President Muhammadu Buhari was elected into office by Nigerians based on public perception that he has the integrity to tackle corruption headlong. However, even before Buhari’s anti-corruption war gathers full momentum controversies are already trailing the probe exercise.
The Nigerian leader had declared with finality that his probe would be limited to only the tenure of his predecessor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, from the time he took over as Acting President in 2010 to the May 29 handover date.
He was categorical that he will not probe past administrations of Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha and others.
According to the special adviser to the President on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, Buhari’s decision to limit his probe to only the Jonathan administration is in keeping with the promise he made during the electioneering campaign that his probe will only be limited to the immediate past administration.
Adesina’s words, “If you recall, that was already settled before he got inaugurated as President. He has said he will not waste time digging into the far past. The far past will include Obasanjo and others. But the President has said he will not waste time to go that far.”
National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, was very prompt in justifying why President Muhammadu Buhari will not extend probe beyond the Goodluck Jonathan administration in the fight against corruption.
According to Odigie-Oyegun, President Buhari’s anti-corruption fight and probe of the last administration is aimed at revealing the level of impunity as well as the extent to which the economy of this nation has been damaged in the last six years.
He said, “The President I’m aware knows that he has only four years, minus two months? So it is not four years anymore and if he wants to probe Nigeria where does he start? 16 years? 50 years? Where do you start when you want to do that kind of probe?
“What is important is that the level of impunity in the last six years, the extent to which the economy of this nature has been damaged in the last six years. It is phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal, I can’t speak for the President, neither can I speak for the Presidency.
“But I’m not aware there is going to be a formal probe, meaning the High Court Judge with a few people sitting with him, but these things are there even if you don’t want to see them, they are sitting right in front of you.
“The impunity of the corruption is looking at you in the eyes, Nigerians were not bothered about hiding anymore, so when talking about probe, you can turn without seeing the damage, the theft, massive theft so that is the way I interpret it,” Odigie-Oyegun said.
However, Nigerians that closely monitored the APC presidential campaign are shocked about what appears to be bare-faced lies and volte face exhibited by the APC in the probe drama. Political observers are of the view that the APC leaders are either having memory lapse or simply taking Nigerians for granted because what they are saying today is in sharp contrast from what they told Nigerians during the presidential campaign.
Initially during the campaign, the APC candidate swore to throw all corrupt Nigerians into Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison. When Buhari made this blanket statement it sent shock waves within the APC, especially among those who were bankrolling the expensive campaign.
To reassure sponsors of the APC campaign, most of who cannot survive integrity test, that there are no plans to send them to Kirikiri prison if Buhari wins, the APC quickly put a dateline on when Buhari will probe and assured them that the probe will be from post May 29, 2015.
It was the National chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun that first told Nigerians at the peak of the presidential campaign at a press conference in Benin City that Buhari the presidency will not dig into the past.
According to Odigie-Oyegun the insinuation that the Buhari presidency will send many Nigerians to jail, was a blackmail being masterminded by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP leadership, stressing that only those who do not want to change from their corrupt practices will have Buhari to contend with.
Odigie-Oyegun’s words, “The only people I think should fear the Buhari presidency are those who do not want change. Those who want to continue with business as usual, are those who want to continue to profit from the level of corruption in the society.
“We will have no apologies for people like that. But it is clear that from the Buhari perspective and that of the APC, the future of the people of this country is too important for us to spend valuable time trying to dig into the past.
Odigie-Oyegun added, “The first moments of a Buhari Presidency the outlook is on the future. The message will be clear, whatever you engage in before that is detrimental to the people of this country, please stop it, change has come.
“It is time for change and anybody who decides that he does not want to be part of change and want business as usual that is his choice.”
After the postponement of the earlier February 14 date of the presidential election, APC presidential candidate also reiterated during party’s North-West rally held at the permanent site of the Kaduna International Trade and Investments Centre along Zaria road in Kaduna, that he will not probe any past leader, but will allow the judicial process to run its full course in all cases relating to corruption.
According to Buhari, anyone who embezzles even a single kobo afterwards, will not only be made to refund it, but will face prosecution as from May 29, 2015 if he becomes president.
The declaration not to probe the past was welcome relieve for the big time sponsors of the APC campaign that gulped several billions.
But former President Jonathan appears to see through the veil and was not taken in by the promise by APC not to probe any of the past administrations.
Jonathan declared in his speech at the Valedictory session of the Federal Executive Council at the State House in Abuja that he was ready to be probed but the probe must also be extended to the administrations preceding his own. Jonathan said that many things had gone wrong in the country which were all ascribed to his administration, adding that his administration had done well in spite of the criticisms.
His words, “I agree that in Nigeria there are a number of things that will be probed, very many things, even debts owed by the states and debts owed by this nation from 1960. Up to this time they say it is the Jonathan administration that owes all these debts.
“And I believe that anybody calling for probe must also ensure that this probe is extended beyond the Jonathan administration. Otherwise, to me, it will be witch hunting. If you are very sincere, then it is not only the Jonathan administration that you probe.
