Buratai: When Corruption Fights Back – From Philip Agbese


By now Nigerians, those eager for change among us, should have realised that they made one mistake about their assumption about how the anti-corruption fight would go under President Muhammadu Buhari. The assumption had been that corruption would be trampled out of existence once President Buhari gets into office. The mistake was that none of us had the foresight that corruption will fight back when we fight it. For those who had the slightest expectation that there would be some level of resistance from beneficiaries of corruption, they certainly never anticipated the rabid desperation with which corruption is fighting back.
Incidentally, the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed had drawn attention to the fact that corruption is now fighting back and the media is one of the platforms where it is doing battle. Groups that masquerade as social activists are pushing contents to the media with the aim of discrediting the anti-corruption efforts.
The lowest ebb for these shameless lots who do not wish the country well came on Sunday when a group that touted itself as “Save the Nation Movement” (STNM) issued a statement to demand that the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai be included among those indicted for stealing money meant for buying arms for the military. The army has since issued a statement that laid waste to the claims of the group but it is necessary, for the sake of the anti-corruption fight, to further expound on this matter so that unsuspecting Nigerians are not taken in by the deception of the faceless movement’s paymasters.
First, the fact that STNM and its National Secretary, Steven Chilaka, could not take the pain to consult Google or Wikipedia as to how long General Buratai was Director of Procurement at the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) speaks volume as to the disarray in the camp of those behind this campaign against national interest. The movement claimed he held that post from 2012 as opposed to 2015 March 2014 to May 2015 that he was in that position. The logical conclusion is that whoever drafted that statement for Chilaka to issue was out to do damage.
Being too lazy to research may look like a pardonable offence in a country where people once become multi-billionaires for doing nothing other than having bent conscience to steal blood money, but for STNM members to delve into areas where they have no capacity to comprehend speaks of the kind of idiocy that can only be driven with stolen public funds. Just as they made no efforts to understand the span of General Buratai’s tenure as Director of Procurement, they made even lesser effort to understand the workings of contract awards and funds approval within the military services. This singular shortcoming left the group making claims that will not be accepted even in the beer parlors populated by inebriated drunks.
First, there is the impression that anyone who served the nation at the same time as their thieving masters has necessarily soiled their hands. Hence, the poorly thought demand to include General Buratai’s name on the list of indicted persons regardless the fact that he served in that capacity meritoriously without compromising. These same gangs of paid wailers are the ones alleging lack of due process in the case of those who have been arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and now standing trial. If they can cry foul about due process over indicted persons being arrested, what will the right thinking members of the society now cry when an upright man is indicted simply to satisfy a twisted demand?
Also, trying to create the impression that only past and present officers from one branch of the military have been indicted betrays an attempt to create disaffection within the nation’s security circle. The question again is whether it makes sense to indict blameless persons on account of ‘democratizing’ and  sharing around responsibility for wrongdoing just for the sake of having a spread across the services. If that is the case, STNM should shop for names to include on the indictment list from the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps also.
Thirdly, there is the unsettling feeling about the propriety of STNM, or any other group that will follow in its steps, making this call. The army has long before now alerted Nigerians that Boko Haram sponsors will attempt to discredit the army and its officers. If is proven that this and other group are doing bidding of Boko Haram sponsors then there are ramifications are inevitable.  For instance, there have been suggestions that there could be the business side to sponsoring insurgent activities since insecurity automatically means budgeting huge amounts for weapons only for the money to be stolen. There is other side that propaganda, disinformation and misinformation are themselves weapons in a war such that anyone deliberately misleading the public to the benefit of Boko Haram and their sponsors has, on account of that fact, become a terrorist collaborator and should not be treated differently from those who create mayhem with bullets and explosives.
In other areas, it seems the statement issued by the movement was part of a grand plan to compromise the report of the committee and make it look bad both in the law court and in the public space. The statement frantically tried to build doubts around the good work of the committee so that people can begin to be doubtful of its findings that indicted some officers. This highlights the need for Nigerians to familiarize themselves with how the system works so that jobbers will not feed them false information to defeat the end of justice.
These activists for hire apparently also want to overwhelm the various probe committees and anti-graft agencies since they can astronomically increase workloads by crying wolf using inaccurate information. The anti graft agencies must therefore be careful that they are not led by the nose into time wasting engagements on accounts of accommodating diversity of views.
One must urge General Buratai and the Nigerian Army not to relent on the good work they have been doing in fighting insurgency in the country. The fact that those behind the carnage are already giving themselves away through proxies is indicative that things are being done right on the war front and Nigerians are seeing results. His directive to Army officers to declare their assets is noteworthy, particularly when he had voluntarily declared his in the past. Had he benefitted from the blood money that some unscrupulous people shared it would have been very glaring from his present worth.
The Federal Government on its part must be able to filter noise from the voice of reason. This is because as corruption fights back dubious people will hide under social activism to cause distractions. A strategy that has been exposed is that the cabal members want the government to play into their hands by sacking performing officers but President Buhari’s government is definitely way smarter than acting on beer parlor gossips.
In conclusion, Nigerians should not expect that corruption will stop fighting back because this one case of misleading propaganda has been exposed. Instead, in the coming days, weeks and months, the hands behind the puppets currently on this parade of shame will up the game as they become more desperate. It is up to us all to protect the upright while making sure that those indicted for wrong doings face the law.

Agbese is an international public affairs commentator, writes from the Boroughs, Hendon, (NW4 4BT), London, United Kingdom.



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