PMB’s Deepening Lack of Integrity and National Assembly’s Summon: the Foreign Policy Dimensions

2

Is PMB (President Muhammadu Buhari) of yesterday different from the PMB of today? The PMB of yesterday was first seen as a good and very disciplined gentleman. He was considered as a new messiah to deliver the people of Nigeria from their life-style of political chicanery. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, he portrayed himself as a patriot, especially with his agenda of War Against Indiscipline (WAI). He was then seen as a man of impeccable integrity. He was feared but loved and respected, at least, for a foundation for a more disciplined society.

For instance, during his military administration, three Nigerian men (Bartholomew Azubike Owoh, aged 26 and former employee of the Nigeria Airways; Lawal Akanni Ojuolape, Yoruba man aged 30 and a spare part dealer; and another Yoruba man, Bernard Ogedengbe, Sailor and aged 29), were publicly executed by firing squad at the Kirikiri Maximum Security in Apapa, Lagos for being in possession of cocaine on April 10, 1985. They were tried and convicted by a military tribunal in December 1984. The execution of the drug peddlers was carried out under Decree 20 which prohibited and punished the possession of cocaine and illegal dealings in oil with death penalty. The decree, in itself, was promulgated within the framework of the War Against Indiscipline.

Thus, PMB’s integrity increased steadily with his policy of no compromise with corruption and societal indiscipline and the execution of drug pushers. Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi, an Igbo indigene, was convicted to death by hanging in Singapore on 26 January, 2007. Three Nigerians were executed by firing squad at the Nusakambangan Prison Island, in Indonesia would not have meant anything to PMB of yesterday. Consequently, every Nigerian was compelled to see a fresh seriousness of purpose in the political governance of Nigeria under PMB of yesterday. Put differently, the PMB of yesterday was a patriot and compatriot with integrity and in whom most Nigerians trusted and from whom they expected a new Nigeria that would be completely free from politico-economic chicanery.

However, the story about love and respect for PMB of today has begun to decline speedily, a situation that has prompted the question as to whether the PMB of yesterday is still the same PMB of today? In fact, many Nigerians have been, unfortunately, spreading the death of PMB, wrongly arguing that the PMB of today is a different personality entirely. Our focus is not about this controversy but on the integrity of PMB of today, with the ultimate objective of investigating the foreign policy challenges of PMB’s refusal to be summoned by the National Assembly to address the recidivist problem of insecurity in the country.

PMB and Deepening Lack of Integrity
The notion of lack of integrity, at the level of the political appointees and public officials in Nigeria, is best explained by their fainting either during court prosecutions or during parliamentary investigations. They arrive in wheel chairs. They often complain of ill health in order to have sympathy or delay or to escape trial and investigation. Our focus is not on this aspect of integrity of character.

At the level of PMB, his socio-political integrity is essentially defined by his disregard for the rule of law, and particularly for Nigeria’s Constitution, which he publicly swore on oath to defend as elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In this regard, PMB’s lack of integrity is both indirectly and directly engendered.

Indirectly, the lack of integrity is established by the action of others, which he consciously or not support, but which, apparently, is driven by lack of integrity. For instance, a Professor of Polymer Science, Professor Paul Mamza, in a recent tweet, recalled the case of a Third Class Graduate of Political Science of Ahmadu Bello University, who he helped long time ago for admission into the B.Sc Political Science programme on the basis of the begging of Major-General Muhammadu Buhari. Professor Mamza was then the Deputy Director of the School of Basic and Remedial Studies (SBRS).

In the eyes of Professor Mamza. even though Professor Mamza ‘thought (Major-General Buhari) was a good and upright man,’ the candidate he helped, ‘Fatuhu Muhammed, is too ill-prepared to understand what University system entails.’ In other words, why beg people to enable admission of someone who does not have the capacity to cope with university education? If General Buhari’s begging was considered at the level of the SBRS, it could still be pardonable. However, what happened at the level of Fatuhu Muhammed’s completion of the SBRS programme and passage from there to admission into the B.Sc in Political Science programme? This is where the perception of PMB’s integrity begins to pose problems. Professor Mamza believes that PMB is quite good and upright a man.

