Buhari, the Ghost of Corruption and the Metaphor of Al-Safah – By Khalil Muhammad


General Muhammadu Buhari GMB is generally regarded as the most incorruptible politician. This could largely be attributed to the fact that he did not serve under a civilian environment where you need to negotiate your steps to achieve whatever you want. As attested by El-Rufai in his controversial book. Where he wrote that he did not understand that leaders could be good and bad at the same time until he attended Harvard and studied political psychology under a Jesuit scholar. Hence he recalled how is boss General Obasanjo (OBJ) would speak and preach like a pastor against corruption and after which he would call the Managing Director of NNPC to arrange for a contract for the PDP. Most of the people around Buhari are more corrupt than Jonathan. As far as El-Rufai is concerned you can give all your family members plots of land in FCT and still be the best minister of the FCT. How can Buhari manage these contradictions of his followers. If Buhari wins the election he will go down in history as the most popular politician in Nigeria’s history. Even his Lagos handlers backed him because they know people like him for his integrity and incorruptibility.

Nigeria as a young nation is always battling with leadership crisis and in search of those who can rescue it by going back to the reservoir of former leaders. Two of such leaders have been sought and drafted into partisan politics. OBJ for his unalloyed loyalty to the integrity of the Nigerian state and GMB for his incorruptibility. Sadly OBJ’s end was controversial and unfortunate. Will GMB’s presidency be similar to that of OBJ and end in a similar disgrace. As they are from the same military constituency and belonged to the same clique that brought down the corrupt and inept Government of General Gowon which failed to fulfill its promise to hand over power to democratically elected civil leadership and also failed to chart the path to economic development when it had money but did not know how to spend it. First we explore how OBJ ended.

In 1999 when the military decided to quit they searched for a safe hand which they found in their former boss General Obasanjo (OBJ). He was chosen by the elite because of his commitment to the unity of the country being a detribalized patriot. He was unpopular in South West. This was the region the military wanted to appease because of the aborted June 12 1993 elections in which MKO Abiola a classmate of Obasanjo won and was denied victory by the military under the leadership of General Babangida. Whether Obasanjo’s term was a success or a failure it is still subject of debate but he was indicted by El-Rufai one of his most intelligent protégés who wrote: “The third Term period was one in which the trajectory of our administration changed for the worse. Corruption at the highest level became more overt, impunity escalated, compromise with unscrupulous politicians became the order of the day, and the nation’s governance took a turn for the worse in many areas culminating in Obasanjo’s choice of successors that have led to the current economic and political crises that Nigeria has been thrown into”.

Indictment of OBJ is not restricted to Nigerian politicians who are now courting him because of his estrangement with Jonathan but even reputable international scholars indicted him. Richard Dowden President of the Royal Africa Society observed that for anything you wanted in Nigeria under OBJ you had to bribe from contract of millions of dollars, voter card registration and above all visiting the President for an interview: “Everybody pays. Even when I went to interview President Obasanjo, the staffer escorting me slipped Obasanjo’s bodyguard a few naira. It was not asked for, just slipped discreetly from hand to hand. Why was that necessary?  What relationship did that cement?” His indictment of OBJ was very significant: “With the legacy of sixteen years of bad military rule, strong international support and a six fold increase in Nigeria’s oil revenues during Obasanjo’s eight years as President, it is hard to find exactly how he managed to end his reign as just about the most unpopular man in Nigeria. When he came to power, he had all the cards. He could have bought off or charmed opponents, taken easy steps such as providing electricity and clean water. He could have left a legacy of real change, a transformed Nigeria, but Obasanjo left office discredited and disgraced”.

