President Buhari Is Not Against Corruption, By Femi Aribisala
It is one thing to talk against corruption. It is another thing altogether to be against corruption. President Buhari only talks against corruption. His body language and policy options show conclusively that he is not really against corruption. Buhari’s anti-corruption is merely a means to an end.
Muhammadu Buhari ran for election as president of Nigeria in 2003, 2007 and 2011. He failed woefully on all three occasions. He failed because he did not have the attributes that Nigerians wanted in a president. Many, I including, felt he was too sectional. His stint as military head-of-state between 1984 and 1985 was eloquent testimony of this.
Among other misdeeds, Buhari preferred a Fulani from Niger to an Igbo from Nigeria as secretary-general of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). He locked Vice President Alex Ekwueme, an Igbo, in jail; but only put President Shehu Shagari, a Fulani, under house arrest. He told Lam Adesina of Oyo State that the Fulani herdsmen of the North are his people, as opposed to the Yoruba farmers of the South. He proclaimed a determination to install sharia law all over the federation.
As a result, in 2011, out of a total of 30 million votes cast, Buhari could only muster 391,922 votes from all the states of the entire Southern Nigeria.
However, in 2015, Buhari ran for president yet again, and succeeded. He succeeded for one singular reason: He ran on an anti-corruption platform. By 2015, Nigerians were fed up with the rampant corruption that took place under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). While then President Goodluck Jonathan himself was not believed to be corrupt, the popular perception was that he tolerated corruption. Indeed, it was believed that corruption got to an unacceptable level under his stewardship.
Enter, therefore, an image-laundered and refurbished Muhammadu Buhari, smelling of roses. Buhari was presented to Nigerians as our home-grown “Mr. Integrity.” He mesmerised a gullible electorate seeking a corruption-free presidential Messiah with a highfaluting anti-corruption rhetoric: “We cannot build an economy where corruption is the working capital.” “I will kill corruption before it kills Nigeria.”
As a result, many Nigerians who had been implacably opposed to him in his earlier three election campaign efforts, swung to his support. These included Nigeria’s Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, who had earlier warned that: “In Buhari, we have been offered no evidence of the sheerest prospect of change.” It also included men like Nasir El-Rufai, who observed earlier that Buhari remains “perpetually unelectable” as a result of his “insensitivity to Nigeria’s diversity and his parochial focus.” Even his former political nemesis, Olusegun Obasanjo, became his supporter.
However, after nearly four years in power, we now know that President Buhari has no real anti-corruption clothes. It is one thing to talk against corruption. It is another thing altogether to be against corruption. President Buhari only talks against corruption. His body language and policy options show conclusively that he is not really against corruption. Buhari’s anti-corruption is merely a means to an end. That end is not to rid Nigeria of corruption but to get into power and stay in power.
If President Buhari was truly against corruption, he would not have agreed to serve under Sani Abacha, one of the most corrupt heads-of-state ever in the history of Nigeria. In 1994, Abacha appointed Buhari as chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF). Between 1994 and 1999, the PTF had a colossal budget of N181 billion. If President Buhari was truly Mr. Integrity, it would not have been discovered that the PTF he presided over was riddled with corruption.
In 1999, President Obasanjo set up an Interim Management Committee (IMC), headed by Haroun Adamu, to investigate the activities of the PTF. While today, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is haranguing Ayodele Fayose over N6.9 billion, in 1999, the Adamu Committee discovered that a whopping N25 billion disappeared from PTF coffers under Buhari’s stewardship.
Nigerians need to know that, under Buhari, the PTF specialised in buying expired drugs. A team of pharmacists commissioned to verify the Drugs Revolving Fund Programmes of the PTF discovered the prevalence of expired drugs all over the country, worth over N2.4 billion. Ambulances that could have been purchased for N3 million were inflated under Buhari’s stewardship to N13 million, resulting in a loss of N900 million.
How can Buhari be known as Mr. Integrity and yet have this kind of tack-record? The Haroun Adamu Committee insisted that Buhari himself should be probed by the government. However, because of the unspoken fraternity in Nigeria whereby generals don’t probe each other, Obasanjo declined the recommendation to probe Buhari.
The Adamu Committee discovered that in the PTF Assisted HIV/AIDS programmes under Buhari’s stewardship, there was an excessive order of HIV/AIDS kits, which resulted in most of the kits expiring before use, and gross inflation of the purchase price. This brought a loss of N579 million to the Fund. In the health sector, frames that could have been bought for N80 and N880 were inflated to N1,900, resulting in a loss of N13 million.
The Adamu Committee valued the PTF residential estate under Buhari at N328 million. However, the contract was inflated by N374 million to N703 million. The finances of the estate were so fishy that the Obasanjo government decided to confiscate the entire project. The same sharp practices were discovered with regard to the extension of the PTF headquarters under Buhari’s stewardship. The Committee valued the construction cost at N326 million, but this was inflated by Buhari’s PTF to N461 million, thereby defrauding the fund of N135 million.
In the rural water supply programme, the Committee was able to recover an estimated N1 billion paid illegally by Buhari’s PTF to contractors as a result of overpricing. In the National Health and Educational Institutions Rehabilitation programme, over N600 million was recovered from contractors due to non-performance and overpricing. In the National Educational Material Procurement Programme, N900 million was recovered.
The rural telecommunication programme was also riddled with fraud. Buhari’s PTF paid N1.6 billion as mobilisation for the programme without any contract being signed whatsoever. In the Administration Account, N664 million was recovered. In the Project Account, N2.4 billion in discrepancies was recovered. In the Treasury Account, N510 million was recovered.
