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Magu, Lawal, And Buhari’s War, On Corruption

The raging feud between the Senate and the Presidency over the latter’s call for the upper legislative chamber to reconsider its decision rejecting the appointment of Ibrahim Magu as substantive chairman of the anti-graft agency, the EFCC as well as that of Babachir Lawal, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, is a major blight on the toga of the president’s war on corruption that reinforces public perception that the whole anti-graft war is just a smokescreen to harass and intimidate perceived opponents of the regime. This is an insult to the Nigerian people carried too far, which does little credit to the image of the President, whose promise of a new dawn in public probity formed the plank of his political covenant with the people prior to his election mandate. The aura of pride and arrogance in the President’s letter informing lawmakers that both men have been cleared of corruption allegations against them is a contradiction that speaks volumes about the rot and moral decadence of the system. This is the tragedy of Nigeria.

According to huhuonline, In a brazen show of megalomania, acting President, Yemi Osinbajo sent a letter to the Senate re-nominating Lawal as EFCC chairman, after the Senate rejected his candidacy last December 15, citing a security report from the Department of State Services, DSS. Around the same period, the Senate also recommended the sack of Lawal for alleged corruption, involving the diversion of funds for internally displaced persons in the Northeast. The Senate Ad-hoc Committee, in its report, accused Lawal of receiving kickbacks of N200m from a company he awarded a contract in Yobe state. Following this, President Buhari directed the AGF, Abubakar Malami, to investigate the allegations‎. Malami cleared them of any wrongdoing. ‎In the case of the Lawal, the President dismissed the Senate report saying the SGF was not given the opportunity to clear himself of the allegations, and that the company linked to him was not accorded the chance as well.

Without equivocation, the President’s unwavering support for Magu and his decision to ignore the abuse of office report against Lawal following his indictment by the Senate, would impact negatively on the administration’s anti-graft war. This is a huge disservice to Nigeria. Both in his personal capacity and as president of this republic, Buhari has unceasingly declared his stand against corruption. He promised in his acceptance speech that “we shall strongly battle another form of evil that is worse than terrorism; the evil of corruption which attacks and seeks to destroy our national institutions and character.” Having noted the “pervasive corruption” in his inaugural speech, he promised “responsible and accountable governance at all levels of government” and charged the judiciary to “act with dispatch on all cases especially on corruption, serious financial crimes, or abuse of office.”

Given the enormity, the hydra-headed nature, and the huge resources at the disposal of its perpetrators to fight back, President Buhari should not therefore be seen as holding brief for people accused of corruption. Nigerians are deeply concerned because of the wide-reaching implications of the president acting like defense attorney for a man indicted for corruption by the legislative arm of government. Surely, a nation intending to develop in concrete terms cannot overlook or be pretentious of the danger inherent in such impunity. In all, what the president’s action has done is to authenticate impunity. This is the purport of the President’s uncompromising stance in the matter of Lawal. Buhari’s action reinforces the conviction that here in Nigeria, only people outside the corridors of power pay for their crimes.

It is indeed perplexing that the President ordered the AGF to conduct further investigations even after Lawal had been indicted by the Senate. The least Nigerians expected, was for the President to ask Lawal to resign his position as SGF, instead of standing by his man. The anti-graft war should not be seen to be selective but all-encompassing and diligent. It is doubtful whether the AGF’s office can conduct a more comprehensive and transparent inquiry than the EFCC and other anti-graft agencies. The Senate should therefore, as a matter of principle reject the President’s request. There should be no reconsideration in the matter since the Senate had already deemed Magu and Lawal unfit to hold public office. It should therefore purge the Presidency of its arbitrariness by doing what is right.

Ironically, none of the disputants is entirely blameless, even though it is very clear that the larger share of the blame is in the domain of the Presidency, which has needlessly insisted that Magu be confirmed as EFCC chairman. This is to say those who fault Mr. President, or better still, the Presidency for failing to find a way round the problem are totally right. The controversy should have been resolved through the many channels of interaction between the Senate and the Presidency without allowing it to drag to this embarrassing extent. In other words, it is not a problem to which there is no political solution.

If reputation is lost, all is lost. In civilized democracies, it would not have been out of place to say that Magu and Lawal themselves, seeing that the matter was getting out of hand could equally have swallowed their pride and voluntarily withdraw their services. This would certainly fetch them accolades and leave Nigerians to fight the battle for them in the court of public opinion. Such a gesture of grace would not have been too much a sacrifice for Magu and Lawal. To continue to hold on to their offices, in the face of a widening schism this could cause between the upper legislative chamber and the presidency is not part of the attributes of statesmen.

That notwithstanding, Buhari’s insistence that Magu and Lawal must be confirmed is a display of immaturity and arrogance by this administration and reduces the presidency to one that will go to any length to pander to the self-seeking and unpatriotic ego-tripping of the president’s men, even at the risk of compromising its own integrity. Because political leadership is key to the change which the APC and its government promised the electorate, the Nigerian presidency must commit itself to, and be seen to so execute, rectitude and an integrity-driven government. The only effective leadership is by example and the presidency, as the pinnacle of authority and power, must earn and claim without an iota of doubt, the moral high ground from which it can prosecute the war against the hydra-headed corruption monster. The past one year has unveiled many untidy, sordid, mind-bending public financial transactions; showcasing Nigeria as Corruption Inc. The President has a duty to appoint only people of impeccable character. There is no reason to suggest he cannot do that. The only thing required is that the president walks his talk and leads by example. In this instance, history is not on Buhari’s side.

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