Two events in the outgoing week have shown the positive side of the President Muhammadu Buhari government and, ironically, confirmed the fears of some people that the President may not be on top of things, some of which happened under his nose. I have seen resurrected comments, excavated from the ashes of the 2015 presidential campaign, wherein it was said that in his first coming as military head of state a certain Tunde Idiagbon, Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, the military equivalent of what we now have as Vice-President, was the man who ran that regime, whose 18-month lifespan was akin to some of the actions that have characterised this dispensation. That second-in-command was said to have been the engine room of that regime and but it was the President’s body language and reputation that sheltered the regime until his colleagues in uniform felt he had embarked on an autocratic voyage, heading in a direction different from where they intended when they removed President Shehu Shagari in a coup on the last day of 1983. Idiagbon passed away in rather mysterious circumstances, when it was rumoured that former President Olusegun Obasanjo was on the verge of making him play a central role in his second coming in 1999.
The eventual removal of Babacir Lawal, as Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), consequent upon an inquiry set up by the President and headed by the Vice-President, shows that the President would cut off any head placed on the slaughter slab on account of corruption. The matter of alleged corruption in the award of contracts to companies he had substantial interest in, which the Senate had investigated and found that something awry happened, had dragged on and it looked as though the President wanted to protect the former SGF, who had been suspended since April, to make way for an inquiry that had long been concluded. Long after he had been the butt of jokes on the failed fight against corruption, the President acted early this week, but not swiftly, in removing Babacir and replacing him with Mr. Mustapha Boss, who also hails from Adamawa like Babacir. Boss, whose name says what he has become to ministers and other political appointees, was managing director of National Inland Waterways Authority, a position that saw him report to Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transport, who we hear had the duty of telling Boss that they had swapped roles in reporting line. Amaechi would now report to his former subordinate. Life is full of lessons. Now the President is being told not to stop at removing the former SGF and letting him go and enjoy the proceeds of corruption, for it would still indicate that some people are beyond the law. His critics are waiting to see how he would wriggle out of this one in the face of the reputation of this regime, which says, “If we do not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria.” We await the President’s next move.
He might act but not as swiftly as observers would expect. Boss came into office with strong credentials of credibility and integrity. He would only have to hearken to the dictates of the old proverb that admonishes the new and young bride, who probably derides the old bride, to note that the groom has not destroyed the broom that swept the old away.
If the President acted slowly in removing Babacir, he was confounded in the matter of Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina, who was removed from office on account of pension scam and was returned to office in circumstances that are now unclear. He has been sent away but how did he find his way into office? The President may be unaware of the underhand moves of his aides. There is indeed a wide gap to be filled in unravelling the route through which Maina returned to the Presidency. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has swung into action in the matter of allegations against the man who ran the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reform when hundreds of millions of naira reportedly disappeared from pension vaults. As they do that, the President must show that he is in charge and that Idiagbon did not run the regime in his first coming as the insinuation is rife that a cabal is domiciled in the villa, a vindication of the first lady, Aisha Buhari’s whistle, blown in the wake of her frustration over the alleged hijack of an administration that they did not work to put in power. The President must get the culprits in Maina’s return and make them face the law. The impression has become so evident that the President has subsisted as a titular official whose top aides run the government and let him wallow in the glory of an office where wrath seems to abound to his apparent blissful ignorance. He must step up and show that those who warned Nigerians in the wake of Buhai’s election that the man would not be in charge are wrong. I have heard it said that a certain governor would have preferred to be Chief of Staff because that would effectively make him run the government and the country. There are clear indications that President Buhari may well not know how the government he leads is run.
In the midst of the stated failings, the move to pay ex-Biafran servicemen, is a step in the right direction. Someone told me how his father quickly withdrew a substantial part of what was paid, before the regime changes its mind and calls back the funds.
For a regime that I have long accused of fuelling agitation for Biafra, perhaps, inadvertently, by its actions, this is a redeeming move. Those who say such moves are the vicarious benefits of the actions of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), may well be right. It is inconceivable that President Buhari would make such a move without a nudge.
He has done well, in spite of the motivation.