The direct lack of integrity is a resultant from PMB’s various acts of omission and commission in the disregard for rule of law and for the protection of national interest. First, PMB is on record to have acted against the interest of Nigeria at international fora, even as Head of State of Nigeria. One of the leading scholars of international relations and formerly of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, and now a gospeller of the Holy Word, Dr. Femi Aribisala, once wrote about the integrity of PMB when the protection of the national interest was at stake.

As reportedly put by Dr. Aribisala, ‘when the crunch came, his allegiance to Nigeria disappeared.’ Put differently, Dr. Aribisala has it that ‘in the election of the Organisation of African Unity Secretary General in 1985, Buhari voted against Nigeria but for Niger instead. He secured the election of Ide Oumarou, a Fulani man from Niger, as opposed to Peter Onu, an Igbo man from Nigeria.’ And perhaps most significantly, Dr. Aribisala observed that ‘by so doing, Buhari became the first and only Head of State in the history of modern international relations to vote against his country in favour of his tribe.’

In the context of our analysis of the deepening lack of integrity of PMB, how do we explain the fact of a Head of State, leaving his country on public funding to attend an African summit and, for that matter, to go and vote against his country? Even if PMB, for whatever reasons, has animosity vis-à-vis Peter Onu, a compatriot, what prevented him from abstaining from the vote so that he would not be on record to be acting against Nigeria whose constitution he had responsibility to defend? Again, was the Buhari of yesterday in any way different from the PMB of today?
Second, we drew attention in the Vie Internationale of last week Sunday to Professor Ben Nwabueze’s observation of PMB’s subversion of the EFCC Act and the 1999 Constitution. As observed by Professor Nwabueze, Section 2(3) of the EFCC Act provides that the ‘Chairman and Members of the Commission, other than ex-officio members, shall be subject to the confirmation of the Senate.’

In this regard, Professor Nwabueze has argued, the problem is not about nomination, but about appointment that requires Senatorial confirmation. PMB has appointed Ibrahim Magu as Acting Chairman of the EFCC since 2016 without confirmation by the Senate, which has actually rejected twice his nomination for very weighty reasons. How do we explain PMB’s integrity in this regard? Integrity does not allow for politicisation and condoning of weighty allegations against public officials.

Third, PMB’s integrity, without any shadow of doubt, is on the path of rapid decline, especially in light of his refusal to be summoned by the House of Representatives to speak on the frightening situation of insecurity in the country. Indeed, last week, the House of Representatives summoned PMB to brief a Joint Session of the Senate and House of Representatives on the security challenges with which the country has been faced, particularly following the indecent massacre of 43 farmers on their farms by Boko Haramists.

PMB initially was reported in a tweet on 10th December, 2020 by one of his media aides, Lauretta Onochie, that he would surely honour the summon from the National Assembly, but which was not to be. The disregard for the summon was not as a result of misinformation or miscommunication by the aide, but largely as a result of myopic political considerations and wrong strategic calculations: APC Governors met and objected to PMB’s appearance at the National Assembly because of the need to avoid creating a precedence that might be used to compel, in the foreseeable future, the summon of governors by the Houses of Assembly. And expectedly too, PMB took the advice and refused to appear on Thursday, 11th December at the National Assembly.

Most unfortunate was the non-appearance of PMB. The non-appearance has generated heated interest and controversy. The opponents of appearance hide under Section 218(4) of Nigeria’s Constitution as amended, while the proponents of appearance capitalise on Section 89(1) of the same Constitution. As provided in Section 218(1) of the Constitution, ‘the powers of the President as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation shall include power to determine the operational use of the armed forces of the Federation.’ This power is strongly believed to belong exclusively to the President.