GMB may end up like OBJ if he allows the clique following him now to dominate his government. APC as a party is not different from PDP it is controlled by rogues who stole from government treasuries across the country. Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT) cannot account for his wealth which he used to form and dominate ACN and later dominated the APC. The party is also not democratic and does not believe in merit but godfatherism and mediocrity. GMB is a lone ranger in that party. In addition BAT controls the propaganda wing of the party elite. Therefore if GMB becomes the president and fails to do their bidding they will unleash propaganda against him. Similarly corrupt Governors who are vultures will not allow GMB to function. One of them Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso cannot account for over N300 billion Local Government funds and it is certainly not likely that the people will ever allow him to go scot free after he leaves office. Will GMB allow him to go scot free? It will set bad precedence. Corrupt people like Kwankwaso must be tried. He is now using propaganda but that will not protect him once the war on corruption begins earnestly.

Thanks to the charisma and goodwill of GMB. Men who adore nepotism with arrogance like El-Rufai and men who are heartless and corrupt like Kwankwaso are today saints. But this cannot last. If GMB must succeed he must uphold honor and merit instead of hero worship. He must make a hard choice when he becomes the president. He cannot surround himself with corrupt people and think they can change Nigeria by simply vilifying their opponents. They are corrupt but they become saints by calling their opponents corrupt. El-Rufai is a saint because he indicted OBJ. Kwankwaso is a saint because he drove Shekarau out of APC and gave money to GMB’s lieutenants.

GMB must know that corruption is not the only problem of Nigeria. The most fundamental problem is lack of visionary leadership and the outcome is widespread endemic poverty. Nigeria’s most internationally respected Governor of Central, Sanusi Lamido once said corruption is everywhere and it is not the most important problem of Nigeria as some countries had corrupt leaders yet they prospered. The problem of Nigeria is that we lack the initiative to implement policies that will bring about economic development. The APC is no different. In 2011 when the progressives first muted the idea of merging. The programs of the parties were harmonized by a team led by Chief Olu Falae but unknown to Nigerians ACN said it had no program it can implement anything. This is how most politicians of Nigeria operate they are predators for power. They have no vision for the country except empty slogans and promises. Anti-corruption campaign is surely a catch phrase just like the Tinubu-Fashola window dressing in Lagos. What are concrete policies of moving Nigeria forward. Just recently Bill Gates the billionaire genius made a review of  Joe Studwell’s How Asia Works. He reviewed it because: ” it claimed to answer two of the greatest questions in development economics: How did countries like Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and China achieve sustained, high growth and turn into development success stories? And why have so few other countries managed to do so? Clear answers could benefit billions of people living in countries that are poor today but have the essential ingredients to develop thriving economies.” According to Studwell these four Asian countries progressed because they developed their agriculture before moving to industrialization while others such as Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines lagged behind because they did not well in that regard. Bill Gates summarized Studwell’s three-part formula:

  1. Create conditions for small farmers to thrive.
  2. Use the proceeds from agricultural surpluses to build a manufacturing base that is tooled from the start to produce exports.
  3. Nurture both these sectors (small farming and export-oriented manufacturing) with financial institutions closely controlled by the government.

Professor Soludo wrote an informed critique of the current sour political discourse which are “clueless” from both sides as no ideas are offered by the politicians. He praised OBJ for fantastic economic performance based on growth statistics and poverty index. One fundamental question that he did not address is OBJ’s role in the present predicament. OBJ was more concerned about himself as the “father of modern Nigeria”. He never wanted any of his brilliant children to succeed him because he wanted to remain in control from Ota. He chose Yar’ Adua because he wanted someone he could control. This was what he told El-Rufai: “Well, nothing will change, you know? I will be in Ota but will be running things. Everything will remain the same, you will remain in government, the economic team will remain. Nothing will change. Only I will move to Ota and Yar’ Adua will be here but we will be running things”. OBJ did not have the luxury of years like Lee of Singapore, Park of Korea, Mahathir of Malaysia and al-Makhtum of UAE who transformed their countries. And because he was selfish he did not build a party that will transform the country as the Communist Party of China did by transforming itself as a party for Chinese prosperity and reform when Deng said what matters is economic prosperity not ideology.

