Hints last week that President Muhammadu Buhari would, somehow, manage to surprise Nigerians and raise his legitimacy level appear to have vanished with Tuesday afternoon’s hyperactive reaction to the Senate resolution on the service chiefs. But, could that mean that the president has no joker beyond circuitous rebound and presidential spasms on collective survival?
The past few weeks have featured deadly blows on President Buhari’s authority in Nigeria. It began two weeks ago with the message of a president presiding over the degree of rottenness that the on-going revelations on corruption sends. Then the death of another powerful friend last Monday. These were before an even bigger blow landed Tuesday, July 21st, 2020 with the Senate resolving that the service chiefs have no business remaining in office any longer. The resolution is a deadly blow given that majority of the members of the chamber are from the president’s own party and could not have been on a mischief mission. In other words, whether the president removes the service chiefs or not, the case for the removal of the service chief has gone institutional.
Clearly, the president is using a different lens in reading the resolution and, instead of a seeing it as a safe landing, he is asserting his authority to keep or sack the service chiefs, saying he would do what is best for Nigeria. Critics can observe an element of temporary or convenient forgetfulness in that expression as the phrase ‘what is best for Nigeria’ is meaningless when used in a plastic sense. One man’s sense of the phrase could be the exact opposite of his or her nieghbour’s sense of it. ‘What is best for Nigeria’ is a completely subjective and evasive rhetoric that brings back the big question again. Has the president been unable to do anything drastic on the insecurity crisis because he is secure in the Villa or he is simply overwhelmed by the crisis or incompetent or just indifferent?
The observer who raised this question recently added the point about the inability of the Buhari government to look for ideas or to critically assess and utilize unsolicited idea when given and that there are no evidence at all that Nigeria is learning from other countries. This is a weighty appraisal from someone who cannot be labeled a professional critic or an opposition politician.
It would seem that whether the president keeps or relieves the service chiefs, the Senate has, indeed, sent a message. And the message is simply that the president is alone. This is because the media has called for the service chiefs to go just as some influential traditional rulers and the larger civil society groups have also done. It means there is consensus on the ground. Consensus is not inherently about being correct but, correct or not, it remains superior to the wisdom of the next wisest man around. Even without expertise in military affairs, the question seems to be whether it makes sense to expose the incumbents to ridicule by keeping them even when the voice of the people say they should go. Nigeria works in a puzzling way and any of the existing service chiefs could be back tomorrow playing a bigger role. Why block a possible future?
It is all well for the president to assert his constitutional authority but what is he offering? The resignation of over 200 soldiers from the army alone, the casualty figures and the implications of these trends which are the ingredients articulated by Senator Ali Ndume and which pricked the entire Senate to resolve along that line must be disturbing to any other set of actors. In a country where many citizens do not even know where the trigger of a Dane gun is much less the psyche of consciously pressing it, the scenario of soldiers resigning sends a chilling message.
The Chief of Army Staff missed a golden opportunity Monday when he could have made a statement that could have dramatically brought down the fear and uncertainty level. He chose a throw-back response strategy by saying if the national community were to be disposed, the insecurity crisis would be a thing of the past. What sort of support can the citizenry give to the military in a country in which over 80% are peasants or peasants in mindset, urban poor, working class, unemployed and a huge chunk in the informal sector?.
In case it matters, let’s take a sample of what Mister president has been presiding over, with particular reference to whether he didn’t know or lacks the technical know-how, was overwhelmed or indifferent. It is not about punishment after the fact of looting but about exercising authority in a manner that this scale of looting is beyond contemplation. This is an open, social media stuff copied (with minor edit) from the Facebook wall of Kate Henshaw who diligently compiled and posted it there:
- “People were treating the place (NDDC) as an ATM, where you just walk in there to go and pluck money and go away” -Godswill Akpabio
- “NDDC has 12,000 abandoned projects in the Niger Delta” -Godswill Akpabio
- “There is no way NDDC road can last (for) even two years” -Godswill Akpabio
- NDDC owes over N2 trillion to contractors- Godswill Akpabio
- The Federal Government owes NDDC N1trillion in 10 years- NDDC Management
- “N2.5billion budgeted by NDDC for desilting and clearing of water hyacinths inflated to N65billion”- Senate Public Accounts Committee
- “A particular NDDC contract was awarded 55 times”- Former Acting MD Joi Nunieh
- Over 55 NDDC Interim Payment Certificate issued for a contract awarded in a particular state- Former Acting MD Joi Nunieh
- Fake photographs of completed jobs are submitted for NDDC payments. Sometimes the same photos are submitted for different projects -Former Acting MD Joi Nunieh
- “People collect contracts for the same roads from the state government, from FERMA and then they come to NDDC and collect the same road project”- Former Acting MD Joi Nunieh
- $70million of NDDC money was stored in a commercial bank since 2006- Godswill Akpabio
- N170 million NDDC funds abandoned in a bank for years- Godswill Akpabio
- Some banks deliberately withhold money belonging to NDDC- Godswill Akpabio
- NDDC pays N300 million annually as rent for its office space while its headquarter building started 23 years ago is uncompleted- Godswill Akpabio
- NDDC pays fee of N1billion monthly to a consultant that collects money from International Oil Companies (IOCs), on its behalf- Former Acting MD Joi Nunieh
- NDDC gave N4.3billion cash grants to NGOs, 90% of which were not registered- Godswill Akpabio
- Past NDDC management awarded 1,921 ‘emergency contracts’ at N1.070 trillion in seven months, against an annual budget of about N400 billion- NDDC Interim Management Committee
- NDDC contracts worth over N67billion were never executed- House of Representatives Committee
- NDDC made excess payments of N5.8 billion to contractors- House of Representatives Committee
- NDDC awarded a N34million consultancy for ‘Reputation Management’- Kolawole Johnson
- N641million was paid to consultants for ‘Media Support for Forensic Audit’. Johnson Kolawole
- Payment for contracts are routinely channeled into the private accounts of NDDC staff’- Johnson Kolawole
- Money meant for NDDC contracts were paid into the private account of Bureau d’ Change Operators- Johnson Kolawole
- NDDC leadership paid funds meant for student scholarships into private bank accounts’ -Johnson Kolawole
- ‘No Forensic Audit on NDDC is currently going on’- Former Acting MD Joi Nunieh
- Contracts are given to unregistered companies and companies still undergoing registration – Former Acting MD Joi Nunieh
- “Godswill Akpabio asked me to award N5billion contract for the supply of materials that were already in the NDDC Warehouse”- Former Acting MD Joi Nunieh
- 60 Percent of NDDC Contracts are awarded to National Assembly Members- Godswill Akpabio Minister of Niger Delta Affairs
- While the Probe Panel was still sitting, another fraudulent payment of N691 million was made by the NDDC- House of Reps Probe Panel
- NDDC had up to 311 accounts in various banks- Godswill Akpabio Minister of Niger Delta Affairs
- In one day, NDDC made multiple transactions of N49milion out of the Commission’s account. Godswill Akpabio Minister of Niger Delta Affairs
- NDDC spent N1.5 billion for staff as ‘COVID-19 relief funds’. Kemebradikumo Pondei head of NDDC IMC
And this is just NDDC. Come on!