By Ismail Omipidan, who was in Maiduguri
The popular Yoruba saying that “a cub delivered of a tiger, would certainly and necessarily look like a tiger,” aptly describes the mien and character traits of the current acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu.
Although, Magu was still a small boy when the father, a Prison Superintendent, died, the uncle, Bukar Magu, who raised and mentored him, was a no- nonsense man. The late Bukar Magu, first Accountant –General of the North-Eastern State, Saturday Sun was told, once walked out one of the richest men from the state, out of his office, for attempting to compromise him.
“I am sure you know the man. This was a man who built his house with gold. He approached Bukar Magu after he was awarded a contract. He wanted to be paid and get papers signed, to show he had completed the project, when in actual fact, he had just started the work. But the late Magu tore the vouchers he brought, and sent him out of his office, saying ‘you think we are here to steal and chop money. Illiterate, please get out of my office,’ you can ask around,” a close family relation of the Magus, revealed.
Bukar Magu, was said to have died in 2005. And everywhere it visited within Maiduguri metropolis, Saturday Sun was told that the two men qualified to speak on the character strength of late Bukar Magu, were Ambassador Gaji Galtimari, leader of the Borno Elders Forum, BEF, (since they were contemporaries) and Ambassador Baba Ahmad Jidda, who worked directly under the late Magu. But twice when Saturday Sun visited Galtimari’s home, he was said to be indisposed as he had not stepped out in the last three days.
However, everyone Saturday Sun came across in Maiduguri metropolis attests to the fact that anti-corruption stance runs in the family, with family members and other respondents, disclosing that the EFCC boss, may have imbibed his character traits, from the uncle, Bukar Magu, whom he knew as a father and brother, since he grew up under his guidance. In fact, Saturday Sun learnt that he may have influenced the younger Magu to study Accountancy, since he was an Accountant himself.
‘Late Magu was an epitome of hard work and discipline’
Ambassador Baba Ahmad Jidda, immediate past SSG, Borno State, was the longest serving Secretary to Borno State Government and one of the longest serving public administrators in the entire northern Nigeria. He told Saturday Sun that he knew late Bukar Magu very well, as he handed him his first job, in 1971, after his Higher School Certificate, HSC.
“Late Alhaji Bukar Magu, may Allah grant him Aljanat Firdaus is well known to me. He is an excellent civil servant. I met him first, as AG, North-East State in 1971; he enlisted me into the civil service after my HSC, as AEO Accounts, in charge of general account
s. He was a well dressed civil servant and very prompt to work. He never associated with anyone other than the civil servants.
“I met him again, in 1975, after the creation of Borno State, and after I had also graduated from the university. He was a Permanent Secretary and he engaged me as an Assistant Secretary. I worked under him until 1983, when he was appointed Head of Civil Service. He was incorruptible; he was one civil servant that was highly respected in the state, highly disciplined and a good example to all of us upcoming civil servants in the state, at the time,” Jidda, former Nigeria’s Ambassador to Burkina-Faso, said.
Family members afraid to speak on EFCC boss for fear of arrest
Getting family members to speak on Magu, the EFCC boss, did not come easy. Most of his friends and family members approached by Saturday Sun were very reluctant. In fact, one of them said in Hausa language: “that man is very tough o. He can lock me up o. He would say who gave me permission to speak to the press. Gaskiya, just leave me alone. Look for someone else.”
But after 48 hours of roaming the streets of Maiduguri, came the first breakthrough, through one of his nephews, Ali Magu, who like others too, was at first unwilling to talk. Ali is the son of late Bukar Magu, the EFCC boss’ uncle. He appears to be one of the closest to Magu, having lived in his house, after they both became adults. He told Saturday Sun that Magu has been a very “straightforward and strict” person right from childhood.. “He doesn’t like seeing people idle away. He wants you to be productive. If he sees you just sitting down, he will ask you to pick a novel or newspaper to read. Once you are honest, he is good with you. But if you do anything bad, he will not hesitate to deal with you,” Ali, revealed.
Asked for his take on the happenings around Magu, especially on his rejection by the Senate, Ali further said: “knowing the caliber of person that he is, he will come out of it victorious. It will be in the interest of Nigeria to have him confirmed as a substantive EFCC chairman. But whether they confirm him or not, he has made his mark and I think he deserves national honours.”
Reminded that the EFCC boss too has also been accused of corruption, Ali said: “that is a complete nonsense, he will never ever do such a thing, if my uncle finds out that the wife is involved in corruption, he will divorce her and jail her. Most people don’t know my uncle, if he wanted to make money; he would have made it big, long time ago. Go and take a look at his house here in Maiduguri, a director in the state civil service cannot live there. Don’t forget he was locked up in this country, suspended for 20 months for doing his job. Ask (Nuhu) Ribadu (former EFCC boss) they worked together. My uncle is incorruptible. And he took after my father, the first Accountant General of the North-Eastern State. General Buhari worked with my father, he knows him. Tunde Idiagbon also worked with him. All of them know him. Ask around in this town, Magu, is like my father, he is incorruptible.”
Ali also calls on Nigerians to stand up and fight for what he called “their future.” He went further to say that “as Nigerians, we should not keep quiet. Do you know how much it will take to spend N1billion if you are spending N100, 000 every day? Will any of those stealing our money today live for another 200 years? We should, therefore, not keep quiet and pretend that all is well. All is not well. A person, who is fighting corruption, is being victimized and we are all keeping quiet? Nigerians must rise up and stop the campaign of blackmail against the President, because Magu is an appointee of the President and he has helped in no small measure to give the government a good image, as one serious with the fight against corruption.”
