By Eddy Odivwri; email@example.com 08053069356
I was held in stitches, when last Sunday, an aide to Mr President, a Special Assistant on Prosecution, Mr Okoi Obono-Obla, mounted a strong a defence on Channels Television programme, Politics Today, on the controversial re-instatement of the former chairman of presidential task team on pension reforms, Abdulrasheed Maina. Obono-Obla maintained that Maina has not been found guilty of any offence and so the hue and cry over his reinstatement was misplaced. Although I could not understand the illogic of his argument, I was not totally surprised since this government has gradually come to define its acts in embarrassing oddities.
A man was accused of robbing the till blind after betraying the trust government had on him in working to alleviate the plight of pensioners, and a government agency like the EFCC declared him wanted. The man fled the country, escaping justice, and three years after, he returns quietly and gets reinstated and promoted in a manner that is far less than straight and normal. And Obono-Obla does not see anything wrong with all that, and goes ahead to ask a jaded question of whether any “court of competent jurisdiction has found Maina guilty”. I was not sure whether Obono-Obla was in mere blind defence of whatever the presidency does or whether indeed, he is part of the notorious cabal that has held this government, and indeed, this country down for these past two and half years. If Maina was not guilty, why did he run at the time? Why did he not show up at EFCC to tell his own story and defend himself? Obono-Obla’s argument of last Sunday on a national tube are many of such silly and vexatious acts of this government that collectively vitiate its public rating and confidence.
Thankfully, President Mohammadu Buhari tried to do damage control by wresting the image of the government from the bin when he ordered the immediate sack of Maina from the civil service and demanded an immediate report on the circumstances leading to the recall.
The Head of the Civil Service of the federation, Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita submitted the report on Monday evening.
Although the details of the report are not yet made public, but insider sources have indicated that the Attorney General of the federation, Abubakar Malami, and the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau are behind the “backyard” reinstatement and promotion of Maina. He fled as assistant Director and got back as full Director, not even Deputy Director, perhaps with full and backdated benefits. What a country!
Malami was said to have initiated the move, gave the order after consulting Dambazau (both members of the notorious cabal) and Oyo-Ita had to play ball by obeying, believing that the “sleeping” Buhari will never wake up to know what is happening as is often the case. It is the weakness of Buhari that has lionized the so-called cabal as nature does not allow vacuum, but they were wrong. Buhari woke smarter and earlier than they imagined, essentially because it was such a smelly breach that stands everything about this government on its head.
Sacking Maina is just the introduction to the matter, The real issue will be having the courage to get down to the bottom of the mess. Malami who has been bungling a lot of processes either due to complicity or incompetence (remember the botched trial of the senate president, the suspension and non-prosecution of suspended judges for over seven months) has not said anything in the entire saga. Can his silence be taken as consent?
So what will Buhari do to Maina, Dambazau, Oyo-Ita for this affront to our collective integrity? Will the matter go under like Babachir Lawal and Ayo Oke’s cases? Will it go under like the accusation against Buratai and his Dubai estates? Will it go under like the Abba Kyari and his MTN greasy story? Will it go under like Dambazau and his implicated involvement in the arms deal under former President Jonathan? Will it go under like the NNPC/Baru contract saga? We have not forgotten that the same Abba Kyari, the Chief of Staff to the president is also a member of the NNPC board that claimed a sick and absent Buhari signed the contract awards.
On this matter, will heads roll? If there is no official cover up, many will be reined in because the web of complicity looks large. For instance, how come Immigration is claiming that it did not know that Maina was declared wanted three years ago? Were they not in this country? Is it not an indictment that the head of that organization is not in tune with what’s going on in the country? How can such an important agency of government claim ignorance? Then it mean he/she is not deserving of his/her office. It is clearly either a case of sabotage or ineptitude. None of which should be tolerated by a government that defined its identity with the change mantra.
Have we forgotten how swiftly Buhari sacked David Paradang the former Immigration boss just because of the aftermath of the recruitment scandal that preceded his (Buhari’s) election?
Have we not seen the annoying laxity with which the president has treated some persons simply because they are from certain sections of the country?
There is a trending story of how a certain Ifeanyi Ezenwa a serial criminal in Kuje prison, Abuja, lives large like a monarch, right in the prison; having his own special well-furnished apartment and enjoys the privilege of going around town whenever he wants, with armed guards (who carry his phones and purse), to boot. He continues to run the cartel of his crime network unchecked right from the prison with unfettered access to his apparatus of fraud like telephones, laptops, iPad, and other such gadgets. He parades himself with regal carriage and gait in the prison. He probably has duped more people in jail more than when he was a free man. Sometimes, the Deputy Controller, Mr Akilu Abdullahi, even grants Ezenwa the use of his official Hilux jeep to go to town for shopping. The same man is said to periodically slaughter cows in the prison and shares same among the warders and the henchmen of the prison. But ever since the story has been running, nothing has happened to the Deputy Controller, essentially because he is from a section of the country protected by toxic presidential Teflon.
