The recent media reports to the effect that President Muhammadu Buhari has just set up an anti-corruption committee, chaired by Professor Itse Sagay, that will advise him on the techniques of fighting corruption, among other things, has clearly shown that this President was and still is not only bereft of a clear-cut direction on how to fight corruption in a democratic milieu, but also, and more importantly, he is understandably a totally confused anti-graft crusader. And the reasons for this submission are not far-fetched.
But as many Nigerians will recall, over the years, especially since he began to aspire to become a democratically elected President of Nigeria, General Muhammadu Buhari had been pontificating about how he had the desired knowledge for fighting against corruption. He had at different times and forums made Nigerians believe that none of their past governments, whether civilian-led or a military regime, had been able to beat his supposed anti-corruption records or, better still, match his legacies in this regard. And little surprise he had erroneously believed that summarily and arbitrarily prosecuting people in the kangaroo military fashion and slamming a jail term of between hundred to three hundred years on them, as obtained during his days as a military dictator, was an evidence of showing good mastery of techniques of fighting corruption. He had thus carried himself so high and for so long a time on this illusion that, somehow, one is impelled to begin to wonder if this was not the same Muhammadu Buhari under whose watch in the 1970s and in whose capacity as the then petroleum secretary (now designated and known as the Minister of Petroleum) some millions of naira reportedly went missing.
Meanwhile, for clarity, let it be stated here in clear terms that this piece is not aimed at discouraging or playing down the ongoing but seemingly phoney and exaggerated fight against corruption being led by President Muhammadu Buhari. And, in the same vein, neither does the writer share in the useless sentiment being propagated in certain quarters that probing the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan would amount to punishing the latter wrongly for handing over power to the current president. In any case, all that this writer has for those inclined to hold either of these impressions is that they have to deport themselves.
Now back to the crux of the matter. If indeed President Muhammadu Buhari is not confused in the way he has been going about his anti-corruption crusade right from the period of electioneering earlier this year, how then does one reconcile his differing and risible remarks that have tended to bamboozle Nigerians every now and then on issues of corruption? As a matter of record, we may recall that Mr. Muhammadu Buhari had reportedly said during the campaign that he would not be probing any past government. Rather, he had reportedly pledged to ensure that corruption under his watch would not be allowed to thrive and that efforts would be made to bring down this ugly phenomenon to the barest minimum.
However, fortunately and unfortunately, no sooner did Muhammadu Buhari win the March 28, 2015, presidential election than he reportedly began to recant and indulge in doublespeak, a development which many people are wont to regard as a good portrayal of Mr. Buhari as a man that talks before he thinks. Not surprisingly, this kind of attitude of the mind is closely associated with some emerging aspects of Muhammadu Buhari which may well have to further define him as a hypocrite. For the people of this school of thought, part of the reason for this unavoidable conclusion could be traced to his hitherto repeated assurance to the electorate that he would not only declare his assets as soon as he was elected and sworn in as President and in pursuant to the stipulations of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic Nigeria (as amended), but also that he would do so publicly. Undoubtedly, this assurance, as it were, was well perceived at the time to be the words of a serious minded leader determined to walk the way that he talks.
But unfortunately, despite his seemingly useless promise of change in this regard, President Buhari has not only reneged so far on making public his assets declaration, but he is now constantly advancing one excuse or the other in an apparent defence of his hypocrisy and failure to honor his pledge. This is well evidenced in the feeble and defective excuses intermittently being dished out by Malam Garba Shehu, the President’s media aide, and the Code of Conduct Bureau, which recently claimed to be working assiduously on the investigation of Mr. Buhari’s purported assets declaration as well as pledging to keep the members of the public posted in due course. But the big question is: will this exercise take donkeys’ years to be completed? For goodness sake, what is the big deal in presenting to the public the assets declaration forms/papers that Mr. President purportedly submitted to the bureau and for the sake of which the media has continued to be awash with the news about this seeming fallacy? Obviously, it is now hard to say who between Mr. Muhammadu Buhari and the Code of Conduct Bureau is being economical with the truth. In the circumstance, one is inclined to ask: is this how President Buhari intends to lead his so-called fight against corruption? If so, then what makes Buhari’s secret assets declaration different from those of the administrations of Presidents Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, and Jonathan?
