Since becoming Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai has taken personal charge of the war against Boko Haram, and has had significant success to the point that something approaching normal life has resumed in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital.
For the first time in 5 years, residents of that city were able to celebrate Eid, and activities like football matches have also resumed. People are returning to their homes as well and property values are beginning to rise.
From a military perspective, Buratai’s appointment has been a success, and that’s what makes the allegations against him so disturbing.
Initial reports stated that along with his two wives, he owns two houses in Dubai, a fact that is highly unlikely on the salary of a public servant, raising the suspicion that he bought them using proceeds from corruption.
The denials and clarifications were swift, and the explanation was first that he bought the homes from savings, then that Buratai was merely an investor in the property. Pictures from his snake farm, apparently the source of significant income, were also distributed widely on social media.
Rather than an investigation in which Buratai makes public his asset declaration forms and the circumstances under which he got involved with the property, the rush to absolve him sends mixed signals regarding the Buhari administration’s fight against corruption.
It is not enough for the army chief to claim that he invested in property with savings, or send around pictures of his snake farm. What needs to happen is for the Code of Conduct Bureau to match up what Buratai submitted with what he currently owns, and then demand an explanation where a wide discrepancy exists.
Talking about ‘corruption fighting back’ and insinuating that there is a conspiracy against Buratai is merely a diversion. If he is indeed above board, it should be no problem submitting to a process to prove his innocence.
Buhari came to power majorly on a pledge to fight corruption and insecurity, very much in line with the current challenges of the country. In many ways, corruption and insecurity feed off each other. Corruption denies the public of resources to be used for public services, leading to a breaking of the social contract that enables insecurity thrive. Corruption also undermines any attempts to check insecurity, because money meant for the training, equipment and welfare of officers gets sucked into private pockets.
With many recent army officials under investigation regarding procurement of weapons, Buratai, who was in charge of procurement at the Defence Headquarters from 2012 to May 2015, cannot realistically be left out of such scrutiny.
To maintain its credibility, a war on corruption should apply to those both inside and outside the current government, regardless of personality. A full, transparent investigation of the allegations against the Chief of Army Staff would have been a great opportunity to demonstrate that the war on corruption plays no favourites. That opportunity should not be missed.