Perhaps the Maina saga will be the final test that will confirm the capacity of the Buhari administration to deal with in-house evil, or forever seal his fate with discerning members of the public. This has become even more imperative given the recent revelations by both Maina himself and members of his family who have claimed that Maina was invited back from Dubai where he had been hibernating, by the Buhari administration. The family had further alleged that Maina had been working with DSS prior to his deployment to the Interior ministry. The allegations and claims stink. But the presidency has denied them. However, my hunch tells me it is true. What is not clear is whether Buhari himself is aware. His cabal members do a lot of atrocious things without clearing from Buhari whose grip of governance is loose and this pops the question of whether he is indeed in charge or not.
The cabal has done the Buhari brand more harm than good. The cabal has defaced and disabled the government. But the saddest part is the fact that Buhari does not seem to have the courage to deal with the identified insider saboteurs of his government, almost suggesting as if he is under the spell of this group to the detriment of the rest of Nigeria. But there cannot be two set of laws in this country. One for the talakwas and the others for the politically blue-blooded.
Maina, had in an audio conversation with an Abuja-based radio house, which has gone viral, refuted the fraud allegation against him stressing that he had saved Nigeria billions of naira and deserves to be praised. He claims that the effort of his committee which worked without any budget, stopped the unbridled pillaging that had gone on unchecked especially in the police service commission where the cost of pension was inflated by over a Billion naira which the powers that be in the commission have been sharing among themselves. He said the “conspiracy” against him by the powers that be is because he had stopped the deal that had been going on. He says he should be treated like a messiah, a reformer and not as a rapacious thief.
But let’s for a moment believe that Maina is telling the truth. So how does he explain the array of prized properties credited to him? How can a regular civil servant be able to afford a $2million house in Abuja? Just how? How can a civil servant have the many houses he owns both in Abuja and Kaduna or the ambience of wealth and opulence around him? Is that not suggestive of something? And pray, why did he have to run to Dubai all these years? Why did he not stay back to defend himself against his accusers? Does his running not compromise his story? The claim that he fled because he was being marked for elimination, as his car was shot thrice in the presidential Villa (where the car is still parked) smells like an after-thought.
No matter how it is packaged and presented, Maina is a bad case. And I am not surprised that he is already warming up to contest the governorship election in Borno. Such are the characters in our political space. Sad!
Gov Bello Deserves Our Prayers
President Mohammadu Buhari asked a quaint question recently when he asked the governors how they sleep and feel cool knowing that they are owing civil servants?
Gov Yahaya Bello is one of such governors. Steadily and gradually, he has displaced Gov Rauf Aregbesola’s (of Osun State) notoriety in owing workers’ salary. Kogi State has done biometric validation of its workforce so many times such that the malaise of ghost workers should have been eliminated. But month-in month-out, the story of inability to pay workers remains the same.
It is difficult to understand what Gov Bello is doing with his state’s allocation.
Ability to pay workers’ salary by any government should be a given. Why is Bello struggling? The states have been given bailout funds by the federal government a couple of times, the states have received their Paris-refund money. The state government, no matter how small, has a small portfolio of income from its IGR. So why is Gov Bello so financially inept in tackling workers’ salary?
I do not know how he felt when a Director, Edward Soje in the Kogi civil service, last week, decided to commit suicide because of unpaid salaries?
Perhaps to forestall more suicide cases, the senators, during the week, pulled their resources together to buy and donate to Kogi workers, some 1,260 bags of rice. Just as if they have become refugees or IDP inmates. It is pitiable.
This is the same Kogi State where the late Gov Abubakar Audu did so much and when asked how he was able to accomplish so much, told me, in 2003, that he was able to do so much because unlike other states that had more money than sense, he had more sense than money. So is it that the sitting Gov Bello neither has money nor sense?
This question has become necessary because Kogi is not among the states credited with any infrastructural rebirth. So what is Gov Bello doing with the state’s funds? He must rejig his administration to prove that his ascension to power is not a mere happenstance. He must re-strategise and retool his governance kit, and fight less with his workers and their unions. Does he not know that unionism flourishes when there is governance lacuna? I am convinced that Gov Bello deserves even the Novena prayers to save the state and its people.