By UMAR SA’AD HASSAN —
If you played or watched ‘active’ soccer in the ghetto or the very middle-class neighbourhoods in the late ’90s and early 2000s, you should be familiar with the term ‘shabale’. It basically means passing or controlling the ball with your face in the opposite direction; in formal parlance it is referred to as the no-look pass. The ‘shabale’ is classy but if it doesn’t go well, the player is chastised by just about everyone from the coach and his colleagues down to the spectators for messing up a very simple task – one to which he chose to want to feign blind.
President Buhari’s anti-corruption war is a ‘shabale’ situation as far as his close friends and cronies are concerned. He looks the other way and when the citizenry mounts pressure on him to take action, he lays a pass pre-meditated to go nowhere.
As it is, Buhari’s face is in the other direction regarding allegations that his finance minister, Kemi Adeosun, is using a forged NYSC certificate and, most likely, we will watch this one fizzle out unattended to because Nigerians have simply grown tired of forcing this government to do the needful. Everything points to the fact that the woman is not sincere.
The NYSC, perhaps in a bid to leave feathers high up unruffled, only issued a statement saying she applied for an exemption certificate. They refused to tell us whether or not it was granted.
What is more disgusting is the presidency’s silence amidst such a grave criminal allegation against a key member of its cabinet. Adeosun has stayed mute and Buhari has not deemed it wise to do anything other than adopt the NYSC’s statement as his. He has not set up a committee to probe the allegations or at least promise to look into them with a view to arriving at the truth. It would be interesting to see what he would have done if he was under immense pressure from Nigerians. Not that anyone expects her to be prosecuted — that is largely down to Buhari’s woeful ‘shabale’ antecedents. When he feigns blind, it makes no difference forcing him to do what he should.
Nigerians had to pile up pressure on President Buhari to deal decisively with his former SGF, Babachir Lawal, for his role in the embezzlement of funds meant for IDPs in what is more popularly referred to as the grass-cutter scandal. There was no will whatsoever on the part of the government to make Babachir pay for his sins. Nigerians forced him to hurriedly refer the matter to the office of the attorney-general of the federation, a law officer, for a ‘negative’ probe and despatch of a clean bill of health to the Senate by none other than Buhari himself. Nigerians forced him to ditch the AGF report for a more elaborate look into the allegations by a committee headed by the vice-president whose report ended up getting Babachir sacked.
As it is today, Babachir is on administrative bail pending further investigation by the EFCC. This is a man already probed at three different levels, each presumably having reached its conclusion after a good look at available evidence. What is the ‘further’ that has taken the EFCC so long to find out? How on earth does Buhari expect his war on corruption to be taken seriously?
While he is busy celebrating as his achievements the conviction of governors in cases filed by other governments, he should bear in mind that a lot of people still remember how the chairman of his inauguration committee and former Bayelsa governor, Timipre Sylva, was discharged and acquitted in controversial circumstances. He was never tried due to a ‘programmed’ incompetence on the part of the authorities and eventually had his 48 houses (yes,48 houses) handed back to him. The controversy started with Festus Keyamo withdrawing as prosecutor and, today, he has been rewarded by being appointed the spokesman of the Buhari 2019 campaign. Most Nigerians did the ‘shabale’ then in 2015 because they were blind in the desperation to see Buhari succeed and now hardly remember this as part of Buhari’s hypocritical anti-corruption sins. But unlike Keyamo, they have been rewarded with hardship and untold suffering.
It is nobody’s fault that Buhari limited the scope of his anti-corruption fight to only the Jonathan administration when he and his cohorts were dispraising a 16-year rule before theirs. He never expected the public outcry that greeted his comments on a ‘previous administration’ having spent $16bn on power. As it turns out, Buhari had known all along that President Obasanjo spent that much on power without a commensurate improvement in power supply but he had kept a ‘shabale’ posture to Obasanjo’s outrageous deed and only mentioned it after OBJ criticized his performance and condemned his re-election bid. That was when he chose to let us know he knew. Again, it was only after public outcry became deafening that he called for a probe and, till date, the EFCC is yet to make an arrest or even as much as intimate the public with the latest regarding the probe. There have been a lot of stories bandied around regarding how the ex-presidents that rallied round PMB when he came into office negotiated a deal to keep the Jonathans free from prosecution – a pointer to how true that may be is how, despite the seizure of her money and properties, Patience Jonathan is the one taking the government to court and not the other way round. If Buhari does not lack the balls to probe and prosecute his friend, then it may be that he is scared of what OBJ might reveal if pushed to the wall.
Taking things as we see them, it is very obvious that whenever voluntary willpower is lacking, the Buhari administration hardly ever takes a corruption battle to the finish line. It succumbs to public discontent and moves to douse it with a-little-something for the cameras before allowing the matter wither away. Forcing the man to make a move still feels no different from his ‘shabale’ posture.
Umar Sa’ad Hassan is a lawyer based in Kano