President Muhammadu Buhari’s fight against corruption, suffers two major deficits. The deficits are his Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Engr. David Babachir Lawal and his Minister for Sports and youth Development, Solomon Dalung. The two are his best brand eroders. What I mean here is this; if the anti-corruption war has caught on, Lawal and Dalung, make great efforts to puncture it from within. And they do so with such carelessness that one begins to question certain things about Buhari himself.
Lawal spoke recently in an interview where he tried to justify focus of the anti-corruption fight on PDP members and those who had relationships with the administration of Goodluck Jonathan. In that interview, Lawal, the SGF, said it was proper to target only PDP members for probe because they were in power. He also argued that no APC member is targeted because they were not in power and did not benefit from contracts during the life of the past administration.
Read him in an interview he granted The Vanguard and published on June 27, 2016: “Let us be very sincere and reasonable. Obviously, to my mind, the preponderance of corrupt people would be in the PDP for one reason; they have been in government for 16 years and they were the only ones enjoying the booty, and they were doing it in a flagrant manner. Tracing my own (political) genealogy for instance, from ANPP to CPC and now APC, we were not getting anything. Nobody was giving us contracts. PDP were the ones in government; they were the ones the president was approving money for sharing; they were the ones that took government money to fund their election”.
He also said: “It is obvious that even if we had corrupt men in the APC, they did not have the opportunity to steal, and that is assuming we had. I cannot, in all honesty, say that all of us in APC are saints, but the truth is, we did not have access to funds to steal in the first place, and so we did not have opportunity also to reject the stealing. So, let them roast in their stew”.
Those were the exact words of the SGF, BD Lawal. Uncouth. Undiplomatic. Raw and lacking in excellency. Recall that at a church thanksgiving in his honour held at the ECWA Church in Abuja, the SGF had regaled his audience with how he rejected a pledged donation of rice by the Ebonyi state governor, Dave Umahi, but grabbed an envelope packed with cash, also from the governor. The video of that disclosure is currently circulating online.
BD Lawal has a competitor in the brand eroding contest. He is Solomon Dalung, who is designated as Nigeria’s sports minister. Dalung had published a picture of himself in a stadium, wearing a red beret and green uniforms under a black jacket. He gave out himself saying where he was at and how he got there. No one prompted him. And he wrote: “Just arriving the National Stadium of France in Paris for UEFA quarter finals between France and Iceland. Multichoice owners of Super Sports sponsored some African Ministers to watch the tournament. The match will commence at 0900hrs local time here”.
Can you beat that? A Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, serving in an administration that abhors corruption or corrupt tendencies, joyfully announces to the world that he was sponsored on a trip, to watch a football match, by a South African company with vast interest in sports marketing and digital television rights in Nigeria?
If this does not connote corruption, I wonder what else does. Corruption includes accepting sponsorships from interested parties. Multichoice are operators of DSTV, which has had a running battle with the Nigerian public over its services with mounting demand, by Nigerians, for per-per-view options as against the current pre-paid system which forces customers to part with their money even when they are not enjoying services. As it is, Nigerian DSTV customers pay even for downtime occasioned by failed DSTV network signals. Advocacy against the company is high, yet, it finds in the Sports and Youth Development minister, a gullible ally for its marketing prop. It is difficult to see how this minister will effectively work against any interest of Multichoice that does not work in the greater interest of Nigerians. This is simply because he has been compromised (bribed) by the company.
Gleefully displaying his picture on social media, and writing the comment that followed it, indicates two things: it shows that either Minister Dalung does not even know he was making mockery of the anti-corruption crusade of the President, or that he knows but believes that the President cannot lift a finger against him.
Of course, there is every reason to believe that even if he is complicit, nothing untoward would happen. The SGF said it earlier that the focus of the anti-corruption campaign was on PDP and its members. So, those currently in office, or who see themselves as servants of the President, are free to use the opportunity they now have to do for themselves what PDP officials did in the past. Nothing spoils here.
I recall that the first reported row between Minister Rotimi Amaechi and his finance counterpart last February, was said to be because Amaechi stopped some directors of the finance ministry who were on a flight to China because their trip was sponsored by a Chinese construction company.
A THISDAY report of February 8, 2016 quoting a ministry of finance source wrote: “The minister was livid and could not comprehend why he would be flown on an official trip by an interested contractor. So the minister gave the order immediately for everyone to disembark from that flight.” If it was wrong for a director to be sponsored on a foreign trip by a foreign firm, which has interest, it is also doubly wrong for a Minister to accept, and celebrate, such sponsorship from Multichoice.
This is where Buhari’s anti-corruption campaign begins to fail. It becomes a witch-hunt, as alleged by the hunted, once incumbent cabinet ministers begin to behave, and are treated, like sacred cows. If the anti-corruption war will ever fail the test of witch-hunt, then, Buhari must also look inwards and act on celebrated acts of corruption like Dalung’s case is.