In the same vein, Section 89(1)(a) of the same Constitution says that ‘for the purposes of any investigation under Section 88 of this Constitution and subject to the provisions thereof, the Senate or the House of Representatives or a Committee appointed in accordance with Section 62 of this Constitution shall have power to: a) procure all such evidence, written or oral, direct or circumstantial, as it may think necessary or desirable, and examine all persons as witnesses whose evidence may be material or relevant to the subject matter; b) require evidence to be given on oath…’

What is noteworthy about Section 88 referred to is that, in its subsection (2)(b), it is clearly stated that ‘the powers conferred on the National Assembly under the provisions of this section are exercisable only for the purpose of enabling it to… expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by it.’

It is noteworthy that the National Assembly is empowered to investigate anyone for the purposes of exposing corruption and inefficiency. This provision is quite apt in the sense that many hold the belief that Boko Haram insurgency is full time business for the military Generals, hence the issue of corruption and inability to contain the insurgency.

Some Nigerians also posit that, even if it is illegal in the eyes of some observers for the National Assembly to summon PMB to address national security challenges, the ideal thing to do is to place emphasis on the need to be accountable to the people of Nigeria as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria. PMB should normally be accountable for the actions of his government. Additionally noteworthy is Section 218(4)(b) which provides that the National Assembly shall have power to make laws for the regulation of… the appointment, promotion and disciplinary control of members of the armed forces of the Federation.’ All these provisions directly raise the question of the recidivist attacks on innocent law-abiding people of Nigeria. If, as we have shown above, the integrity of PMB has not protected the rule of law, and has been against Nigeria’s national interest. It is also deepening. In this regard, what is the place of Nigeria’s foreign policy?

The Foreign Policy Dimensions
First, the institutional mechanism required to execute foreign policy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) is a problem of its own, and therefore cannot polish Nigeria’s image on the platform of integrity. The MFA itself lacks integrity of purpose. The MFA of today is more of a domestic administrative office, rather than for a dignified diplomatic strategy. It is a ministry where greater emphasis is always put by the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs (HMFA) on what the Public Service Rules say, but without readiness to accept to look at acts of serious misconduct for which the same Public Service Rules also provide.
I remember having drawn attention of the MFA to the various acts of gross misconduct by a former Director of Administration and Finance of the NIIA, Ms. Agatha Ude, over which the then Ike Nwachukwu-led Governing Council, even with the calibre of its membership, kept quiet. Members like Tanko Yakassai and even prominent scholars like Professor Akin Oyebode, kept quiet, thus raising the issue of integrity again at the levels of politicians, academics and diplomats.

Indeed, Agatha Ude, for instance, changed promotion examination results, contrary to what was officially established by a committee that comprised the MFA, Office of the Head of Service, the NIIA and many others, to favour some members of staff. The affected staff needed some few points to qualify for possible promotion. She removed all queries in her file. I drew the attention of the Governing Council to the acts of serious misconduct, but the Ike Nwachukwu’s Council consciously demonstrated patriotism by covering them up and writing a malicious report against me, but without succeeding in destroying the hard truths. The MFA, as the supervisory authority was glad to receive the Council’s fraudulent report. Up till this time I am writing, no one has bothered to ask me any question or queried the integrity of my allegations and position. What really did Agatha Ude and many others not do and that were not only reported to the then Permanent Secretary of the MFA, Ambassador Bulus Lolo, but also brought to the attention of the HMFA? The HMFA never bothered to investigate. Who really has integrity in Nigeria’s public service?

The issue of succession at the NIIA, following the retirement of Professor Bukar Bukarambe earlier in the year, is another problem of integrity. The HMFA, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, directed that the most senior officer should be appointed to oversee the affairs of the institute in acting capacity. And true enough, the HMFA was quite right in this regard, but the most senior officer who was appointed happened to have queries and cases in court which the HMFA consciously tried to ignore, but was compelled to reckon with. Integrity raises the conflict of priority and interest between seniority of tenure and grade, on the one hand, and questionable record of serious misconduct, on the other.

