Front Page Comment: Are The Yoruba-Nigerians Around Buhari Goading Him To Self-Destruct?

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President Buhari
President Buhari

In January 2015, a senior family member of this newspaper’s publisher called him to express his heartfelt regret that General Muhammadu Buhari would win the fast-approaching presidential election but that this otherwise good turn of event would lead to the destruction of the upright Buhari when he eventually takes office.
This well-educated and widely travelled senior family member hinged his reservations on the pessimistic premise that Nigeria had so long travelled on the path of perfidy to have become an Abiku, hence the country would only make a mockery of all messianic medicines to continue its cyclic commute in the conundrum of corruption.
While sharing the senior man’s view of how Nigeria would again gobble up a rare hero in the Land of the Heroless, which the country had fast become in the last 30 years or thereabout, the publisher and his senior family man had another reason to wish Buhari would pull out of the 2015 Presidential Race or better still lose to President Jonathan. To the duo, the sudden constellation of certain political elements around Gen. Buhari from the South-West, was, to say the least, ominous. Although change is one of the constants on this mortal coil, the development negated all histories and received wisdoms of the politics of the Yoruba-Nigerian, for which the duo, as bonafide Yoruba-Nigerians, could claim to be well steeped and which cardinal core is so calcified that the dye-in-the-wool Yoruba-Nigerians would rather lose the Presidency of Nigeria till eternity than give it a modicum of revision, talk less of changing it.
What sprang up, and clung to the publisher’s mind in particular, was the folkloric legend of the rich Yoruba oeuvre, the cautionary tale of “A o m’erin joba,” in which a city led a dictatorial, pain-in-the-arse Elephant to his gruesome untimely demise via a contrived Owanbe Crowning Procession, which the power-drunk pachyderm bought hook, line and sinker. Hard as the publisher tried to shake this off his mind, he did not succeed. And he has not succeeded.
To be sure, as events play out in the President Buhari era, the most ominous part of the “A o m’erin joba” folktale, immortalised on vinyl record by the late Yoruba musician, Kayode Fashola and His Melody Makers Band, daily plays on in the Publisher’s mind: “Won gbe koto sile/Won t’eni le lori/Won ni ka wa sun le…” “They’ve dug up a ditch/They’ve covered it with a million mats/They’ve sent us an invite to take a choice spot…
For that incautious Elephant of the Yoruba tale, the rest, as they say, is history.
As the history of President Buhari’s anti-corruption plays out right before the World, we are compelled by certain utterances of some of his new-found allies from the South-West, who it must be said are holding forth in many coveted cabinet, agency and advisory posts, to draw the President’s attention to the advice he is getting on the anti-graft campaign.
Most Nigerians know about President Buhari’s passion to rid the country of corruption and the corrupt. It was in fact a big boost to his victory in the 2015 General Elections. However in this very strength lies the President’s Achilles Heel, for he, like the rest of us, is mortal and not infallible, after all. President Buhari is so passionate about the anti-corrupt war that his hubris – the urge to force things through as only a man who knows no other life than that of an Army General conditioned by years of praxis and practice dictated by order issuance and robotic compliance – is threatening to take total control of the President and send him into a spiral of self-destruct.
We are also told that President Buhari is a good listener, that he readily accepts superior arguments and trusted his companions so much as to stay out of their way in the execution of assigned tasks. These are fine attributes that should help any leader to succeed. It appears to us, however, that instead of the Yoruba-Nigerians around him to explore these commendable qualities in the President for his success in the anti-graft war, they seem more interested in fanning the embers of his hubris into a huge conflagration, taking him backwards to 1984 and inadvertently stocking up the arsenal of the President’s traducers with more ammunition.
Thus, although President Buhari has a Yoruba-Nigerian Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) as vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, he appears not to have impress it on the President that the anti-corruption campaign stands discredited if not waged within the ambit of the Rule of Law. Consequently, the President has no qualms admitting by decoy on national television that his administration would continue to hold on to certain individuals the courts have ordered it to release on bail.
And, in a shocking faux pas from a man whose fundamental rights as a human being were violated by a despicable regime, and a pointer to the quality of advice the President appears to be getting today, a Yoruba-Nigerian Professor of Criminology and member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption, Femi Odekunle, told Vanguard newspaper in an interview: “We would not want a situation as was the case in the past whereby people would be arrested, they would end up getting bail…As a professional criminologist, I am not for unmoderated democracy, I’m not for unmoderated rule of law.”
