Mixed Metaphors: Hypocrisy in high places

September 16, 2018
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Sonala Olumhense

First, the good newsNigeria’s Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, was on Friday reported to have resigned from the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.

In July, Adeosun was credibly exposed by Premium Times as having forged her National Youth Service Corps certificate.  But the government, lurching from one ethical scandal to another, retained her.

On Friday, The PUNCH, breaking the resignation news, observed that the minister was in her office in the morning, and her resignation did not appear to have taken effect.

It is a shame that a certificate-forger emerged Minister of Finance in the first place, an indication of the weakness of the anti-corruption claims of the government.  Nonetheless, I commend her for finally taking herself out of the equation, an action Buhari’s complicit government could not find the courage to undertake.

Meanwhile, Amina Mohammed, a former Minister and now Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, has criticized her former employers about Nigeria’s burgeoning debt.

Speaking at the International Monetary Fund last Tuesday, she expressed regret that Nigeria has returned to gross indebtedness despite the debt relief she secured (with the Paris Club) in 2005.

As is usual with Nigeria, Mrs. Mohammed spoke with two tongues, eager to sound good in the ears of the international community.

Full disclosure: I have consistently criticized Ms. Mohammed in this column for being part of the problem.  For several years she managed Nigeria’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) portfolio, with a budget of at least $5bn over five years.  I have asked (and demanded that Nigerians ask) where that money was spent.

The old trick still works, Madame: go to Afghanistan…or Myanmar…don’t make hypocrisy sound so educated!

Speaking of drawing attention, Buhari has accepted a N45m gift of a shadowy political group called the Nigeria Consolidation Ambassadors Network (NCAN), which paid for his All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential primaries forms.

The group, in a clear scam, made the payment only one day after the formal announcement of dates for the APC primaries.

It is a shame that the president of a democracy would accept a gift of this nature from a dubious and dangerous source.  First, it makes the acceptance of expensive gifts by public officials appear to be legitimate; and then it downplays the danger that such people might demand that office-holder repay, in appointments and contracts, for instance. In 2003, it was revealed the Anambra State governor had rigged the governorship election.  That gentleman is the current Minister for Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, and the governorship election had been paid for by his political godfather, Chief Andy Uba!

The present APC nonsense arises from the fiction that Buhari, being “incorrupt and poor,” cannot afford the absurd cost of the forms imposed by his own party.

Everyone knows this is a lie: the high cost is in place to limit the number of those, particularly the young, who might seek to challenge the president.

And no, Buhari can no longer be—if he ever was—thought of as a poor man.   To begin with, if he can accept this gift in public, what has he accepted in private from the likes of NCAN and individuals?  Next, Buhari’s bills are being borne by the taxpayers; meaning he has tons of savings.  Third, two of Buhari’s children went to school in England at the same time, for which he paid fees, flight tickets and charges—consecutively—and rented or bought a home.   That is not the spending profile of a poor man.   It may also be recalled that in December 2017, one of those children, Yusuf, was involved in an idle-rich motorbike speed-racing accident on an Abuja street.  Each of his two bikes was reported to have cost $314,000; if the president sold the remaining one, he could easily have afforded the nomination forms without the presidency being put at the mercy of faceless philanthropists who may be drug-dealers, kidnappers or oil manipulators.

In Gangs as political parties on August 12 I commented on the firing of Lawal Daura, the Director-General of the Department of State Services over his attempt to take over the National Assembly.

“Mercifully he was away last week when Daura fell,” I wrote of Buhari, “but [he] will be back, and I predict he will find a way to appease his kinsman, as he did former Secretary to the Government Babachir Lawal, a man who had no compunction about starving IDPs and babies to death.”

Following weeks of speculation that Buhari might return Daura to the post or have him replaced by someone more “acceptable,” the president on Thursday named Yusuf Magaji Bichi to the chair.  He took over the following day from Matthew Seiyefa, who had been serving in an acting capacity by Osinbajo.

It is no surprise that the Bichi appointment—which again means that 16 of the 17 service chiefs are from the North—immediately attracted outrage from the South and Middle Belt.

“Since 1960, Nigeria has never had a leader more sectional, narrow, parochial and tribalistic like the current president who went on a global stage to divide Nigeria into 97 per cent and 5 per cent,” said leaders of South- South, South-West, South-East and Middle Belt in a joint statement, stressing that Bichi’s job-qualification in no way compares with Seiyefa’s.

Bichi’s appointment is also an indirect rebuke of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, either for undertaking Daura’s landmark removal or for the replacement he chose, or both.  It is also a grievous embarrassment of those northerners who had higher and broader expectations of Buhari as a Nigerian, and who understand that the best interests of the North are not served by Buhari’s pandering to unnecessary sectionalism.

In other words, Buhari does not speak for the North, but for a corrupt power cabal which seeks federal power but lacks a sense of federal responsibility.

On Buhari speaking for anyone: APC announced during the week that he will not be defending himself or advancing his own re-election in presidential debates ahead of next year’s election.

“Vice President Yomi Osinbajo will be representing President Muhammadu Buhari in all the Nigerian Presidential debates towards the 2019 general election,” the party said.

APC did not seem to understand that in a presidential system, the president debates; while the vice-president participates in debates involving vice-presidential candidates.  Osinbajo cannot speak for Buhari and for himself in the same election.

But APC, shameless, described Buhari as having “nothing to debate with anyone.”

It is a shame that a man recently labelled as “lifeless” by American President Donald Trump, is providing a critical illustration of that evaluation.  Everywhere else, leaders seeking re-election are happy to affirm the validity of their ambition, an opportunity and responsibility Buhari appears to be scared of.

Nigeria has thus come full circle: from a leader swearing to be the answer to that leader morphing into the question.  Surrounded and boosted by greed, indifference, myopia, nepotism and gamesmanship, Buhari goes into the 2019 election as the limping, incapable, grossly-overrated incumbent.

Buyer beware: If you advocate or vote Buhari, you write your own epitaph: “Here lies the fool who closed his eyes and sold his soul.”

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