By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
People who have read my column for the last few weeks might be led to suppose that I really do hate President Buhari, that I get kicks from criticizing him, and that I have imposed on myself the task of bringing down his government. Nothing can be further from the truth. I actually feel deep, biting pains any time I have a reason to criticize the president.
Read my column before and after the president’s electoral victory to see the depth of hopes I had invested in his government. In particular, read my May 16, 2015 article titled “6 Reasons Why Incoming Buhari Government Fills Me with Hope.” Nearly two years later, the Buhari government now fills me with disabling hopelessness.
Every week I take a decision to ignore the administration and its shenanigans, it never fails to do something so outrageous one can’t afford to ignore it. The administration keeps outdoing itself in hitting newer, deeper, more indefensible lows.
The latest is the president’s astonishingly bald-faced lies in defense of SGF Babachir David Lawal. In his letter to the Senate "clearing" Babachir David Lawal of multi-million naira "grass cutting" corruption scandal, the president said the senate didn't invite Lawal to defend himself. Lie. He WAS invited via a letter, which the permanent secretary attached to his office acknowledged, and via at least three newspaper adverts. But he spurned the invitation and sent a representative.
The president also said only three senate committee members signed the letter asking for Lawal's resignation and prosecution. Another lie. Seven senate committee members did. The president, in fact, omitted the name of Senator Shehu Sani, the chairman of the senate committee that indicted Babachir Lawal, in his letter to the senate!
Senator Mohammed Hassan of Yobe State whom the president, in his letter, said didn’t sign the senate committee report told journalists that he agreed with the committee’s recommendation that Babachir be fired and prosecuted. “Was there any member of the committee that kicked against the report?” he asked. “It is a committee work. We don’t have minority report.” In any case, he said, even if only three out of nine people signed it (which isn’t true), that’s enough to form a quorum by senate rules.
Similarly, Senator Mallam Ali Wakili of Bauchi State whom the president’s letter also named as one of the senators who didn’t sign the letter asking for SGF Lawal’s resignation and prosecution told the Daily Trust on January 25, 2017 that he did sign the letter. “Contrary to the President’s letter,” Daily Trust reported, “he signed the report of the committee.”
For me, a man who knowingly and intentionally lies has no integrity. What is worse, a man who defends the blatant corruption of his close aides while pretending to be fighting corruption involving his political opponents has no integrity.
How can anyone with even a smidgen of conscience defend a man who stole from desperately poor and vulnerable Boko Haram victims, a man who once publicly bragged about receiving a monetary bribe from Ebonyi State governor David Umahi, a man who is so brazenly corrupt he is tagged "cash and carry" in government circles?
This doesn't surprise me, though. In my December 24, 2016 column titled "Tragicomedy of a corrupt ‘anti-corruption’ government," I predicted what is happening now.
I wrote: “People who are intimate with President Buhari told me several months ago in the heat of my unrestrained enthusiasm over his emergence as president that he was morally and temperamentally unsuited to fight corruption. They said the undue premium the president 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 against close, loyal aides that he swept under the carpet at the PTF, The Buhari Organization (TBO), and at the defunct CPC. Babachir Lawal was a dominant figure in CPC; he knows President 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."
President Buhari has proved me right. He ignored the weighty substance of the senate committee’s submission and instead nitpicked procedural lapses in the committee’s work— using intentional, easily falsifiable lies—in order to save the neck of his “loyal” political associate.
Now President Buhari has reduced himself to the pathetic position of Clearer-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of “Executhief” Corruption.
Opponents of the president get ARRESTED and JAILED on the basis of mere ALLEGATIONS. Dasuki is still in jail in spite of court orders to release him on bail. Metuh, Abati, Fani-Kayode, etc. were all arrested and jailed on the basis of allegations. There was a midnight raid on judges' homes without any firm, foolproof evidence of their complicity in corruption. The president's corrupt opponents, in addition, get tried and smeared in the media by the EFCC.
To be clear, I have no sympathy for all of them. I think they deserve their fate.
But demonstrably corrupt Buhari associates are not only invariably shielded from prosecution, they are also mollycoddled by the president. They are serially "cleared," sometimes via dubious "technicalities" (such as in the case of Babachir David Lawal) by the "anti-corruption" president himself—as compromised and ethically dubious judges and lawyers do when they try and defend corrupt politicians. So Buhari is now indistinguishable from the corrupt people he claims to fight.
In Buhari's Nigeria, there are two judicial standards: the president's opponents are always guilty until proven innocent while the president's corrupt associates are always, always innocent until “cleared” by the president who now doubles as the Clearer-in-Chief of “Executhief” Corruption. Some way to fight corruption!