President Muhammadu Buhari has come under scrutiny from Nigerians for tactically avoiding criticizing the late Dictator, General Sanni Abacha for looting Nigeria’s treasury.
A few days ago, Twitter-addicted Nigerians stumbled on a controversial tweet made by President Buhari at about 5:09pm on 27 April, 2016. The tweet reads: “Nigeria is awaiting receipt from Swiss Govt. of $320 million, identified as illegally taken from Nigeria under Abacha.”
Immediately, the whole internet went abuzz, with most people expressing their dismay at Buhari’s refusal to call a spade by its correct name. It is obvious why the President chose to describe this amount (which is over N100 billion, a third of what the Federal, State Local governments shared in February 2016) as money “identified as illegally taken from Nigeria under Abacha”, rather than the usual “Abacha loot”.
Buhari, long before he was elected president, stubbornly insisted that Abacha “never stole”, and that he was not corrupt. “Illegally taken from Nigeria” is a ploy to sidestep the word: “stolen”. “Under Abacha” portrays it as if other people, not Abacha himself, committed the “illegality” without Abacha’s knowledge.
In the past sixteen years, series of sums of money in foreign currency have been brought back from Western countries, especially Switzerland, where former military Head of State, the late General Sani Abacha stashed funds which he looted from the Nigerian treasury. These monies have always been called “Abacha loot”. Abacha is the only former ruler boldly ascribed, even in official circles, to have “stolen” or “looted” our public funds.
But unknown to many, President Buhari is simply trying to cover up for a man (Abacha) who rehabilitated him after being jailed by Babangida; if Abacha had not appointed him (Buhari) as the Executive Chairman of the defunct Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), where he was given unlimited powers to spend billions of Naira between 1996 and 1998, would Buhari have stuck out his neck for him and say he was not corrupt?
According to a Columnist, “Is this the mentality we take with us in fighting corruption, making sure that those who helped us are regarded as clean, while those who wronged us are pursued with a single-minded quest to retrieve their loot and sent to jail? Is this our national standard for integrity? How are we sure that retired Col. Ja’afaru Isa, a close Buhari acolyte who was reluctantly arrested, briefly detained by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and released after a couple of days for allegedly returning part of his share of Col. Sambo Dasuki’s bonanza, actually returned anything? Everybody calls President Buhari a “man of integrity”, in spite of certain things we read and hear which do not add up to conclusively justify that branding.
“Buhari made his declared assets public. But he never disclosed their financial worth, nor did he let us know where they could be found as late President Umaru Yar’Adua voluntarily did. He never followed Yar’ Adua’s exemplary footsteps of including the assets of his wife. And from the look of things, ever-smiling Madam Aisha Buhari is very well-to-do, what with her reported donation of N135 million to displaced persons in Adamawa during the campaigns last year, which has not been denied. I still cannot reconcile the fact that Buhari, as the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) had to borrow N25 million from banks to pay for his form in October, 2014 when his wife could so easily have given it to him from her own resources. There were even some reports that Buhari was once ejected from his “rented” mansion, No 11, Queen Elizabeth Drive, Asokoro, Abuja in 2012. That report was never debunked. Elaborate efforts have always been made to brand Buhari as a retired general who lived on his military pension before he became elected President. Yet, when he became President and the foreign exchange crunch set in, he told parents who have their children in foreign schools that they should look for forex wherever they could find it as the Federal Government could no longer afford to provide it. When reminded that he had his own children in foreign schools, he simply retorted: “I can afford it”.
“These conflicting signals about our President and his true mindset on corruption as well as his real standing financially are being noticed, and nobody is a dummy. Even the younger generation of Nigerians are watching, reading and taking note of this confusion and wondering what “integrity” actually means here in Nigeria.”