on his confirmation; that they know what to do if they want him confirmed. Magu himself, I am told, has stepped on so many toes since his appointment; that he listens to no voice other than his own, when he knows that his cupboard is not free of skeletons.
In the haystack of so many stories, some truth, others half- truth and downright falsehood, it is difficult knowing what to believe. But, if I were Magu, like I said earlier, I would let go once I know and can see I am not wanted. Except there are other things we do not know!
In the final analysis, the Ali, Magu and Melaye issues are the stuff that gives life and rhythm to democracy. Let the music play on. Let the men dance to, or out of, the tune. It is the music of democracy. Citizens have a right to watch the dance. And may the better dancer win.
Melaye: Why Ahmadu Bello University must speak up!
Senator Dino Melaye’s case appears the simplest, and that’s the reason I have treated it last. His traducers allege he does not have an ABU geography degree, and if he has one, it was doctored. They have published what they claim are his results, which do not qualify him for admission in the first instance. Melaye denies all the allegations. He also says he’s had several other degrees, after ABU days. The Saturday Punch has published other investigations to put a lie to his claims. He remains resolute in his claims, that he isn’t a crooked, lying fella. Nigerians are divided. But there can be only one truth, not two. Which do we believe?
My view: Ahmadu Bello University authorities have the urgent task of ending this ludicrous drama by simply speaking up, and letting us into what’s the truth and what is fiction. Keeping conspiratorial silence is criminal. What is so difficult in telling us the truth in this otherwise simple matter? Why politicise every issue? Why take the nation through a circus? No, ABU!