This is harmattan, so we should be worried about Magu

by Alexander O. Onukwue

The attack on Ibrahim Magu’s unoccupied residence will not get the sufficient attention it deserves.

On one hand, that sounds somehow like an overstatement. Many other Nigerians like him are robbed regularly and suffer losses of properties and lives but the stories of their losses never make front page news or trend on twitter. There is probable cause to sneer at him for having an empty and incompletely built residence in Karshi manned by a Police officer, a luxury beyond the reach of the common Nigerian.

But this is not about Magu as a member of the higher middle-to-upper class of Nigerian society. Instead, this is about the latest attempt to “show Magu”, the EFCC boss, that he must continue to watch over his shoulders and cup his head whenever he hears a loud thud. A message is being sent to Magu that if he is tagging the anti-corruption war a “do or die affair”, anything he does to tamper with the loots dear to the corrupt could lead to the death of something dear to him.

It is impossible not to relate the physical shows of aggressions towards Magu to the awkward position he occupies in the Nigerian polity today. No one has ever been rejected by the Senate as many times as Magu has been. His enmities with certain top brass in the upper chamber are well documented and while it would be irresponsible to input any culpability on anyone without evidence, one gets white in harmattan when you don’t get the insurance that comes with the right ointments. No doubt things would be much easier for the EFCC boss if it had the seal of anointment.

The shooting at the Wuse offices of the EFCC in mid-August generated some talk about the impact of the anti-corruption fight. It was seen as a sign that some persons were becoming uncomfortable with the EFCC’s curiosity. Four months from that, the attack has become more personal. Those supposedly peeved by Magu’s defiant public countenance are now literally bringing the battle to his backyard. Now, as then, the news will only be of interest for a few days, even when, unlike the last time, someone – a police officer – was killed after being beaten to a pulp. Regardless of political battles, this should be a point of interest for the members of the legislature, but the Senate will probably not do anything about an officer it has not approved.

The EFCC under President Buhari has been far from impressive on the aspect of delivering on the anti-corruption expectations pledged on the campaign trail in 2015. There is no hard evidence that the organisation in the period of Magu’s reign has done anything radically different from the tenures of any of the administrations after Nuhu Ribadu. But a coconut that proves hard to crack does not imply the absence of water. It could just be the harmattan making it hard. Getting the best out of the EFCC will require the stability that comes with the complete support of the legislature and the cooperation of other Police units, particularly the Department of State Security under Lawal Daura.

Because, right now, it looks like the anti-graft body is largely on its own. And Mr Magu, in particular, appears isolated.

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