By Bala Ibrahim
Since his famous speech, wherein he uttered the words, “I belong to everybody, and I belong to nobody”, PMB has been under the constant scrutiny of the public, particularly the political critics. The most prominent areas of challenge and criticism of the President are, his perceived indolence or even indifference, especially on matters that have to do with his loyalists, the twin problems of insurgency by Boko Haram extremists, and the cancer of corruption in the country.
There are examples abound, of varying degrees of infringements, where superiors acted wrongly against subordinates, and by extension against the law and national conscience, sometimes even against those who made sacrifices for the president, or where trustees are abusing the trust, but for some reasons, the President simply keeps silent, or pretend not to know about it, untill the situation worsens.
It’s either the president doesn’t want to name and shame these erring public servants for fear of political backlash or is unknowingly turning into a voodoo victim. From all indications, it seems, having identified and studied the weaknesses of the president, these same people continue to wreck havoc on the system because they know what he would do, or not do. He would not want to name them, because he doesn’t want to shame them.
Perturbed by such happenings, and inspired by the saying of the famous Irish political philosopher, Edmund Burke, that, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”, the former military governor of Kaduna state, Col. Abubakar Dangiwa Umar, sometimes back, wrote a letter to the President, where he lampooned him over what he described as his skewed appointments into the offices of the Federal Government, and the drowsy or sleepy style of leadership under his watch.
Although the government had reacted in fury, disputing everything in the accusations, going by the speed and spate of events, particularly the reluctance, or failure of the government to make public, the names of the country’s economic saboteurs, makes many think there is more to the issue than meets the eye.
Triggered by the President’s speech on Democracy Day of June 12, 2020, where he said, “the government has recovered looted funds in excess of N800 billion, and after waiting for nearly three months without any mention of the people behind such atrocity, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has dragged the president to court on Friday.
Joined in the suit as respondents are Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, as well as Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning.
The organisation wants the court to compel the president to reveal the names of the looters, specific dates of the recovery, and details of projects on which the money has been spent.
Since 2016, when the government introduced the whistle-blowing Policy in Nigeria, in an attempt to boost the anti-corruption fight, and encourage people to voluntarily disclose information about fraud, bribery, looted government funds, financial misconduct, government assets and any other form of corruption or theft to the Federal Ministry of Finance, public expectations have gone high, that many saboteurs would be named and shamed.
The policy provides that if the government is able to recover stolen or concealed assets through information provided by a whistle-blower, then he/she may be entitled to between 2.5%-5.0% of the amount recovered. To qualify for the reward, the whistle-blower must provide the Government with information it does not already have and could not otherwise obtain from any other publicly available source to the Government. The actual recovery must also be because of the information provided by the whistle-blower.
Encouraging as the policy is, it does not provide any immunity from civil or criminal prosecution. What this means is that, if during the investigation, some of the evidence links a whistle-blower to partaking in the act of corruption or a related incident, the whistle-blower would not be immune from criminal prosecution. But since introduction, no culprit was named, nor any of the whistleblowers, even though the blowers are expected to be given some cover.
With humour and ingenuity, different people are now crafting different phrases to express their disenchantment with the situation at hand, and the commitment of the president to the philosophy of, “I am for all, I am for none”.
One of such phrases is the one cynically crafted in Hausa, currently circulating in the social media and attrbuted to an old man, viz, “A maida Jonathan, amma aja masa kunne. Inji wani tsoho da yaje sayen masara”. The literal translation of the saying is, former president Jonathan should be returned to power, with a proviso that he gets counselled. This allegedly came from a disgruntled old man that went to buy maize, a cereal grain.
If the president cannot make haste to enter the book of fame, by naming and shaming the culprits behind Nigeria’s economic woos, then he stands the risk of receiving the verdict of posterity, that may see his promise as a sham
Bala Ibrahim, a Media Advisor writes from Abuja.