Asked how he would feel, if the uncle was not confirmed as EFCC chairman, Ali said as Muslims, they believed in destiny and that whatever happened to an individual was not without the knowledge of God, adding that: “if they don’t confirm him, that is God’s wish. And may God give him the best.”
In 2003, Mohammed Shettima Bulama, as Managing Director of the then Bank of the North, now Unity Bank, was arrested and prosecuted by the EFCC, for corrupt practices. Interestingly, Magu carried out the investigations and facilitated the arrest of Bulama. Unknown to many, Bulama is Magu’s in-law. This fact, was again confirmed by Ali Magu, while trying to justify the fact that Magu, is not one that would spare anyone, including family members, if found to be corrupt.
Asked of Magu’s relationship with Bulama, Ali said “Magu’s wife is the sister of Mohammed Bulama. Yet Bulama was locked up for about one year by Magu.”
Asked again, how the family felt during the period, Ali said the family understood he was doing his job, adding that “it was not easy, but then we all knew Magu. He believes in hard work.”
In Nigeria, relations of persons who work in high places drop their names to get one favour or the other, but with Magu, the story appears different. “You said you have been to our family house in Maiduguri GRA, how does it look like? If Magu hears that as a family member, I am dropping his name to get favour, he will lock me up. He has warned everybody not to accept favours from anyone. He said, go and struggle on your own. That is his principle. The man is unbendable. All his children are schooling here in Nigeria. None is schooling abroad,” Ali Magu, added.
Friends, school mates speak
Most of Magu’s friends and schoolmates who spoke to Saturday Sun, described the anti-corruption Czar as a tough man, right from time. For instance, Alhaji Ibrahim Moddibo, former National Publicity Secretary of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP and current Editorial Board chairman of Verbatim Magazine, told Saturday Sun from his Abuja base through the telephone that, he knew Magu, as far back as 1975. They attended the same secondary school, in Biu, Borno State, known as Waka Science Secondary School.
“I was in form three, when he joined us. He was in form one, so I was two years ahead of him. But we both played football for the school. I was the football captain, he was a good footballer. But I can also tell you that he was a very, very, very serious minded student. And his leadership traits started manifesting while in school. He observed all school rules, and he was never late to school. He was never caught on the wrong side of the law. He values respect for his seniors. Till date, if he sees me, he accords me respect, as though we are still in school. He is a complete gentleman. But then, he is a tough man too,” Moddibo added.
Like most people, Moddibo also attested to the fact that the EFCC boss was “unbendable and courageous” too, saying that he was proud to have him as a fellow alumnus.
He said for every 10 policemen in the country, it would be difficult to find Magu’s kind, declaring that the country could not afford to lose him, in this era of the country’s on-going campaign against corruption.
“I salute Buhari for sticking to principles. There is no law that says he cannot keep Magu in an acting capacity for 10 years. If they don’t want to confirm him, the President should keep him, because if he (Buhari) succumbs to the blackmail, and remove Magu, corruption will walk on its two legs in Nigeria. He should keep Magu, while I implore Nigerians to continue to pray for Magu,” the former ANPP National Publicity Secretary, added.
Bukar Kundiri, a former councilor of the Maiduguri Metropolitan Council, MMC, which incidentally is Magu’s council, said he knew the acting EFCC boss, since he was four years of age.
Kundiri, 56, further said he knew Magu to be very religious and athletic too. He said Magu was very vast in the reading of the Holy Qur’an before he went to Yerwa Practicing Primary School, in Maiduguri metropolis, for his primary school education.
“We attended the same secondary school in Waka. He doesn’t go for flashy things, even though his father’s brother, who brought him up was an Accountant General and later Head of Service. The man was one of the seasoned and incorruptible civil servants ever produced by Borno State.
“Let me also add that whatever Magu is doing today, it is in the blood. His mother’s father was an Alkali, a Sharia court judge, Alkali Jamarema. He was incorruptible and a no- nonsense person. Those of us, who grew up with Magu, the EFCC boss, know he is competent and incorruptible, and we know he is equal to the task. He was one of the good prefects the school has ever produced,” Kundiri, added.
Since his joining the Police, Kundiri says Magu visits Maiduguri regularly. And he visits all his friends, including going to condole with any of them who lost their loved ones, while he was away.
To Nigerians, Kundiri throws this charge: “Magu needs our support and prayers to succeed. I know him to be very prayerful too. He should stand by his God. Allah knows best.”
And to the government, he said: “Magu should be retained. We have to be bold and courageous, if we must correct the ills in the society. Magu will help Nigeria better, in its current war against corruption.”
Magu: Unauthorized version
Saturday Sun’s investigations revealed that Magu is the only surviving son of his father, late Mustapha Magu, a Prison Superintendent in the Native Authority. He had two other brothers, a younger one and an older one. But they are all late now. He has two sisters, one late, the other is still alive. When Saturday Sun got to where the mother lives, on Shehu Sanda Kura road, Shehuri South, MMC, there was nothing spectacular about the house, nothing around the vicinity to show that the mother of a ‘powerful’ Nigerian lives in the vicinity.
Efforts to speak with the mother did not yield any result. They said she was too old to understand Saturday Sun’s mission, and that she may even collapse if anything concerning Magu’s rejection by the Senate was mentioned to her.
At Adam Kolo, Limanti ward, where Magu was born, the only building left for him by his late father was nothing spectacular. In fact, no one would believe that the acting EFCC boss owns it. But residents confirmed to Saturday Sun that as recent as last week, Magu was in Maiduguri and he visited the said house.
It was further learnt that he associates only with the down-trodden and the less privileged in the society. In fact, it was further learnt that most of his friends are tailors and he finds time to visit them each time he visited Maiduguri, with his mother’s place, as his usual first port of call.