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With such friends Buhari needs no enemies

Dele Sobowale

“What does corrupting time not diminish?” Horace, 65-8 BC.

Civilian President Buhari, in 2017, the expected dragon-slayer, who developed a reputation as Military Head of State, 1984-85, for fighting corruption to a standstill is now a poor shadow of the young leader. Time and his friends had diminished him.

President Buhari

Of the two, time and friends, it would appear that his friends have done him the more damage. Perhaps before taking office on May 29, 2015, Buhari should have remembered to offer the prayer credited to St Francis. “God save me from my friends, I can take care of my enemies.” He still needs it.

When his days as President are done he will honestly say to himself: “Some great misfortune to portend, no enemy can match a friend.” (Jonathan Swift, 1667-1745). Buhari had been reduced in the esteem of every honest observer, including his most ardent fans, like Sonala Olumhese, Femi Falana, SAN,  Professor Biodun Jeyifo, perhaps, Professor Sagay, SAN, and me, as well as millions too numerous to list.

He had been cut down not by what he did personally, but by what others around him did and how he had reacted to the revelations about possible great crimes and corruption. Like a great actor who lost his script, the man we expected will deal decisively with those perceived to have corruptly enriched themselves at public expense has become tentative when certain individuals close to the corridors of power are concerned.

“When sorrows come, they come not in single spies, but in battalions.” William Shakespeare, 1564-1616.

Buhari as a retired general knows what a hostile battalion looks like – swarms of enemy soldiers hell bent on wiping you out. Mainagate, by itself would probably not have done much damage to his titanic image as a corruption fighter. It is the “battalion” of other scandals mounting up and others still to surface that are ripping the President’s reputation to shreds. Like most men who find themselves in such difficulties, Buhari is both a victim and the architect of his misfortunes.

Every Chief Executive Officer, CEO, who surrounds himself with relatives, in-laws, people from his village and friends has also increased the chances that he has probably exchanged competence for loyalty and flattery for frankness. Buhari’s innermost circle of advisers is perhaps the most parochial of any Head of State in Nigerian history. The second most nepotistic was his inner circle in 1984-5. And, most probably, if elected to a second term he will repeat the same thing all over again. It is as difficult to teach an old man new ways as to teach an old dog new tricks.

It might even be easier to teach an old dog. After all, the dog has no friends and in-laws to please. Every effort to draw Buhari’s attention to the fact that he runs a greater danger from the activities of his trusted aides than from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, had fallen on deaf ears. Those telling Buhari to fire the DG-DSS, Chairman EFCC, IGP and the Attorney General and Minister of Justice makes as much sense as talking to a wall. His wife tried it; lately the Comptroller General of Customs was forced to cry out that the Buhari administration had been hijacked by dubious people. He will probably get the sack for doing it. At best he will be ignored.

In December 2015, writing a two-part column titled IS THE DSS MISLEADING BUHARI” the point was made about the assault on the Akwa Ibom State Governors Lodge where arms and loads of foreign currency were reportedly found. It was also hinted that the former Governor, Godswill Akpabio, was still staying there. The case was quietly closed because it was all false. No professional security agency in a civilized democratic nation would do that to innocent citizens without consequences for its leadership.  But, it was the first hint we had that in Buhari’s presidency, competence and integrity might count for little as long as loyalty is unquestioned.

Before Mainagate, it was the courage and honesty of Mrs Aisha Buhari and her daughter which opened our eyes to the ANIMAL FARM which Aso Rock has become. A statement was carved in stone in George Orwell’s, 1903-1950, classic by that name.

“All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” At least we now know that Buhari’s government believes that the lives of the few privileged people using the Aso Rock Clinic is more valuable than those of the millions using all Nigeria’s teaching hospital combined. Anybody placed in position of authority who allocates more than a fair share of resources commonly owned is only a step removed from the common pick pocket. He is also taking what does not belong to him and his associates.

The defence offered by one of Buhari’s obviously incompetent spokesmen claiming that lawmakers also use the clinic only demonstrates the moral decay of those surrounding Buhari. Even all the staff of the National Assembly and legislators cannot add up to ten thousand – compared with the 180 million deprived of good health service nationwide.

Mainagate has merely exposed one of possible dozens of cases in which professionalism has been sacrificed to satisfy personal or group or cabal agenda. At least it is no longer disputed that somebody long declared wanted and  a fugitive from the law was returned under escort into Nigeria, reinstated in office; given double promotion, paid millions for the years he was on the run and given police as well as state security protection. Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police, IGP, and others who provided the security failed to effect arrest.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, whose acting Chairman had engaged in media prosecution of others could not see the man his Commission had declared wanted. It was only after the great cover-up was exposed that the EFCC finally moved against Maina’s assets. The conclusion from those facts is obvious. They were not looking for him at all. They just waited for the dust to clear before allowing the fellow back into the country. Unfortunately for Buhari this is not the last embarrassment he will receive from his “friends”. Others will soon follow. Let me raise one possibility.


“It’s not a Federal Programme; it shouldn’t be. Any state that wants to  go into it must be ready to go into it and any state that goes into it must make a success, otherwise it’s not useful….Any programme must cover at least 50 per cent of the country for me to describe it as successful.” Former President Olusegun Obasanjo., at World Food Prize, in USA.

Former President Obasanjo, ever self-righteous and full of self-praise was right on the mark recently about another possible scandal which might involve the School Feeding Programme, SFP, tucked into the Vice President’s Office.

The VP who started out as a lawyer, teacher and Pastor has unfortunately morphed into a politician right in front of our eyes. He will soon discover that he is not well prepared for that role. The SFP which he manages is obviously a “rogue” project because as Obasanjo pointed out, it is not a Federal Programme. So, why was N500 billion budgeted for this dubious project in 2016 and again in 2017? And, why was it tucked away under the VP to prevent the National Assembly, NASS, from exercising its oversight functions with respect to it? How much had been spent on it? Has it achieved 50 per cent coverage despite its questionable legality? The VP’s spokesman had been dodging requests for verification of performance claimed. He can run; but he can’t hide. Neither can the VP. Buhari will be sorry he allowed things to drift with respect to School Feeding Programme. He should start checking now before he is embarrassed again.

With such “friends” who needs enemies?


“Those who deal in ideas, if they are wise, will welcome attack. Only a peaceful passage should dismay them; for it proves that the ideas do no affect anyone very much.” Professor John K. Galbraith.


One of the most amusing aspects of writing regular commentary is the number of high level jokers you come across. It is pathetic.

On October 21, 2017, I received an email from the office of the Minister for Budget and National Planning which among other things made this claim. “Apart from other senior officials of the Presidency harping [his exact words to describe his bosses] on working towards meeting the October deadline (after the misleading publication), both the Minister of Budget and National Planning and the Minister of State in the Ministry have addressed Newsmen on the Ministry’s desire and effort to get the budget to the National Assembly by October. The Minister did so after a recent Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting and the Minister of State at the recent National Economic Summit.”

Today is November 5, 2017. Can someone please ask the Minister to tell Nigerians if the 2018 Budget is with the National Assembly? I know where it is and I even have an idea how long it will take to reach the NASS.

See what I mean about jokers in high office?

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