Nigeria went into overdrive penultimate Friday after news broke that embattled former Chairman of Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, Abdulrasheed Maina, had not only sneaked back into the country but had indeed been prodigally reabsorbed into the federal civil service. The man, who fled abroad in 2013, had that same year not only been dismissed by Federal Civil Service Commission on the recommendation of Office of Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, OHCSF but also declared wanted by Economic & Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. He remains so to this day!
The weekend his Nicodemus recall news broke, the pendulum of the ensuing blame game, a trademark Nigerian factor, swung between the Ministry of Interior where he had been recalled and promoted acting Director of Human Resources and the Ministry of Justice; with OHCSF in the middle. It looked like it was going to be a long thing until President Muhammadu Buhari rather uncharacteristically let out word the following Monday. Spokesman Femi Adesina wrote that the president had directed for Maina to be immediately re-dismissed from service and for a full report from Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Ekanem Oyo-Ita.
That may well be the last we would hear of the matter, at least under this administration known for its penchant for voicemailing even perceived question marks or stains on its anti-corruption integrity. Osinbajo Investigative Panel Report on the suspended SGF Lawal Babachir, and DG Ayo Oke of NIA (fingered in grass-cutting contract and stupendous cash claim scandals, respectively) submitted since August remains unpublished. Those who know insist it’ss taking forever because government’s looking for how best to give both men what Nigerians call soft landing.
If or when that happens, no Nigerian who didn’t just fall from the sky would raise eyebrows; because soft landing has almost always been how successive Nigerian governments treated beloved citizens in whom they were well pleased, anytime they were caught fouling the air of the law. It was so in our military heyday; it has been so since democracy returned. It is so now; it would always be so until the country is raptured by the change that citizens so earnestly signed up for in 2015.
From the foregoing, one deduces that those angling for Maina to be brought to book are waiting for Godot. Or, how on earth did the strong man of pension, a wanted man, move in and out of the country without being detected? The report that the president expects from the civil service boss would certainly indict one or two heavyweights of the system. By the Nigerian mentality, releasing such a report would insult those senior special citizens and also stain what has desperately always been intended to be this administration’s lone trump card: immaculate reputation.
Therefore, instead of dissipating so much energy on Mainagate that would likely anti-climax as much ado about nothing, citizens should focus on gleaning the many lessons embedded therein. In doing so, we may gain much needed insight into the real truth and force majeure of the Maina pension story, matters arising as well as powers-that-be who erred. It is the only way to find out whether the Maina brand is a fraud or it’s just corruption fighting him back.
Cutting through all the noise, I have sifted the following lessons:
One: Nigeria needs a platform where citizens who fear for their lives could tell their side of the story in safety and freedom. It is possible that powerful pension interests hurt by Maina are after him!
Two, we must exorcise our security organs of corruption. The ability of a so-called fugitive to exit or enter the country at will speaks to our porous borders and the fact that those who can afford it can receive safe passage by the same agents paid to arrest them!
Three: enough of our hypocritical belief that President Buhari or any leader for that matter can go it alone. It is silly to expect that the president should know everything going on in Aso Rock Villa, let alone in the different ministries and nationwide. Nigeria should create layers of checks and balances rather than wait to shame one leader whose lieutenants may occasionally derail. Blaming Dr. Goodluck Jonathan for what Mrs. Diezani Allison is alleged to have done, or Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for say, Alhaji Tafa Balogun is to continue encouraging aides to do evil!
Four, Nigeria needs to close each case per time. There are too many unfinished businesses of corruption or criminality all over the country. Is it fair to punish the accused in a matter that has not been conclusively decided? We all point the finger at Maina, but has the court given a conclusive say-so in our support?
Five, the best time to sing-praise any leader or administration is afterwards. No savvy, but I have always felt that those of us dancing azonto for the anti-corruption drive of this government should wait until its successor unearths nothing horrible being perpetrated right now.
Of course, there are other lessons to learn from the Maina imbroglio, the clearest being that Buhari and Company are not a team nor do they have strategists and fixers. If the governing party wanted the Borno man as his next state governor, it should quietly first have ensured that he faced the courts and come clean. Even EFCC should also recalibrate its puerile antics: for crying out loud, did Chairman Ibrahim Magu not know about recently-seized Maina mansions all this while? Are these confiscations an order of a court of competent jurisdiction? What guarantees exist that these loud seizures won’t be returned quietly soon? God bless Nigeria!