Last week, the Senate, for the second time, rejected the nomination of Ibrahim Magu as substantive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) by President Muhammadu Buhari on the advice of the Department of State Security (DSS) that he (Magu) “has failed the integrity test and will eventually constitute a liability to the anti-corruption drive of the present administration.” In December last year, the Senate equally rejected Mr Magu’s nomination based on the advice of the DSS and duly communicated the decision to the president. The president subsequently ordered the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to investigate the validity of the allegations. We did not know what became of the allegation but the president re-nominated Mr Magu and the DSS gave a damning report of Magu again and the Senate had no option but to reject his nomination.
Beyond the drama, accusations and counter-accusations, one thing is becoming clear: Nigeria’s presidency is in disarray and there appears to be no clear authority or person in charge at the moment. With Mr Buhari increasingly succumbing to old age and ill health, and with his refusal to delegate substantial powers to his deputy, a serious power vacuum seems to be developing, which is being ruthlessly exploited by those around Mr Buhari to pursue their selfish goals. One could recall the clash between the Senior Special Assistant to the president on Foreign Affairs and the Diaspora, Abike Dabiri and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama over the latter’s advice to Nigerians not to travel to the US till the Trump administration clarifies its immigration policies.
Both the EFCC and the DSS are agencies under the presidency and they both report to the president. And Buhari, in keeping with his provincial and clannish worldview, appointed his trusted kinsman, Lawal Musa Daura as Director General of the DSS. It remains baffling therefore why the DSS will continue to undermine the president and presidential authority in such blatant manner. If the first advice to the Senate to reject Magu’s nomination was an error or as a result of inter-agency infightings, then the problems should have been completely resolved before his second nomination. But alas, it wasn’t. The second advice to the Senate by the DSS, according to an analyst, “is the clearest indicator that presidential authority has indeed crumbled and the president’s subalterns are playing their various games irrespective of the wishes and desires of the president.” He continued: “presidential authority is about the power to take decisions, to give directives and to enforce compliance to the said decisions and directives. When a president gives directives and state institutions under his authority take actions to nullify the directive, the implication is that they feel no compulsion to obey the president and that is a bad sign about the exercise of authority. And if Daura could do this to his kinsman, the president, we can only imagine what he will do to an Acting President or any other authority in the country.
All of a sudden, we are back to the days of late President Yar’adua, where some faceless individuals capitalised on the ill health of the late president to seize and exercise untrammelled powers unchallenged. It is becoming clear by the day that despite our strong hopes and wishes, president Buhari is increasingly becoming weak and incapable of performing his functions as the president and Commander-in-Chief of the federation. And since power abhors vacuum, his subalterns (filled with his kinsmen) are ruthlessly exploiting his weakness to pursue their own personal agenda, which, we are reasonably sure, cannot be in consonance with the national interest(s).
We respectfully urge the President to come clean on his health status, take an extended leave to attend fully to his health until he is fully fit and before then, completely hand over power to his Vice President, who will exercise full presidential powers and rein in Buhari’s kinsmen, especially, who will want to undermine his authority. The country needs and deserve a president who is in charge at all times and Mr Buhari must not deny the country of one while keeping up appearances. The cost to the country will be colossal!