Buhari And The Cabinet Of Saints And Sinners, By Yushau A. Shuaib

Even after more than 20 years of graduation from Bayero University, Kano, my course-mates still refer to me as ‘Idiagbon’, the alias I bore as a fanatical supporter of the previous military administration of Generals Muhammadu Buhari and Tunde Idiagbon.

As an undergraduate, I took delight in writing articles defending the duo for their exemplary leadership qualities of discipline, incorruptibility and fearlessness demonstrated during their 18 months in office as Head of State and Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters respectively.

One of such articles published in the Triumph of November 13, 1991 was a response to a cover story reported by Etosa Iroh in the Nigerian Tribune of October 31, 1991 on the verbal attack on Buhari by Governor John Madaki of Katsina State. In my rejoinder titled: “Haba Governor Madaki,” http://yashuaib.com/1991/11/haba-governor-madaki/ I took on the then military administrator for insisting that Buhari, the then Chairman of the Katsina Foundation, should release some money to him. Not only did I castigate Madaki on his insistence, I justified the refusal of Buhari to release the fund because the request did not follow due process.

Many Nigerians have consistently remained supportive and convinced that Buhari is the best to tackle ‘sinful’ acts of corruption. Nigeria being a deeply religious country, a corrupt person is tagged as a sinner while those that had not held public office and lived within their means are referred to as saints. Acts of immorality, wrongdoing, wickedness, dishonesty are not merely corruption but sins against God Almighty.

When he was running for office, Nigerians had thought that Buhari would battle corruption with single mindedness by departing from the previous strategy of merely mouthing anti-corruption. It was thought that he would embark on a comprehensive probe of past administrations and appoint only untainted individuals, or saints rather than sinners into his government.

The unnecessary delay in the announcement of the ministerial nominees gave room to speculations that not only saints but angels might emerge as the new crop of ministers. We expected more youths who are innocent and clean; more technocrats who are professionally competent; and more women who had been at the background in the anticipated ‘saintly’ cabinet. We thought politicians would be assigned to part-time jobs, rather than full-term appointments to avoid the politicisation of national and sensitive issues.

Meanwhile, party members expect rewards of juicy appointments for contributing resources to the political victory. They believe in a business model that recognises profits and rewards for investors’ contributions. It is public knowledge that the two major political parties, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) mobilised most of their financial resources through public office.

When alarms were raised over monetary inducements and reckless political spending during the campaigns, none of the major contenders for public offices questioned the sources of funding of the electioneering because doing so at that period might jeopardise their political aspirations.

Currently, anti-corruption agencies are proving cases of looting and mopping of public funds in all tiers of government through over-inflated contracts and expenditures on non-existing projects to ensure electoral victory. The major suspects are politicians, with most of them elected and appointed into public offices.

The initial appointments of little known and strange people into top positions by Buhari were hailed as a departure from the past. That early optimism has, however, been tempered by subsequent nominations of cabinet ministers and their confirmation by the Senate. The list was truly a combination of both the saints, who are not identified with corruption and the sinners who are alleged to be corrupt.

This unfortunate dilemma could have been avoided if President Buhari had, immediately after assuming office, compensated political investors for their contributions to his victory without preachment on corruption of the past. He could, as well, have declared that after the swearing-in of the new administration, anyone caught for corrupt practices would not only be arrested and prosecuted but listed in the National Database of Corrupt People (NDCP).

Meanwhile, it is worthy of note that there has been more noise on corruption of the past than setting concrete agenda to avoid the pitfalls of the past. There could be collateral damages if average Nigerian civil servants, especially those in Abuja are probed to justify the sources of their comfortable livelihood outside their meagre but legitimate remunerations when the untouchable campaign fund mobilisers and political godfathers are yet to be queried on their sources of wealth in influencing political decisions.

A sincere war against corruption campaign, especially on past misdeeds, can be handled in a more refined, matured and responsible manner devoid of suspicious antics that could be condemned as mere political witch-hunt.