By Fredrick Nwabufo
You cannot tango with hyenas and not get devoured. Hyenas are vicious; blundering yet pernicious, and jocular yet devious. Hyenas do not live by the rules of the wild; they subsist on the punitive canon of their clans. In fact, infanticide is common among hyenas. They eat their young. They eat their own. So, that you waltz with the hyenas does not mean you will not end up in the bowels of the beast.
This appears to be the fate of Ibrahim Magu, suspended acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. I had chanced on Magu at media briefings and anti-corruption programmes. He was bubbling with passion for his job. You cannot fault him on dedication to duty, but you can spread him out on the slab of exuberance, naivety, and sycophancy for some lashing.
Where is Magu now and what happened to the much vaunted war against corruption? It appears the Buhari administration has cast aside all pretences to fighting corruption. The government came with so much noise of how it is fighting corruption and how corruption is fighting back. I recall the illegal invasion of the residences of judges by DSS agents on allegations of bribery. Today, many of those judges are back on the bench. It is clear that the unlawful resort to vandalism against judges by the government was to menace the judiciary – to bend it to the will of the executive.
I also recall the much fabled $2.1 billion arms purchase probe of which no one has been convicted to date. The Buhari government made so many ruckuses, branding suspects as criminals in the media and securing conviction in the media — which was all a chicanery to distract Nigerians from its stinking incompetence. Today, it cannot play that card anymore. Nigerians are awake to the deceit and duplicity of the government. Yes, I recall the many noises and nothings.
Magu was used to settle political scores only to become the score himself. He was a pawn in the game of power. He surrendered himself to be used and ended up getting played. Hyenas do not have character, and their loyalty is to themselves. Magu rolled with the hyenas. He is perhaps the biggest casualty of the dubious anti-corruption war.
Magu was used to hound opposition voices. He went after everyone he was unleashed on except those with obvious cases to answer who are in the favour of a certain ‘’clique’’ at the presidency. I recall the meeting where a journalist asked the suspended EFCC chairman a question on whether the anti-graft agency would investigate a powerful politician who bragged about railing bullion vans containing cash into his residence on the eve of the 2019 general election. Magu quickly dismissed the query. ‘’Next question!’’ – He waved it off thunderously.
I know that a civil society organisation sent a petition on the same subject to the EFCC under Magu. But the petition suffered a cardiac arrest at the EFCC. Nothing has been said of that petition to date. Magu played the game but he ended up the game. While petitions alleging corruption against top members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) were flying around in the EFCC, Magu was funnelling them into the dirt pit.
Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation (AGF), whom a powerful interest group at the presidency used against Magu, had explained away the fallen anti-graft czar’s rejection by the Senate in 2017. The Senate in 2016 and 2017 rejected Magu’s appointment as EFCC chairman, hinging its decision on a DSS report which accused him of corruption and gross misconduct.
But Malami reportedly convinced President Buhari to undercut the Senate and keep Magu – despite the damning DSS report. The reason for this? Because the forces at the Senate at the time were considered a bigger threat than ‘’ordinary’’ Magu. Magu would be dealt with later.
And as the ‘’enemies of the president’’ exited the Senate, the attorney-general digs up the same report, reworks the memo by adding more leprous flesh to it and sends to the president demanding Magu’s head on a spike. The Buhari administration is a living hypocrisy.
Magu played the game but he did not know when to own himself. He lost himself to the allure of power. He was feared; the Almighty Magu! He recreated the EFCC in his own image – and had a personal servantry — the ‘’Magu boys’’.
Magu is a victim of his own foibles but a casualty of predatory power-play.
Really, I have not come to mock Magu. I would not do that. You do not kick a man when he is down. But I have come to warn all Nigerians in public office playing with the hyenas to beware. The hyenas do not play by the rules. Today you are the toast of the pack, but tomorrow you are the toast bread everyone is nibbling.
President Buhari should take a decision on the Justice Ayo Salami panel report on Magu. To be or not to be, Magu deserves the dignity of being put out of this uncertainty.
▪︎ Nwabufo is a writer and journalist