Buhari, EFCC and Willie Obiano’s media trial
By Carl Umegboro
Since the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, he has continued to allow administrative procedures to run accordingly without interference in statutory agencies of government thereby allowing them to perform their duties freely. The significant attitude has continued to affirm the President as a leader. This propelled him to relieve one of his ardent supporters and notable figure in the Buhari Supports Organizations (BSO) during his reelection bid, Nasiru Ladan Argungu, a northerner who was then, Director-General, National Directorate of Employment (NDE) for distracting, disrupting and meddling in the duties of the Minister of State for Labor and Employment, Festus Keyamo, a southerner who statutorily oversees NDE. This action was applauded by the people as it portrayed Buhari as a straightforward and no-nonsense person.
Again, like Goodluck Jonathan did in 2015; conceded defeat even when ‘do-or-die’ politicians in his party were considering chaos and conspiracy theories, Buhari has statesmanly congratulated the winner in Anambra election that is a candidate of another political party, APGA; Prof Charles Soludo even when his party’s unresolved aspirant was scheming, threatening fire and brimstone. Furthermore, the Security Council Meeting presided by President Buhari on 24 November endorsed the election as credible and transparent despite defeat of his party, APC at the poll. This is statesmanship in action. It will therefore amount to affront to the president for any member of his party to think otherwise considering that the President is the overall leader of APC as a ruling party.
Prior to the election, the nation was confronted with the shocking invasion of the home of Justice Mary Peter-Odili; a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, roguishly by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) who earlier placed her husband; Peter Odili, a former governor of Rivers State on its watchlist. The ‘watchlist’ led to seizure of his international passport. Though, I concede that the ‘perpetual injunction’ preventing an investigation and prosecution of a public office holder should be reviewed, but it must follow the appropriate channel; the court. It is a height of bias, inequality and discrimination to grant a perpetual injunction to shield an ex-governor while other ex-governors like Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame are in jail over corruption. The ‘perpetual injunction’ was sufficient to throw the society into chaos as it makes ‘sacred cows’.
It is a height of bias, inequality and discrimination to grant a perpetual injunction to shield an ex-governor while other ex-governors like Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame are in jail over corruption. The ‘perpetual injunction’ was sufficient to throw the society into chaos as it makes ‘sacred cows’.
Looking at events in recent times, President Buhari has critical work to do in order not to allow some of his workforce drag his name through the mud. In particular, the President must learn from recent tribute by former President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki to a former head of state, Abdulsalami Abubakar which discredited former President Olusegun Obasanjo over his third term agenda while in office as far back as 2007, but was thwarted by concerted efforts of patriots both from within and outside the country including Mbeki.
Likewise, following the ‘do-or-die’ politics in Anambra State in the recent poll from a quarter, many have harked back to the excesses during Obasanjo’s tenure when election results were randomly fabricated outside the election environs and announced as crookedly written. Former President of the United States, Donald Trump also acquired similar dirty baggage while in office which has reduced his worth all over the world. All these entail that actions that characterized any administration will for decades remain an identity of the leader after leaving office. So, Buhari must take note that any oversights during his tenure will bite him for a lifetime and beyond.
For emphasis, some politicians attempted to use federal agencies as tools during the Anambra election. Recall that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) without good reasons frustrated the inauguration of Anambra International Cargo Airport constructed by the state government merely for political goals. A statutory agency like the NCAA shouldn’t be partisan but must operate professionally. After the poll, the state governor, Willie Obiano is presently facing a media trial by EFCC over frivolous petitions. The obvious reason is Obiano’s visit to President Buhari against ‘Emergency rule’ conspirators. Even if the agency has substantial allegations against the governor, he must be allowed to discharge his duties without any interruptions or distractions. After his handover, the ball will then revert to their court. But for the time being, as state governor, Obiano can travel, move freely as desired.
The action seriously suggests that the anti-graft agency may drag Buhari’s name through the mud big time. In the first place, if Obiano who is presently covered by immunity from criminal prosecutions as a state governor has queries, making it public doesn’t show professionalism knowing that the broadcast gives the respondent an opportunity to be on the run. In other words, EFCC’s action was discernibly politically-motivated for vendetta with blackmails to appease some paymasters. But Buhari must not allow such nuisances to continue unabated considering that he takes all responsibility. Ridiculously, Obiano, a performing governor with enviable capital projects to showcase embezzled security votes and public funds but those with nothing to show are saints.
The dangerous implication is that the anti-graft agency has been hijacked and positioned for political abracadabra by desperate politicians. Emphatically, the president should consider reconstitution of EFCC. This ‘watchlists formula’ which was first introduced by Nuhu Ribadu during his tenure as EFCC helmsmen in Obasanjo’s administration for political persecution cannot flourish in this era. If the agency has substantial proof against any public office holder on corruption, the appropriate thing is to proceed accordingly. But to resort to media trials and blackmails, it is unacceptable.
From observations, the ‘watchlist’ only surfaces during election periods. So, Mr. President is under obligation to look into activities of the anti-graft agency which if not done expediently may affect credibility of 2023 general elections and tarnish his hard earned reputation. The president’s policy of noninterference in duties of MDAs is constructive, however, he must ensure that all government agencies working for him discharge their duties ethically, diligently and responsibly.
Umegboro, ACIArb, is a public affairs analyst and social advocate. (08023184542)