We leave it to the discerning readers of The Dream Daily Newspapers to interrogate these statements credited to an important member of the presidential think-tank on the anti-corruption campaign, and deduce what he would have told the President about following due process of law in going after alleged looters.
If it is not to descend into mob justice, or worst still mischievous vengeance and braying for blood in acts of revenge, President Buhari must proceed with his anti-corruption fight with strict adherence to the rule of law.
Ab initio, we are of the view that the singular reliance of the President on the court system to recover stolen funds would yield little dividends and defeat the stated purpose of the anti-graft campaign, to wit: recover all looted funds quickly in order to channel them into developmental projects.
This newspaper aligns itself with the calls by Anthony Cardinal Okogie and Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Onaiyekan to the President to press his still impeccable moral authority into recovering stolen funds.
It could be argued, and validly too, that corruption has been the mainstay of the Nigerian economy in the last 30 years. It stands to reason, therefore that graft has become systemic in the country and that an overt recourse to the letter of the law to reverse the damage done to the fabric of society would, naturally, meet stiff opposition, open and underhand, from the system, a part of which is the Nigerian Judiciary.
In any case, President Buhari, as Military Head of State between 1984 and 1985 deployed military tribunals to jail many alleged corrupt public office holders, including former civilian governors who were sentenced to hundreds of years in jail per person. Did this serve as deterrents to others as the President’s men continue to insist the current anti-graft prosecutions would do? No. Why are they doing the same thing in the hope of a different outcome?
President Buhari is sometimes referred to as the Mandela of Nigeria. If he looks the direction of that revered African elder statesman and how he led South Africa to heal the deep wounds inflicted on that country by Apartheid, he may yet find the needed panacea to recovering looted funds and snatching Nigeria out of the jaws of systemic graft.
If Mandela and South Africa could brush aside the courts system and embrace the alternative dispute resolution process of the Truth Commission to address the atrocities committed under the Apartheid regime, President Buhari and Nigeria could apply a similar dose to corruption in this country.
Instead of litigation, we urge President Buhari to declare a force majeure on corruption and set up a National Truth Commission that would comprise of trusted Nigerians to take the confessions of the corrupt. Government anti-corruption agencies should meet with each alleged looter with a view to reconciling looted figures with them. Upon agreement, the looter’s name and details of amount looted, the government agency involved, etc should be published in national newspapers and online, and broadcast on electronic medium.
Thereafter, each looter should go before the Truth Commission, confess to the crime in details, apologise to the country and pledge to repatriate looted funds from wherever they are in the world to a special account opened for the purpose at the Central Bank of Nigeria within 21 days, bearing all costs. If any looter cannot come up with the cash, his or her property and other valuables should be turned over to the Federal Government to the tune of amount looted and in lieu.
Such confessed looters should also be banned from holding public office for some years, even for life, depending on the amount stolen. Although this process could be applied to all regimes from 1960 till date, President Buhari may choose to limit it to the last administration. State government should also be encouraged to institute a similar process. All recovered funds should be spent on tangible infrastructural project, with conspicuous plaques indicating that they were built with returned stolen money and testament to the greatness we can achieve as nation of incorruptible people.
Any looter who refuses to avail himself or herself of this process despite the published evidence of stealing from the Nigerian People could then be taken to court, just as Apartheid deniers were prosecuted.
Given that the government has told the nation that some of the looters are already returning some loots and given the years it is taking this country to repatriate billions of dollars looted by the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, an open Truth Commission mechanism, we believe, would lead to a faster return of stolen funds and assure a restive masses that the recovered funds are not being re-looted.
We are of the view that a transparent Truth Commission on Corruption is what Nigeria needs to kill corruption in this country, and not litigations shorn of the rule of law as the Yoruba-Nigerian lawyers and criminologists around President Buhari, perhaps reading his famed body language, have apparently convinced him is the solution.

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