One of the welcome outcomes of the just concluded 30th Summit of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa Ethiopia was the declaration of Nigeria’s President Muhamadu Buhari as the ‘Anti-Corruption Champion’ of the continent. Most poignant is the fact that the theme of the summit was ‘Winning the Fight Against Corruption’. His selection therefore designates him even if notionally, as the ‘arrowhead’ of the continent’s fight against corruption. The AU Summit being the assemblage of the serving Heads of State of the various countries that make up the continent, is unarguably the most powerful of the organs of the continental body. Its resolutions are therefore powerful as they constitute the official positions of the continent on any issue. In the same vein, the selection of Buhari as the continent’s Anti-Corruption Champion is a development of undeniable significance being a mark of recognition and honour, for both President Buhari as a person, and the Nigerian nation in general.
Admissibly, for keen observers of the affairs of the Nigerian nation, Buhari had launched and maintained a steady campaign against corruption in the country’s public life both during his first appearance as Nigeria’s military Head of State (1983 to ’85) and his second missionary journey, this time as a democratically elected President (2015 to date). In one of his signature popular quotes, he had said rather graphically that “if Nigeria does not kill corruption will kill Nigeria”. Not a few Nigerians actually recognize him as perhaps the most committed leader, as far as the war against corruption in the country is concerned. In fact, even his present tenure as an elected President was facilitated largely by his widely accepted image as an incorruptible leader who would deploy the capacities of his Presidency, to deal corruption and corrupt public officials in the country, a red nose.
Hence his selection by the AU as the continent’s Anti-Corruption Champion remains well placed, at least from the angle of his well-ochestrated struggles against the syndrome. From the look of things, someone and or some people outside the country had ostensibly been watching Buhari’s activities in office, all this while.
However, his selection also comes along with a plethora of responsibilities which immediately includes the need for Buhari to adjust his focus to a bigger picture whereby he should not lose sight of his now gold-fish stature, as he no more has a hiding place. While his attention can still be focused on the anti-corruption fight in his home country Nigeria, expectations of him henceforth will include his expansion of gaze to the rest of the continent, with respect to taming the monster of corruption. At least he will be expected to provide advisory services to other African countries wherever and whenever circumstances dictate or permit.
It is in that respect that the paradigm for him as a leader has simply changed. He is now an African brand for addressing a most debilitating syndrome which has kept the entire continent under siege, with no seeming hope of escape. His selection is even more poignant as it is coming in a year when the continent adopts the ‘Agenda 2063’ which is “a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent over the next 50 years” … and which “builds on, and seeks to accelerate the implementation of past and existing continental initiatives for growth and sustainable development”. And as needs not be emphasised, the only challenge to the actualisation of ‘Agenda 2063’ remains the problem of corruption. Buhari therefore has no choice but subscribe to the maxim of ‘who goes to equity should go with clean hands’.
Expectedly, his emergence as the continent’s anti-corruption champion had met with mixed reactions as while some are hailing him, others differ. For instance a leading voice in the Nigerian Senate Senator Shehu Sani hailed the development as he referred to Buhari as ‘Africa’s Anti-Corruption Czar’, a reference to a past generation of Russian leaders. Who were referred to as ‘Czars’. Meanwhile the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) dismissed the development as “a joke”. According to a statement by its National Publicity Secretary Kola Ologbondiyan “it was clear that the AU leaders were not well briefed on happenings in Nigeria, including the alleged heavy sleazes going on around the Presidency”. The statement further averred that the AU was misled by the Federal Government, which intends to use the naming as a face-saving stunt for the administration.
Fortunately, a variety of shades of opinion on the development should spur President Buhari to appreciate the various angles from which his performance as ‘Africa’s Anti-Corruption Champion’ will be viewed not only by Nigerians locally, but this time the African continent and indeed the entire world. In that context therefore, and especially for the fact that his success or failure as a continental brand constitutes a plus or minus for the country, it remains imperative for him to review the operational order of his administration, to ensure that he puts his best foot forward.
For as a closer view of his administration easily reveals, all is not well with his setup at home, as he is operating with a structure, that is turning out to be out of tune with his vision which he sold to Nigerians during his campaign for the presidency and at inception of his administration. And if he has to escape the ignoble discredit of many African leaders, whose tenures as continental figures ended as mere ‘also-rans’, then Buhari needs to rejig his governance platform.
The imperative for him to redress his platform’s weaknesses derives from the various faces of sleaze in his administration as well as entire political terrain of most African countries and which have frustrated the continent from attaining its optimum in development for its peoples. Coming back home is the series of shenanigans by some of his trusted aides that manifest on a daily basis.
For instance while the dust is yet to settle over the sordid circumstances surrounding the sacked former Secretary to the Federal Government Mr Babahcir Lawal and Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) Ayo Oke, the incumbent Director General of the same outfit Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, the questionable return to service and promotion of Abdulrahman Maina, instances of appearance of sleaze manifest daily in the administration. Meanwhile members of the Nigerian public are endlessly belly-aching over what they see as the languid response by the President to such in house sins by his close lieutenants.
Whether they are right or wrong, may be seen as a matter for another day. But Buhari has no other credentials to justify his tenure as Africa’s Anti-Corruption Champion than his style of administration in Nigeria.