The story is not different with the appointment of an acting Permanent Secretary in the MFA. The same HMFA directed the appointment of the most senior Foreign Service Officer, who unfortunately, again, has questionable record while the Head of Service countered it with the appointment and transfer of another officer, believed to have cleaner record, to the MFA.

The most unfortunate decision of the HMFA in recent times is the suspension of the annual promotion exercise until the appointment of a new Director General at the NIIA. Such a suspension cannot but be most unfortunate because of the implications for notional promotions. When members of staff cannot, because they are officially prevented as a result of myopic policy decisions, their elevation is unnecessarily delayed by one year. Where it is not an issue of delay, the promotion cannot go with payment of arrears, because Government has cancelled the payment of backdated arrears, losing one year’s promotion exercise as a result of the cancellation cannot but be a heavy undeserved punishment.

The point being made about the MFA is that, it now has more time to oversee the day-to-day running of parastatals than having time for evolving diplomatic strategy and re-strategy. It is now a Ministry of increasing non-diplomatic professionals and declining quality. Can we really talk about any integrity at the level of the MFA of which PMB is also the chief diplomat?

Secondly, PMB @Mbuhari complained that ‘foreign press coverage of EndSARS Violence was not balanced, especially from CNN and BBC.’ More important, he said, he ‘was disgusted by the coverage, which did not give attention to the policemen that were killed, the stations that were burnt, and the prisons that were opened.’ For reasons of psychology of human differences, PMB may not be faulted for his perception and his mania of evaluation of the issues involved.

However, his premise of evaluation is quite faulty and three issues are inherent in his tweet. First, he directly and indirectly accepted the reports of the CNN and BBC as valid. PMB’s major complaint is that their reports were not balanced, and not that they did not speak to the truth. His concern is that the CNN and the BBC did not tell the story of violence from which the policemen and other people suffered.

There is also the question of PMB’s tendency to lump together peaceful protesters and hoodlums that perpetrated the criminal violence. This should not be. It should be noted that the CNN and the BBC were simply interested in the peaceful protesters because of their concerns for protection of democracy and human rights. And this brings us to the critical issue of the criminal violence itself.

The CNN and the BBC appear to have rightly avoided talking about the criminal hoodlums because, doing so, has the potential to indict the Buhari administration the more. Many Nigerians believe that the hoodlums were sponsored by Government. The BBC correspondent gave a very convincing video report of the involvement of the military, of which PMB is Commander-in-Chief, in the October 20, 2020 brutal killing of peaceful protesters. From the perspective of the international media community, the integrity of PMB is at stake. Nigerian diplomats cannot but find it difficult to defend any claim to integrity by PMB.

Thirdly, on June 26, 2012 former Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola, told the Nigerian Voice that the House of Representatives had the right to summon the then President of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. In 2020, the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, argued to the contrary. Both of them, though learned people, have interpreted the Constitution in their own manner, but without looking at it from the angle of integrity in the public service, which is the issue involved in PMB’s refusal to honour the summon by the National Assembly.

And true enough in Nigeria of today, there is an emerging definitional dynamic of integrity: increasing practice of fainting, slumping, self-bandaging, or claiming illness during investigations into allegations of misdemeanour, corruption and indiscipline. There is also accusing National Assembly members frontally of their complicity in shady deals with the people accused and being investigated. The case of Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei during the Niger Delta Development Commission probe and prosecution by the EFCC, the case of Abdulraheed Maina, who is being prosecuted for embezzling pension funds and who escaped to the Republic of Niger by motorcycle and did not slump or fall off from the motorbike, but returned to Nigeria only to slump during prosecution at the High Court in Nigeria, as well as the case of Senator Chris Ngige whose interventions in the House of Representatives prompted the investigating committee of the House to stop its public hearing to save itself from further public embarrassment, clearly reveal that there is nothing like integrity in the political governance of Nigeria under PMB. And, most unfortunately too, the lack of integrity is deepening grosso modo.