Last week, President Muhammadu Buhari found himself face to face with United States Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken.
Buhari may have forgotten, but he first encountered Blinken, at that time the US Deputy Secretary of State, weeks after he took office in 2015. Ironically, the issues that the two men “discussed” last week are the very same that they covered in 2015 when Buhari was preparing for his first state visit to the US.
Buhari told Blinken his talks with Mr President Barack Obama would boost his efforts to overcome terrorism and that Nigeria looked forward to greater US support for the multinational Joint Task Force against Boko Haram.
He then moved up in the world, arriving in the US where he was received like royalty at the White House by a gushing President Obama.
The American leader applauded Buhari’s “reputation for integrity [and] “to make sure that he is bringing safety and security and peace to his country…and a very clear agenda with respect to rooting out the corruption that too often has held back the economic growth and prosperity of his country.”
Obama looked forward to discussing security and counterterrorism, and “how we can be helpful in addressing some of the corruption issues that have held Nigeria back, and unleashing the incredible talent of the Nigerian people.”
Simply put, Buhari has been found out. Not only has he been unveiled as being incapable of running Nigeria, his claims of personal integrity, and that he has the credentials to conquer corruption, have been shattered.
The most important thing that Nigeria and the world have learned in the past three years is that there isn’t much to Buhari beyond words. And that, sadly, if he previously wasn’t, he has become a part of the corruption he lambasted for decades. No longer can he claim to be incorrupt, or incorruptible.
He has accomplished this in three related ways. The first is his rejection of merit as a principle. Where he was expected to assemble the best minds and hands, his appointees have ranged from the questionable to the miserable, with senior officials often working at cross-purposes.
The second is his comfort with corruption. Even President Goodluck Jonathan fired his friend and minister, Stella Oduah.
That has not been matched by action, and it is only lately that, following a challenge by the PDP, the government has named a few persons. But corruption under Buhari being an affliction he recognises only in others, only persons currently of the PDP featured on it.
This follows Buhari’s consistent failure to honour his promises since his first few months in office to personally publish a list of the looters, no matter whom they proved to be.
The irony is that when the Ministry of Information published its list two weeks ago, there were six names, although that was upgraded days later to about 30 persons. Of the hundreds of billions of dollars looted since 1999, the government could only come up with 30 names.
Think about it: of thousands of people who have been ministers, governors, first ladies, permanent secretaries, party officials, managing directors, directors, ambassadors, chairmen, contractors, commissioners, bankers, wives, husbands, money-managers and movers, mistresses, girlfriends, the government identified 30 persons!
Thirty. Keep in mind that former state governor James Ibori, when he fell in a London court, went down with over 10 persons that included his wife, girlfriend, accountants, lawyers and other aides.
In addition, and as many have pointed out, the list predictably did not include PDP members who migrated into the APC, let alone “homegrown” APC-ers who are known for the carnage they have committed in office.
Nor did it include any former president or vice-president, if not for looting, then for other acts of corruption. In the case of Mr. Jonathan, for instance, Buhari biographer John Paden said Buhari told him he has documents showing that as President Mr. Jonathan requested and used illegal “off-budget funds.”
Buhari, to the surprise of the world, has absolved of blame and protected all the senior officials who have been stained by corruption allegations. The only exception to this rule is Babachir Lawal, the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, and the entire world is witness to how reluctant Buhari was to let him go.
But his complicity is exposed the most by his unwillingness to combat corruption by openly identifying the nation’s most corrupt, even where demanded by a court of law.
Since his electoral campaign in 2015, his most consistent feature has been his vociferous and daily denunciation of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
But at a time that courts in Brazil, South Africa, Pakistan and South Korea are trying or jailing former leaders for corruption, Buhari’s kill-corruption-or-corruption-will-kill-us braggadocio does not include the courage to cause the judicial examination of Jonathan, let alone Olusegun Obasanjo.
Which brings us to the third means by which Buhari ripped up his own anti-corruption Spiderman suit: his contempt for the judiciary.
On two occasions in 2016 and 2017, the Federal High Court ordered the publication of a full report, on a dedicated website, of the names of the officials, the circumstances under which the funds were recovered, and the exact amount recovered from each public official since 1999, and since Buhari’s assumption of office.
Buhari ignored both orders.
That makes nonsense of the current name-dropping; names that appear to have been hastily copied from newspaper reports. There is no correlation between the names, the amounts ascribed to them, and the amounts previously claimed to have been recovered.
How haphazard is the list? The citation for the former Comptroller-General of Customs, Inde Dikko, for instance, excludes the 17 luxury vehicles the EFCC recovered from him in Kaduna.
This mess, and Buhari’s celebration of minor achievements, is not why he was elected. His arrival was supposed to be monumental, transcendental, transformational.
What is the TSA if Nigerians do not know what has been recovered, and from whom? Why did Nigeria spend so much on the BVN exercise if all the thieves it exposed are still being protected? Why has Buhari ignored all the NNPC and NEITI reports, despite the tens of billions of dollars to which they hold the key?
Buhari’s government and party have been destroyed by incompetence, insincerity, turbulence and incoherence. It is a government at war with, and perpetually contradicting itself, proving incapable of principle, courage, patriotism or problem-solving. This is why there is no change in tone or tenor in the corruption conversation.
Does anyone remember when now Senate President Bukola Saraki tweeted in July 2014 about the APC contract with Nigerians. “If we fail to tackle unemployment, insecurity and improve standard of living in 2015-2019 VOTE US OUT,” he wrote (capitals his).
And similarly, in April 2016, APC chieftain, Tony Momoh, confidently invited Nigerians to “stone us” if the party failed to deliver.
It has not, and why Buhari’s second term run is ill-advised. I remind him of one Mr. Obasanjo, another former “saviour” who found eight years in the executive jet to be far too few.
And I offer this advice: Resign, Mr. Buhari, Run Home To Your Family. Bluster is not legal tender.