Here’s the deal. As someone who has written consistently to commend and credit Buhari’s persistent and tested integrity (a rare commodity among the Nigerian political class), I want to be able to say I have been right about the President’s incorruptibility–that his integrity has not been tainted. I am invested in that narrative because I don’t want his detractors to tell me “I told you so.” But that does not mean I would ignore what appears to be a serious, perhaps seminal, challenge to the President’s integrity claims. The latest recruitment scandal has folded tragically into the previous one and both of them now constitute an indictment on the presidency, which has refused to acknowledge let alone investigate these brazen incidents of corruption.
Here are the issues.
1. The illegal Central Bank recruitment exercise happened several months ago. It is a direct affront on the president’s avowed zero tolerance for corruption, an open sore, to paraphrase Soyinka, in the president’s principal claim to credibility. The president has allowed the exercise to stand, neither canceling it nor punishing those behind it. You’d think that such a radical denunciation of the President’s most prized political asset (integrity) would be swiftly dealt with. So far not even a statement has come from the presidency. Not only that, the president’s nephew was one of the beneficiaries of the illegally allocated jobs. This is indefensible, the president’s inaction inexplicable. And those who say he is a hypocrite and that his nephew being one of the beneficiaries has made him look the other way have an unassailable point, leaving defenders of the president’s integrity like me scrambling and scratching their heads. When you make yourself morally vulnerable, your political adversaries will pounce. The President and his APC allies did and would do the same too.
2. Saharareporters.com (SR) say they believe that the “Baba” and “Mama” references in the so-called sponsors list for the FIRS illegal recruitment are code names for the president and his wife. I share that belief, which is a reasonable inference given the instructive silence of Buhari and the presidency on the CBN recruitment scandal. Sahara reporters have not backed away from their reporting, and the presidency is yet to react to the allegation. It seems to me then that the sequence of events ought to be as follows:
A) A damaging allegation has been made, which if true would do seminal damage to the central identity of this administration.
B) The presidency should categorically deny the allegation if “Baba” and “Mama” do not refer to the president and his wife and should tell the nation emphatically that the duo did not “sponsor” any FIRS candidates.
C) If B above is done, SR would have to put up or shut up, that is, they would have to do more digging to conclusively confirm or refute their belief that “Baba” and “Mama” are references to the first couple.
D) If the presidency denies and SR is unable to confirm then we’ll know that mischief makers and influence peddlers in the APC may have used the first couple’s names to perpetrate employment fraud and an investigation should easily identify the culprits and clear the the president and his wife once and for all.
E) The SR report also references the code name “Small Villa” in the sponsor list, which it interprets as the Vice President. I agree with that interpretation too. It sought a response from the VP’s spokesman, who never responded. The Vice President too has to come out and categorically deny the allegation against him. The allegation is now a cloud over the entire presidency, covering both big and small villas. It will not go away and unless convincingly refuted will continue to serve as a referential baseline for future commentaries on this administration’s signature issue: corruption and the president’s credibility in fighting it.
So, instead of attacking the messenger (SR or me), if you’re a supporter of the President and/or the Vice President you should be asking them to respond to these serious allegations promptly and emphatically. Obfuscation, sophistry, silence, officialese, and evasion will only fuel the fire of the scandal.