President Muhammadu Buhari was voted into office as president of Nigeria in 2015 under the supposition that he had a character that was allergic to corruption. He had maintained the resolve as being intolerant to corruption since he ventured into partisan politics in 2002. But upon becoming president after four attempts to run for the office, Mr Buhari’s leadership skills, and the rhetoric on corruption have been evidently more mythical than real. Perhaps, it can be charitably put that the president’s perception of the fight against corruption is but a mere figment of his imagination. However, what is more interesting amidst this rhetoric on corruption, is that both Buhari and the small band of cheerleaders around him have succeeded in creating some sort of illusionary (as opposed to realistic) truth effect. Judging from the performance under Buhari, one easily remembers Hitler’s top propagandist, Joseph Goebbels, who was attributed with the words: A lie told once remains a lie, but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth.
It is interesting that despite glaring examples which argue for the president’s disinterest in fighting corruption, many Nigerians are still convinced otherwise. It can be said that most of these people are within the demographic of the young, who may not have recollections of how the country fared under Buhari’s military regime. While that regime came about through unanimous support of his military colleagues at the time, who later led a coup that ousted him, this time as a democratic president, Buhari came to power by a popular vote that was aided by elite consensus from Nigeria’s major power blocs.
But then the first irony. A man who claims to be intolerant of corruption had to ride on the back of what appears as illicit funds to power. For example, no question has been asked about the source of campaign funds that brought Buhari to power, despite allegations that some of the financiers may have used public funds through the offices they occupied, in backing their principal’s political ambition. But that is not all of it. A senator from Kaduna State, Mr Shehu Sani, described Buhari’s fight against corruption as selective. He noted that when the president’s men are caught within the webs of graft, the presidential instrument used is a deodorant; however, when the president’s men are not involved in graft, insecticides are used on other people.
The Babachir Lawal case is one of the most disturbing examples of corruption, which greatly affects the integrity of the president and suggests whether his attitude toward taming corruption is genuine or not. Lawal, who was the former secretary to the federal government was alleged to have been involved in multiple acts of corruption, including illicitly enriching himself with funds meant for the rehabilitation of people who were internally displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency. Despite being indicted by a Senate committee and later by a presidential committee headed by the vice president (Yemi Osinbajo), Lawal has seemingly gotten away scot-free, and he is in fact one of the henchmen working for the president’s re-election bid. It is interesting to note that it even took the president too long a time to be convinced of Lawal’s corruption and to relieve him of his position in government. Another example of the manifestation of corruption under the Buhari administration can be found in the Abdulaziz Maina case. Maina, who was the head of a task force on the pension scheme, was indicted of corruption and declared a wanted man by the country’s anti-corruption agency. Nonetheless, Maina, who went into hiding abroad, was brought back into the country by the Buhari administration and was reinstated into the nation’s federal civil service and promoted to the rank of a director. It took a lot of pressure from the people of Nigeria for the government to go back on its resolve on Maina. It is strange that a government which came to power with the intention of fighting corruption is now unable to take decisive actions against those who are involved in corruption — such that the government assisted a known fugitive back into the country and then promoted him. Even as Maina is nowhere to be found now, his case, it seems, has been swept under the carpet, never to be heard again.
But not to relent, as the 2019 elections approach, a new trend has since emerged. Opposition politicians who have corruption cases against them are trooping into the ruling All Progressives Congress, in order for them to be forgiven of all the crimes they have committed. The former minister of state for defence, Musiliu Obanikoro, seems to have had his corruption charges dropped immediately he assumed membership of the ruling party, even when there are routine pretensions of a trial around him. The former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, who had been declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, was seen on stage a couple of weeks ago in solicitation of the voting public for the president’s re-election.
Still, as the electioneering campaigns proceed, it is embarrassing to the note that the president uses every attempt to endorse politicians for re-election without reminiscing over such politician’s integrity with regards to the handling of the public trust. Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State is a case in point. Ganduje was caught on videotape receiving kickbacks in cash from contractors who handled various projects within the State he leads. But despite the overwhelming evidence that give Ganduje away as unfit to continue in public office, the president recently went to Kano to publicly endorse the governor’s continuity in the same office. Perhaps President Obasanjo was right when he noted recently that Buhari’s supposed integrity is better put as a sanctimonious veneer of a bogus integrity.
And to further lend credence to the bogus integrity that Buhari and his cheerleaders claim in describing the man, others who knew him too well through close working relationships have been coming out to demystify that integrity. Buba Galadima, a Buhari insider from the very beginning, is constantly in the news showing us where the bodies were all buried. In newspaper interviews, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, the elder statesman and veteran politician from Kano State, had given stunning revelations on the Buhari character; of defending known thieves and loyalists, as well as his penchant for nepotism in government. Former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa, recently narrated how he rigged the 2003 party primaries in favour of Buhari, with the latter’s full participation. Bafarawa also claimed that he gave Buhari money for campaigns in the aftermath of the primary elections ‘victory.’ Dr. Aliyu Tilde is another pioneer Buhari insider who has recently been hitting hard at the president, albeit in a politer language than other critics. As Vanderbilt University professor, Moses Ochonu, puts it, the claims of these insiders correlate with Buhari’s actions as president: approving, participating in, and accepting the political and financial proceeds of theft, while maintaining deniability. Professor Ochonu claims that Buhari is arguably the most successful political scam of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as most things about him are fiction, including his personal integrity and fight against corruption.
- Mohammed Dahiru Aminu wrote from Abuja, Nigeria.