The credibility of the administration’s cornerstone – the anti-graft war- is increasingly being eroded

The summary dismissal of the fugitive former Chairman of Pension Reform Task Team, Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina by President Muhammadu Buhari, confirms all that is wrong with this administration. That it should require the direct instruction of the president to disengage a wanted criminal suspect from the service of government indicates a real systemic dysfunction. That the action was taken just a few hours after the Special Assistant to the president on Prosecution, Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla, defended the same Maina on Channels television confirms what the opposition has been saying that this government is at ease with corruption so long as it is “within the family”.

However, what is particularly worrisome is the public exchange of blames between the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita and the Minister of Interior, Lt. General Abdulraham Dambazau (rtd). And more shameful still is the involvement of the Attorney General of the Federation and Justice Minister, Mr Abubakar Malami whose name is almost always mentioned in every allegation of infamy in this administration. If the presidency is therefore intent on recovering whatever remains of its credibility, the Maina scandal should extend to the roles of all the officials involved in bringing him back to office with promotion.

Whatever the subterfuge being weaved, the reinstatement of a wanted well known miscreant and his subsequent redeployment could not have been carried out without official written communication. In any case, there is already in circulation all the official memos that were generated to recall and even promote to the highest cadre a middle career official who personified corruption in the civil service. But what worries is that there is a pattern to this sordid affair.

As with the embarrassing case of the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Babachir Lawal, it is clear that President Buhari cannot yet make a distinction between the rules of accountability in public office and patronage to those who supported or financed his political campaign. Once the two realms are mixed and confused, it becomes difficult for the administration so afflicted to convince the public that it stands for probity or anti-corruption. Yet this government cannot go on drowning the country in the mess of its own internal corruption and contradictions while blackmailing Nigerians into seeing it as a vehicle for change simply by holding to account only members of the opposition.

The irreducible minimum in a presidential system is the elementary dictum that the buck stops at the desk of the number one citizen. But as we reiterated recently, mounting instances of tardiness in taking prompt decisions on matters of transparency and accountability have begun to taint the personal integrity which initially qualified President Buhari for the job. Indeed, as things stand, all the raging issues of deficits of enlightened governance and lack of fidelity to rudimentary public morality run counter to the avowed commitment by this administration to right the wrongs of our past.

While a combination of weak and compromised institutions – cutting across the executive, the legislature and the judiciary – may have allowed the culture of corruption to thrive in our country, this administration has added a more cynical dimension: If you are on their side, no matter how much you have undermined the system and abused public trust, you can walk the streets with arrogance and nothing will happen to you.

We therefore feel that the Maina scandal and the issues it has thrown up make this period a defining moment for President Buhari. He has, for so long, paid lip service to the fight against corruption. This is a golden opportunity for his administration to demonstrate its commitment to that cause. Whoever is found culpable in this sickening conspiracy on Maina should also be fired.