When President Muhammadu Buhari’s initially lauded anti-graft war first started to totter, the convenient narrative by the government information machinery was that “corruption was fighting back”. No attempt at doing a scientific review of the process to ascertain what the problem was and thus, government could not see that the drive was evidently selective and incontrovertibly one-sided.
A few months down, with the stench of corruption oozing out of the seat of power, it is clear now that corruption is actually not fighting back as government intends to make all believe. Rather it is government that is actually patting corruption on the back and consciously making Nigeria the infamous ‘Animal Farm’, where certain animals are more equal than the others.
Without much ado, it appears that the fowl is fast coming home to roost as the case of the former chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), Abdulrasheed Maina, has helped to illuminate the façade of Buhari’s anti-corruption fight much more than the other examples before it. From the conflicting stories filtering out of the corridors of power, it is clear that something is disturbingly amiss about the Buhari leadership in terms of capacity to fight the scourge.
Maina was dismissed in 2013 by the federal civil service commission for absconding from duty. This followed a recommendation by the office of the head of service. He was accused of being involved in pension fraud running into over N100 billion. Soon after an investigation by the senate joint committee on public service and establishment and state and local government administration, a warrant of arrest was issued against him
and he was consequently declared wanted by the police. But he seized the opportunity of the moment to go into hiding. He allegedly fled to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which reportedly prompted his dismissal.
As a result, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) declared him wanted too, aside the police, while the Interpol issued a worldwide red alert on him based on a request from the EFCC. But four years after this well-articulated rollercoaster, Maina found his way back into the country and of course, the federal civil service.
First, the swirling story that three top officials in the Buhari government, namely, the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Winifred Oyo-Ita; the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau; and the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami; were major players in the Maina scam, elicits genuine concern about “who is in charge?”
In a letter dated September 17, 2017, the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) made a strong case for Maina’s reinstatement, apparently orchestrated by the trio of Dambazau, Malami and Oyo-Ita. Although Maina has tried to defend the corruption allegation, saying pension thieves were the ones after him, and much as this does not justify the curve he has travelled since the news of the allegation broke, Malami, on his part, has said he did what he did in the nation’s interest.
Dambazau, who had initially confirmed Maina’s reinstatement and posting to his ministry, has yet to speak since the President ordered Maina’s immediate sack and issued a query to the head of service following the nationwide anger generated by his reinstatement. But Oyo-Ita has come forward to deny her involvement in the mess, which if correct, leaves both Malami and Dambazau only in the ‘witness box’.
Again, the fact that Maina was said to have had federal security protection all the while he was on the run leaves much to be desired. Therefore, the shock expressed by the ruling All Progressives Party (APC) that it was embarrassed by the development is of no consequence, not even the face-saving move by the EFCC, Kaduna zonal office, which swooped on Maina’s properties and sealed six of them.
But there is no debating the fact that Buhari is fast blowing away the goodwill extended to him in good conscience by the Nigerian people in 2015. The staggering ineptitude of his government has become quite alarming coupled with his perceived bigotry, a sad reminder of a Nigeria no one wishes for. Over the past two years, the Buhari administration had left too many things unattended – brashly thriving on an impossible body language and failing to realise that silence could be complicit in certain instances.
Of course, the Maina episode is not the last to be heard of the sad tales coming from this administration. Guess what the joke of Maina’s scam is? The presidency still blamed former President Goodluck Jonathan as it has always done whenever it fell flat, even when Maina himself thinks Buhari is complicit in his excessive indulgence. And to think nothing may likely come out of the ordered investigation makes the entire episode another charade of monumental proportion.
Olawale Olaleye is ThisDay’s political editor. This article first appeared on ThisDay.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.