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A President and his men

By Frank Ofili

I am on record for calling for the sack of over 50 percent of President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet members. There are far too many of them not living up to the demands of the time, and it is a wonder how President Buhari himself still believes his cabinet as presently constituted can help him deliver on his mandate.

Every day, needless bickering from his team members dominate the air, thus suggesting far too many personal interests working at cross purposes to the detriment of the President’s goal for the country. There is a glaring lack of collaboration and synergy among his team members. As a Buharist who swore from the onset to always say it as it is so that the President can avoid the pitfalls that brought President Jonathan down, I cannot possibly close my eyes to these shenanigans.

Early in the life of this administration two prominent ministers – Buhari’s own deputy in the petroleum resources ministry, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, and Transportation minister Rotimi Amaechi – engaged each other in a public altercation over the faith of Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Delta State. Amaechi wanted the school scrapped entirely for what he considered as fraudulent over-valuation of the parcel of land on which it is sited. Ibe Kachikwu disagreed on the ground that scrapping a school that had already gulped over N11 billion was unwise, more so as the school had the prospect of bringing development, and by extension, peace and security to the ever-volatile Niger-Delta region. Kachikwu’s argument was that if there were issues with the cost, they could be dealt with legally and the culprits brought to justice. In his opinion, the gains of the school far outweigh whatever issues associated with it. He even promised financial help from NNPC if funding was the issue.

Till today no one quite knows how that roforofo was resolved. What we do know however is that that project is right now in abeyance. Meanwhile, the youth of that region are still restive; still cry of neglect and marginalization in the scheme of things despite the fact that the region is the proverbial goose that lays the golden egg.

Not quite long after the Kachikwu-Amaechi brouhaha, the Directorate of State Security Service (DSS) under the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), wrote a scathing report that effectively truncated the Senate confirmation of Ibrahim Magu as substantive Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) chairman. The office of the NSA is under the Presidency, the President himself nominated Magu to the EFCC chair. How on earth an agency under the direct supervision of the President, could work against the confirmation of his nominee is left for conjectures. It seems there were more personal interests in consideration than the interest of the country. Clearly, Magu’s confirmation was bungled from within. But if Nigerians expected heads to roll, they were gravely disappointed. Two years on, Magu is still on acting capacity. Reports had it that the EFCC is not in love with the DSS. It leaves much to be desired that two anti-corruption agencies of a government that has fighting corruption as its flagship policy do not see eye to eye.

As if these incidents were not enough, Babachir David Lawal, former Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF) got himself involved in a conflict of interest scandal which effectively swept his job as SGF from his feet. So also was Ayodele Oke, former Director General of National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in whose private apartment on Osborn Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, were found $45 million in cash of government money illegally stashed away there. Like Babachir Lawal, Oke was sacked, but both cases remain essentially unresolved even as the President maintains an uncomfortable silence in the face of mounting pressure from Nigerians for a definitive closure.

But more curious incidents were to come. Mama Taraba, Hajia Amina Al-Hassan, Minister of Women Affairs, appointed by President Buhari, without any attempt at pretences, dumped his boss and went public with her support for former vice president Atiku Abubakar’s presidential ambition in 2019. Not long afterwards, Ibe Kachikwu (again) and NNPC group managing director (GMD) Maikanti Baru, danced necked in the market square over contract awards to the utter embarrassment of Buhari who doubles as petroleum resources minister. Again, Nigerians’ expected that the President would come hard on his appointees this time around. Sadly there were greeted with another loud sound of silence.

And now Abdulrasheed Maina. In 2012 Maina was accused of leading a massive pension fraud scheme amounting to more than N100 billion, when he was drafted by the Goodluck Jonathan administration in 2010 to sanitize a corrupt pension system. Based on the allegation of corruption, he was invited by the Senate Joint Committee on Public Service and Establishment and State and Local Government Administration. After completion of its investigation, the Senate issued a warrant of arrest against him. Ignoring the panel, Maina went ahead to sue the Senate and then Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, and thereafter went into hiding after being declared wanted by the police. Consequent upon this, he was dismissed by the Head of Service for allegedly absconding from duty and attempting to evade arrest. On July 21, 2015 he was charged by the EFCC alongside Stephen Oronsaye and two others before a Federal High Court on a 24-count charge bordering on procurement fraud and obtaining by false pretence. While Oronsaye and other accused were always in court, Mr Maina was at large. He was said to have fled to the United Arab Emirates, from where he kept lobbying some members of the Buhari administration to be recalled. From all indications, he succeeded in his under-ground lobbying.

Last week, news broke that he has been recalled, reinstated to the Federal Civil Service and posted to the Ministry of Interior under questionable circumstances. Not unexpectedly the news was greeted with outrage. Lieutenant Gen Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau, (Retd) confirmed the story but denied having any hand in it. Dambazau directed enquiries into the matter to the Head of Service of the Federation (HSF) who herself fired back at the Minister, accusing him of lying. In the midst of all this a livid President Buhari ordered the immediate dismissal of Maina and requested a report into the circumstances surrounding his reinstatement. Some documents currently circulating in the internet appear to suggest that Maina’s reinstatement was based on the advice of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, who did not deem it fit to bring such a sensitive matter bordering on corruption to the attention of Mr. President. Nor did the Head of Service of the Federation or Interior Minister Dambazau.

While we await the President’s decision, several questions are begging for answer, prominent among them is how a man on whom a manhunt had been declared managed to slip into the country without the knowledge of security agencies. One thing that has been made clear from this development is that some of the President’s men are either incapable of doing their job, or have their interests  elsewhere. Nigerians cannot rely on such people to deliver dividends of democracy.

Nor should the President. There are far too many missteps going on; too many personal interests being pursued at the expense of the nation. Given this situation, how can the President deliver on his mandate if some of his team members continue to run rings around him in pursuit of their personal agenda? Mr. Buhari must reign in his ministers and other appointees. He must not allow the prevailing perception that he is not in control of his government to gain currency.

I repeat, Mr. President must reshuffle his cabinet now. There are too many people in his administration who have their own agenda.