Malam Ibrahim Ibrahim is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Nasarawa State. He says that President Muhammadu Buhari needs a new template to succeed in his anti-graft war. Excerpts:
How do you think anti-corruption war can be strengthened?
Corruption is Nigeria’s biggest scourge, worse than insurgency or any of our country’s ailments. The Presidential Anti-corruption Advisory Council is doing well, but it should recommend to the government to declare a state of emergency on corruption, sanitisation and re-organisation of the judiciary by setting up a parallel and complete legal system with new and appropriate rules of procedure to deal specifically with economic and financial crimes, in order to avoid the usual delay associated with the regular courts. The new parallel system should have a lower economic and financial fraud tribunal for cases involving amounts less than N500 million, a higher economic and financial fraud tribunal for amounts starting from N500 Million. There should also be an economic and financial fraud appeal court at the appellate level and at the apex level there should be an economic and financial fraud supreme court. Of course, the existing anti-corruption laws should be freed from loopholes, stringent and severe in penalties. The anti-corruption agencies, especially the EFCC, which relies on borrowed staff, mostly from the police, should be purged of its existing staff and new and permanent staff, who have integrity, should be recruited and trained. The Nigeria Police Force (NPF), DSS and NIA should set up new directorates, specifically devoted to monitoring economic and financial crimes, with a view to liaising with the EFCC and ICPC. A comprehensive bill on budgeting process in Nigeria should be initiated to nip corruption in the bud, because it starts from the budgeting process. Remember the National Assembly sky-rocketed its budget from N14 billion in 1999 to N156 billion by 2014. There should be a bill on protection and reward for whistle blowers, which should encourage the setting of whistle blowing NGOs as well as participation by the general public in the whistle blowing culture. Then, it would be real deadly blow on corruption in Nigeria!
Can you briefly outline some of the qualities the yet-to-be-appointed ministers should possess?
In general, there are, at least, five essential qualities that new Nigerian ministers should have. Firstly, the yet-to-be appointed ministers should be competent in whatever portfolio that would be assigned to them. Secondly, but equally important, they should have moral integrity and be free from the burden of corruption allegations. Thirdly, they should be committed and have a strong sense of patriotism, a strong desire to serve Nigeria, without consideration of any personal benefit derivable from their portfolios. Fourthly, they should be free from sectionalism and nepotism. Fifthly, and most importantly, they should be loyal to President Muhammadu Buhari, his anti-corruption war and his avowed cause to reposition Nigeria for the attainment of greatness. In fact, they should be able to emulate PMB’s way of life, his high degree of moral integrity, truthfulness, devotion to duty, forthrightness, patriotism, deep sense of compassion, discipline, respect for rule of law and constituted authority, courage, humility, lack of greed and his endless list of other noble attributes. They are the luckiest set of Nigerian ministers, because PMB is an institution, a school, from where to learn the art of achieving greatness.
Some people argue that Senator Saraki is persecuted for defying his party and some interests to emerge Senate president. Do you believe he is unjustifiably treated?
Not at all! Senator Bukola Saraki is neither being persecuted nor unfairly treated by anyone. The issue between Senator Saraki, the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) is a purely legal matter. He is facing a 13-count criminal charge over alleged false declaration of assets. Being the Senate president and the No 3 citizen of Nigeria, under a dispensation that has zero tolerance for corruption, Saraki should not have hesitated to appear before CCT to proof his innocence. That would have been leadership by example, in stark contrast to jumping from pillar to pole on legal technicalities to prevent or hamstrung the CCT from implementing its constitutional mandate. Truly, there is no gain saying that Saraki had defied our party (APC) to emerge Senate president, but the indubitable fact is that it is not the APC that is prosecuting him. And, even if, as critics say, it is the APC-led government that is prosecuting him, the best solution is to appear, as he did, before the CCT to clear his name.
How do you think the leadership crisis in the Senate can be resolved?
The leadership crisis in the Senate is a purely political matter that should be resolved politically. Although we are running a democratic system of government, we should realise that party discipline is an ingredient of the system, indeed an essential coefficient of the system. The APC is the majority party in the Senate with about 60 senators, while the PDP has about 49 senators. All the APC senators, without exception, should comply with the wishes and instructions of their party regarding the choice or election of leadership in the Senate. If all the APC senators become party-compliant, the problem would be resolved. Furthermore, the APC, being the ruling party, should make concerted efforts to lobby some of the PDP senators. There is simply no reason why the APC should fail to have its way with regard to the choice of leadership in the Senate.
Do you believe that President Muhammadu Buhari deliberately excluded South-east people from his list of appointees?
No!!! The list of appointees is not an indication of PMB deliberately excluding the South-east people or any geo-political zone for that matter. President Muhammadu Buhari is globally known as a man with impeccable character, penchant for justice and fairness and has a good political sense and love for the entire people of Nigeria. His dislike for sectionalism knows no bound. The recent appointments are only a few out of the hundreds yet to be made by the Presidency. But even from the few appointments that have been released so far, you can see a strong exhibition of the principles of Federal Character, political fairness and recognition of merit. The list is a mixed bag of these three principles. Despite the fact that the South-east zone contributed the least number of votes that got the PMB government elected, PMB has graciously given the region some of the most high-profile slots in the appointments he has made so far. For instance, the Group Managing Director NNPC, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, is from the South-east. Also, the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, is being graciously retained, despite the odds against him. And there are a host of other appointments from the South-east. Besides, it should be pointed out that the south-east consists of only one tribe-the Igbos, who are not more important than the other hundreds of Nigerian tribes, who are not complaining of marginalisation. Moreover, some of the appointments made need not be federal character compliant, because they are only personal staff of the president.
Why do you always like to operate behind the scene politically?
Since I retired in 2005 from service, I never went close to any government. I joined politics to realise my vision or dream of a beautiful Nigeria, albeit through my support for PMB. Through my series of discussion with him, I am sufficiently satisfied that if he is allowed to govern, our country will be among the best.