Professor Ben Nwabueze, SAN

The object of the war against corruption, in which successive governments in the country profess themselves to be engaged, needs to be clearly stated and constantly borne in mind. The Constitution is unequivocal that the object is the eradication or abolition of “all corrupt practices and abuse of office.” Accordingly, a duty is laid on government, federal and state, to do so, i.e. to “abolish all corrupt practice and abuse of office” : section 15(5). What, then, does the duty thus laid on government require of it?

The Rt Rev Matthew Kukah, Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, answers the question thus: The battle against corruption, he said, “is not so much going to be won by how many investigations and probes we conduct. It will not be won by how many people go to jail.” Nor will it be won by how much money is recovered from the looters of our common wealth. Corruption has to be fought in the minds and hearts of people, with a view to bringing about a change in their attitudes towards it, “a change in the Nigerian psyche.” This is not, however, to say that the anti-corruption war should be discontinued or that the corruption probes should be abandoned. They must continue with increased vigour. It only means that the eradication of corruption and the cleansing of the pervasive rottenness in our society, of which corruption is a manifestation, call for a social and ethical revolution, which in turn calls for an effective mobilisation of the people for the purpose.

Effective mobilisation of the people for a cause, a worthy cause of course, is one of the most arduous tasks of political leadership. It requires, as leader, a president with the energy of youth, an energy that will enable him to move round the country and meet with the people in their various communities, at town hall gatherings and other fora, down to the grassroots, and address them on the imperative necessity for change in their attitudes and mindset, and the need for patriotism generally. I think that at 75 a person, man or woman, whoever he or she may be, no longer possesses the sort of energy required for the purpose. For nearly three years since his installation in office on 29 May, 2015, President Buhari has not embarked on such mobilisation exercise apparently because his advanced age (75) does not enable him to do so and partly because he appears not to have the necessary inclination or disposition. The reason of advanced age needs to be remedied by prescribing in the Constitution an upper age limit for a president, as is done in some countries of the world, and as is done for non-elective public officials.

A social and ethical revolution is needed not only to rid the country of the cankerworm of corruption, but also to launch it upon a New Beginning, a new socio-political order, a more or less clean slate, unsmeared by the rottenness that presently pervades the society. A “change in the Nigerian psyche” is a radical change that requires a social and ethical revolution to bring it about.
The growing public cynicism about the sincerity of President Buhari as an uncompromising spear-head of a crusade against corruption

Given that President Buhari was initially acclaimed, hailed and idolised by the people as an uncompromising spear-head of a crusade against corruption – taking crusade to mean, not just a war, but a war fought with great passion and zeal – it is significant that, in less than two years, the acclaim is giving way to cynicism about the President’s sincerity in the prosecution of the war. Is he really the uncompromising crusader that the public had been led to believe? There is reason to suppose that the public cynicism is the by-product of the President’s Northernisation Agenda, as it is being carried into effect by his lopsided strategic appointments which are so manifestly skewed in favour of the North and against the South.

Viewed from the standpoint of the war against corruption, it is significant that all the key officials involved, even if it be indirectly, in the prosecution of the war are northerners appointed by President Buhari since his inauguration as President on 29 May, 2015. A list of such appointees shows this assertion to be an incontrovertible fact.
(i) Babachir Lawal, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF); appointed in preference to a hotly tipped candidate from the South-East; after his removal following allegation of diversion of funds meant for persons displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East, he was replaced by another northerner, Boss Mustapha, again in preference to a rumoured candidate from the South-East.

(ii) Maj-General Babagana Monguno (rtd), National Security Adviser (NSA), replacing Dasuki, NSA under former President Goodluck Jonathan.

(iii) Alhaji Abba Kyari, Chief of Staff to the President, replacing Brig-Gen Jones Oladehinde (rtd), the holder of the office under former President Goodluck Jonathan.

(iv) Ibrahim Idris, Inspector-General of Police (IGP) appointed over the heads of some Southern officers senior to him. The IGP is heading a Police Force, the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), in which 15 out of the 22 Assistant Inspectors-General of Police (AIG), who exercise much of the function of the operational control of the Force, are northerners, while 3 are from the South-West and 2 from the South-East. These blatantly lopsided appointments, all of which were made since the inception of the Buhari Administration, portray the NPF as an army of occupation deliberately designed to carry into effect President Buhari’s Northernisation Aganda in furtherance of the dream of the Sardauna to reduce the South to “a conquered territory and thereby prevented from having control over its future”. The President’s implacable opposition to re-structuring which envisages the establishment of State Police should not, therefore, surprise us. He wants to be able to continue to exercise control over the internal security of the Southern States and to continue to hold them hostage. It caricatures true federalism that a constituent State in a
Federation should be under the control and yoke of the Federal Government in the matter of its internal security.

(v) Daura, Director-General, Department of State Security (DSS) replacing Ita Ekpenyong; apart from the DG, the directors are mostly northerners.

The control of the NPF and DSS by northerners must be taken together with the fact that the Minister of Interior and the Permanent Secretary of the ministry are northerners; that the Army and Air Force are headed by northerners; and, above all that President Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner, is the Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, and has the power under the Constitution to direct the operational use of the NPF for “the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order”; his power to direct the operational use of the DSS is even more plenary. The implication of the control of security by northerners is that the security of Nigeria and Nigerians is an exclusively northern affair, thereby putting the rest of us at their mercy.

(vi) Abubakar Malami SAN, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF), a young SAN, who was raised to the rank in 2008, i.e. seven years before his appointment as AGF.

To be continued tomorrow.
Professor Ben Nwabueze (SAN) is a renowned jurist and foremost constitutional lawyer.

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