The case of Ibrahim Magu, the suspended acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission calls for a sober reflection. Even though the allegations are yet to be tested in court, it is very damning and has wrecked his reputation, character, and name. While some people are rejoicing over his predicament, I believe that the fate that befell him is a setback for some of us who believe that there are still good people in Nigeria, men, and women of integrity willing and ready to work for the good of the common man.
For the past five years of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, I have dedicated my time and energy bringing to fore grey areas his administration has rendered pathetic service to the people. I have also consistently called out corrupt people in his government. To be honest, I am really disappointed with Buhari’s government and Magu’s case adds to it.
Democracy in Nigeria to me is like a merry-go-round – a running around in circles where we repeat the same things to get the same results. No Growth. No innovation. No Future. Since Buhari became President in 2015, I will be a liar to say that we have transcended. It has been the same old rusty road, blown around by the breeze of regret. Repeating the same mistakes and learning nothing new from our failures. Nigeria is blind, beggarly, and cursed. Things have gone from bad to worse. This is 2020, we still don’t have steady light. In 2018 alone, over 20 million Nigerians were unemployed according to data by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Consider that with what we have now. It must have tripled. We now have killer herdsmen and killer bandits. Petrol at N143/litre. $1 is now N470. We are charged VAT for renting a house, cars, food, calls, and almost everything. There is VAT even to pay and withdraw your own money. It is hell in Nigeria. We buy the same cars, computers, chairs, and many other things every year for Buhari, his ministers, and the National Assembly. What happened to the ones we bought the year before? There is change, but only the politicians who live off our commonwealth, buying themselves different cars and mansions every month enjoy the good part of that change. They move around with the best of our police officers to protect them from our filthy hands. They come once in a while to the villages riding luxury cars and in the end, they fly back to Abuja, steal money meant for projects turning our roads to death zones. I feel very bitter each time knowing that we are stuck here with politicians who are willing to enrich their pockets than work for the good of the masses.
So Sorry I digressed a bit.
Back to Magu.
I was a bit impressed by Magu’s anti-corruption fight even though it was selective. I had ceased from criticizing him after seeing the manner he successfully prosecuted some notorious ex-governors, even to the point of jailing them. He appeared to me like someone who came for serious business. But while nailing the bad guys, he was unable to account for the things he recovered from them. That was a bitter turnoff.
I meticulously followed the drama birthed by his appointment and the fallout between him and the 8th National Assembly. I had thought it was a case of witch-hunting. It gave me serious concern. But, the damning allegations brought against his person left me with nightmares especially for the fact that the presidency as at that time dismissed it as mere speculation instigated by his enemies to ridicule his person.
Now, the past has come to haunt him. One wonders if Buhari doubted the report of the Department of State Security years back, accusing Magu of graft and owning choice properties abroad, why is he acting now? Inasmuch as I would like to see this as a wakeup call on the part of Buhari, but something tells me this might be a powerplay between Magu and Buhari’s Attorney-General Abubakar Malami. I am not good at conspiracy theories, so I will not go into details of the powerplay, antagonism, and accusations of insubordination between the two.
Magu’s case is symptomatic of Nigeria’s many decades of systematic, political, infrastructural, and educational decay that has left political office holders usurping political offices for personal gain, without an iota of accountability. These officeholders in their desperate bid to confuse the citizens, regale us with unbelievable tales of unspeakable vision to transform the nation. When they get into political positions, they treat us like lepers, make us their enemies, ostracize and ridicule us while stuffing their pockets with our treasures. Magu is not alone in this – we have hundreds of them in the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government. Do you wonder why a certain Nigerian judge will happily source to be given a ‘lift’ on a plane? Tomorrow when we speak about the rot in the system, you wonder why. When someone does you such a favour, do you think if you bring a case against such an airplane owner before the ‘honourable’ judge that you will get justice? The Nigerian system is a dung that corrupts even the most upright of souls. It backs the rich while pissing on the poor. It takes from the poor and gives to the rich. Corruption smells everywhere you gaze. We have been invaded by men and women who lack character, people who can sell their souls for money, acquiring enormous wealth for generations unborn, evil-hearted, cold-blooded looters of our common treasury.
The accusation that Magu re-looted public funds he recovered and sold some off to his cronies is an embarrassment to the government. It tells of a weak institution lacking checks and balances. A seasoned culture of a total lack of accountability, oversight, and trust. It is a disappointment on the part of the government that those they projected as having impeccable character now make plans with the enemy to deprive the masses of their rightful dues. How do you want the people to trust a government that is represented by thieves? A government that has shown its preference for harbouring rogues and dinning with dishonest individuals. A government that loves appointing people with questionable character into positions of authority.
Magu’s downfall is a disaster for all of us. Who do we now trust? Even Buhari can’t be trusted. Now and again he fills our ears with news of Boko Haram’s defeat, yet daily our brothers and sisters are ambushed by the terrorists and killed in gruesome fashion. His own appointees flout laid down laws, break all protocol at state functions, bury their dead in the company of mammoth crowd amid coronavirus pandemic while celebrating the arrest of those who break the same rules they broke to hold a house party. I know, they are special and above the law.
Something is really wrong with Nigeria. A country where the commoners cannot get government jobs by merit. Slots are given out to politicians and it is brought to public attention with no one feeling disturbed. What do you call a country where ministers assign job slots to politicians who in turn give out the jobs to the highest bidder, even to their cronies, side chics, sugar mummies, sugar daddies, convicts, robbers and all manner of persons at the detriment of those who merited such positions? Such a country will birth incompetent and unqualified folks who suck at their work. Greedy folks who demand bribes at every checkpoint in town; religious warriors who can’t allow you move freely and legally at the airports without coercing you into giving them money; folks who are ready to loot government fund at any given opportunity. That is exactly what we have. That is your Nigeria.
Each day you wake up until you die, remember that Magu’s downfall is a reminder to all of us that our institutions are weak and the road to a better Nigeria for our children is still very far. It reminds us of our broken institutions, of a lack of accountability that has pervaded the very core of our political existence. It is not Magu that has fallen, it is Nigeria; it is our future.
Alexander Thandi Ubani writes from Lagos.
He’s a journalist.