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PARADOX PARALYSIS

THE FAILED MAGUFULIFICATION OF NIGERIA’S ANTICORRUPTION DRIVE; PERSPECTIVES ON THE MAGU SAGA

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By Mark Adebayo

MAGUFULIFICATION was invented by the great and revered Kenyan academic, orator and pan-African patriot, Professor Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba as an acknowledgement of the unprecedented leadership virtues of the Tanzanian president, John Pombe Joseph Magufuli, aka Bulldozer, who, on ascension to office immediately activated incredibly revolutionary reforms on how government is run in a clear departure from the subsisting rots and wastages in his country. He simply “magufulified” operations of government, its agencies and parastatals via an ingenious suffocation of the channels of wastages, corruption and inefficiency by government and its officials. 

Tanzania, as typical of most African countries, was a hostage to corruption, wastages and inefficiency before a new Sheriff came to town in the person of the no-nonsense President Magufuli who radically changed the dynamics of government into a responsible, responsive and accountable social institution answerable to the people. He took one glance at the budget for the ‘celebration’ of the country’s independence anniversary and decided that the money be put to better use. He ordered the cancellation of the wasteful annual ceremonies and converted the money to the rehabilitation and widening of a major road in the capital city, Dar es Salaam, which had been a major traffic nightmare for decades. He cancelled all foreign trips by governments officials, including ministers with himself leading by example. All essential foreign trips have to get the approval of his office. In five years, Magufuli has hardly left his country except to travel to the AU meeting in Ethiopia, regional meetings in South Africa and Zimbabwe. There is no record of him traveling outside Africa since coming into office on 5th November, 2015. Nigeria’s president is a total opposite of this having traveled out of the country on about 72 occasions in his first four-year term the longest of which was staying outside the country for 103 days in London on medical tourism from May to August 2017, a direct contradiction to his campaign promise of ending medical tourism by government officials and vowing to lead by example in that aspect.
Each trip of Nigeria’s president abroad costs the country a minimum of Five Hundred Thousand dollars. That’s over Two Hundred Million Dollars per trip on the average! When the president was in London for 103 days, the presidential jet that took him there was costing Nigerian tax payers One Thousand Pounds daily as parking fees. That’s N50,470,000.00 in total.
The average fee charged for medical services in UK, London in particular, is £250 per hour. Multiply that by 24 hours in 103 days! The most laughable incident was when the president traveled to the UK in 2016 to treat what his senior spokesman, Garba Shehu, described as “a persistent ear infection”. If a country’s president travels abroad to treat an ear infection, it’s an indication of the total collapse of that country’s health infrastructures.
Contrarily, President Magufuli converted all avenues of waste to his country’s infrastructure development, attacked corruption frontally, eliminated contract inflation and cancelled all contracts approved by his predecessor that he believed were overinflated against the interests of Tanzania, including international contracts and loans. It was a bold move by a president committed to the development of his country. This was partly why Professor PLO Lumumba urged other African leaders to “Magufulify” their countries’ administration by adopting Magufuli’s styles and actions.
Back home, a Magu was appointed as head of Nigeria’s most visible anticorruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Ibrahim Magu is a Deputy Commissioner of Police. At EFCC’s inception, the pioneer chairman of the EFCC, Nuhu Ribadu, another police officer, gave the Commission the necessary fear factor that made many corrupt individuals cringe at the mention of EFCC. While his styles were criticized as questionable and often extralegal, he seemed to be succeeding in his anticorruption onslaughts until political interferences especially from the presidency during Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration began to compromise the credibility and effectiveness of the Commission. It became increasingly seen as an instrument of political victimisation of the critics and opponents of the government. A practice inherited by subsequent administrations after Obasanjo’s.
Corruption, in the Nigerian context, is a weaponised criminal political machinery with the predictable values of criminal enrichment of a negligible but powerful few, mass impoverishment of the people, aggressive underdevelopment, institutional malfunctioning, deprivation of basic needs for the citizens and their deliberate dehumanisation and the ultimate driving of the country into regressive status of state failure. All these negativities are actuated by wanton systemic and clinical mass robbery of state resources by the parasitic elite classes with unprecedented impunity and reckless abandon.
Corruption is terroristic in nature and employs the powers of state to destroy the state by a system of insidious but fatal installments.  Nigeria’s variant of state robbery is decisively aggressive, barefaced, exhibitionistic and coordinated. There is no real war on corruption here, but there is a ceaseless war by corruption against the Nigerian state. They are killing this country by a thriving corruption industry.
