Saturday, February 04, 2017

The politics of Magu’s confirmation

Following an initial setback caused by a purported security report on which the senate relied for suspending Ibrahim Magu’s confirmation as the substantive chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), President Muhammadu Buhari has rightly written back to the senate requesting Magu’s confirmation, having been convinced of the futility of the so-called report prepared by the Department of State Services (DSS).

Besides succumbing to wise counsel, Buhari’s decision aligns with the popular expectation of a great majority of the people who want to see Magu continue the excellent job he is doing in his acting role at the helm of the country’s foremost anti-corruption agency. Indeed, the voice for his retention has been so resounding that were Nigerians to cast a ballot regarding his continuation, the result would be returned overwhelmingly in his favour.

Yet, for him and the success of the anti-corruption campaign, the senate hurdle remains an albatross. Despite Buhari’s letter reiterating the crucial importance of checking the corruption scourge and appealing for a favourable acceptance of this nominee in view of the need to sustain the prevailing momentum and capacity of the EFCC, the body language of the senators is decidedly against this sentiment.

It does not matter to them that apart from the high integrity quotient of Buhari, their party’s and indeed Buhari’s flagship campaign promise of a frontal fight against corruption was the other major reason Nigerians voted massively for the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2015 presidential election. Nor do they feel embarrassed that despite belonging to the same APC party as President Buhari and being the majority in the upper parliament, APC senators are unable to muster the required insight and unity of purpose that would lead to a seamless confirmation of Buhari’s nominee as head of a strategic agency primed to actualize a top agenda in their party’s manifesto.

Understandably, some of them, including opposition PDP senators, are already being vigorously prosecuted for all manner of crimes by the EFCC. Thus, to them the nominee represents a creeping affliction that would effectively checkmate not just their own relentless pursuit of unconscionable excesses, but also that of similar selfish elite groups that have conspired to hold down the development of this country. Therefore, Chairman of EFCC can and should be anyone else but Magu, they must have resolved.

This is the ugly mindset that, in the first instance, arrogantly shunned due process and brazenly embraced a totally ill-advised request to the DSS for a security report on the acting EFCC Chair. In its entire history, until the Magu case, the Nigerian senate never asked for a security report on any nominee presented to it for confirmation by the presidency. Of course, the reason is clear. Before the presidency sends the name of any nominee to the senate, that nominee would have been vetted by the DSS. But this red chamber took that undistinguished route because Magu must be stopped anyhow. Hopefully, this would be the first and the last time such an abominable act would be carried out in the National Assembly.

Conscious of the potency of the threat he poses, the senate schemed for an alibi with which to nail Magu and found a willing tool in a messy DSS which helped finagle a report whose ambiguity exposed the malevolent intent of its colluding originators – a report containing preposterous allegations and recommendations that formed the basis of the senate’s refusal to proceed with the confirmation. The report was clearly aimed at achieving a predetermined goal as not only could the allegations contained therein be described as silly, but it also went ahead, curiously, to dish out recommendations for the senate.

This has left the politics of Magu’s confirmation, dirty and ill-tempered as it is, with a few unanswered questions. For example, if there was no evil agenda, what is the business of DSS in including recommendations in its report? Why wouldn’t they just stop at what they perceive as Magu’s ‘sins’ and leave the rest to the senators? Why did the DSS issue two different security reports and why did the senate discard the one that said Magu should be confirmed based on his brilliant performance and instead choose to work with the one that said Magu was not fit for confirmation? Could Buhari have forwarded his nominee’s name to the senate without the benefit of sighting a security report by the DSS? If the report were unfavourable could Buhari have still gone ahead, at the risk of his famed anti-corruption credential, to forward Magu’s name for confirmation?   

If there is any group that ought to be in the forefront of supporting the President and the party to succeed in the crusade against the monster called corruption, it should be the APC senators. Unfortunately, they have so far acted otherwise, presenting themselves in parliament as unrepentant antagonists of Buhari and the party, as well as playing the role of leading saboteurs of the anti-graft war. They have further underscored their hostility by hinting that they would summon the DSS boss to shed more light on the security report.

But they would be helping this country in a very significant way if they shed all prejudices and summon their patriotic instinct to do the right thing, by inviting Magu to the plenary with a view to confirming him as the substantive Chairman of EFCC.

Anything short of that is bound to seriously jeopardize the war against corruption and call the integrity of our senators to question.

*Godwin Onyeacholem is a journalist and could be reached   

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