How Buhari Successfully Created The 'Magu Problem'


In the past week, the Nigerian media space has been full of distractions which might not benefit the poor masses in the long run. Several other biting issues should bother a large section of the Nigerian populace. Coronavirus is still on the rampage with over 30,000 people infected and over 700 others dead, Nigeria might be sliding into recession in the 4th quarter, job losses are high, poverty rate too, national debt profile, illegal migration, insecurity and other myriads of challenges which the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has failed to resolve.

Instead, the travails of the suspended Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has become the major interest of the media. Yes, its big news when a hunter becomes the hunted. The news appears to be perceived wrongly by a set of people who are loyal supporters of President Buhari. They are praising him for not keeping sacred cows in his well-publicized anti-graft war. But in the real sense, Buhari doesn't deserve any praises concerning this issue. He is only suffering the consequences of a mistake he made years ago. In simple terms, Buhari is only cleaning the mess he created with the appointment and retaining of Magu, despite intense pressure to sack him about three years back.

Political watchers should remember that on the 15th of March, 2017, the Nigerian Senate under the leadership of the former Senate President Bukola failed to confirm the appointment of Magu for the second time in three months. The upper legislative arm had rejected Magu's confirmation in December 2016, but Buhari in his infinite wisdom re-nominated Magu.

According to the Senate, Magu had failed the integrity test. The senate specifically accused Magu of corruption, violation of human rights, being in the possession of undeclared pieces of properties and also staying in N40 million mansion paid for by a corrupt businessman. The Senate relied on the recommendations of the Department of State Security, DSS, which linked Magu to alleged gargantuan fraud which he was supposed to be fighting against. One could still remember the dramatic presentation the former Kogi West senator, Dino Melaye made on the floor of the Red Chamber on that fateful day. Magu didn't help matters when given the chance to defend himself, he failed to give a rough estimate of the loot recovered so far from corrupt individuals. These were red flags that the president ignored, and for 5 good years, a man with such a tainted image, although alleged, was allowed to run the affairs of the foremost anti-graft agency in Nigeria. He was presiding over a cause which is supposed to be the emblem or lifeblood of Buhari.

Since both the EFCC and the DSS are government agencies under the control of the president, Buhari failed to weigh into the crisis to pursue it to a reasonable conclusion. Instead, he ignored it, not knowing he was sleeping under a burning roof. As for the failure of the Senate to confirm Magu, it was linked to dirty politics and personal vendetta against Magu by the supporters of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. The usual supportive line was that 'corruption was fighting back'. The fact that Saraki was also standing trial for corruption was superintended by Magu made this view very credible. The issue of inter-agency rivalry between the EFCC and the DSS was also sighted as another reason. At the end of the day, Buhari took his silent final decision and kept Magu in an acting capacity for 5 years until the flames of the burning house were about to choke him to death.

I am not trying to assume that Magu is guilty of all the heinous crimes of corruption and reckless abuse of office linked to him. Any unwarranted assumption will be unfair on Magu and also prejudicial. The global standard is that an accused is deemed guilty until proven innocent in a court of competent jurisdiction. Magu deserves a fair hearing. But again, on the flip side, the reports against drama which were being made available to the media in a sequence are damning. Even if you are an advocate of fair hearing, you have to be a close relationship with Magu or be a direct beneficiary of his benevolence to ignore them.

Any challenge Magu has caused Nigeria in this rough time of cash crunch should be on Buhari's head for appointing the wrong person and also keeping him despite tough opposition. Nigerians deserve a sincere apology for the grave and costly misstep the Presidency took. He deserves no accolades for spilling water on the ground and trying to clean it up. This week, more shocking revelations of corruption allegedly committed by Magu will be exposed, as they are made public, the president and his media advisers should cover their faces in ashes in the spirit of sobriety. Corruption needs to be fought to a standstill in Nigeria, as it is the bane of development; but other biting issues could claim the lives of commoners before the breakthrough in the fight against corruption is experienced.

Many have also alleged that Magu is only on his knees not in the interest of the commoners but the powerful toes he has stepped on in the course of his work. What this means is that the drama is by the ruling elites in the interest of the ruling elites and not the poor masses.

If Magu is found guilty at the end of the day, Buhari should apologize to Nigerians for appointing Magu and giving him extensive time to perpetrate criminal acts under his nose despite public petitions against him, for 5 good years. It is time to take responsibilities for wrong actions rather than act like a hero for a needless war you started.

Going forward, the vetting process for the appointment and confirmation of the next anti-graft czar has to be thorough, credible, transparent, sincere and devoid of politics. The EFCC is a sacred organization that will not survive if people with clean hands, good motives and brilliant ideas are afforded a chance to contribute their quota to combating the menace of corruption in Nigeria.

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About Osahon

I'm a journalist and a Political Scientist undergoing a doctoral programme focused on media, democracy and governance in Africa. My mission is to uphold the role of the media as the 'fourth estate of the realm' and also tell the Nigerian Story to the world. You can contact me on Phone number: +2347053302356.
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