Professor Soludo was right when he noted the lack of ideas in figures and the intellectual bankruptcy of the political class that is lazy and cannot even work out figures as Awo did in 1979 in his campaign. Nigeria is really backward and in danger. The people who want to govern the country do not know how to do it but are riding on sentiments. He observed that Conservative Party of UK campaigned based on figures and where to source the money. The APC that is claiming change has no idea of anything. It said it will create jobs in states based on “quota system” just as Jonathan also claimed he will create more jobs when re-elected. Nobody knows how and they never give details just lies. The APC is not an angel and the PDP is not a demon. The problems facing Nigeria are enormous but are swept under the carpet by politicians who restrict themselves to taking power and are not concerned with harnessing the country’s potentials.

One of the solutions offered by Soludo is the implementation of the report of the National Conference on restructuring to guarantee Fiscal Federalism. Whatever that means. It is possible to create two million jobs with the right policies but the problem is that under the current dispensation neither of the parties has that capacity and this is the serious issue. Soludo recommended inclusion of people with ideas from all parts of the country in any in-coming Government as IBB and OBJ did earlier. GEJ team is dominated by Easterners “Biafrans” while GMB team is dominated by the Oduduwa people. Both teams lack concrete ideas that will move the country out of its present predicament but rely on propaganda and empty promises. This is dangerous.

GMB apart from the war against corruption needs a team that will provide the ideas to move the country forward by increasing economic productivity. Clearly the APC does not have such a team. The Tinubu-Fashola Oduduwa clique are parasites. They have no economic ideas. Seventy percent of Nigeria’s economic activity is in the Lagos Zone so you don’t need a magician to do what they have done through collection of revenue and pocketing some of it for politics through consultants. As for the Kwankwasiyya up North they are even more primitive and callous. The Kwankwasiyya Executive Council in Kano State based on the figures they provided made approvals of over N417 billion out of the over N700 billion received by the state from the Federation Account from 2011 to 2013. Out of this N265 billion equivalent of over 63% went to Ministries of Works and Land while Agriculture got only N8.3 billion approvals or 3.1% most of it (over N5 billion) went to fertilizer procurement which was distributed to only Kwankwasiyya members. Agriculture is the only sector that can absorb jobs and reduce poverty yet that is not important to Kwankwasiyya. The entire money spent on it is less than the amount spent on the two Kwankwasiyya flyovers, one was recently commissioned by GMB. Even education received N39 billion equivalent of 14.7% of the amount allocated to works and land or 9.3% of total approvals and out of this amount over N10 billion (over 25%) was allocated for training 2000 students overseas in some courses including piloting that are not relevant to the state and have been criticized by NUC. The remaining N29 billion are for projects for the over two million citizens in the state’s educational institutions. No single staff of any of the state’s tertiary institutions has been sponsored for further studies abroad despite the need for such but 2000 Kwankwasiyya followers. The analysis of this treachery can go on. Such people have nothing to offer Nigerians.

For GMB to succeed if he ever becomes President he must do what Al-Safah founder of the Abbasid Dynasty the greatest dynasty in the Muslim World’s history did to those who helped him in his battle against the Ummayyad Dynasty. He executed Abu Muslim his chief propagandist. GMB does not need to execute Oduduwa and Kwankwasiyya Clique members. But he must discard them for their corruption and intellectual bankruptcy and seek people with ideas that can move the country forward. From his campaigns it is obvious there are no people in his team with economic ideas that can transform Nigeria. GEJ must also free himself from the clique surrounding him and take responsibility if he ever wins as suggested by Soludo. Nigeria can create two million jobs and must do that with the right strategy when an emergency is declared but not by empty slogans and greedy politicians who only want power.

Khalil Muhammad


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  1. Nonye January 28, 2015 at 11:11 pm -

    If author had first told Buhari to present his qualifying academic credentials first. Author lives in denial.