THE All Progressive Congress’s, APC, government of President Mohammadu Buhari was swept into power after last year’s presidential election on the mantra of Change. It brought to an end the People Democratic Party, PDP, controlled government that had been in power for sixteen years (1999 to 2015).
Many are of the view that one of the reasons the electorate turned against the PDP government was the perceived high level of corruption. Despite the revelations of monumental corruption by political office holders, former president Goodluck Jonathan was believed to be reluctant in relieving and prosecuting those alleged to have engaged in cases of stealing. So, the ‘Change’ mantra of the APC resonated with many Nigerians.
On the back of this election promise to tackle corruption, on assumption of office, President Buhari made it clear that it was not going to be business as usual for those who had made billions by milking the country dry through corrupt practices and shady deals.
Among the casualties of this renewed fight on corruption was the Senate President Bukola Saraki. The Code of Conduct Bureau slammed 13-count charge against Saraki.
In charge number ABT/01/15, dated September 11 and filed before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Mr. Saraki was accused of anticipatory declaration of assets to making false declaration of assets in forms he filed before the Code of Conduct Bureau while he was governor of Kwara State.
Due to the weighty nature of the allegations, many called for the resignation of the Senate President so that he would have all the time in the world to clear himself of these charges.
However, Saraki rejected this suggestion insisting these were mere allegations that have not been proved, and that he had not been convicted of any offence by a competent court. Saraki was given all the time to clear himself of the charges against him, which he is still doing in some cases.
We have seen other corruption cases against some past ministers and aides of the former President are been investigated and those accused were invited to put up their defense.
It is rather curious that whenever there is conceited efforts by this government to tackle corruption, there would be a rather curious twist that tends to make a mockery of the whole effort. It begins with a rumoured accusation of corruption level at some key officers of the current administration. It tends to gradually take on a high pitched stringent tone and would push the present government on the back foot and it would be forced to go on a slow motion while trying to extricate itself from the corruption tar.
This we saw in the case of the Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai, the President’s Chief of Staff, Alhaji Abba Kyari. Now the next sets are EFCC boss, Mr. Ibrahim Magu and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Mr. Babachir Lawal.
In the case of the SGF, the Senate accused him of gross abuse of office. The Senate alleged that the SGF abused his office by awarding contract to a company he has interest in. Apart from that, the company was said to have shoddily executed contract that was worth about N2.5bn for the care of Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs.
He denied wrong doing but the chairman of the Senate ad hoc committee that investigated the hastily awarded contracts insisted that Lawal used his position to enrich himself by awarding contract to a company he has interest in. One of those companies is Rholavision Engineering Limited.
The Senate had, through its ad hoc committee on the mounting humanitarian Crisis in the North East, been investigating alleged misappropriation of N127 billion donations for the IDPs. The committee, presented its reports through its chairman, Senator Shehu Sani.
It was based on this report that the Senate indicted the SGF. Rather curiously, through out the sitting of the committee, it did not bothered to invite the SGF to tell his own side of the story as the law of natural justice demands. If the committee had incontrovertible evidence as it claimed why not allow the other party to defend himself before drawing a conclusion. This was why the SGF was quick to accuse the committee of witch-hunt.
Lawal said: “I can recognise a vendetta and witch hunt when I see one. So, I am wondering if I should bother myself about it all. You may wish to know that I was never invited to the hearing . Apparently the Senate has an agenda best known to its leaders. Corruption is fighting to drag all good men down to its muddy, slimy levels.”
The same tactics was at play in the issue of Mr. Ibrahim Magu, the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,EFCC. Magu has been passionate in carrying the fight against corruption.
More than six month after his name was forwarded to the Senate by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, the Senate did not deemed it fit to invite Magu and confront him with the allegations against him.
The senators had come up with an appointment with Magu on the day they had scheduled to go on the end-of-year recess. Instead of allowing the man to appear before them at plenary as it is the procedure, they had an executive session that was not opened to the public. It was at that session that Magu’s fate was purportedly sealed.
Spokesman of the senate, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, came out with a statement announcing the senate’s decision that Magu was not “fit” to be confirmed as substantive chairman based on a security report submitted by the DSS.
Senator Abdullahi did not tell the world there was also another security reports on Magu written the same day by the DSS. The one that clearly acquitted Magu and certified him qualified to lead the EFCC was discarded by the Senate and the negative one was taken.
From the above, there is the ingenious, but subtle efforts to show that despite Achilles prowess in battle, he has feet of clay. It is obvious that there is an attempt to silence President Buhari’s fight against corruption by creating a moral dilemma.
If his key appointees and trusted allies are tarred with the brush of corruption, what moral right does he have to say he is fighting corruption? This would likely reduce the steam with which the fight against corruption is fought.
At the long run, this fight against key appointees will consume Buhari. The reason is not far-fetched: the reason Buhari was preferred ahead of ex-president Jonathan was his personally integrity and the perception that he could rein in on corruption that gradually choking the up the country under the previous administration.
Once Buhari is portrayed and incapable of tackling the corruption war, the myth and confidence of the ordinary man on the street would be eroded and in the long run would culminate in the rejection of government in the next poll.
It very important that the current government are not distracted. It is also very important that the President Buhari is not seen to supporting corruption. So, the president has done the right thing by instituting and investigating team into the allegations against his allies.
Let there be complete and thorough investigation into these weighty allegations by those being accused of corruption by the Senate and those found guilty should face prosecution. Before guilt is established, let the Senate not distract the quest to clean the Augean Stable through these unsubstantiated and one sided cry of corruption.
Mr. Akano Tirimisiy, a public affairs commentator, wrote from Lagos.