Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Whispering Drums With Maigani

by Musa Ibrahim

Imperfections In High Places

Nigeria's crusade against corruption has gained worldwide currency under the War Against Indiscipline tag. There has certainly never been such intense public awareness with respect to a need for proper conduct both in public office and private enterprise. The local press has, since the launching of the crusade, carried articles from both critical analysts and plain commentators alike on the matter. Most write-ups which have tended to ridicule the campaign have, however, had the overbearing Decree No. 4 limiting their desired expressions, and as newspaper editors have every reason not to court uncertain periods of detentions in the now household known Kiri Kiri maximum security prison, not much has filtered out in terms of anti-WAI happenings. It seems that while a majority of Nigerians are toiling with the hardships of austerity and doing their best to concord with the precepts of War Against Indiscipline, some highly placed officials are making their hay while the sun now shines for them.

For instance, it is on record that the nation's second highest ranking officer, Major-General Idiagbon, who himself was the "Chief launcher" of the anti-corruption crusade is not practising what he preaches. He is known to have sent different people to various government officers with notes requesting favours. His speciality seems to be in the areas of import licences; where he asked one of the Committee Chairmen, for instance, that a close associate of his be given an import licence of not less than N2 million; "essential commodities" as consumer goods are known in Nigeria, and job-seeking ladies. As for young aspiring females, they have found a mentor in the newly arrived second in command, for the national airlines' chief executive Bernard Banfa was not too long ago overheard to have expressed dismay at the array of bevies streaming his office with "SHQ" notes despite the retrenchment order from the same source. Recently, he was accosted by some young officers for flouting what they termed "the need for leadership by example". The result was for the No. 2 man to vent his anger on the young officers branding them unpatriotic and accusing them of planning to stage a coup. Known to be power drunk, he is now Buhari's hatchet man.

As a person, Idiagbon is completely unsure of himself and therefore the extra show of official authority. Lacking in confidence, Idiagbon leans on the threat of force and instilling fear. Privately, a weakness for the female sex, coupled with an awareness of not naturally having the playboy features, has led him to various acts of indiscretion and questionable probity. Having secured his position in the first place with the support of the C-in-C, Idiagbon now appears to be a power unto himself. Decisions coming from him that are unpopular have always, it is believed, received the prior consent and approval of Buhari. In the final analysis, though, Idiagbon does not by himself command any direct loyalty or group focus from the army or even from the ordinary Nigerians, more so because of his fiercely abrasive and power-drunk nature.

Another important personality whose conduct is raising questions is the all-powerful Minister of Commerce and Industries. Alhaji Mahmud Tukur is gradually tarnishing the image he gained as an honest and hardworking intellectual, created by the role he played in the 1983 elections period when he actively campaigned against the National Party of Nigeria from the fold of the Northern Intellectuals Committee.

There is mounting evidence that his discretionary authority to grant import licences is being misapplied. Mr Tukur is exercising his ministerial authority with a taint of how the last holder, Alhaji Bello Maitama Yusuf, now a wanted fugitive, used to go about things. Companies in the Northern part of the country, most especially those based in Kaduna, in which he has proprietary interests do not seem to have felt the import restrictions pinch. Sources disclose a relative of his is presently assuming importance in society by virtue of the relative's closeness to the Minister, and it is common knowledge that several businessmen have procured large import licence allocations through the fortune of his assistance. Most interesting however, is the recent introduction of a "Minister's List", a new mechanism by which Mahmud Tukur has absolute and final singular control over a $150,000,000 (One hundred and fifty million dollar) special fund, something like a "security vote".

Talking about security vote. Another high office holder suspected to be indulging in secret unofficial spending is the feared and pot-bellied national security chief, Lawal Rafindadi. The Director-General of the National Security Organization needs not account to anybody except the number one man for the expenditures to the knowledge of concerned people, and it is known that most of his financial improprieties are from funds meant for external security. In other words, the country's limited foreign exchange earnings are being misused.

It is discouraging to observe that the officials involved in some of these acts are those well known to be close aides of the Head of State, Major-General Leko Buhari. The discouraging factor here lies in the fact that these acts, should they ever become open public knowledge would undermine not only the personal credibility of Buhari, but the anti-corruption campaign of the regime. Nigerians will begin to feel cheated as always, and once again, victims of deceit by their leaders.

The involvement of Dodan Barracks in the distribution of essential commodities is a matter of grave concern. People wonder why the military aide of the Commander-in- Chief seems to have so much to do with allocations of essential commodities to both prospective consumers and retailers.

Not only that, the officer in question, identified as one Major Jokolo during the scandal of the fifty- three suitcases belonging to his father, was by some coincidence contracted to purchase the toys and gifts presented to children at the 1984 end of year Christmas party. His involvement as a part-time car dealer who demands commission payments be made in pounds sterling raised questions from his colleagues. For some inexplicable reason, Major Jokolo's reaction was to rebuke them and not only that, but to turn informant against some of them whom he tags as "disloyal to the government", a presumably and not unlikely to be function he is performing for a fee! He is said to have lobbied and succeeded in influencing the appointment of his father to the position of a University Chancellor with a view to bolstering the Emir's prestige.

The significance of the military aide to the Commander-in-Chief needs not be overemphasised. He not only is supposed to protect the dignity of that office, he is duty bound to personify the Head of State. Either the General himself is negligent in checking his aide or cares less about what he ought pay heed to. There is again the question of accessibility. Buhari is at the moment only officially accessible to a handful of public and private advisers and this is proving frustrating to some people. In fact because of this, the impression on Buhari these days by Nigerians is that he is an insensitive man, and Nigerians do not like to be treated as if their feelings are irrelevant to national policy making. The revelations have far reaching implications. A danger exists of the War Against Indiscipline being turned into another futile exercise, and it may well end up another example of symbolic ludicrity. For too long the call for nationalism and patriotism has been heard from Nigeria's different leaderships, and the populations' response has always been to support such calls. Invariably, along the way, people have reverted to their nonchalant attitudes on discovering imperfections in high places. The War Against Indiscipline is still being fought, at least publicly by the people, even if not by private officialdom in some quarters. The minister of Internal Affairs, Major- General Magoro, not too long ago declared the Fourth Phase of the War Against Indiscipline, and from all indications it seems the war is still being fought. But one does not require any sharp instinct or extra intellect to realise, with imperfections in high places, it may well end up an unending and fruitless war.

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