By Godwin Onyeacholem
No thanks to the unholy machinations of an unscrupulous cabal in the presidency which formed a satanic partnership with a shamelessly crooked senate, Ibrahim Magu, nominee of President Muhammadu Buhari as substantive Chairman of Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), was for the second time denied confirmation for that post by the senate on the strength of the same ill-motivated Department of State Service (DSS) security report that informed the first purported rejection.
It bears repeating that Magu’s first rejection last December drew intense outrage across the country with most Nigerians describing it as the classic case of corruption fighting back. It is equally remarkable that the senators took this action in spite of President Buhari’s letter stating he had received adequate clarification on the issues which informed their decision and craving their indulgence to favourably accept Magu’s re-nomination for the position of Chairman of EFCC so as to “maintain the current momentum and capacity of the EFCC since May 29, 2015.” But clearly, Buhari’s appeal for a favourable re-consideration of the nominee in view of the vital role of the senate in facilitating the anti-corruption campaign and support for the work of agencies such as the EFCC fell on deaf ears.
Given the signal from the senate since Magu’s first appearance and the receipt of Buhari’s re-nomination letter in January—a body language that brazenly exhibits a preference for corruption—the outcome of a second visit by the EFCC boss was predictable. Clearly, this senate is not on the same page with Buhari on the issue of fighting corruption and would anything not to confirm the man he has chosen to lead the war. Therefore, against the backdrop of what is clearly a dirty slap on Buhari’s face, ironically instigated by the same members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) who are the majority in the senate, Nigerians wait to see whether the president would simply fold his arms and allow well-known integrity-challenged persons define his presidency.
If you belong to that concerned group of citizens who believe like most key officials of government that corrupt persons in Nigeria, among them a good number of politically exposed persons, are doing everything they can to frustrate the current administration in its fight against corruption, you would be easily vindicated if you nail it down to the disgraceful, yet self-seeking manner, the senate handled the confirmation process of Ibrahim Magu.
In the eyes of objective observers, it was shorn of all elements of patriotism and driven purely by vendetta against the person of Magu on the one hand, and the burning desire to derail the anti-corruption war on the other. The strategy seems straightforward: rubbish the second most visible face of anti-corruption, then the road to dismantling the anti-corruption war would have been significantly smoothened.
This is a tight, well-funded plot in which the very wealthy gang of corrupt persons in and out of government and familiar with Magu’s ruthless antecedents are throwing in everything to ensure he does not lead EFCC, especially under an atmosphere that seems uncharacteristically favourable to a vigorous anti-corruption campaign.
To these vampires, the consequence of allowing a pitiless anti-corruption crusader like Magu to lead EFCC is not just dire, but equally suicidal. They have combed everywhere in search of muck to tarnish his image but they could find nothing against him. That is why on Magu’s second appearance for the real screening, this depraved senate was used to re-open the same sinister security report, the only alibi they could hang on to which Buhari comprehensively responded in his letter. A maliciously cooked security report that is not worth more than the piece of paper conveying the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election.
It is a mark of the senators’ malevolent intent that they would not ask themselves why they should not reject the security report because not only was it not addressed to the senate president, it was signed by a subordinate official and not the Director-General of DSS as such weighty document would require. Why would anyone not be justified for accusing the senate of double standard if only a day before Magu surfaced in the chamber the senate had rejected a correspondence sent to it from the Customs just because it was signed by someone else other than Hameed Ali, Comptroller-General of Customs?
And these senators, like Bukola Saraki, Dino Melaye and Abiodun Olujinmi are the ones lecturing us about integrity? No way! Nigerians know enough to tell that of the 109 senators, it will be hard to find three who have half as much integrity as the Magu that they claimed failed an “integrity test”. Whose test? Who told these senators that they are qualified to set any integrity test for anybody? Who among the senators can talk of integrity when they keep thwarting every move to get them to open their books for proper scrutiny? And should the EFCC decide to beam its searchlight on the senate, it is safe bet that more than 90% of the senators would pack their bags and run away to avoid the shame that will trail the putrid revelations.
But who else to blame for all this nonsense but Buhari who seems so clay-footed as not to be ready to take the decisive step of making the point that this presidency belongs to him and that the buck stops on his table. In the face of the ignoble role the DSS played in humiliating him so unambiguously, it is shocking that the DG of that agency is still at his station. For having the guts to deliver to the senate a counter-report when his boss had sent a letter to the senators giving Magu a clean bill of health, a more tuned-in President would have fired Lawal Daura immediately.
There is no other time than now for Buhari to put his feet down. It is disturbing that in spite of its clear majority, the APC seems to be playing the role of opposition in the senate. Otherwise, why should the confirmation of the President’s nominee become so messy as to portray the party as uncoordinated and ill-prepared for leadership.
The frequent remarks of some of his aides pointing to Buhari’s style which they say does not dispose him to interfering in matters outside the presidency will not help his government. In fact, these aides should tell him that that style of non-interference does not serve him and the nation well as it depicts him as one who has not fully grasped the intricacies of democratic governance. The reason he is President is not to monitor the executive branch alone, but to also keep an eye on every area of national life and intervene promptly where necessary.
It is sad that almost two years into his presidency, Buhari keeps leaving the impression that he is not in charge, and that a few of his heavily tainted appointees are actually the ones running the show. What sort of presidency is that? And he is warned. Should this cabal succeed in eventually seeing off Magu as they are hell-bent on doing, Mr. President should know that that will be the end of the fight against corruption, the only visible item on his campaign agenda that he promised to vigorously engage and which made people turn out in large number to vote for his party.
He loses all, if he loses the anti-corruption war. And he loses the anti-corruption war if he allows the likes Lawal Daura, Bukola Saraki and the official clown of the Nigerian senate, Dino Melaye, to determine who becomes the Chairman of EFCC.
Godwin Onyeacholem is a journalist. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org