President-elect General Muhammadu Buhari taking a call from President Goodluck Jonathan who called to congratulate him on winning the 2015 election

Is Buhari Looking Somewhat Corrupt?

President Muhammadu Buhari

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Many Nigerians have openly and silently questioned the relationship between President Muhammadu Buhari and ex-Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu. It is the most unlikely political partnership I have ever witnessed. Loosely speaking, Buhari is more like the American personality Thomas E Dewey or Elliot Ness while Tinubu is more like Al Capone. From afar it appears their moral constellations are galaxies apart.

However, it was the Buhari-Tinubu partnership that saw All Progressives Congress (APC) upset People’s Democratic Party (PDP) resoundingly at the recent polls. The questions have not gone away though. Can Buhari really fight corruption if some of his core party members are famed for venality and malfeasance? That constitutes a crapious contradiction for any serious anti-corruption politician or administrator in power.

Corruption is a complex and shifting phenomenon and a clean government house is the first step to controlling it. Corruption is inappropriately defined as “the misuse of public office for private gain,” but it will suffice under these circumstances. There are three kinds of corruption contained in the ‘Heidenheimer Model’ of the phenomenon: Black corruption, Grey corruption and White corruption.

 Is Buhari Looking Somewhat Corrupt?

‘Black corruption’ is purely financial; embezzlement, bribery, extortion, false accounting, graft, inflated contracts and smuggling. ‘Grey corruption’ is the abuse of the provisions and trappings of office; demanding luxury cars, appropriating official property, claiming inappropriate expenses, exploiting insider information and obstructing/facilitating official business. Then there is ‘White corruption’, which is people-related and selective; favouritism, nepotism, racism, tribalism and other specialise form of unequal access.

If it is true that 98% of all the political appointments President Buhari has made so far are to people from the Northern region of Nigeria, he qualifies as practicing ‘white corruption’. One cannot explain ‘white corruption’ away. Without white corruption there can hardly be any significant black or grey corruption. White corruption is the anchor of corruption; man know man.

From another perspective, Buhari has been highly astute not to rush to appoint ministers. However, he has made some appointments most notably the firing and hiring of military service chiefs. If competency of officials is the major criterion for selecting and appointing staff, does ethnicity really matter? I am not naïve about the intricacies of tribal leanings/biases in the political structure of Nigeria, but Buhari could not abandon “Federal Character” even if his life depended on him doing so.

We cannot forget how countless members of the upper hierarchy of officials under ex-President Goodluck Jonathan let him down at every turn. Jonathan’s biggest nemesis was that he did not quite have the will or the “permission” to hire those that loyally best served his interests and to fire those irresponsible and treacherous ones who did not. The interference in the Jonathan Administration from Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida especially was both subversive and overbearing.

Many of Jonathan’s special advisers/assistants, ministers and service chiefs obviously deserved to be fired, but he let them stay in their jobs to his utter detriment and the satisfaction of their paymasters. With a better “Team Jonathan” the ex-president would have performed excellently. Every president, governor and local government chairperson should learn from Jonathan’s.

Buhari is not keen to make the same mistake if he can help. How can anyone blame him for adopting such prudence? In a presidential system it is better to have those loyal to the president in strategic parts of the government regardless of the tribe or religion even if there are somewhat homogenous than to have an ethnically and proportionally well-represented team of traitors and incompetents serving him.

With Buhari the former presidents cannot wreak havoc on his administration; they may spend the rest of their lives in jail. I will wait to see the full list of appointments made by the president (especially the ministerial ones) and the strategic implications for the expectations of ‘federal character’ before I can even begin to contemplate using the term ‘white corruption’ against Buhari’s name.

The President does not want to make the country he leads ungovernable.

We wait.

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