That’s why nothing works.
In the year 2000, the World Health Organisation ranked Nigeria 187th out of 190 countries. We were ranked worse than a country that was barely out of a destructive civil war, Liberia in186th position. Malawi (185th), Mozambique (184th), and Lesotho (183rd) were all ranked above the “giant of Africa”.
What shame!
In Nigeria, you see a public official with an annual salary of less than twenty million Naira riding a fleet of cars worth fifty million Naira each. They’re so comfortable advertising their loots that they engage in secondary oppression of Nigerians by videoing and publishing their obscene stolen wealth – expensive cars, mansions acquired home and abroad, jeweleries and so on. A particular ex senator is so notorious for periodic infantile exhibition of his public robbery loots.
When Magu was appointed in acting capacity as EFCC’s chairman, he got a good media review initially. But immediately the president sent his name to the 8th Senate for confirmation in substantive capacity, the Department of State Services wrote a scathing security report against him to the Senate to prevent his confirmation. The summary of that report was that Magu was allegedly an active member of the gang of criminal looters in the country and, therefore, wasn’t fit to be trusted with an organisation established to catch those looters and punish them.
The DSS security reports, as revealed by the then Senate spokesman, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, contained damning allegations against Magu. He was alleged, inter alia, to be “maintaining a high profile style”. An example of that was that he was allegedly occupying a residence rented for N40,000,000.00 at the rate of N20,000,000.00 per anum which was allegedly paid for by one Rtd. Air Commodore Umar Mohammed described by the DSS as “a questionable businessman” once arrested by the service, and the residence furnished at the cost of N43, 000,000.00.
Magu was alleged to engage in “disclosure of classified information” and “hobnobbing with suspects being investigated by the Commission”. He was said to have once been redeployed from the EFCC back to the Police and subsequently suspended from the force itself after days of detention for “illegal possession of sensitive EFCC documents” in December 2010. It was reported that the Police Service Commission found Magu guilty of “action prejudicial to state security, withholding of EFCC files,  sabotage, unauthorized removal of EFCC files, and acts unbecoming of a police officer”. He was left off the hook lightly with mere “severe reprimand” as punishment.
Under the allegation of “hobnobbing with suspects”, Magu was alleged to have traveled in a private jet owned by Umar Mohammed in company of one Nnamdi Okonkwo then being investigated by the EFCC over complicity in funds allegedly stolen by the ex minister of petroleum, Diezani Allison-Madueke. This was in tandem with another allegation of him approaching “clients”, meaning those under investigation by the Commission or likely to be, for possible “exploitation, favours, and associated returns”.
Magu was alleged by the DSS of traveling first-class against presidential directive to all public servants to fly economy.
The DSS concluded its security report on Magu thus;
“In the light of the foregoing, Magu has failed the integrity test and will eventually constitute a liability to the anticorruption drive of the present administration”.
It beggars all reasoning how the presidency missed all these happenings regarding the former acting chairman of the EFCC, especially the one when Magu was even temporarily suspended from the Police force due to being found culpable of the weighty and scandalous allegations against him by the Police Service Commission in 2010! This administration assumed office in 2015, and one wonders how it somehow managed not to have found out about Magu’s alleged shady past but went ahead to appoint him in acting capacity and even attempted to confirm him substantively. Anyways, that’s not surprising considering the shoddy manners this government has handled the affairs of the country generally. Due diligence seems of zero priority with this government.
Of course, there are those who believe that Magu is being unjustly victimised and it’s the way of corruption fighting back. Until the final outcome of the Presidential Investigative Committee headed by retired Justice Ayo Salami is known, my attitude is that Magu remains innocent until proven guilty and nobody should also justify him without concrete evidence of his innocence after a thorough and impartial investigation. Some NGOs who allegedly benefitted from Magu’s largesse are alleged to be the ones campaigning for his release and reinstatement as EFCC chairman, while the corrupt who Magu had dealt with are alleged to be behind his travails.
