November 5, 2022

President Buhari and moral confusion

President Buhari and moral confusion

By Dr. Ugoji Egbujo

In 1984, Buhari was predictable. He made only mistakes of passion. People who couldn’t fall in bus lines were flogged. Umaru Dikko was caught, anaesthetised and crated. Corrupt politicians were hurriedly tried, and handed prison sentences fit for the Guinness book of records. Gen. Buhari was called a dictator.

But he wasn’t ambiguous. Bishops knew where he stood. A young military head of state, eager to clean up his father’s house polluted by gluttonous and incontinent politicians. The sort of setting that provoked young Jesus into using a whip to do his preaching.

In 2022, it’s a democratic and congenial Buhari. He handed out awards to fellow politicians for exemplary leadership. Politics makes straight rods pliable. Amongst those who received the awards are people whom Gen Buhari would have handed 300 years of prison sentences in 1984.  

One example is so vivid it caricatures the president. The EFCC has concrete and documented evidence that the Rivers state government withdrew the sum of   One billion naira in cash every day for 100 days. The EFCC announced that the state government authorised the naked criminal breach of money laundering laws. Consequently, the EFCC declared one man in Rivers State   wanted in connection with that alleged crime. The EFCC said the man perpetrated the heinous act. Rather than confront the EFCC in court to argue its innocence, the Rivers state govt ran to court to stop the EFCC from investigating the state. The implicated boss   and his agents are innocent until proven guilty.  

But let’s make the picture clearer. This discourse is not a dissection of   a governor and his state accountant. It’s an interrogation of moral confusion. What are the facts? Rivers state withdrew One billion a day daily for three months. Monumental. Total cash withdrawal is about 117 Billion. Without more, that’s a naked criminal contravention of the money laundering act.

According to the EFCC, the illicit withdrawals were duly authorised by Wike. According to the EFCC, the withdrawals were made by Sim Fubara.   Nyesom Wike is the performing governor of Rivers.   Sim Fubara is the PDP governorship candidate. The EFCC has declared Wike’s apostle wanted.   To avoid all doubts,   Nyesom Wike is still innocent. He likes to be called the only workaholic governor in Africa. In addition, he constantly reminds all through weekly media charts that he is a champion of the concerted effort to emancipate the poor nationwide through Project Nigeria.

He loves the title, Mr Projects. He is also the governor of five other governors in Nigeria. His philanthropy has been felt nationwide, including hundreds of millions of naira donated to Sokoto state, wives of Lagos officials, and party folks in Cross rivers and Benue. He gives out buses and cash like an emperor. Wike thinks he is the best fit for the presidency. So against a   juggernaut like Nyesom Wike, the EFCC will need prayers and presidential encouragement.

President Buhari supervises the EFCC. President Buhari must be aware of the struggle by the EFCC to sanitise Rivers state. President Buhari ought to be wary of the judiciary and some of the injunctions that have hindered the EFCC. Nobody is suggesting anything like the crating Umaru Dikko. But the president should be concerned about public perception of the shackling of the EFCC with black market judicial handcuffs.

The president who campaigned to sweep out corruption should be bothered when the EFCC declares a man with no immunity wanted for a monumental offence and can’t swoop on the man for months. If all powerful Nigerians played that prank, the EFCC would be effectively castrated.  President Buhari, more than anyone else,   should be worried that such impotence will make small yahoo-yahoo fries feel unlucky against the EFCC rather than guilty. If the president is bothered, what has he done?  

President Buhari rolled out awards to recognise exemplary leadership. Among those honoured is Nyesom Wike. With that award, Buhari said that   Nyesom Wike is an outstanding leader who utilised River’s resources well and left significant infrastructural footprints. Yet by the abiding declaration of the EFCC, the Rivers state government has questions to answer. Some will say Buhari has given the EFCC freehand to find and prosecute offenders regardless of whose ox is gored. But that is sophistry.

A man whose subordinates have been declared wanted by the EFCC is still innocent, but he shouldn’t be receiving an award for exemplary leadership from the president. True, Buhari is an older man. And old folks are more permissive. But Buhari must be wary of his legacy and wary of sending confusing moral messages. The presidency is large and complex. Buhari might not have all the details about Rivers at his fingertips. But anti-corruption is Buhari’s essence. Buhari should be wary of self-demystification. It isn’t about Wike alone. Buhari has watched the Ganduje tapes. Buhari knows the EFCC went to Kogi.   

Any other flabby president can say, “EFCC, keep fighting while I keep frolicking with your suspects. Convict them if you can.” But Buhari promised Change. He should be different. Despite the tag of a wanted man, the APC earnestly yearns for the government official in Rivers. If they are lucky to get him, they will take him to Aso Rock. Buhari will smile, shake him and pose for pictures with him. The APC might be wooing Dieziani too.

She is the biggest fish. She would help them in Bayelsa. And she might come with tons of other resources. When they catch her and make her a director of the presidential campaigns,   they might roll out drums and trumpets to celebrate her. And President Buhari might forget and attend. Then he will dance with Dieziani and give her a special award. After all, she is innocent too. And his aides will say, “It is the business of EFCC to investigate, arrest and prosecute. The president doesn’t interfere. The president belongs to everyone.”

Then young EFCC agents will mumble, “What kind of country is this?”