On December 19 last year, I published my column with the title, “The Magu Affair and the Crumbling of Presidential Authority”. I argued then that the issue was not the rejection of the nominee by the Senate but the subversion of presidential authority by the Department of State Service (DSS) that would work with the opponents of the president and send in a letter questioning the integrity of the person nominated by the president. The Senate on Wednesday rejected the re-nomination of the same Ibrahim Magu by President Buhari as the substantive EFCC Chairman after the SSS reaffirmed its position that the nominee would constitute a liability to the Administration’s anti-corruption campaign because he lacks integrity to lead the EFCC. This second failure is the clearest indicator so far 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.
The Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) has advised President Muhammadu Buhari to keep Mr. Magu on the job in his acting capacity in spite of the second rejection. The Committee’s chairman, Itse Sagay, in an interview reported by PREMIUM TIMES described the Senate’s rejection of Mr. Magu as “perverse” and insisted that he is the “best (man) for the job”. Mr. Sagay, a professor of Law and Senior Advocate of Nigeria said that: “We consider the rejection as extremely perverse, negative, not based on merit and a sort of vendetta.” Clearly they are missing the point. The DSS vets presidential nominees, so if they declare that the person who the president has been pleading for has failed the integrity test, the Senate cannot be blamed. I am at a total loss on why the president did not instruct the DSS to withdraw the negative report, if he believed Magu has integrity. If he believes the DSS that his nominee lacks integrity, why did he represent and re-present him? I am even more at a loss on why the president met with the leadership of the National Assembly the day before the second screening and did not iron out the issues before the screening. Everyone I have discussed the issue with believes what we are witnessing is that the subalterns of the president are working at cross-purposes and pursuing their individual agendas, rather than that of the president.
In his remarks after the Senate had voted to reject Mr. Magu, the Senate President, Dr. Saraki expressed the expectation that President Buhari would consider it “normal” to replace the acting chairman. Clearly, his telling the president to remove Magu is an indication of the growing belief that there are no consequences to saying and doing things that the president does not like. The larger issue is that Mr. Magu was appointed acting chairman of the EFCC way back in November 2015, after the removal of Ibrahim Lamorde. There are questions surrounding the long delay in the search for confirmation. On the two occasions that his name was sent to the Senate, President Buhari was vacationing abroad. In fact, the first nomination was made via the letter signed by Mr. Osinbajo in June 2016. Could it be that the president does not support the nomination. In that case, why is his name still there?
As I argued in my last column on this confirmation issue, 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. I reiterate my position that the Senate is right to make the decision not to confirm Magu because a security agency directly under the president’s authority has questioned the suitability of the nomination. This is not to say that the Senate might not have ulterior motives for using the information provided by Daura, the D.G of DSS, that they have. The point, however, is that when there is disarray in the exercise of presidential powers, they have a responsibility to pause and question the process. I therefore have no problem with the decision to refuse Magu’s confirmation for the second time.
The legitimacy of President Mohammadu Buhari is based on the belief of Nigerians that he is deeply committed to the war against corruption. He searched for and appointed Mr. Magu because he believes that the choice will advance the struggle against corruption. Virtually all the leading civil society groups working on anti-corruption are of the view that Ibrahim Magu is doing a great job in investigating and prosecuting corrupt public officials. What is clear is that a number of key officers in the Administration are bent on frustrating the anti-corruption war. It was the Senate itself that revealed explosive information that indicted the Secretary of the Government for corrupt acts. The information was very damaging to the president because the alleged corruption involved money meant to help the starving population seeking to recover from the devastation imposed on them by the Boko Haram insurgency. There have also been allegations against the Chief of Staff to the President that no one has responded to. Ibrahim Magu might be a victim of his own success in fighting corrupt public officials who happen to be in positions of power in the Presidency. The message that Nigerians are getting is that those around the president are engaged in corruption and would not allow anyone to expose their acts. This is the fastest route to the dismantling of President Buhari as a leader committed to the struggle against corruption. If the president allows himself to lose his legitimacy, he cannot exercise his authority and that is what we are beginning to observe. The president appointed Magu to the EFCC in November 2015 and fifteen months later, he cannot get the appointment confirmed after two attempts. Where is the president’s authority?
Finally, there is growing evidence of intense inter-agency rivalry and conflicts within the security sector. Nigeria’s security situation is very fragile and it is imperative that all security agencies work in concert and synergy for the return of peace and good governance in the country. When they appear to work at cross-purposes, it is our security that suffers. Today, Nigerians are getting very worried that President Muhammadu Buhari is too weak to exercise his authority and his subalterns are taking the opportunity to do what they like. Let us hope and pray that the President can re-assert his authority immediately by ensuring that all his subaltern appointees obey his directives and support his policies.
“Bandit” Issa Hayatou Disgraced out of African Football
Yesterday, Issa Hayatou’s 29-year reign as head of the Confederation of African Football came to an end after one Ahmad from Madagascar beat him in CAF’s presidential election. Mr. Ahmad picked up 34 votes while Mr. Hayatou polled 20. Hayatou had illusions that he was the only one with the skill set to improve African football and believed he should lead the organisation to the end of his life. Unfortunately, his skill set is about corruption, manipulation and mafia style management. When Blatter, the bigger mafia boss was disgraced out of football, Hayatou should have seen the writing on the wall and retired honourably. As expected however, it was not possible for someone to change an approach they have followed for three decades so the only way forward was to boot him out in utter disgrace. As the new president said yesterday: “African football cannot be managed by bandits.” I wish President Ahmad and Executive Committee Member and the president of the Nigeria Football Federation, Amaju Pinnick the best of luck.
Mr Jibrin is a professor of Political Science and development consultant.