President Muhammadu Buhari must be gradually facing up to the reality and complexity of ruling a country in a democracy, where things are not always what they seem. If he thought he had the liberty and exclusive right to circumscribe the boundaries of his war on corruption, he must by now be coming to terms with how grossly mistaken he is. It is no secret that Nigerians appear to be enjoying daily breaking news on the astounding sleaze that went on under the Goodluck Jonathan government. Indeed, already, some of the looted funds are being recovered or surrendered. In consequence too, reputations are being shredded, especially that of the opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and its backers and leaders.
Those opposed to President Buhari’s anti-corruption war, or who oppose his methods, are beginning to fight back. They are presenting the president with a number of moral dilemmas. First, they suggest that the president has no moral, political or constitutional defence to limit the war to only his predecessor’s time in office, as he stated before assuming office and has reiterated since he assumed office. He should extend the probes farther down the line. Second, they also argue that those who financed his election did not use their personal funds but public funds, and must therefore be investigated as well.
The president’s opponents are clearly not making these arguments from altruistic or patriotic points of view. They are simply determined to stymie the anti-corruption war, or failing that, to make the sky fall on everybody’s head. If the president should heed the call to expand the investigations, he risks making it unwieldy and impracticable. But whether he likes it or not, he will not be able to convince his opponents that no APC state government deserves to be investigated. And if he continues to shun the calls to expand the investigations, the campaign will only grow more deafening, if not even threatening.
The president made a mistake from the beginning by inadvertently allowing his anti-corruption campaign to be conducted with fanfare and extravagant flourish. He of course had no choice but to call the last government to account, but he is president, and should have anticipated the reactions of his opponents, many of whom for sentimental reasons are still smarting badly from the humiliation they received at the last polls.
But is the president really able to control or limit the manner and circumstances of the investigations? Could he order the EFCC to limit its investigations? Or could he persuade the media to de-emphasise selected reports? The president clearly faces a dilemma. One way out, probably the best way out, is for him to give better and bigger meat to the public and the media to chew. (See main article). While he continues his anti-corruption battles, perhaps on as many fronts as he wishes, let him more importantly refocus the attention of the country to his main blueprints for the radical make-over of Nigeria, away from corruption and EFCC/ICPC, and to governance and ideas for rebuilding Nigeria in the 21st century and beyond, along the change paradigm his party promised before the 2015 polls.