Besides, given that Muhammadu Buhari has not up till now made public his assets declaration as promised, which is meant to kickoff the end of the era of business as usual in our polity as supposedly envisaged by the APC’s noise-generating change slogan, it then boggles one’s mind what is saintly about Buhari’s noisy crusade against corruption.
Unarguably, this same Muhammadu Buhari has taken delight in telling those who care to listen that the sixteen years of Peoples Democratic Party rule in Nigeria culminated in the institutionalization of corruption and sundry other vices in the polity, yet this same Mallam considers as a monumental distraction any calculated attempt aimed at taking the probe of past government activities beyond President Jonathan’s tenure, which is just six out of the sixteen year duration of the PDP’s control of power at the center. And yet, this is a president who wants people to believe him and see him as not swimming in the deep ocean of confusion and living an odious life of hypocrisy.
What is more, this is a president who has continued to delay the composition of his cabinet on the grounds that he is reportedly searching for corrupt-free technocrats and politicians – angels and saints alike – yet he sees nothing wrong and/or perceives no corruption stench from among many elements that closely surround and assist him for now in one capacity or the other, and thereby subtly aspiring and scheming to be eventually absorbed into his cabinet. Like the Ghanaian proverbial bird called chichidodo, President Muhammadu Buhari ostensibly detests faeces but invariably likes the eating of maggots a lot. Otherwise, how else could it be rationalized going by the recent media reports wherein Mallam El- Rufai, the Governor of Kaduna State and Buhari’s ally, reportedly declared 90 billion naira worth of his physical assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau, including sole ownership of no few than 40 posh houses spread across the city of Abuja alone. This is even aside from the unconfirmed report making rounds that the Ag. Director General of Department of State Security Service (DSS), Lawan Musa Daura, has recently amassed wealth so stupendous that he now can comfortably boast of owning a multi-million naira building at a juicy area of the popular Maitama district in Abuja. Though unconfirmed as this report is, there can hardly be complete falsehood in every rumor that filters in Nigeria. Yet this is allegedly happening right under the nose of a government that is fond of claiming to be living above board; a government arguably not led by a confused anti-corruption crusader (?).
Indeed, it is laughable and paradoxical that President Buhari could be setting up an anti-graft committee to advise him on techniques of fighting corruption at a time he was quoted by the media as claiming that his government had seen the bank accounts where the officials of the immediate past government stash our stolen funds. Wonders, they say, shall never cease! But supposing that President Buhari is not deeply enmeshed in confusion and, in fact, lacking in strategic thinking and mannerism on this subject of corruption, how on earth will a president of a country be making a fuss about looted funds stashed away in foreign accounts supposedly by his compatriots and the whereabouts of which he claims to know for now? Strangely enough, rather than going all out to retrieve this stash, President Muhammadu Buhari is here setting up a committee to advise him on techniques to adopt before he could rise up to the occasion or simply do the needful(?).
Anyway, confused or not confused, it has become imperative for President Muhammadu Buhari to know that a serious minded President is not one who embarks on a selective probe of his predecessors or one who strives to shield, reward and/or punish his perceived corrupt compatriots according to the amount of electoral support or lack of it he either received or still enjoys from them, individually or collectively. This in a nutshell explains why it makes no sense that President Muhammadu Buhari could be probing or talking about probing past federal government activities without paying due attention to the rot perpetrated under the supervision of President Olusegun Mathew Aremu Obasanjo. And nothing aptly speaks volumes about this deplorable hypocrisy than the following immortal words of no other than Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu: “Now that we are discussing this (corruption), can we pretend that Obasanjo was not corrupt? Can we? If we want the country to be clean, then Obasanjo must be probed. Even if we are forgiving him, we must know what we are forgiving. We can only forgive to the extent of what we know, not just a blanket thing. I don’t think any single Nigerian has messed up Nigeria as much as Obasanjo has done” (Newswatch Magazine of July 30, 2007 edition). Mr. President, sir, it is time to overcome your confusion!
Onyiorah Paschal Chiduluemije, a journalist, writes from Abuja via [email protected] – 07012130204