Will the president wait for another ‘gate’ to open before he tightens the reins of his presidency? Or will he begin to demonstrate leadership by taking decisive decisions? There is no telling who exactly the key man to this present ‘gate’ is. But reason points back to the president, as another gloss-over of these events will put yet another dent on public confidence in the president’s integrity…
‘Mainagate’. Nigerians are confronted with yet another sorry tale of recklessness in an on-going thread of the discordant exercise of official functions and administrative disarray. This time, Abdulrasheed Maina, the otherwise forgotten former head of the Presidential Task Team on Pension Reforms under former President Goodluck Jonathan, who is most famous for evading prosecution in 2013, is at the centre of this new saga.
Maina had been duly dismissed from the civil service by the Federal Civil Service Commission in 2013 after allegations of fraud and embezzlement were brought against him by a Senate committee. He fled the country after he was declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). His recent reappearance and re-instatement into the federal civil service seem to have enjoyed the support of the upper hierarchy of the civil service and the top law officer of the country.
As soon as the news of his quiet re-instatement broke out, Abdulrahman Dambazau, the minister of interior and Winifred Oyo-Ita, head of the federal civil service, were quick to wash their hands off responsibility. It was as though it were possible that his reappearance and subsequent re-instatement through the ministry of interior, could occur without their knowledge, or was altogether false.
But thanks to the excellent journalistic work of PREMIUM TIMES, the renowned online news outlet which broke the story, we now know more than the advocates would wish the people to know. The newspaper revealed evidence of their correspondence that exposed the careful manoeuvre of words and calculated sidestepping in letters, which is common in the civil service hierarchy when officers are deflecting liability. It was then that it became clear, at least from the deliberate wordings of the letters, that none other than Abubakar Malami, the attorney-general of the federation (AGF), was the originator of the move. Oyo-Ita, who is reported to have initially resisted the move, masterfully passed the buck, while Dambazau, whose ministry made the final decision, and the AGF who gave the initial directive, are left with soiled hands in this roiling scandal.
At a Senate hearing on the scandal, the AGF said he acted in “public interest” in initiating the move. He also stated that with clearance from his principal, the president, he is ready to make full disclosure and clarifications. From his veiled remarks so far, it is easy to pinpoint the AGF as the key to the unfolding scandal. As a man answerable to the president, one may wonder if the buck does not rise further than the AGF’s office.
So where does the buck stop? President Harry Truman, the 33rd president of the United States of America, is reported to have kept a sign on his desk reading “the buck stops here”, meaning, as the commander-in-chief, ultimate responsibility for decisions and outcomes, rests with him. Over the past couple of months, after episodes of different scandals, we have had numerous feedback suggesting that President Muhammadu Buhari may have been unaware of the questionable acts or motives of his appointees. It has become methodical in the damage control strategy of the Presidency, but it is becoming old and wearisome for the president to continue to feign ignorance over some of the acts that are ascribed to his officials.
It has come to the point where we need to start asking whether Malami and Magu serve the same principal, or whether the entire country is being played for fools in the president’s theatre of scandals.
This is why Buhari’s immediate directive that Maina be ‘disengaged’ from the civil service may not have the desired effect that the Presidency wishes it to have on the mood of the public. The list of things the president seems to be unaware of is growing by the day and the people are becoming sceptical and wary at the possibilities of the president being so disengaged from his officials. Already, we know that Maina has been entering and leaving the country at will and the Department of State Services (DSS), and interestingly, the police, have been offering him and his properties protection since his disappearance in 2013. It, therefore, seems all the more unlikely that the president is unaware of Maina’s eventual emergence and reinstatement.
The truth is that Maina seems to have leveraged on powerful people in the corridors of power. This may explain why the president’s men seem blind to his unsavoury history, but instead, focus on legalese as justification for re-engaging a ‘fugitive’. Okoi Obono-Obla, the president’s special assistant on prosecution said last Monday in an interview on Channels Television that Maina has not been convicted by any court and as such, he sees no ground for the uproar about his re-absorption into the federal civil service. This is an insult on the intelligence of Nigerians. It is also, a tacit pronouncement that the much orchestrated war against corruption is dead and awaiting final interment.
The special assistant may not be wrong. Maina’s arrest warrant by a court in 2015 was extinguished by a subsequent court pronouncement in 2016. Even his red-listing by Interpol is not technically an international arrest warrant, as Interpol revealed it was only a haphazard request from Nigeria that was not followed by necessary processes to include him on the wanted person’s list on Interpol’s website.
Since Ibrahim Magu assumed office as acting EFCC boss, he seems to be the only one going after Maina. This is in direct conflict with the attitude of the AGF to Maina. It has come to the point where we need to start asking whether Malami and Magu serve the same principal, or whether the entire country is being played for fools in the president’s theatre of scandals. One thing is certain and that is, Maina’s re-emergence did not occur overnight and members of the president’s team, if not the president himself, may have been in contact with him before now, with the knowledge of his whereabouts.
As Magu begins doing what he does best – confiscating properties, Maina’s family has claimed that he inherited several houses from his late father. That reminds me of the quantum of foreign currencies allegedly found in an account which Patience Jonathan claimed belongs to her late mother.
One wonders what it will take for a Buhari appointee to be axed in the face of these recurring monumental scandals. One also wonders when the president will borrow a leaf from Truman and start taking responsibility. It is also beyond comprehension how the Jonathan government, again, has somehow been blamed for ‘Mainagate’.
Maina is an archetype of the civil servant in Nigeria, whose properties and lifestyle always exceed their means. So, it is not a question of whether he had illegally enriched himself; the fact that he can afford to flee the country whenever he desires, is already a testament to vast means that his civil service rank and stipend, cannot support. He is said to have been living in Dubai. As soon as the spotlight hit him, he should have been done from the civil service forever. So, Malami’s claims hold no water.
The real questions now are: Why didn’t the EFCC move to confiscate these properties that were being protected with tax payer’s money before now? Why hasn’t Maina shown his face in public if he believes he is innocent of the allegations? Why are the DSS and EFCC always on opposing sides? And why has President Buhari not corrected the discord between his agencies after several occurrences? Instead of asking whether the president followed due process by directing Maina’s disengagement, we need to be asking these questions, as a pattern is forming that is unflattering to the intelligence of the populace.
Properties, money and other resources have been confiscated in this administration, but ‘heads have not rolled’ as Nigerians are wont to say. One wonders what it will take for a Buhari appointee to be axed in the face of these recurring monumental scandals. One also wonders when the president will borrow a leaf from Truman and start taking responsibility. It is also beyond comprehension how the Jonathan government, again, has somehow been blamed for ‘Mainagate’.
Will the president wait for another ‘gate’ to open before he tightens the reins of his presidency? Or will he begin to demonstrate leadership by taking decisive decisions? There is no telling who exactly the key man to this present ‘gate’ is. But reason points back to the president, as another gloss-over of these events will put yet another dent on public confidence in the president’s integrity and leadership ability. This plague of ‘gates’ must stop.
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