Mr President, this silence is not golden!
By Tosin Omoniyi
There are times when silence is not golden. This is one of such times for Mr President.
For a man with impeccable anti-corruption credentials, no effort should be spared by the President including his handlers to ensure that his accomplishments over the years are not tarnished on the altar of political expediency or considerations.
Mr President is not corrupt. Accepted. But can that be said with every measure of certainty for every member of his inner caucus?
A friend of mine recently told me with confidence that by the time the present Muhammadu Buhari administration was over, it would be ranked as one of the most corrupt…wait for this… in Africa…not Nigeria.
I thought he made a mistake when he said Africa, so I tapped him to say perhaps, he meant Nigeria.
“I know what I said, by the time the government is through in 2019, it would be ranked as the most corrupt in Africa, not Nigeria, mark my words,’’ he said again.
Confronted with my amazed look, he said the corruption tag would not be as a result of Buhari’s personal actions but those in his inner circle, and perhaps his unhealthy silence in the face of such inappropriate actions.
Like a senior colleague and friend, Farooq Kperogi recently said in a Facebook post, Buhari’s inherent ability to take the sides of those he deems as loyal to him whenever they are accused of corrupt practices is legendary.
Hear him: ‘You know Buhari has irretrievably lost it when an out-and-out, conscienceless, and corrupt villain like Bukola Saraki can have the nerve to sermonize to the president–and the nation–on the virtues of “anti-corruption” fight. But isn’t that what you get when you “fight” corruption ONLY when your political enemies are guilty of it? Isn’t that the price you pay when you serially shield the corrupt people who are “personally loyal” to you?
People who are intimate with Buhari told me several months ago, in the heat of my unrestrained enthusiasm over his emergence as president that he was temperamentally unsuited to fight corruption. They said the undue premium Buhari places on “personal loyalty” causes him to ignore, excuse, and even defend the corruption of his close associates. I was regaled with troubling tales of the mind-boggling corruption he swept under the carpet at the PTF, The Buhari Organization (TBO), and at the defunct CPC, which merged with ACN to form APC.
Babachir was a dominant figure in CPC; he knows Buhari well enough to know that nothing will happen to him for all his villainous rape of vulnerable IDPs in Borno and Yobe as long as he can impress the president that he is irrevocably “loyal” to him.
I hoped that the president would learn lessons from his past and change— at least for the sake of legacy, given that he is old and has the privilege of a second chance to rule Nigeria. Apparently, I was naive. “Anti-corruption fight” is perhaps now the cheekiest joke in Buhari’s Nigeria.’’
Kperogi like many Nigerians is unhappy with the President’s silence in cases where close aides to him are accused of impropriety or corrupt practices. A few of his ministers- an issue we need not belabor here- have been accused of unethical practices in recent months.
The President’s reaction as usual is to keep a loud silence.
Members of his political party have ethical issues hanging around their necks but the President has looked the other way.
Meanwhile, members of opposition political parties have been having their day in different courts across the nation and the gulag of anti-graft agencies.
A few ‘wise’ ones who belong to such opposition parties have jumped ship into the President’s party and have subsequently been given a clean bill of health.
However, there is a limit to the people’s trust in the anti-corrupt stance of the president going by the reports of graft and mis-appropriation of public funds by the Presidential Initiative for the North East, PINE.
A Senate ad-hoc committee on the north-east humanitarian crisis uncovered cases of corruption, including phantom projects and inflated contracts at the PINE during a hearing.
PINE at present cannot properly account for about N2.5 billion, part of funds released for its capital intervention.
But there were more unsettling findings.
The committee, according to media reports, found out that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, had breached relevant Nigerian laws on handling contracts and trust by being one of the directors of Global Vision Ltd, one of the companies indicted by the committee for allegedly benefiting from inflated and phantom contracts – or ones not executed at all – awarded by the PINE.
The firm, an IT one, was said to have been awarded over N200 million contract to clear ‘invasive plant species’ (grass) in Yobe State.
Global Vision which was incorporated in 1990 to carry out ICT services received a contract to clear grass in 2016 even while one of the owners is a senior government official close to the incorruptible Buhari.
One feels like weeping when one views the tepid response of the Presidency to the latest accusations even as the SGF has more or less told the lawmakers that they can’t touch him.
Is this the administration Nigerians voted for?
Certainly not, in light of the latest onslaught on the people of the north-east who have been buffeted by a bloody insurgency in recent years and are just getting back their lives.
The situation of displaced persons in the north-east was recently highlighted as dismal by UNICEF.
According to UNICEF, 4.5 million people are in dire need of assistance out of which 1 million are in danger of extreme malnutrition in the region although the government has disputed the figures.
The global body said that over two million people were still trapped in areas controlled by Boko Haram and could not be reached for assistance due to security reasons.
Unending bitter conflicts in South Sudan in 2015, as well as in Central African Republic and Somalia, plus new or continuing mass displacement in or from countries including Nigeria, Burundi, Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique and elsewhere together produced 18.4 million refugees and internally displaced people as of this year’s end.
These are the people Buhari’s confidante and aide has chosen to reportedly cheat.
This is not the time for Mr President to keep quiet.
It is a time to act!
Omoniyi, a journalist based in Abuja can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org