The arms deal saga

Posted by News Express | 10 December 2015 | 3,347 times

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Issues surrounding the purchase of arms and ammunition in the last days of the Jonathan administration appear to be the kick that is keeping Nigeria busy at moment. It is one distraction that is helping us out of the present state of despondency. In the midst of great expectations, many Nigerians are feeling forlorn and forsaken just too soon.

In fact, it is hardly out of place to state that the overriding verdict among Nigerians today is that Muhammadu Buhari, the man they recent­ly elected president amid popular acclaim, has proved to be a flash in the pan. He is not what the people think he is. The people, you could say, are roundly and squarely disappointed by their findings.

But the same Nigerians, regardless of the depth of their disappointment, should be happy. The reason is simple. The man in whom they reposed so much confidence did not hide the truth from them for too long. The man does not even know how to pretend. What was the case was that the truth was lost on us from the outset because we chose to rely on unfounded beliefs and as­sumptions. But we are lucky to have come out of our illusions early enough given that the man at the centre of the show has no time for niceties of any sort. That is why he has presented himself, in a very short period of time, in a way and manner that will be clear to all.

Another truth we failed to take cognizance of was that the man, at the very beginning, was overwhelmed by the burden of office. He did not know how to take off after he was sworn in as president. That explained why he could not put his cabinet together when Nigerians expected it. He even thought he could function without one. His actions and inactions suggested that. But the spin-doctors around him did not want the bubble to burst too early. They did not want the truth to be discovered. It was for this reason that they told us, even when the president was doing otherwise, that he was assembling the best of teams. They made us believe that a man who was putting together such a flawless team needed all the time to do so. Nigerians, credulous as ever, did not just hold their peace, a good many of them believed the lie. When the team was eventually unveiled, it was peopled by disused fellows. Some of them turned out to be devout members of the infamous league that Buhari said he would probe and jail when he assumed office. But with their canonisation by Buhari, the shady characters, who should have been hiding their heads in shame, praying to escape the long arms of the law, are now walking tall. They must be grinning at us each time we fret over corruption in the land.

That was, perhaps, how the whole shock be­gan. It is a development that punctured Buhari’s anti-corruption posturing. It deflated his utopia of incorruptibility. How does a man who places much premium on probity be seen to be associ­ating and hobnobbing with questionable charac­ters? The contradiction has been too telling for Nigerians to overlook.

But Buhari, the apostle of purity and probity, would not let us run away with our negative impressions. He has to try his hands on some make-belief. To achieve this objective, Nigerians needed to be treated to some facade. The president needed to be seen to be doing something about the fight against corruption, regardless of the way it is procured. And so, the man quickly had to hold on to something. The Jonathan presidency, as discredited as it was, came handy. Even though Jonathan has retired into the quietude of self, elements within the government needed to be demonised. They needed to be made scapegoats. But the essential Buhari needed to inject a personal touch to the entire scheme. It was in this way that he decided to rely on a way of life he is accustomed to, which is the pursuit of vendetta. To do this, he had to look for those with whom he had an axe to grind in the past. Having found them, what needed to be invented was a sword of Damocles that would be hung around their necks.

So far, the most vulnerable victim of this contrivance is Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd.), the former National Security Adviser (NSA) whose path crossed in an unpleasant way with Buhari’s some 30 years before Buhari became president. He has since been a subject of allegations and probes in the new dispensation.

The story of the Dasuki trial is too well known to deserve any elaboration here. But what is really elementary about it is that his travail has become Buhari’s cheapest bait. It is the instrument that Buhari has in his kitty now in the unserious battle against corruption. Today, the entire Dasuki story can be said to begin and end with the arms procurement deal under former president Goodluck Jonathan that has now gone awry.

What is the government of the day doing with this issue? What is the story being woven around it? How has it become the catch that will launch Buhari into an anti-corruption purist that his lieutenants want to make of him?

After several fruitless attempts to nail Dasuki on charges of illegal possession of arms, government quickly found a convenient escape route. Dasuki’s charges were amended to include money laundering. The loose ends of the story have been tightened. Today, the gist of the story is that Dasuki misappropriated billions of dollars meant for arms procurement while he was in the saddle as NSA. In pursuing this story line, a number of people are being dragged into the arms deal saga. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commis­sion (EFCC) has arrested and detained not only Dasuki, it has also kept in its custody a good number of other prominent Nigerians, including the former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa, and former chairman of Daar Com­munications, Raymond Dokpesi. The Nigerians being hunted by EFCC are said to have connived with Dasuki in the misappropriation or embezzlement charge.

As an organ of government established by law, the EFCC has a responsibility to discharge its functions. But it must do so within the ambits of the law. Reports indicate that most of the peo­ple the commission has taken into custody have spent weeks without any charges being brought against them. This is not right in the eyes of the law. It is not even supported by the Act establishing the commission.

As an agency, which expects people to im­bibe the culture of probity and accountability, the commission ought to live by example. It should respect the fundamental rights of those it is prob­ing. It should also follow the dictates of the rule of law. If the commission places any premium on this, the least we expect is for it to charge the accused persons to court because it is only in a court of law that their guilt or innocence can be established.

In a situation where Buhari is seen veering off the right track, it is those he has appointed to take charge of sensitive government departments and agencies that can come to the rescue. The new chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, can begin this by not playing the Buhari game. The com­mission should act professionally by charging the accused persons to court. Filling its detention centres to the brim without bringing charges against the multitude is most unhelpful and distressing.

•This piece column originally appeared in today’s edition of Daily Sun. Amanze Obi can be reached via

Source: News Express

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