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Is Buhari’s fight against corruption mythical or real?

President Muhammadu Buhari
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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, Buhari’s leadership skills, and the rhetoric on corruption has 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 pigment 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 a realistic) truth effect. Judging from the performance of power 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 that 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 helped to bear by elite consensus from Nigeria’s major power blocs.

But here comes the first irony. A man who claims to be intolerant of corruption had to ride on the back of supposedly illicit funds to power. For example, no questions have been asked on 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 foremost senator from Kaduna State, 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 such people.

The Babachir David Lawal case is one of the most disturbing cases of corruption which greatly affects the integrity of the president andsuggests 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 corruption instances, 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 the senate committee and later by a presidential committee headed by the Vice President (Yemi Osinbajo), Lawal, has gotten away scot-free, and he is in fact one of the henchmen working for the president’s reelection bid. It is interesting to note that it even took the president too long a time to be convinced by 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 pension schemes 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 Director. It took a lot of pressure from the people of Nigeria for the government to go back on their resolve for 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 though 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 to the ruling party (the All Progressives Congress) for them to be forgiven of all the crimes they have committed. The former minister of state for defense, Musiliu Obanikoro, had his corruption charges dropped immediately he assumed membership of the ruling party. 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 president’s reelection by the voting public.

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 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 his state. But despite these overwhelming evidences that gives Ganduje away as unfit to continue executing public office, the president recently went to Kano to publicly endorse the governor’s continuity in that office. Perhaps President Obasanjo was right when he noted, recently, that Buhari’s supposed integrity is better put as a sanctimonious veneer of 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 on 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 favor 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 on 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 his fight against corruption.

 

Mohammed Dahiru Aminu
Aminu wrote from Abuja, Nigeria

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