The current allegations against Magu are even weightier and more damnatory than those contained in the earlier DSS report. He is being alleged to have relooted recovered loots, selling of confiscated properties at giveaway prices to cronies and the so-called “Magu boys” in the EFCC, plus “insubordination” to the office of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, who himself is enmeshed in allegations of corruption and misuse of the powers of his office. The recent lavish wedding he gave his son and the ostentatious lifestyles of his children who are still in their early tweenies have been a subject of public interrogation. While the AGF has denied the speculation that he bought a multimillion Naira property for the newlyweds, he has not been able to satisfactorily respond to how his children came about the expensive cars they ride and some properties in Abuja allegedly owned by at least one of his sons who does not have any visible means of livelihood to maintain such extremely expensive lifestyles. He was accused of breaking both the NCDC social distancing regulations as guests at his son’s wedding were far more than the twenty instructed by the NCDC and did nothing to cover their noses. Moreover, Naira note was recklessly abused as it was “sprayed” openly in torrents alongside hard currencies especially dollars in direct violation against such practice in the country. The AGF has refused to produce soldiers allegedly responsible for killing policemen on official duty to Taraba state to arrest a notorious kidnapper known as Wadumi in Court despite several request to do so by the lawyers of the families of the slain policemen. That’s a blatant misuse of power. It would seem that the chief law officer of the land is the one breaking the laws.  Anyone coming to equity must come with clean hands.
Is Magu a victim of corrupt power play determined to mangle his modest achievements as an anticorruption Czar, a Magoo – straightforward person – being unjustly vilified or a magot of corruption deserving of his travails on the altar of justice? At his confirmation hearing in the Senate, Ibrahim Magu did little to make Nigerians doubt the allegations of the DSS against him.
When asked by the Senators to respond to those allegations, he reportedly replied that “My written submissions on the DSS allegations against me are with the Presidency. I didn’t know that I would be asked questions from the DSS letter. So, I didn’t come with them”.
I’m curious, though, as to how a police officer of his rank wouldn’t have anticipated that the questions most relevant to his confirmation hearing would come up and did nothing to prepare for it. That’s a big question mark on his capacity for good judgement as a head of such a major and critical investigatory agency like the EFCC. Even if he didn’t come with whatever he wrote to the Presidency, the allegations were such that anyone affected should be capable of defending himself offhand without necessarily being armed with comprehensive documentation. Those who accused him of a deliberate act of omission on that occasion may be justified in this context.
The anticorruption “war” has long been compromised as against the promising expectations of Nigerians in 2014/15 that President Muhammadu Buhari was going to be the ultimate game changer from the debilitating rot of the Jonathan administration. His pedigree as a military head-of-state made Nigerians trust that he would replicate a regime of disciplined governance and accountable management of the country’s resources. But, alas!, five years down the line, the expectations have been mostly dashed.
One thing that has continued to be emphasized by the critics of the president’s anticorruption drive are some of his appointees with corruption baggage being investigated by the EFCC but that the president saw nothing amiss in appointing them as senior government officials including ministerial positions.
An ex governor appointed minister in the current administration had the 48 houses earlier  seized from him by the EFCC returned to him soon after the President came into office at his first term. The immediate past national chairman of the All Progressives Party, the president’s Party, had declared publicly that anyone who joined the Party would have their “sins forgiven”. This led to many prominent politicians and former public office holders decamping to the ruling Party with the expectation that they would be protected from prosecution. In fairness, some of them aren’t finding that so easy.
There is no way a former governor can defend having 48 houses if not proceeds of corruption. There is nothing esoteric about understanding that. Therefore, appointing such an individual to head a key ministry in the government was deliberate action to damn how Nigerians feel about the barefaced robbery of their country. It is an insult!
Moreover, when the president declared that the late military head-of-state, the notorious General Sanni Abacha, was not corrupt, one would wonder if he was really serious about his promises to fight a war against corruption. Not a few Nigerians, including labour and civil society organisations, raised their voices against a sheer display of what amounted to arrogant waste of state resources when in January 2020 one of the president’s daughters named Aisha Hanan flew a presidential jet when she went on a “study tour” of the Bauchi Emirate as part of her fieldwork “for her ongoing Master’s Programme in photography”. How did that even sound to anyone of sound mind? How can anyone trust a government that allows such clearly irresponsible indiscretion to fight corruption except for engaging in ineffectual window-dressing and empty propaganda?
For Nigeria to be liberated from the destructive scourge of corruption, the country requires a sincerely patriotic, capable, and determined leadership with a revolutionary mentality beholden to no political power base and not held hostage by self-contradictory sentiments.
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