7 February 2018

Nigeria: Buhari, Magu and Lessons From Addis Ababa

opinion

Abuja — The 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union just ended in the ancient city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The conference could not have come at a more auspicious time for President Muhammadu Buhari and his government.

The AU meeting was almost a lifesaver for President Buhari coming at a time when national consensus on his poor performance was building. The former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, had released a special press statement in which he shredded the performance of President Buhari in the saddle and on that score, advised him to dismount and go home in dignity in 2019.

Let it be said that Obasanjo was factual as much as he tried to restrain himself on most of the issues he raised. So convincing was the former president that it took a government and a political party that employ the best news spinners in the land at least two days to gather themselves, to respond. And when they did, they tactically sidestepped the major issues raised by Obasanjo, especially, the accusation of nepotism leading to the condoning of malfeasance by the President's People.

And so jolted was the President's party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), that it had to almost wholeheartedly accept, against the position of the President and leader of their party, the policy of restructuring. Call it political expediency, you're not far from the truth; call it a diversionary tactic, you're spot on!

Thus, the AU summit in Addis Ababa provided Buhari, his government and party the perfect get-away from a potentially consuming political inferno in the land. These people certainly know more about the domestic political environment the Obasanjo intervention was building up. They have seen it before. They seem to clearly recognise that ill wind. It was similar to the one that blew former president Jonathan out of government and brought President Buhari in.

It was therefore not surprising how the presidency grabbed the opportunity of the Addis Abba Summit with both hands and made the best out of the platform.

At Addis Ababa, President Buhari, our President, was unanimously picked by his colleague-heads of state to lead the onslaught against corruption on the African continent. This honour given to President Buhari ought to be celebrated nationwide. It is not just an honour for the president; it is indeed an honour for every Nigerian because the recognition given to the President rubs off on, and enhances our national character.

For a long time, our country has become the butt of all manner of jokes on corruption and poor leadership. Even Buhari himself not too long ago admitted in a foreign land that he was the president of fantastically corrupt nation. Sadly, the country has become so divided under the presidency of Buhari that national sentiments now count for nothing.

What does it matter to a grieving community in Benue State rendered desolate by gangs of murderous herdsmen roaming with impunity that their president is being decorated abroad? How does the news that their president has been given the sword and shield by other African leaders to lead the fight against Africa's deadliest pestilence, when the same president appears unwilling to fight those killing them?

Buhari's Addis Ababa outing was indeed huge. It comes with equally a very huge political mileage especially at a time when the public image of the President may be at its lowest.

The endorsement from other African leaders of the ability of the President in leading the fight against corruption on the continent appears to be an uppercut on the opposition parties in Nigeria who have strategically placed themselves to continue to chisel out what is left of the tattered image of Buhari and his government in the run-up to 2019. It is not surprising that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had mocked Buhari's AU honour, describing it as laughable and Africa's joke of the year.

While the opposition moans, there seems to be an oasis of opinion that President Buhari appears to be doing slightly better in the fight against corruption. Even the former president, Obasanjo, hinted at that in his letter-bomb. And some of us who are not known to be Buhari admirers are also saying that!

Yet there are lessons President Buhari must take away from his outing in Addis Ababa. First, the country must return to the path of greatness and leadership that give us positive visibility in the international system, be it at the regional or global stage. The un-curtailed Fulani herdsmen attacks are destroying our country at home and incinerating our image as a nation abroad.

Second, although the President has a big reputation for fighting corruption, it must be clear to him that the chunk of the goodwill and honour he recently harvested in Addis Ababa are down to the effectiveness of a certain Ibrahim Magu, the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Of course, the President can beat his chest that he knew what he was looking for when he appointed Magu to spearhead his war against graft.

What Magu has shown is that if Buhari makes the right appointments by getting people with energy, commitment and honesty, to work with him, there wouldn't be any opportunity for a former president to write him a long and damning letter!

I am not a supporter of Buhari and not, of his party, but I give him credit for not only appointing Ibrahim Magu to head EFCC, but also for insisting that he remains at his duty post in spite of the shenanigans of the Senate and indeed some crooked members of the President's inner circle. It was indeed disturbing to read online at the close of 2017 that President Buhari had caved in to pressures to remove Ibrahim Magu as EFCC Chairman.

As the reports had it, the matter was foreclosed as the so-called cabal had finally convinced the President to replace Magu so as to get his appointments cleared and his budget passed by the National Assembly in what is clearly a barefaced blackmail.

If the President does not recognise it, Magu has put him on an international rostrum and the whole world is robing him in a garland of honour. How many of his other appointments have brought him and his government such credibility? If Magu can achieve this entire feat with all the distractions and the uncertainty of his position, who can tell what could have been possible had the Presidency pulled all the stops to ensure his confirmation in the Senate?

Going forward, President Buhari must take a second look at anybody, no matter how close, advising him to score an own goal. That is what replacing Ibrahim Magu would amount to!

Ugboajah, a public policy analyst, wrote from Abuja.

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