Last week, it emerged that the fugitive former chairman of the Presidential Pension Reform Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina had slipped back into the country and quietly got reabsorbed into the civil service and, shockingly, was given a higher position. Strange as it may sound though, but to most Nigerians it is not completely out of place; it’s safe to say it’s only one of many incidents of sacred cows getting so ‘fittingly’ treated.
Like the proverbial sacred cow Maina is totally unblemished. He has been around for a while, transcending and outliving regimes, carrying along these ineradicable features of infallibility. And because he can do no wrong all his supposed sins often negate and convert themselves to rewards.
In 2013, for example, when it seemed the tide was desperately aiming to turn against him and the regime, then, had between the options of reigning him in and ruining itself, Maina suddenly transmuted and evaporated into thin air. No one saw or knew how it happened. Not even the police, the EFCC or DSS, whose protection he always enjoyed in spite of his alleged malfeasances, knew how he slipped through their dragnets and crossed through the borders to a safe haven.
After that it all went quiet as if nothing ever happened; no Maina ever existed; there was no fraud in the Pension scheme he was supposed to reform and overlook; there were no missing billions of Naira; the 7,800 petitions the 7th Senate said it received against him did not exist; he was simply flawless and, so, no one remembered any of this.
But Maina, who apparently has in his list of accomplices highly placed individuals and groups, including serving cabinet ministers and security personnel, knows when best to apply the reappearing fluid and reappear from his disappearance. So, when Nigerians least expected and had their guard down, he just walked into the country, unchallenged, and carried on feasting on the Nigerian manna, happily thereafter.
By the daring account of one Aliyu Maina, if it can be taken seriously, Maina’s comeback did not just happen. Someone kick-started the process and he, obviously desperate for it, refused to miss the opportunity. According to the Maina family spokesperson, the current President Muhammadu Buhari regime “facilitated the return of Mr. Maina to Nigeria so as to assist in its change agenda.”
The Maina family allegation is quite audacious. The presidency’s response should, therefore, be convincing enough to banish every particle of doubt in the minds of Nigerians; a casual response, as has always been the case, would only beg the question. So, until such a time when the air is completely cleared many Nigerians would continue to be awed by Maina’s assumed influence.
It’s not only the Maina controversy that is, sadly, doggedly working to undermine President Buhari’s integrity. In some of my previous writings I argued that the president’s millions of unalloyed supporters are not unaware of his genuine intentions and, on this basis, his integrity is still intact. But intention, unfortunately, has a limited scope and the human mind’s capacity to comprehend such abstracts as intention or ‘body language’ is limited too and, therefore, not enough deter determined felons.
Unambiguous answers and clear policies are required on cases like the suspended SGF David Babachir Lawal’s grass cutting fraud, for example, for which an investigative committee was set up and a report already handed in to the president but about which nothing has since been heard.
Nigerians need answers regarding other corruption allegations against the president’s associates, including cabinet ministers that so far continue to appear like sacred cows. While the president was away in London attending to his health it was alleged that date fruit worth millions of Naira shipped from Saudi Arabia as free Ramadhan gifts for Nigerians, particularly the IDPs, had been diverted and converted for sale.
The office of the minister of state for Foreign Affairs was fingered and it responded by claiming it did receive the dates, but that it handed it over to the appropriate agency for distribution to beneficiaries. No one has owned up and nothing has happened since then.
It is understandable that the president was not in the country and was, as such, not aware of it. But is it possible that no one ever briefed him and he never had the chance to find out? Is it possible he often does not know anything about most of the happenings in his government, like Maina’s scandalous reinstatement? Who are the fifth columnists in his regime?
Maina’s case is an acid test for the government and how the president resolves it, as well as other cases of corruption, is crucial for his integrity and the success of his regime. It’s time to expose the fifth columnists and let heads roll.
Of bailouts and unpaid wages
For several months, workers’ wages in most states are unpaid. Since President Buhari came to power over two years ago, states have received several bailouts in addition to monthly subventions. But to many of the governors paying wages is not a priority.
Recently, a senior civil servant in Kogi State reportedly committed suicide. The state government has since released a press statement saying the suicide has nothing to do with what the man was owed. Fair enough. But is not true that Governor Yahaya Bello, like his colleagues in other states, has received several bailouts but is yet to pay several months’ wages? Why is he not paying wages and why is the president not able to ensure that paying wages is a condition for further access to bailouts? Elsewhere, there are many stories of suicides, attempted suicides and worries.
Suicide is a cowardly act. If truly hunger is what provokes this action and someone who feeds fat on public treasury is responsible for this hunger, it’s logical that the hungry vent their anger on the source of their hunger, not on themselves. After all the 18th Century French Philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau once said “when the people shall have nothing more to eat, they will eat the rich.”