A shortlist for fix-Nigeria 2019 – Part 3

Magnus Kpakol

The MainaGate In the Mix…
Apparent mediocrity in handling the sensational MainaGate has strengthened the expediency of this Shortlist for Fix-Nigeria 2019. The seeming aloofness of the president in the face of the scandal makes it difficult for even his die-hard supporters to deny that his posture smacks of arrogance of power and contempt for the people. Despite constant emphasis in this column on the need for the president to overhaul the lacklustre and absentee presidential bureaucracy, he has shrugged off the significance of all the suggestions. What is worse, the communications team of the president and indeed the administration has again proved incapable of handling crisis in Buhari’s presidency. This is not just about incompetence of the reputation management team. It is about this accident-prone and mediocre presidency. It is about emerging hypocrisy in a presidency whose wisdom has been consumed in overconfidence. Now the crisis in the presidency has hit the roof with this self-inflicted injury – MainaGate, which Malam Garba Shehu has curiously blamed on the PDP renegades in Buhari’s government after two and half years in the saddle. Even the ruling APC has said that the scandalous recall of Abdulrassheed Maina into the federal civil service, as an acting director is embarrassing in the extreme. Yet the president is again showing his trademark aloofness inside Aso Villa.

As I have been saying about this absentee presidential bureaucracy, who will assist the president to set off a process for managing this crisis when the president and his men cannot replace the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, (SGF) Babachir David Lawal suspended on corruption charges since April 19, 2019? Have I not been drawing attention to the fact that even the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) a constitutional body has been vacant for the past five months too since Deaconess Joan Ayo retired? Yes, there has been an acting SGF, Dr. Habibat Lawan (since April 19) but as I was saying, the acting SGF would not be able to issue a query to the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HCSF), in the circumstances, since her substantive position is Permanent Secretary. In this capacity she is responsible to the Head of the Civil Service (HCSF): she can’t issue a query to her original boss. A substantive SGF is the head of the presidential bureaucracy to which the head of service too belongs. The Chief of Staff (CoS) to the President is a personal staff to the president and not a creation of the constitution as the SGF, HCSF and Chairman, Federal Civil Service Commission are. So, it would be procedurally absurd for the Chief of Staff to the president to issue a query, for instance, on the current scandal to the HCSF and the Chairman, FCSC. I hope we are following this labyrinthine state of affairs in the sensitive presidential bureaucracy: Had the president filled these positions, not only might the current accident, sorry incident, not have happened, if they did as they have the structure on ground would have been able to respond swiftly.

As a recent editorial in this newspaper noted the other day, there are too many ‘actors’ in the system. The two chairmen of the anti-corruption agencies, EFCC and ICPC have been acting (EFCC’s since 2015), the nominee for the position of Chairman ICPC sent to the Senate is yet to be confirmed, just as the nominee for the post of the DG National Pension ommission. As noted earlier, the SGF is acting and Chairman of FCSC is acting, there is also an Acting Director General, National Intelligence Agency (NIA) since April 19, 2017 too. Besides, there is another curiosity that has been attracting editorial inquiries and comments: why the president has not considered the report on allegations of corruption against the SGF and DG, NIA, the vice president, Chairman of the Committee submitted since 23 August, 2017. What is the root of this disease called presidential procrastination?
Is it not absurd for us to be commenting on critical vacancies even in the presidency after two and half years in office in a four-year tenure? How can the office of the SGF be vacant for six months? How can a critical office such as the Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission be vacant for a day? What is the difficulty in filling some critical vacancies in a federal public service?

The Way Out On MainaGate:
Again, why can’t the president address public anger about this “audacity of corruption” as a newspaper has called it by querying or suspending even the Attorney General, the Interior Minister and the Head of the Civil Service?
Are they untouchable? The position that Maina was deployed to is a mainstream civil service position. The involvement of the trio in the saga speaks volumes. The time has come for the president to freeze his usual politics of aloofness and address the crisis of confidence in his administration.

