Buhari’s worsening burden of integrity

Buhari’s worsening burden of integrity
By Yekeen Akinwale

By the passing of each day, President Muhammadu Buhari’s integrity− his only known Unique Selling Point (USP) faces daunting test −at best the President is facing an integrity test.

This is arguably not the best of times for one to be a Buharist. It is an unenviable task for anyone to attempt to market the product, ‘Buhari’ putting integrity forward as his USP at this point in time.

Festus Keyamo, Buhari’s spokesperson of his re-election campaign believes what matters is not the age of the President but his integrity. But several other Nigerians think Keyamo was being economical with the truth, or rather, massaging the ego of his boss.

INTEGRITY UNDER EROSION

What is clear and what the President himself seems not to admit is that being a president goes beyond having integrity and being honest−at least your actions and in-actions must reflect those qualities, many people would argue.

The President will go down in history of Nigeria as one leader whose ascendance to the throne was facilitated, not by his sterling educational qualifications or intelligence− integrity was the key factor he won the hearts of Nigerians pre-2015 elections.

For being a man of unblemished past, not a few Nigerians expected him to uphold his integrity and the sanctity of the Presidency after taking the oath of office in 2015.

Fast forward to 2018− three years after fate presented him the opportunity he had sought previously without success, is the president’s integrity still what it used to be?

It will be hypocritical however, for anyone to present the President as a ‘born again democrat’ on one hand, and also condone the President’s penchant for ignoring court orders.

At The Hague, Netherlands, during the 20th anniversary celebration of the International Court of Justice (ICC), President Buhari’s claim to have “strong belief in the respect for the rule of law and human rights, and in…firm commitment to the sanctity of fundamental freedoms at international and domestic levels,” runs contrary to having integrity while still choosing which court orders to obey and which one not to.

The case of Dasuki Sambo, detained former National Security Adviser suffices here.

For several obvious reasons, the burden of integrity that he has to carry is weighing him down, though Baba appears, each day, unruffled by nauseating revelations from his cabinet. Not a few Nigerians think that recent happenings within his government have tainted the once stainless President.

His henchmen have done more disservice to him more than anyone could imagine. But the he seems not rattled –so he appears –perhaps, PMB chooses not to care or could he be unaware of those blemishes?

SILENCE THAT IS NOT GOLDEN

Baba’s loud silence despite the public outcry after the shocking revelation of Kemi Adeosun’s certificate scam and her continuous membership of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) is sending a message and a wrong one for that matter, that, the President no longer cares what Nigerians think about his integrity.

This is a time when silence is never golden for the President, yet he chooses not to react.

In a sane clime, what happens to the occupant of the office of Minister of Finance affects stock market, foreign investment flow and other critical financial sector. But here, Kemi seats and everything goes on.

Okoi Obono-Obla, his Special Assistant on Prosecution and also Chairman of Special Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property is equally in the eye of the storm over forged WAEC certificate. Obla is still within the government and Presidency looks the other way. Doesn’t that bother the President and his advisers that his integrity is eroding with all these heart breaking scams?

Again, until members of his party who have cases of corruption dangling on their heads like the sword of damocle and yet enjoying the party’s immunity are prosecuted and convicted like those of the opposition, no one will believe the war against corruption has any sincere motive.

For him, he said “I am satisfied with what I am. I am happy I have kept myself and the people close to me from benefiting from government contracts.”

What comes to mind quickly after this statement are the several mindboggling cases of favoritism, nepotism, corruption and violation of procurement processes perpetrated right in in front of him by yet, men he vouches for.

Denials by the government of security recruitment of children and relatives of highly placed Nigerians into government agencies such as CBN, FIRS and NNPC, have not done enough to assuage the ordinary Nigerian that there can be a transparent process in getting employment in public institutions.

Ditto for the lopsided appointments which the President himself admitted at one point−but not much was done to redress that too. Not less than six dead persons were among Nigerians appointed to boards of parastatals in government’s desperate bid to show that it was never one sided in its appointments.

The vengeance of his administration against perceived opponents –the war against Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu among other members of the opposition are enough evidence that even if the President’s hands are clean, his men are already soiling theirs and robbing same on the his garment of integrity.

And how can he even claim ignorance of all these – not forgetting that ‘ he who acts by other person, acts by himself.’

The President can still salvage his goodwill−it is never too late. If Babachir Lawal, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) is brought to book to prove that no one is indeed above the law, if found guilty.

BEFORE IT”S TOO LATE

The intervention of the Presidency in the leadership tussle at the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) which reinstated Amaju Pinnick as the President and Secretary respectively shows that some good things can still come out of ‘the President’s Nazareth.’ He still has many hurdles to cross if men around him would allow him.

With less than 300 days to the elections, it is race against time for President Buhari and his ‘Buharits’. According to him, he declared to run for the second term early because he didn’t want Nigerians to be speculating.

But unlike in 2015 when the masses earnestly asked for Buhari, the same masses are not too convinced on why the President should come back in 2019−they want the President to go and rest simply because of not what he did but of what he ought to do but did not do.

His popular statement during his inauguration, “I’m for nobody and for everybody” is time tested now. Arguably, President Buhari cannot be said to be for everybody again or is Buhari actually for everybody and for nobody?

Baba should assert himself and prove his integrity before it’s too late. If he continues to act the pawn in the hands of men he appointed, he may well forget about the 2019 because, the handwritten is clear that the burden that his integrity places on him is weighing heavily on him now.

 Yekeen Akinwale is with ICIR, Abuja