A fast rolling movie is on in Nigeria, very entertaining but embodying unsettling signals. Intervention attempts an interim list of the plausible signals, conceding only one positive element about the drama which is that Justice Ayo Salami is the Chairman of the Presidential Panel investigating the allegations against the suspended EFCC boss, Ibrahim Magu. Salami has a legendary integrity, a source of credibility for this mid-flight turbulence.
- Banditry, kidnapping on a massive scale, Boko Haram, cultism, rape, suicide and general sense of insecurity have combined to embarrass the government’s promise of security, the first of a three-point agenda within a ‘Change’ mantra. The economy – the second of that agenda, has not been much to write home about for a vast majority of the population. Now, the third of that agenda which is an anti-corruption war is stuck. What is left again?
- It might have happened decades back in the First Republic when almost all the key actors today were nowhere to be seen but nothing like that in recent memory for the domestic intelligence to pooh-pooh a nominee of the president, declaring such a nominee as unfit for the job and thereby laying the grounds for the drama unfolding now. That is what the DSS did repeatedly in the last few years about Ibrahim Magu’s Chairmanship of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC). What is known is that the DSS exercises oversight by way of background check on nominees but not writing openly its rating of a particular nominee. Yes, under the Abacha regime, Prof Sam Aluko, the Chairman of the Economic Intelligence Unit or some institution by a similar name was used to rubbishing the Finance Minister at the time but it was always strictly on policy details based on his own better grasp of such details rather than high pitch drama of the Malami – Magu type that suggests that this government has never heard of collective responsibility, much less know how it works. Here, a particular appointee of the president came up with a submission on another appointee of the same president in the same cabinet, the submission acquired the weight of sending the targeted appointee before a presidential panel at an unbelievable speed, followed by the arrest and suspension of the target. It is either something ridiculous is happening or some people are behind in their political theory as to understand that this is the new normal in running a government.
- The Buhari regime seems determined to consolidate on the brusque tactics of easing out those who end up dancing out of tune or those suspected to be dancing out of tune rather than ennobling such. A year back, it was the former Chief Justice of Nigeria that went down Magu’s way. Today, it is Magu. Is it not possible to clothe power rather than naked manifestation of it? It would have been thought that democracy has moved Nigeria from the track of ruthless handling of real and imagined enemies or people who fall out of the perimeter. Or, are the facts so self-evident to warrant the harsh ways? But, facts ever speak for themselves. It is always the power over the interpretation of facts that prevail. It is absolutely possible Ibrahim Magu is strikingly corrupt just as it is possible the narrative of him now is someone’s story or the outcome of the silence enveloping him. There might be a saving grace in Justice Ayo Salami as Chairperson of the presidential panel, going by the stories about Justice Salami and his own nasty experience years back but, in a country with so few Ayo Salamis, how is this the way to go?
- Can the EFCC get back its groove from this tragedy of the EFCC Chairmanship? Every other Chairman of the EFCC left the job in unsavory circumstance, starting with Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, the pioneer chairperson and all subsequent ones. Is the problem with each of them or with the society or both?
- On the whole, isn’t the anti-corruption war over now, with the government itself now a battlespace of combat tested camps taking on each other and the EFCC boss accused of being corrupt? Irrespective of whether Magu returns or a new helmsman takes over, aren’t there enough disabling signals regarding the anti-corruption war gathering credibility and flying again at a time it is widely believed that corrupt practices in the public service is at the peak?
Perhaps, there is a sense in which what an observer said earlier this morning is the most apt take. Wrote he, “We can only observe what’s going on. We can’t vouch for any of Malami or Magu because both could be corrupt as much as they could be angels”. On that note, this is another waiting.