By Fredrick Nwabufo
The quickest way for a public officer to lose puissance is by maintaining public performance. Having the spotlight on your head could be capricious – because soon you become addicted to the thrills and frills of the centre stage. You speak for excitement and adulation; you become a show horse; a lone actor in your own film. And you must keep performing.
Abdulrasheed Bawa, chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), is a decent young man. He is obviously bubbling with the zeal and commitment to wrestle corruption to the ground. I watched his appearance at the senate in February. He acquitted himself well. He showed smarts, articulation, and robust knowledge of his job.
The appointment of Bawa as EFCC chairman is perhaps President Buhari’s most strategic and judicious appointment. Bawa cannot be faulted on competence, commitment, or the capacity to deliver. He is the right fit for the job.
However, Bawa’s recent ‘’bow wow’’ utterances may be untoward for the figure he cuts in the eyes of many of his admirers. When you become given to loose talking, you become vulnerable to gaffes. The EFCC chairman said a few days ago that a certain female minister connived with a bank managing director to launder $37 million. He said the minister invited the bank MD to her house to chaperone $20 million in cash for a property. Please note that he said ‘’female minister’’, not ‘’former minister’’ in the interview with Channels TV on Wednesday.
Owing to that clanger or ambiguous comment, the worker bees in the rumour factory went to town with fables of serving female ministers and sleaze. Some even did a derisory montage of these serving female ministers. Bawa later put lucidity to his comment when he named the ‘’Dame of the loot’’. He said at a media briefing on Thursday that he was referring to former minister of petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
Where is Diezani?
Bawa had previously said the EFCC recovered $153 million, N14 billion worth of jewellery and 80 assets from Diezani. The EFCC under Magu made similar staggering revelations. Why is the former minister not on trial for allegedly emptying Nigeria’s treasury into her private till? Since 2015, the EFCC has been on the Diezani case but this woman is yet to meet with fate. It appears the EFCC enjoys flagellation. It excites the agency to always regale Nigerians with tales of the ‘’Diezani loot’’. But why is she not being brought to reckoning for her alleged crime?
Diezani is having the longest laugh, I suppose. She is holed up in London and biding her time – waiting for the Buhari administration to leave. It is less than two years before the end of this administration; I think it will be one of Bawa’s biggest achievements, if Diezani is magicked into Nigeria and made to confront her deeds. What Diezani’s seeming invincibility confirms is that the hand of the law is not strong enough. Though I understand the diplomatic impediments involved in her extradition, anyone who steals from Nigerians in such a cannibalistic magnitude should be made to pay personal penance.
A federal high court in Lagos on Friday cleared Peter Nwaoboshi, a senator from Delta state, of a N322 million fraud charge. The judge, Chukwujekwu Aneke, put the blame for her unsettling decision on the EFCC. She said the agency bungled the case. She held that the EFCC failed to prove the elements of the offences for which it charged the senator. She also said the agency’s case crumbled because “bank officials were not called to testify”.
The prosecution of suspects is one of the areas Bawa should strengthen at the EFCC. There should be diligent prosecution. There have been allegations that the anti-graft agency purposely bungles cases of certain high-profile suspects. In the past, the commission was alleged to put up performances in the media only to work in cahoots with suspects in court. I hope Bawa’s time at the EFCC will be less of theatrics and more of conviction — of those eviscerating Nigeria from the udder.
Bawa should be wary of certain awards. Ibrahim Magu, his predecessor, was a man who loved awards. Almost daily, Magu was receiving awards from all sorts of people and organisations. He was happy to smile and hold up a plaque even if from hazy associations. I noticed the ‘’award wraith’’ is circling around the EFCC again. The EFCC chairman is less than six months on the job and already the ‘’award contractors’’ are nigh.
Bawa should not let himself get distracted. He should not be under pressure to put up performances. And he must not submit to political influences. He is brilliant; he should let his job do the talking.
Take heed lest you stumble, Brother Bawa!
Fredrick ‘Mr OneNigeria’ Nwabufo can be reached through: Twitter @FredrickNwabufo