Who are the “saints” standing between Maina and Buhari?

by Alexander O. Onukwue

Exiled former boss of the Presidential Task Team on Pension Reforms, Abdulrasheed Maina, has come out against persons working with president Buhari who have prevented him from meeting the president.

Mr Maina revealed this in a rare interview granted to Channels Television from an undisclosed location. After his reinstatement to the civil service caused an uproar when it became public, Maina has eluded law enforcement agencies and is reported by some to have fled the country.

But he is not backing down without a fight. Maina, from what can be heard in the interview, wishes to meet with the president if only there were not persons close to the president who stand in the way of truth.

“Thank God our president stands for the truth,” Maina said. “The unfortunate thing is that some people around him whom he has given trust are lying to him; this one I can attest to and I can give you instances, I can give you documentary evidence”.

From the story so far on the Maina scandal, the prevailing assumption is that very senior members of Buhari’s cabinet played key roles in returning him into the country and securing his resumption at his former duty post. The Attorney-General, Abubakar Malami, has denied that the flurry of letters which provided legal support for Maina’s return emanated from his office, but available evidence speaks loudly to the opposite. Also named in the scandal are the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, and the Director-General of the Directorate for State Security Services, Lawal Daura.

To the wider public, Maina’s resurgence in October may have happened quite automatically but it probably was not as much a secret to certain persons in the cabinet. Hence, that it indeed came to fruition must have been because there was top-level assent. The Head of Service, Ms Winifred Oyo-Ita has described her attempt to get President Buhari to understand the negative implication of a Maina reinstatement. This was known to the public because her memo detailing her efforts was suspected to have been leaked by Buhari’s chief of staff, Abba Kyari. Commentaries judged Oyo-Ita as stringently defending her integrity – her sainthood – on the matter but pictures of her and Mr Kyari sharing many laughs a week later perhaps took some shine off her halo.

Mr Kyari has been in the regular mentions of the media for his tight control of affairs in the presidency, particularly during the two periods of Buhari’s medical vacations in London. The wonder here would be if he, Mr Kyari, is the main target of Mr Maina’s accusation that “some people around [Buhari] whom he has given trust are lying to him”. Maina is not the first person this year to raise his frustrations over the inability to see the President and, like in the case of Ibe Kachikwu, the role potentially played by Mr Kyari cannot escape the thoughts of analysts. There is yet no hard evidence to suggest that Kyari played a role in the affair but would he prevent Maina from seeing the president if he had been part of the scheme to return Maina to the country?

“I’m appealing to you Mr President, there are so many things people are not telling you”, Maina says in the Channels’ video. It does not escape one’s thoughts that Maina’s cry for a chance to be heard could be an indirect indictment of Buhari himself. By Maina’s insistence that there are some things the president is not being told, it somewhat portrays the fact that Buhari knew about and sanctioned Maina’s return only to reverse his position based on the suggestion of some of his “saints”. In that case, these persons may not be the supposed three main architects – Malami, Dambazau and Daura. Then again, Malami’s comical attempt at his National Assembly hearing to distance himself from the scandal would appear to make him a “saint”, would it not?

“When I get to that public hearing I will tell you some things that nobody ever told you, Mr President, because I never had the opportunity to sit down with you.” Both may well have had time to sit down were it not for the blowout of the story in media circles. Maybe it’s time for the president himself to tell Nigerians his own part of the story.

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