If critics or even ordinary observers ever thought President Muhammadu Buhari was a cheap target, the man seems to have fought back to meet them at their game. After taking all the bashing particularly on cabinet indiscipline for some seven years, Buhari (has) surprised everybody with his new image of the crafty old fox.
Some of his ministers and Governor Godwin Emefiele of the Central Bank of Nigeria had taken Buhari’s erstwhile reputation as a “softie” for granted and sucked up to a seeming personal right to contest the 2023 presidential election without any inhibition. Hardly was the green light shot for willing candidates to commence processes for bidding for the 2023 elections than the number sprang virtually unlimited for the rank of aspirants. As if encouraged by the limit to ONLY N100 million for purchasing the form for contesting candidates, it became alarming and infuriating as the number of aspirants on the platform of Buhari’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) rose beyond 25. Buhari himself must have been alarmed, although he gave no indication as the amount collected from the sale of forms totalled about N2.5 billion. So free was the licence taken by aspirants that even Emefiele, incumbent governor of Central Bank, joined the race with outright defiance, asserting his right to contest without resigning. Cautioned by critics against that venture, Mr. Emefiele headed for the court, which summoned the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the federal Attorney-General as co-defendants to appear yesterday to show cause why the Central Bank governor should not contest the election.
It was not clear when Buhari decided on his clampdown on the eligible candidates and by the time the crafty old fox trapped the ministers and Central Bank governor, Emefiele, there was no escape route. Once a form had been obtained to contest the primary election, the minister must resign. In a way, depending on their outcome, Buhari’s decision could only have provided enough time for unsuccessful ones to have enough time for campaigns. What is more, Buhari is even saving the ministers from public humiliation or disgrace of withdrawing from the race to enable them retain their ministerial jobs. Such desperation is too late and it is only hoped the lesson would be learnt.
Apart from that, except that this is Nigeria where self-respect does not obtain, there is nothing strange in Buhari’s stern measure. Once Hillary Clinton decided on another try at the American presidency, the then Secretary of State resigned in 2013, years in advance and was succeeded by John Kerry. That is the convention in solid democracies.Buhari was therefore neither doing Nigeria any favour nor the ministers any harm. He was merely tactful in doing, wthout apparent misgiving, what could have been done much earlier with political bitterness in its trail. Furthermore, to drive the message home, the APC must not refund one kobo to any aspirant who might withdraw. Such an aspirant should sacrifice his ministerial job and test his luck at the primary election. Discipline must be maintained. If, in a country debilitated by poverty, a man could gamble N100 million to obtain form to contest primary election for the presdential race, he should forfeit that chicken change.
The case of Emefiele should be properly handled to avoid any repeat in the future where that office would be dragged into politics as at present. In fact, this is necessary to halt the arrogance and (not very) clever tactics of lecturing Nigerians on the difference, if any, between political appointee and and government patronage. When Emefiele was initially criticized, in fact, exposed, for creeping into the presidential race, he denied it despite allegations that vehicles for the campaigns were already all over the place. But Emefiele betrayed himself by publicly submitting that it was the right of Buhari to support anybody he (Buhari) favoured to succeed him. Who told Emefiele that? Was that why Emefiele clandestinely was creeping to succeed Buhari? The argument is not on Emefiele’s right under the Constitution to bid for the presidency. He must follow the rules as clearly laid out by Buhari for public officers.
Emefiele’s other plans, if not defiance, towards contesting the presidential election, in effect, asserting himself in politics while in charge of Nigeria’s local and international monetary policy, have since emerged. There is a case in court asserting not only the right to get involved in politics as a governor of the Central Bank but also to compel INEC with him in planning the 2023 presidential election. INEC has since hinted that any further political development at Central Bank might compel complete review of ties between the two parastatals hitherto based on neutrality of the sensitive functions of both agences to Nigerian people.
By the way, an essential poser arises. When a governor of the Central Bank files a legal battle in pursuit of personal political interests, who pays the bill? The bank or the governor? Nigerians deserve an answer urgently.
Throughout the world, only an incumbent President or Vice President is exempt from resigning to seek a fresh mandate. With Buhari’s stipulations of conditions for public office holders to legally contest elections, a governor of the Central Bank is, therefore, put on the spot. Does he fall among the category of appointees Buhari directed to resign if already aspiring to contest the 2023 presidential election? If not, why should the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission not be free to vie for the presidency? The Director-General of State Security Services should also not be precluded from qualifying to dabble in politics simultaneously with his continued stay on his job.
Strange events in strange times
Whether these are strange times or not, the reality is that Nigerians have lately been witnessing or experiencing strange events. Apart from being strange, these events have also been amusing. Imagine this: A retired permanent secretary was jailed in Lagos for four years each on three charges, all to run concurrently. His trial lasted at least three years, throughout which he failed to do what politicians and civil servants do to escape imprisonment when arraigned for theft of public funds.
This might comprise former governors, former ministers or former advisers and their trials normally feature carpet-crossing from opposition to ruling party at the federal level, mainly to stall on-going prosecution. Once that stage is reached, any law-enforcement agency in charge does not need any directive from above to prolong or even abandon the trial. All other agences instantly embrace that body language and commence frustrating, intermitent and long adjournments of the trial.In the process, an initial charge of stealing billions of naira, in a short time, gradually reduces to, at the highest, only scores of millions of naira, dollars or sterling.
To fortify himself, an accused, as a former state governor or minister or adviser, will announce himself as seeking an election to the Senate or House of Representatives. Or if a former minister, he will announce himself as an aspirant for the next state governorship election. If he succeeds, immunity commences immediately. In which case, the case being tried may be gone for ever. If, on the other hand, the accused on trial for the theft of public funds is a civil servant, he would merely upset the apple cart in a ruling party by purportedly going into politics and announce his bid for the next elections. Watch out. That case will never come up or it will, henceforth, be subjected to unending adjournments. Where was that former permanent secretary all along and why did he fail to follow in the footsteps of other criminals before him? Silly man. He now languishes in jail.
The other case even amounts to unnecessary harassment of the accused. Imagine this: He was alleged to have canvassed that those intending to go to heaven should come forward because he was arranging such a trip. Each fare was reported to be over N300,000 and could be paid to him somewhere in Ekiti. But for overzealousness, if not misguidedness, what is the suspect’s offence and what is the business of the police in the bid to prosecute the accused? The man openly exhibited his trade. So what? Did he compel anybody to patronise him? Did any of those wishing to travel to heaven and who might have paid complain? If some people are so gullible to be obsessed with the mere mention of anybody or anything heaven, they will always be exploited. Better still, only cheap vulnerability could make idiots to be exploited with offers of trips to heaven.
In other words, the offer inviting the religious bigots to heaven goes on openly and without any check by the authorities. The name for the same exercise is called tithe. If payment of tithe is free and legal in Ijebu Ode, Zangon Kataf, Kafanchan, Ibadan, Lagos, Arondizuogu, Uzoakoli, Onitsha, Nnewi, Abeokuta, Akure, Owo, Ondo, Zuru, Bauchi, etctera, in churches and mosques, what is wrong with the Ekiti man devising and collecting his type of tithe from fellow Ekiti or even fellow Nigerians?
Victims paying hundreds of thousands of naira fare for trips to heaven are prayer fundamentalists scattered all over Nigeria and contribute up to billions of naira with which their pastors purchase fleets of luxurious cars, private jets and most expensive suits. Why have the police failed to arrest the wealthy and influential pastors for collecting their own tithe in their own way? The police must release the Ekiti pastor. The real culprit is the man gullible enough to give his money to pastors or imams, all in the name of tithes.