How can Buhari be known as Mr. Integrity and yet have this kind of tack-record? The Haroun Adamu Committee insisted that Buhari himself should be probed by the government. However, because of the unspoken fraternity in Nigeria whereby generals don’t probe each other, Obasanjo declined the recommendation to probe Buhari. But earlier this year, Obasanjo expressed his regret at not probing Buhari, given the damning report about his stewardship at the PTF. The truth of the matter is that if Buhari was indeed anti-corrupt, he would not have presided over a corruption-riddled PTF.
Group Captain Usman Jibrin, a board member of the PTF, resigned from the organisation in protest over the blatant irregularities in Buhari’s appointment of the Afri-Project Consortium (APC) led by Salihijo Ahmad as consultants for the organisation. As a matter of fact, a principal actor in the PTF consultancy scam committed suicide immediately the probe into the organisation’s affairs was instituted for fear of being exposed.
If President Buhari were against corruption, he would not have been an advocate and defender of the criminally-corrupt. Nigerians need no convincing that former head-of-state, Sani Abacha, was corrupt. After his death, it was discovered that he stashed huge chunks of public funds running into billions of dollars in different countries in Europe.
Nevertheless, on the 10th anniversary of his death, Buhari told incredulous Nigerians that Abacha never stole. He maintained that all the allegations of looting the treasury leveled against him were “baseless.” He said: “ten years after Abacha, those allegations remain unproven because of lack of facts.”
Buhari held this position in spite of the millions of dollars of Abacha’s loot recovered from banks around the world, and in spite of the fact that the Abacha’s family signed a formal agreement to return over $1 billion of such monies to the Nigerian government. Paradoxically, the same president, who insisted Abacha never stole, said this to Nigerians through his Twitter handle in 2016: “Nigeria is awaiting receipt from Swiss Govt. of $320 million, identified as illegally taken from Nigeria under Abacha.”
So did Abacha steal or not? According to Mr. President, Abacha never stole because President Buhari was part and parcel of the Abacha administration. To admit Abacha was corrupt is to admit that the PTF he presided over under Abacha was also corrupt.
President Buhari cannot campaign for re-election on an anti-corruption platform when, in the last four years, he has condoned corruption among his cohorts. Corruption never disqualifies anyone from prominence in Buhari’s APC. Bisi Akande, the first chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), was jailed on corruption charges.
We can see, therefore, that President Buhari’s anti-corruption fervour is merely self-serving. He regards only his political opponents as having the copyright on corruption. By this token, every allegation of corruption leveled against his friends and financiers must be “baseless.” When Obasanjo supported him, Obasanjo was not a thief. Immediately Obasanjo stopped supporting him, Buhari alleged Obasanjo mismanaged a $16 billion power project as president.
As a result, in the last four years, President Buhari has prosecuted a war on corruption essentially against his political opponents. For Buhari, all PDP members are guilty of corruption until proven innocent. The president does not even wait for the verdict of the courts. The accused are tried and convicted in the media by the president and his cohorts, as long as they do not belong to the APC.
President Buhari cannot campaign for re-election on an anti-corruption platform when, in the last four years, he has condoned corruption among his cohorts. Corruption never disqualifies anyone from prominence in Buhari’s APC. Bisi Akande, the first chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), was jailed on corruption charges. The APC minority leader in the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, was convicted in the United States for defrauding a client.
A judicial commission of enquiry set up by the Rivers State government maintained that, under former Governor Rotimi Amaechi, now minister of transport, a whopping N53 billion disappeared from the Rivers State Reserve Fund. Babatunde Fashola, former governor of Lagos and now minister of works and housing, was accused of spending N78 million of government money upgrading his personal website and of inflating the cost of the Lekki-Ikoyi link-bridge from N6 billion to N25 billion. None of these cases were taken up by the EFCC.
A federal high court has ordered that criminal proceedings be instituted by the EFCC against APC chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, for corrupt enrichment as governor of Edo. If the court had not ordered this, it would clearly not have been done by the EFCC.
Abubakar Audu was under prosecution by the EFCC for misappropriating N11 billion of state funds when he was governor of Kogi State between 1999 and 2003. Nevertheless, he was nominated as APC governorship candidate for Kogi in 2015. In spite of the fact that the EFCC had filed charges of corruption against Timipre Sylva for defrauding Bayelsa State of N19 billion between 2009 and 2012; he nevertheless became the governorship candidate of the APC for Bayelsa in 2016.
Under this anti-corruption president, $43 million discovered in an apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos has been buried. Nothing more has been heard about the award of $25 billion worth of contracts without due process by Dr. Maikanti Baru, the group managing direct of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), as alleged by the minister of state for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu. The president has kept mum over the Department of State Services (DSS)’s indictment of the acting chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, and the report of the investigative panel on him set up by the attorney general of the federation (AGF).
Nothing more has been heard from the probe panel on the N500 million bribe allegedly paid by MTN to Abba Kyari, the chief of staff to the president, designed to influence the government to discontinue its heavy stance on the $5 billion fine imposed on the company. Then there was the Abdulrashid Maina scandal, whereby a man who turned fugitive when alleged to have misappropriated N2 billion of the pension fund and was on the EFCC wanted list, found his way back into the country and into the federal civil service with promotion.
We are still waiting to be told the owner of the Legico Shopping Plaza in Lagos where the EFCC claimed it found N448 million in cash. Under this administration, the corruption scandals are unrelenting. How can Buhari expect Nigerians to believe he is sincere in fighting corruption under these hypocritical circumstances?