“A number of things have gone wrong, we have done our best. The Attorney General is aware of massive judgment debts, if you aggregate all the judgment debts, the recent ones that we discovered is going into one billion dollars.
“How did we come to these kinds of judgment debts? These issues should be probed. How did we allocate our oil fields, oil wells, marginal fields and so on? Did we follow our laws?
“All these should be probed and I believe many more areas need to be looked at,” Jonathan said.
From every indications Nigerians welcome the probes being initiated by President Buhari but they are demanding that the probe be extended beyond the Jonathan administration so that it will not be construed as witch-hunt as predicted by former President Jonathan.
Nigerians are at a loss on why the Buhari administration will want to sweep high profile corruption cases like the Haliburton, Pentascope and PTDF scams under the carpet simply because some untouchable persons that are believed to have supported his ambition are linked to the scams.
Several eminent Nigerians, including religious leaders, civil society organisations and political leaders have spoken on the imperative of extending the probe beyond the Jonathan administration.
Former governor of the old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, frowned at the move by President Buhari to probe only the administration of Jonathan, saying the searchlight should focus on all past Nige¬rian leaders.
Balarabe Musa, who is the national chairman of the deregistered Peoples Redemption Party, PRP, noted that the only way to eliminate corruption was to begin surgery and wound healing from where corruption actually started.
According to Musa, if President Buhari fails to go back to those long periods of years with a view to eradicating corruption and waste of national resources, it means the president has something to hide from Nigerians, and as such, he may be grouped among corrupt leaders.
His word, “The right thing to do is to probe at least the administrations from 1966 when this level of corruption and criminal wasteful of resources started. It started with the 1966 coup when the military took over power. It is the military that brought about this level of corruption.”
“For President Buhari to say that he will only probe the immediate past civilian administration is definitely not consistent with the level of integrity associated with him. In fact, this statement warns Nigerians of a return of the 1980s episode of double standard, sacred cows, vindictiveness and even fascism, where civilian governors were clamped into jail for alleged corruption.”
He added, “first of all, it is expected of President Muhammadu Buhari to fight corruption because he promised to fight corruption and eradicate corruption in Nigeria. He knows very well that concentrating the probe on former President Jonathan administration alone will not lead to effective fight against corruption and elimination of corruption. If he continues with this limited objective, he will end up being grouped with the corrupt leaders.”
“It does not matter whether they are dead or not, let the record be there that such administration was probed by him. Yes, they are already dead, but why not say the fact because we are talking of eradicating corruption from the system in Nigeria. This does not allow a time limit, particularly when the people who partook in this level of corruption during the period, 1966 till today, are still with us and are still in key positions of government, and they still have influence in government. Some of them are even responsible for sponsoring political parties like the PDP and even the APC.”
“Why is he excluding them from the probe? If you remember during the 1980 to 1984, there was this hypocrisy of dealing with only the political leaders, as a result of which all those who occupied political office in a civilian government were assumed to have enriched themselves and they were arrested and locked for two years and above on the assumption that only politicians brought about economic misfortune of the country.”
“But immediate military administrators were part of this, everybody now knows the result. So this statement by President Buhari means that we are returning to the position of double standard, sacred cows, vindictive ad-ministration and policies.
“We know that all the Presidents in Nigeria from the beginning of the Second Republic up till today have been alleged to have been involved in corruption.
“It is quite obvious because they are found to be some of the richest Africans. So, I don’t see any honest reason for excluding any administration from 1966 to date. No credible explanation from excluding them, except if the sitting President is afraid of something.”
The Centre for Social Justice also urged the government of President Buhari to extend its corruption probe beyond the administration of former President Jonathan.
Reacting to reports that President Buhari will limit his probe to the past administration, the Lead Director, CSJ, Eze Oyekpere, said it would be unfair to streamline corruption probes to only officials in the Jonathan government.
He stressed that there were some unscrupulous deals conducted by previous governments that were still fresh in the minds of Nigerians.
Oyekpere, who is a legal practitioner, said, “I take a holistic view about recovering public properties that were stolen and mismanaged. For instance, the Halliburton issue, the Siemens scandal did not just come up under the last administration and those things are too recent for us to forget them. So I believe that he (Buhari) shouldn’t simply draw a line and say it is going to be from 2011 or from 2010, no.
“He should go back a little bit, even the power scandal that involves an expenditure of over $15 billion where we can’t see the results up till today. He should go back a little bit, it shouldn’t be about Jonathan’s administration viz-a-viz PDP, APC, no. It should have been about our national interest and some of these issues are too recent in our memories for us to sweep them under the carpet.”
As Nigerians await the inauguration of the Anti-Corruption Advisory committee led by legal luminary, Prof Itsay Sagae, it is expected that the committee will start it job by impressing it on the President on the imperative of extending the probe at least to 1999 when the country returned to democratic governance.

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