The dishonest integrity of President Muhammadu Buhari, a politician commonly mistaken for a statesman, is in full but discrete display in the Ibrahim Magu affair. For the second time, the Nigerian Senate has rejected the nomination of Magu, acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), by refusing to confirm him as the substantive head of Nigeria’s foremost anti-corruption agency. On each occasion, the Senate cited a damning report by the Department of State Security (DSS) summarily declaring Magu as failing in integrity, hence a liability on the war on corruption. The reaction to Magu’s rejection by a broad section of the public has been near hysterical in unanimously condemning the Senate for being a hindrance in the fight against corruption. Some have alleged that corruption is fighting back through the Senate. In all these reactions, some hidden facts must have escaped public notice.
The Buhari administration has as its cardinal objective, the war on corruption. In the last 18 months of this administration, arrests, asset seizures and court-ordered forfeitures have been recorded; feats that have been amplified as unprecedented by the well-oiled and efficient propaganda machine of the All Progressives Congress. The propagation of the war on corruption with fascist precision has convinced many of the sincerity of the anti-corruption crusade, thereby conferring on the Buhari administration a high moral garb. Therefore, Nigerians who believed so much in Buhari’s anti-corruption war were shocked, if not disappointed, about the fact that Magu, the poster boy of the war on corruption, was roundly rejected by the Senate twice, citing, among other things, the DSS report, which condemned him as deficient in integrity.
Magu, a police officer with an eventful, if not a controversial, career in the force, is quite popular among many Nigerians. The media even conferred on him the appellation of “anti-corruption Czar’’ an honorific last held by Nuhu Ribadu, the pioneer chairman of EFCC.
Interestingly, angry reactions to Magu’s rejection have been predictably directed towards the wrong quarters, in this case, the Senate, leaving out the major culprit, the Presidency. Many failed to observe that Magu, who was appointed in November 2015 as acting chairman, remained in that capacity for over a year, with growing speculation in the public space about a plot to prevent his confirmation and engineer his replacement by a powerful cabal inside the kitchen cabinet of the Buhari administration. It is believed that this powerful clique of the kitchen cabinet wield enormous influence over the President. However, for those who understand power and how it is deployed, a cabal is only powerful within the Presidency when they act on behalf of the President by initiating policies and implementing actions that are in line with his understanding, perception, biases, preferences, ideologies and idiosyncrasies. The cabal understands the President’s “body language” and acts appropriately without a word from the President, and this makes him pretty comfortable and grants access to the clique without exposing his flanks. This access makes the cabal powerful and it uses the advantage to present friends or foes in the proper light by exploring all it knows about the Presidents idiosyncrasies. The President and the cabal enjoy a complex symbiotic relationship that is mutually beneficial to both sides. The actions of the cabal cannot be divorced from that of the President because they are one and the same. When actions go right, the President takes the credit, but when things go wrong, the cabal takes the blame, to protect the President’s image.
From the foregoing, it is clear that the President is in a dilemma over the Magu affair. How do you drop a man who has been the face of an anti-corruption war that has received applause from many Nigerians, most of whom are the President’s die-hard supporters? Having supported both the fight on corruption and Magu’s efforts with a massive propaganda blitzkrieg carried out with precision, which has created a mass of devout Buharideeens and Hailing Hailers among a large section of the populace, it becomes awkward to drop such an individual without a backlash. Therefore, would it not be public opinion suicide for the President to go against the expectations of the monstrous mass of robotic devotees he has created? To achieve the twin objectives of remaining infallible, incorruptible and squeaky clean in the eyes of his devotees but also getting Magu rejected by the Senate, Buhari cleared Magu of all wrongdoing and re-nominated him on one hand while the DSS, operating from inside the Presidency and headed by the President’s kinsman, Lawal Daura, sent a guilty-as-accused security report to the Senate a few hours to the confirmation hearing. Once again, Buhari, the underrated political tactician, has set the Senate, which already has a battered image of institutional corruption, against the Nigerian people. It is the Senate, not Buhari, that is being blamed for sabotaging the war against corruption, with the DSS as the fall guy. The strategic act of re-nominating Magu as EFCC chairman has exonerated the President and he has come out clean, as usual, from his dirty war on corruption.
Buhari, not the Senate, is the one who does not want Magu as EFCC chairman, as the DSS cannot issue a security report to the Senate without the knowing of the President. The reasons behind Magu’s fall from favour are not contained in the DSS report. Such reasons are only known to the President, the cabal and Magu.
The war on corruption was tainted right from the start with the obvious selective approach of only going after political opponents both within and outside the ruling APC. The anti-corruption crusade has been more of naming and shaming of members of the immediate past administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, leaving out the friends and sponsors of the President’s election, who were mostly former members of the PDP. This approach has kept the President’s supporters, who are mostly poor and have suffered the consequences of maladministration of past administrations, entertained and the appetite of those baying for the blood of past corrupt leaders satiated. A selective war on corruption is the worse form of corruption and, unfortunately, the Buhari administration has followed in the footsteps of the previous administrations he loves to hate. Magu fought the dirty war relentlessly by going after political opponents of the President while ignoring the corrupt cases of friends and members of the current administration. Selective war on corruption perpetuates the cycle of corruption, the very reason previous efforts, like the current one, are ineffective in tackling corruption.
The culture of favouritism, cronyism, nepotism, tribalism and religious bigotry, which are all corrupt practices and collectively known as sectionalism, is the root of corruption. The Muhammadu Buhari administration has elevated sectionalism to a near state policy deriving from the president’s political scorched earth policy of 97percent and 5percent of votes cast for him as a ratio of government patronage. Ironically, an administration, which claims to be fighting corruption, is enmeshed in serious corrupt practices that lead to economic and financial crime. The indictment of Ibrahim Magu by the administration he serves is clearly indicative of the fact that the much talked about war on corruption is highly compromised.