Opinion: The 2019 angle to Pres. Buhari’s anti-corruption war

By Umar Sa’ad Hassan

“A cockroach is never safe amongst rats”

A lot of neighbourhoods in Kaduna where I grew up had at least one ‘old soldier’. They literally live off their exploits either as soldiers of the Biafran army or ones drafted in to help the Nigerian army fight the civil war. They always seem to be under a perpetual illusion of invincibility. They do nothing other than bore you with the same war stories everyday; either at beer parlours or at the drought game joint. The few that actually chose to pursue a means of livelihood mostly did so as gate men perhaps in line with the ‘once a soldier’ saying.

President Buhari is playing old soldier and he has something the one in my neighbourhood never had – Power. And like Walter Annenberg rightly said: “The greatest power is not money power but political power”. What makes his particularly very easy to wield is the fact that virtually everyone who has ever played a prominent role in government is dirty.

There is always a 99.9% chance of digging up dirt on anyone who has held office so it’s just a matter of ‘point and kill’ as far as most Nigerians are concerned. Our ‘old soldier at the top’ has gone on to silence two of his  fiercest critics: Olisa Metuh, the Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party and the Media/Publicity Director of the Party’s Presidential campaign, Femi Fani Kayode, with corruption charges. The third and fiercest of them all, Ayo Fayose is barely being protected by the immunity clause as the EFCC till date hasn’t furnished us with any proof that it secured a Judge’s consent before freezing his account with Zenith bank as stipulated by Section 34 of the EFCC Act.

Senate President Bukola Saraki’s prosecution by the CCB remains the only one of an APC member and it just so happens that it came after he embarrassed President Buhari in broad day by conspiring with the opposition to have himself voted in as Senate President on a day set aside by PMB to meet with the party’s lawmakers. The President’s anti-corruption war is largely one-sided so when a top member of his party is penciled down for investigation, it is more or less an eclipse. The quite ‘unusual’ investigation of Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso for the use of over N3 Billion from his state’s joint local government account during his time as governor to fund his Presidential campaign came as a shock. It had me looking deep to carve out an ulterior motive if any and I ended up discovering a pattern.

Apart from serving as a means to decimate critics and weaken the opposition, the war could very much also be serving as a weapon against potential threats to the President’s seat. The most potent threats are bound to come from the north and so far, virtually all the sellable northern candidates have been targeted by the EFCC. I’ll take it from the very top.

Sometime last year, Isa Yuguda, the former governor of Bauchi state was invited to the EFCC to answer questions as regards an aircraft belonging to the Bauchi state government. He was never charged with any offence and it automatically implies that he is innocent if the matter has not been revisited till date.

Then you also have the case of Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau who was accused of sharing in the N950M campaign funds sent to Kano by the Jonathan presidential campaign. After his release, he said someone named him as a N25M recipient but could not state where, how and when. His case seems closed as well.

With a president who has lost so much love in just his first year in office, these ex-governors represent two of the PDP’s best possible options for the Presidential ticket come 2019. The PDP would definitely field a northern candidate come next elections and the ‘anti-corruption’ channel remains the easiest way to diminish a candidate’s popularity.

With Sule Lamido, the ex-governor of Jigawa state technically ruled out as a result of his protracted battle with the EFCC. Ibrahim Shema, the immediate past governor of President Buhari’s home state of Katsina, stands a better chance than even any of the aforementioned names of flying the party’s flag but just last week, a certain Nasir Ingawa, who served as a Special adviser of his, came out to accuse him of diverting billions of SURE-P funds allocated to Katsina State for political campaigns. He still hasn’t fulfilled his promise of providing proof till date and one can’t conveniently dismiss it as not part of a plan to taint Gov. Shema’s name early or even one to lock him up ahead of the polls.

Senator Kwankwaso represents the best in-house option to President Buhari. He was second at the primaries and performed extraordinarily well as Governor of Kano state and if there is one person the APC can sell to Nigerians in the President’s place, it is Sen. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso. With the APC shedding some of its formidability as a unit due to internal fighting, the Senator could capitalize on that to upset the President at the polls and good old EFCC is very well on the path of making him only the second casualty of Buhari’s party. I wouldn’t be surprised if the matter dies a natural death like others before it. The deaths suggest more than anything that the EFCC has no case against them and that there could be another version of selective prosecution we are just learning about: one to weaken potential threats to his seat.

With most Nigerians fast running out of patience, the President may have devised a means to stay in the game and whether it works or not, time will tell.

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Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

Umar Sa’ad Hassan is a lawyer based in Kano.

Twitter:@alaye26

Email:[email protected]

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