Buhari Wants To Cancel Emefiele But Lacks Obasanjo’s Courage

CBN Gov Emefiele

By Lanre Adewole

During the first presidential term of Olusegun Obasanjo, something extraordinary happened between him and his then Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Kanu Agabi, SAN.

In the exercise of the power conferred on him by Section 17(1) of the 1999 Constitution, Agabi had entered a nolle prosequi in the corruption trial of then-suspended Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence, Dr Julius Makanjuola and four other directors in the ministry. The quintet were put on trial after police investigation at the behest of the then-Minister of Defence, Theophilus Danjuma, indicted them in a N421million land compensation scandal. Then Agabi struck. He assumed the constitutional power to so do and withdrew the charges against the accused; earlier arrested and detained by police on Christmas eve of 1999.

I was around Agabi as minister. He seemed (and I still have no reason to change my conviction despite all the stories about his involvement in Bukola Saraki’s asset declaration trial) a pious man to me. He possibly wanted to set Dr Makanjuola and co free, I assume, for two reasons. One, it was a public knowledge that Danjuma never wanted Makanjuola as Perm Sec from the very first day Obasanjo tapped him from the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission, which cemented the set-up theory thereby shoring empathy for Doctor MaKay.

The second one is the more plausible. Those close enough knew that Makanjuola was Obasanjo’s personal and “loyal” friend. He counted among the very few that “stood” with the Obasanjos when the record-holding longest serving Nigerian leader was in Abacha gulag. Agabi possibly though he was doing his principal a favour by setting one of his “best” friends free. He mis-thought.

In a letter/query/order dated dated July 23, 2002, Obasanjo lambasted his AGF for entering the nolle prosequi, terminating the trial. He said the withdrawal of the charges against the accused persons “makes nonsense of government’s crusade against corruption.”

In his typical bravado, the president toppled both the empowering constitutional provision and the appointee exercising it, though the enablement was supposed to make an average AGF unquestionable, even in questionable circumstances.

Quoting OBJ, “if this move was a mistake, Dr Makanjuola and his co-defendants are to be immediately re-arrested and taken back to court for trial. If on the other hand, the move was a deliberate act there is an urgent need to explain the rationale behind it to me”.

He went further to point out that the idea of entering a nolle prosequi would not help the crusade against corruption, adding, “you will therefore, immediately take action to repair the damage that has been done by this misguided act as it appears to me and the general public.”

With alacrity, Agabi complied, filing a fresh six-count charge against the accused. On February 5, 2004, Obasanjo nailed the coffin and approved the immediate dismissal from service of Makanjuola.

MaKay tried to put the episode behind him by squarely facing his mechanised farm in Iwaraja and living a quiet life in Ilesa, but the Obasanjo pain was always there.

President Muhammadu Buhari isn’t an Obasanjo and styles are bound to be different, since different backgrounds shaped their individual worldview. While Obasanjo is given to swashbuckling as a way of life, General Buhari is sedate, though one can’t miss the uncharacteristically animated President Buhari of past weeks, as if possessed by a merry spirit.

The president, like his predecessor-in-office, Goodluck Jonathan, also favours being protective of his friends and appointees, even when their acts of wrongdoing in public offices jut out. While benefit of doubt is fair game, being deliberate in not giving away your errant own for appropriate sanction, or allowing them to slip away after undermining the Nigerian State, can’t be chivalrous.

Between Obasanjo’s style of abandoning friends who soiled their hands during his presidency and the incumbent’s style of mostly turning a blind eye and deaf ear, to screaming corruption under his leadership, God has a choice and OBJ’s style is closer to God’s approach. You say the same God that is plenteous in mercy?

In Matthew 27:46, Jesus, at the ninth hour (about 3PMish) on the cross, cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani” which means “My God, my God, why have You forsaken/abandoned Me.” Because the sin of the world was laid on Christ at that point, God had to turn away from His Beloved Son, because He is too holy, to behold sin. But He didn’t throw him away forever. The moment the assignment was concluded and Jesus defeated death by rising through the Power of God, the Holy Spirit, Father and Son, reconnected again, forever.

In fairness to President Buhari, not all his soiled loyalists have escaped some form of punishment even if what they got was like a slap on the wrist. At least ex-SGF Babachir Lawal and ex-NHIS boss, Usman Yusuf, were terminated, though belatedly.

But there is a dark, humourless side to the president’s way with his allies, that should worry Nigerians, even for the remaining 134 days to the expiration of his presidency. It is the president’s peculiar cancel culture of using one ally to terminate the other, without really showing his hand, in the fall of the fall-guy.

The president was very successful with it, in ending Ibrahim Magu, the bludgeoning ex-chair of EFCC, after unprecedented keeping him on such a complex job in acting capacity for four years, eight months and two days! After repeatedly using the DSS to vigorously undermine the EFCC chair, who appears to lack in emotional intelligence and stability (my conclusion from interactions) the “finishing” task was given to AGF Abubakar Malami, SAN, though the President still showed his hands, small, when his approved Aso Rock as probe venue.

Solid Intelligence Gathering is what sustains any government in office and as distractive and inattentive Trump (he is returning to White House) allegedly was, as President, the country suffered no external hit of any kind during his leadership. Yes, President Buhari publicly said “the doctors told me to feed my stomach and sleep for longer hours”, but he is too experienced in governance not to spend quality time knowing what is on, in the dark recesses of the country. It will also be strange if his security briefings of past weeks didn’t bring up the terrorism allegation against his CBN governor, which has practically turned the money-man to a fugitive, at a time when his colleagues elsewhere would be glued to their seats, 24/7, keeping an eagle-eye on the implementation of the currency-repair policy, launched in an election year.

Beyond the amorphous terrorism financing allegation disingenuously crafted by the DSS to railroad the Judiciary into the Emefiele mess, nothing concrete is in public domain, beyond snippets from pro and anti camps, to make sense of it all.

But there is a specter lurking therein; the silence of the president who hired both the CBN governor and DSS Director General.

Going by the importance of their portfolios to the legacy of the president, both men, should, daily, be briefing the President who days back, assured Catholic bishops, he would leave Nigeria better than he met it. How can it be difficult for the president to give up on anyone undermining his administration’s fight against terrorism, if there are genuine reasons to so do. How?

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