By Rotimi Fasan
WHEN last week I wrote in this space that Nigeria is in trouble, it was not so much an indictment of the Muhammadu Buhari-led government as some might think as it was a call for the government of the day and the rest of us Nigerians to own and acknowledge the crisis we are in as one that cannot be left to a few appointed or elected officials that are not only ineffective but are in fact a major part of the rot they are expected to clean.
I was saying in that article that the economic, political and social crises in Nigeria had reached a point where the people should be out in their millions on the streets protesting against the ineptitude of the country’s leaders and the corruption and lack of transparency in high places.
The silence of the people at this present time, that piece was saying, is both pregnant and ominous and should not be allowed to get to a point where the people’s simmering anger would be allowed to boil over and the country would convulse under another social upheaval.
Pulling back from such an upheaval that could be fatal to the social and political fabric of the country as an organised entity might, unlike in the past, prove an impossible task. This is not in any way to absolve the so-called ordinary man or woman who lack the exposure of appointed and elected officials in political positions.
The leadership of the country is most certainly a reflection of the people, the ‘average’ Nigerian who is only waiting on the side line and bidding their time to help themselves to the very objects of corruption they criticise in the political leaders.
But after all is said and done, it is those who wield the levers of power, the authority of an election mandate at any point in time, that must account for the state of the nation. They, not the followers who are to follow by choice or compulsion the trail of their leaders, determine the course of events.
This is why they are leaders, which is where the Buhari-led government should be brought to book because it is a government purportedly led by a man of integrity who nevertheless stands to one side and watches in complacent acceptance whatever is done by those to whom he has entrusted to running of the country.
The personal integrity of President Buhari will not absolve him when the history of his time as president comes to be written. That personal integrity is not enough to run a country like Nigeria. The fact that the more the government claims victory for itself on several fronts of its activities, the less Nigerians see of such victory should be warning to the government that there is a lot wrong with the way the country is being managed and the direction in which it is headed.
President Shehu Shagari, on the personal level, should be one of the most parsimonious leaders this country has ever produced. Beyond the flamboyance, ceremony and appurtenances of his official position, it would be difficult to accuse him of personal enrichment or preferring his family, children and relations, in official appointments. If such exists it is not pronounced or known to the general public.
President Shagari was by all means a man of modest means and taste and after he left government, he did not have to intermittently announce his retirement to his farm. He retired to that farm, only making infrequent visits to attend state functions. Yet, President Shagari presided over one of the most corrupt governments in the postcolonial history of Nigeria.
The main reason is that he was surrounded by very corrupt subordinates and state officials who exploited his naivety as a politician to defraud the country. The major problem facing the government of President Buhari today boils down to corruption in high and low places even though the president’s own reputation as a man of personal integrity preceded him.
We might be battling with insecurity by way of widespread banditry, insurgency, armed robbery and economic sabotage involving state officials stealing public funds and engaging in such acts as bunkering, illegal exportation and importation of oil products among other contraband, etc.
Yet it has to be said that these acts are but the different faces of corruption. But the President has handed over the country to his self-appointed lieutenants and is convinced, as he has had cause to say only recently, that he has given and is giving his best. But his best has proven inadequate in the face of the activities and recent history of those that have fought or are holding the banner of his anti-corruption crusade.
Let us take a look at the most high-profile cases of anti-corruption crusaders that have themselves run into the barbed wire of corruption, either alleged or proven but consequential enough to mark their exit from government.
From Okoi Obono-Obla, Ibrahim Magu and now Abba Kyari, it’s the same old story of corruption fighting corruption. Obono-Obla was the Chairman of the Special Presidential Investigative Panel on the Recovery of Public Property, a key unit in the anti-corruption drive of President Buhari. In 2020 he was relieved of his post following accusation of corruption. This was aside the allegation that he forged his educational certificates.
Next came Ibrahim Magu who was until recently the Chair of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the engine room of the anti-corruption crusade since Nigeria’s return to civil democracy in 1999. Again, Magu was arrested in a busy street, detained and secretly tried and thereafter dismissed for corruption in very controversial circumstances.
To this day, the actual crime for which Magu was disgraced out of office is yet to be ascertained. After Obono-Obla and Magu stewed in their own juice, then entered Abba Kyari, a highly-decorated police officer who was the commander of the elite Intelligence Response Team.
After months of speculation following his indictment by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, on involvement in money laundering and the request for his extradition to the US to face criminal trial; after months of suspicions about Kyari’s relationship to confirmed or suspected drug lords, he was finally caught red-handed in a sting operation by the National Drug and Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, and identified as a member of the Brazil-Nigeria-Ethiopia drug syndicate. The full dossier on Kyari’s alleged criminal complicity is still being compiled.
Kyari associated openly with the Inspector General of Police, Alkali Baba Usman, at whose son’s wedding he was a guest only days before his arrest. Do we need add that the three indicted anti-corruption crusaders worked under Abubakar Malami, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice?