By Godwin Onyeacholem*
As some of the most disagreeable voices on and off the floor of the senate had threatened when the National Assembly was on recess, the so-called red chamber, on resumption, made good the recurrent ominous assertions by these elements. In a move that seemed like the senate was being propelled by a vengeful demon, Ali Ndume was removed as the senate leader. To say the least, his ouster had nothing to do with due process. It was a classic clinical act laced with all the ingredients of perfidy for which the current senate is notorious.
The precursor of this mean undertaking deserves a brief recap. On December 15, 2016, senate spokesman, Aliyu Abdullahi, had announced to the world that the senate had “rejected” the nomination of Ibrahim Magu for confirmation as substantive chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) because a security report by the Department of State Service (DSS). Four days later, emerging from a meeting with President Muhammadu, Senator Ndume told State House reporters that the senate at its executive session did not reject Magu, but only agreed to stand down his confirmation and await the outcome of a clarification on the report from President Muhammadu Buhari.
Although the senate – again through a seemingly piqued Abdullahi who at a press conference affirmed himself as the authentic spokesman of the legislative body – promptly rallied back by insisting Magu was “rejected,” it was clear from then on that Ndume had on the basis of his widely publicised contrarian position become a sitting duck for many of his shady colleagues in the senate. Some of them publicly boasted that the matter of his audacious counterpoise would be resolved on the floor soon as the senate resumed. And so, on January 10, 2017, when the senate resumed, Ndume unknowingly walked back into the chamber from a prayer-break, amid proceedings, into the waiting arms of his colleagues’ most brutal Machiavellian concoction of his removal as the leader of the senate.
The reason for his removal was clear to all and sundry, but this senate would not admit it. The public knows that Senator Ndume was sacked for having the guts to let the people in on the true picture of proceedings at the senate’s closed-door session as it relates to Magu, namely, that the decision at that session was that his confirmation be withheld pending Buhari’s response to the security report; that confirmation does not happen at such a forum; that a genuine process of confirmation cannot be started at an executive session; that as per the matter of the acting EFCC chairman, there was nothing like rejection in the manner the senate conducted that day’s proceedings; that the issue of Magus’s rejection was never mentioned at the forum, and that rejection was an invention “smuggled in” only after the decision to suspend his confirmation had been agreed by all senators.
This exposé was what pushed Ndume’s colleagues to move against him, thus making him the proverbial sacrificial lamb on the altar of a legitimate support for the acting chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, a man who, through his work so far, has convinced a great majority of Nigerians that he possesses the ability, capacity and is also imbued with the integrity to hold the office to which he was rightly appointed by President Buhari.
At this point, it must be reiterated that there were two security reports on Magu from the same source – a first one which was unfavourable to his confirmation; and a second report which pointedly recommended his confirmation by the senate in view of his sterling achievements in an acting capacity. Why the senate chose to ignore the second report that called for his confirmation and focused instead on the first one should be of great concern to President Buhari. Of this very second report, senate president Bukola Saraki is very much aware. Then, if there isn’t more to it why didn’t the senate work with this report?
It is important to present this narrative, which is highly credible, so that President Buhari would understand that all this is not about Magu being unsuitable for the position of chairman of EFCC, but about a grand scheme of a formidable network of highly placed crooked persons in and outside government who are hell-bent on stopping him given the rare vigour and impetus he has introduced to the anti-corruption crusade.
These persons are aware that with the manner Magu is carrying on, many of them are already being exposed, arrested and prosecuted. And they reckon that if not immediately nipped in the bud, this strange occurrence that threatens their deep-rooted regime of corruption would ultimately see most of them end up in jail. This is the only reason behind the ongoing well-coordinated move to stop Magu by any means necessary.
But President Buhari should remain firm and not succumb to the prejudiced opinions and sheer blackmail of those working hard to blunt if not completely eliminate the refined cutting-edge of the anti-corruption campaign symbolized by the current leadership of the EFCC. He knows many of these agents of retrogression, and some of them even thrive under his very nose. There is no doubt that in Magu, the president made one of the finest choices of his administration considering the fact that both share almost an equal level of revulsion for a monster that has virtually crippled Nigeria, and which Buhari has placed on top his “change” agenda.
Yes, Magu is not the only person who can do the job. But in a heavily corrupted, depraved and contaminated society hobbled by elite bankruptcy such as Nigeria is, it is hard to find a man like him packed with the fearlessness, ruggedness, tenacity and firmness to confront high-profile thieves and politically exposed persons (PEPs) in and out of government without surrendering to their threats, intimidation or mouth-watering offers depending on their presumed capabilities.
And besides this uniqueness of character, Magu, realizing that government alone cannot effectively fight corruption, is strengthening the public component of the anti-corruption war by working to ensure that the people, the multitude who are the real victims of corrupt practices, see the war as theirs and become the foot soldiers.
This accounts for his engagement with Nigerians from all walks of life, his pragmatic interface with civil society, as well as frequent tours across state capitals, towns, and hamlets, to stimulate awareness on the danger corruption poses to the well-being of Nigeria.
Even with the confirmation hurdle to cross, Magu has gone about his task with utmost dedication and passion. If President Buhari and his government want the anti-corruption war to succeed, clearly their best bet is to stick with Magu. And the first step in that process is to resubmit his name to the senate for confirmation.
*Godwin Onyeacholem is a journalist. He can be reached on email@example.com