Three weeks ago on this platform, there was a contextual question on whether the integrity of the president has been massively overrated, after all. It should be noted that the dust raised by the Baru-Kachikwu affair, has not been cleared with a meretricious statement that $25 million was not missing, after all. This Mainagate has only strengthened widespread perception that fighting corruption, which normally gets perfected in the civil service for political leaders, is still a huge joke. Even the acting Chairman of EFCC confirmed his frustration the other day when he also said the battle was getting curiously tougher by the day. What is worse now, there are still too many unresolved corruption case files in the office of the president: the chief of army staff’s estates in Dubai issue; the chief of staff’s alleged N500 million deal with a telecommunications company over reduction of fines; the $43 million traced to the DG, NIA; the SGF’s grass-cutting contract deal discovered by the Senate; the allegation of corruption against the EFCC Acting Chairman in a letter to the Senate on confirmation, etc.

The way out of the current complex challenge is for the president to grant Maina some form of immunity that will enable him to act as a principal witness in a major investigation into the Pensions Scam that has been swept under the carpet. This will enable the phenomenal Maina spill out all he knows about the deal and the ring of those who have benefited from the Pension Fund he once presided over. Such a list is capable of unmasking the principalities and powers of corruption in the public and civil service. Besides, that would really go a long way to restoring already waning confidence in the Buhari administration’s war on corruption. The big ones that supervised Maina at the time who can be witnesses include: Dr. Okonjo Iweala, the then Minister of Finance, Dr. Bright Okogu, the then Director General Budget; Mr. Ibrahim Dankwabo then Accountant-General of the Federation; (now Governor of Gombe state); his successor, Jonah Ogunniyi Otunla; Heads of the Civil Service of the Federation namely: Stephen Oronsaye, Professor Oladapo Afolabi and Alhaji Isah Bello Sali all of who were directly managing the pension funds before the take-off of the now vibrant Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) currently headed by Sharon Ikeazor.

It has been revealed, for instance, that government then needed only N4.5 billion monthly to settle pensioners but they ended up getting up to N20 billion to settle pensioners. Only Maina has the key to unlock the operatives and beneficiaries of this monumental corruption: Whose authorities and memo increased the budget and to whom? All the answers are needed and that is why Maina should not just be dismissed and harassed once more into exile. He must not die mysteriously too. He is an asset of some sort, in this regard, much in the same way that in other climes, known criminals would be used to solve certain difficult riddles.

And so this ugly narrative reinforces the expediency of a new deal for 2019. It should not be business as usual again, that has kept this nation on wheel chair since 1966 when “soldiers of fortunes” arrested Nigeria’s development. Despite the MainaGate’s remarkable distraction, we need to expand the Shortlist for Fix-Nigeria 2019 this week:

DR. MAGNUS KPAKOL:
He is one of the most ignored public intellectuals in the country. The principal consultant at VIJONS International in Dallas Texas and Visiting Professor of Economics at the University of Dallas, United States, Dr. Kpakol, was discovered by President Olusegun Obasanjo. He worked as Chief Economic Adviser to the President in 2001. The former consultant to the UNDP is the host of Magnus Kpakol gvA, a global economic trends show on Africa carried around the world on Africa. He was once suggested to President Goodluck Jonathan as a fit and proper person to run the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). But he didn’t have the godfathers who could knock on the big doors and so lost the bid. He is very bright and so should be encouraged to be part of a team to fix Nigeria’s broken walls. Dr. Kpakol should be an asset in a good National Assembly. He can make some difference too in the economic planning and development arena.

PROFESSOR MAHMOOD YAKUBU:
He is the current Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). It is doubtful that President Buhari knew him well enough for the real value this product of Oxbridge (Oxford and Cambridge) could have added to his administration in the parlous education sector. He has managed education funding very well at the highest level. The first first-class graduate of History from the North knows what troubles the education system in the country. He also knows the value of quality in education as a weapon of country and global competitiveness. The professor who completed his doctorate degree in Oxford at the age of 29 had built upon the foundation of his predecessors in Education Trust Fund (ETF) (now Tert-Fund) and developed the Fund to a respectable level that even all university administrators still respect. Even ASUU members ever so censorious, know Prof. Yakubu as a resourceful Fund manager. Most of the good structures in the federal universities have the imprimatur of TERT-FUND. It is still curious why he is not the Minister of Education in Buhari’s Cabinet. Those who are planning to fix education in Nigeria tomorrow should remember him. He can be credited with discipline of execution, an element that is missing everywhere you go in Nigeria.

To be continued….



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