By Muhammad Ajah
“I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody. A few people have privately voiced fears that on coming back to office I shall go after them. These fears are groundless. There will be no paying off old scores. The past is prologue.” These were some sensitive proclamations in the inaugural speech by President Muhammadu Buhari at his swearing-in as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on 29th May, 2015\
I was once a passenger to a driver who was apparently a federal security man. He said he used the car to make up to buy fuel. The trip was from one of the suburban areas to the Federal Capital Territory. It is a known fact that most of the workers in Abuja are dwellers of its suburbs extending to nearby states. And unfortunately, journeys of fifteen minutes were often longer due to heavy traffics on the roads leading to the town in the morning and vice versa in the evening when people return to their homes.
We were six in the private vehicle. I was one of the four at the back seat and we just had to manage the space because of two reason: commuter vehicles were scarce and workers at bus stops waiting for any possible means to reach Abuja city in, on or after time were very many. A lady was with the force man in the front seat. All the passengers, save one, proved to be abreast with the happenings in the country because at the end of our short sojourn, ideas, reflections and pieces of advice were exchanged. From a joke, an argument came up and the driver was a mixture of clown and witticism.
My co-travelers – none really knew one another – discussed how car thievery was thriving in Abuja suburbs. Cars are stolen from compounds by area boys who freely smoke grass amidst random patrols by security operatives who often arrest and release culprits at will. Though I initially resisted contributing to the discussions, three points drew my attention. The security man was so disciplined that he proclaimed: “I am too fortified to defend my country”. He said that no reasonable human being will want to commit crimes that can lead to prison. He simply added: “I have seen it all. As a citizen, be law-abiding and obey the authorities in charge”. Life in the Abuja suburbs was briefly rushed before the issues of war on corruption was raised and debated.
The argument was whether or not the war on corruption by the present government has been total. Three points were adduced: members of the opposition are being targeted in the war; there are corrupt politicians whose names cannot be mentioned for corruption, not to talk of touching or arresting them – they are untouchables and that corrupt cases linked to personalities in the government are treated with levity.
However, President Buhari has been trying to prove to belong to nobody, especially in the war against corruption and the delivery of democracy dividends to the entire Nigerian people. He has always been a man of integrity who can never sacrifice the personal for the general or compromise parochial for national interests. Some top government officials accused for a long time of corruption were axed out on 19th April. The former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), David Babachir Lawal, and Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ayo Oke, were relieved of their appointments to face the allegations of corruption leveled against them. Lawal is involved in the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE) while Oke is in for probe in connection with discovered foreign and local currencies by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in a residential apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, claimed by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).
To give the duo the democratic fair hearing, a three-man Committee: the Vice President, the Hon. Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, and the National Security Adviser is to conduct the investigations and report to the president within 14 days. The allegation against Lawal and his initial repulsive reactions had partly contributed to the loggerhead between the president and the senate who have on that note halted screening of all political appointees by the president as the faceoff heated up. And to prove some citizens right that some politicians are untouchables, Lawal shunned the Shehu Sani’s senate investigating committee for the third time.
Government officials in connection with the huge sums of money N15 billion found at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, Nigerians are in unanimity should go. Evidences and their names are said to have been presented to three man panel by the acting chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, whose operatives recovered the money. The panel must invite all of them for interrogation, no matter how highly placed. Their identities may be made public for Nigerians to know them.
Investigations and experiences have placed Vice President Osinbajo to be a man of integrity. His spokesman, Laolu Akande, in a statement assured Nigerians that the panel would conduct its assignment with utmost diligence and without fear or favour by inviting all relevant officials and private individuals who might be connected to both cases. It is not surprising that the Senators would commend this action. Shehu Sani (APC Kaduna) and Matthew Urhoghide (PDP Edo) in relative terms said it was in fulfillment of the senate’s call which meant that both executive and legislative arms were working cooperatively to check corruption. Spokesperson for Senate President Bukola Saraki, Yusuph Olaniyonu, said his principal had no personal view on the matter since it was a Senate affair.
For the deputy national publicity secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Timi Frank, the president should take further step by sacking serving cabinet members who have brought disrepute to the APC’s federal government. He had earlier written an open letter to the president demanding openness in handling corruption cases. Meanwhile, the Senator Ahmad Makarfi-led faction of the PDP wants Lawal and Oke, to be arrested and detained the same way PDP chieftains are being handled by the EFCC. It can be recalled that the PDP had insisted that only its members were prosecuted for corruption.
However, the investigations should be thorough and there should be no god-fatherism, no favouritsm and no scapegoat. The three-man committee is up to the task. Besides, for the war to be sustainable, it must really be total. The two suspended appointees are just from amongst other few people in government upon whom allegations of financial frauds have been leveled. The trust by Nigerians for the president is growing and his gradual but steady actions are telling of a sincerely lovely man to his people.
Muhammad Ajah is an advocate of humanity, peace and good governance in Abuja. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.