A little over two years ago, on July 25, 2012 to be exact, this column tried to draw the attention of President Goodluck Jonathan to one good reason why the nation’s war against corruption has never made any serious headway, namely the highly selective application of the weapons used in the war against the scourge.
I used the word corruption then not in its narrow sense of “dishonest exploitation of power for personal again,” – in Encarta Concise English Dictionary’s phrase. I used the word in its broadest sense of the abuse of trust for whatever reason.
I illustrated my point with four examples; (1) the huge oil subsidy scam then just unfolding in which some of the beneficiaries were members of the president’s kitchen cabinet, (2) the blatantly nepotistic appointment of the First Lady, Dame Patience, as a Permanent Secretary in the civil service of her native Bayelsa State, 13 years after she had retired on her own as wife of then Deputy Governor Goodluck Jonathan, (3) the highly selective application of public service rules and regulations in the appointment and retirement of senior civil servants, senior military commanders, police chiefs and those of other uniformed services, and (4) more specifically, the arbitrary extension of office given the bosses of the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) and the Nigerian Intelligence Agency (NIA), Alhaji Abubakar Mohammed and Ambassador Ezekiel Olaniyi Oladeji, respectively. The two had, on account of both age and years of service, been overdue for retirement.
A year on after my article, things seem to have taken turns only for the worse, not better. And the main reason is clearly the president’s wish, regardless of all pretences to the contrary, to contest – and win – the 2015 presidential election, come hell, come high-water. The president has obviously become a hostage to this wish.
Among those who seem to have taken him hostage is the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim, GCON. Anyim, it seems, has been exploiting President Jonathan’s apparent desperation for another term to gain as much undue advantage for his Igbo kith and kin in the federal civil service in return for a promise of the Igbo vote. There seems, at least in the eyes of Honourable Mustapha Bala, to be an irrefutable case of the gross violation of the principles of federal character as enshrined in the Constitution against Anyim.
Five months ago Honourable Bala, a ranking member of the House of Representatives from Kano State, gave a full page interview in LEADERSHIP WEEKEND (March 16) in which he categorically accused Anyim of abusing his office. “Yes,” he said in the course of the interview, “the office of the SGF is corrupt and unfair to the North like I have stated before. Currently, we have many DGs (Directors General) of Northern origin whose tenure renewal is in the limbo because the SGF has failed to act on them.” The federal legislator went on to name several of the parastatals in question.
Naturally, the SGF took umbrage. Four days after Bala’s interview, he took out a full page advert addressed to the Speaker, Rt. Honourable Aminu Tambuwal, in LEADERSHIP (March 20) in which he lambasted the legislator. Bala, he insinuated, was barely out of his diapers when he served as senate president with distinction nearly ten years before. After ticking off the “kindergarten” legislator – apologies, Chief Bisi Akande, the protem APC chief who recently dismissed Goodluck Jonathan’s presidency as “kindergarten”, much, of course, to the annoyance of all the president’s men – every inch of the way, Anyim concluded his advert by “humbly” requesting the Speaker to “kindly call Hon. Mustapha Bala to order.” Bala, he said, should be told to wake up “to the fact that Nigeria is no longer run by baseless ethnic sentiments as the divisive song has become archaic.”
With due respect to the SGF, it is not a fact that the country has seized to be run by baseless ethnic sentiments. As the distinguished former Senate president knows all too well, Nigeria’s politics is a veritable bastion of ethnic – and sectarian – sentiments. This is why our politicians ask for – and all too often get – our votes, not on the basis of their integrity, commitment and ability to deliver on their promises. They ask for, and willy-nilly, often get our votes essentially on the basis of where they come from and what god they claim to worship. Unfortunately this ethnic and sectarian framework determines much of everything else in our society; our economics, our businesses, our bureaucracy and parastatals, name it.
Take, for example, the parastatals over which the former Senate president and Hon. Bala have been at war. There are at least eight – Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Nomadic Education Commission, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), PTDF and lately, Customs – whose leaderships have been in limbo for nearly a year now – except for Customs – simply because the SGF can’t seem to help the presidency, as it is his job, to make up its mind whether or not to renew them.
On the other hand, there are other parastatals like the Debt Management Office, the Security Exchange Commission and the Federal Road Safety Commission the tenures of whose bosses have been quickly renewed at the SGF’s behest. He may have good reason for the difference in his speed of handling the two sets of parastatals but it may be more than mere coincidence that the second set has his fellow Igbos and Southerners as heads.
If Anyim rejects these comparisons as unfair what can be his explanation for the single-minded determination with which the presidency, again at his apparent behest, has pursued the executive bill seeking to reduce the experience of the director-general of the Pension Commission (PENCOM) from 20 years to 15 just to suit the current acting DG, Mrs Chinelo Anohu-Amazu, who happens to be a fellow Igbo? The young lady may be a smart lawyer, but, for crying out loud, she is a 1998 graduate and came to her position as PENCOM’s pioneer company secretary and a general manager through a less than transparent procedure; she was appointed directly by the presidency instead of by the commission’s board as should’ve been the case.
How, again, can the SGF explain recent goings-on at the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) which suggests he is being ethnicist? The agency, which is under the Ministry of Science and Technology and has the president as it statutory chair, has nine institutes, among them two scientific equipment and development institutes, (SEDI) one in Minna, the other in Enugu. That of Enugu is headed by Professor Christian Nwajagu, the SGF’s fellow Igbo.
At the expiration of the tenure of the agency’s DG/CEO in March last year, the minister at the time, Professor Ita Okon Bassey Ewa, advertised the post in The Guardian, PUNCH and Daily Trust. Sixty two people applied out of whom 16 were shortlisted for written tests and interviews. Seven emerged as the best, with Dr Mohammed S. Haruna, the acting DG, at the top with a score of 72.1%. Prof. Nwajagu came a distant sixth with a score of 58.1%.
One of the things Hon. Bala accused the SGF of was that he sat on the recommendation of the minister for the appointment of Dr Haruna as substantive DG/CEO because his preference had been Prof. Nwajagu. Eventually, Dr Haruna got the job last April but it was backdated to April last year.
Since then the professor has served out one year over his mandatory eight years as director. However, alone of his colleagues who have served for eight years, he has been given a letter to continue as director without tenure, contrary to the extant regulations.
Not only that. There are speculations that the SGF’s office is making moves to have the SEDI under him removed from the science and technology ministry to education and made autonomous to boot.
It all looks like in this war between the former Senate president as the SGF and our “kindergarten” legislator, the facts and the dialectics do not seem to favour the former.
You are just an incurable northern irredentist. You praise (Lt-Gen T. Y.) Danjuma for his stupendous riches without alluding to corruption (“Another open letter to Gen Danjuma”, September 4). If it were OBJ (General Obasanjo), the phrase ‘ill-gotten’ would have been used to describe his gesture. OBJ had a cabal but Yar’Adua had ‘a so-called cabal.’ Double speak.
Danjuma had about ten oil wells, most of which he acquired during Abacha regime. Is that a godly person and a man of principle? This, in a country where millions wallow in abject poverty? He sold one of them to a Chinese company and made a cool $2 billion. The genesis of the acrimony between them was that OBJ retrieved 3 out of the wells because he found it unfair and too much.
Haruna, some of us didn’t attend university to be blind and illogical. We know the saintly patriots amongst us. Danjuma is not one.
You are still pained that OBJ didn’t retain you as his spokesman when he became president. Too bad.