The President should be held to account for Maina’s reinstatement in spite of a contrary counsel

When we wrote last week that the reinstatement and promotion of Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina, the fugitive former Chairman of Pension Reform Task Team, and the issues it has thrown up make this period a defining moment for President Muhammadu Buhari, some facts were not in the public domain.

Now that the name of the president has been dragged in by the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, Senator Shehu Sani has been proved right: when it comes to dealing with corruption involving the opposition, the president applies insecticides; but when dealing with friends and supporters, he deploys deodorants. That perhaps explains why Nigerians have become cynical about the so-called war against corruption.

Indeed, if any proof was ever needed that President Buhari cannot make a distinction between the rules of accountability in public office and patronage to those who supported or financed his political campaign, the leaked memo from Oyo-Ita has settled that. “Mr. President on Wednesday, 11th October, 2017 after the FEC meeting where I briefed His Excellency verbally on the wide-ranging implications of the reinstatement of Mr. A. A. Maina, especially the damaging impact on the anti-corruption stance of this administration….” Oyo-Ita reportedly wrote in the memo.

Following the summary dismissal of Maina, just a few hours after the Special Assistant to the president on prosecution, Mr Okoi Obono-Obla, had defended the man on Channels television, many Nigerians had suspected that all was not well. With Oyo-Ita’s memo, it will be difficult for the president to convince anybody that he stands for probity or anti-corruption, just as the government he leads cannot go on drowning the country in the mess of its own internal contradictions while blackmailing Nigerians into seeing it as a vehicle for change simply by holding to account members of the opposition.

What is more worrisome is that the whole Maina saga seems to have been orchestrated with the connivance of powerful people in government who manipulated our system for one man. Even at that, the contrived court judgment relied upon by the Attorney General and Justice Minister, Abubakar Malami, did not absolve Maina of the charges against him. It is about the procedure that was followed to declare him wanted which did not follow due process. It has nothing to do with the substantive matter.

However, in all that has transpired on this sordid drama, the president should be held to account for allowing or overlooking Maina’s reinstatement in spite of a contrary counsel from the HOS. The questions that arise are: What did the president know? When did he know it? How long did it take between when the president was alerted and when the reinstatement took place? Why would the case of an assistant director in the civil service attract relentless attention to the extent that the president has to do the dirty job of firing him? Did the president fire him because the deal had gone public or because the administrative machinery of his government has been compromised or has become dysfunctional?
That a government which came to power with the campaign to fight corruption would enthrone this brazen act of misdeed is shameful.

All the raging issues of deficits of enlightened governance and lack of fidelity to rudimentary public morality that Nigerians witness almost on a daily basis run counter to any avowed commitment to right the wrongs of our past. Mounting instances of tardiness in taking prompt decisions on matters of transparency and accountability have also begun to taint the integrity that was the selling point of Buhari before the 2015 presidential election.
Can the president redeem his image?