What did the Pres­i­dent know, and when did he know it?

Sunday Trust - - PAGE3COMMENT -

The al­ter­ca­tion that took place in the Coun­cil Cham­bers of the Aso Rock Villa last Wed­nes­day be­tween Chief of Staff to the Pres­i­dent Malam Abba Kyari and Head of the Civil Ser­vice of the fed­er­a­tion Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita was only the lat­est ugly turn of events in the Maina­gate scan­dal that has gripped Nige­ria in re­cent weeks. Just be­fore the weekly Fed­eral Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil [FEC] meet­ing started, with re­porters and pho­tog­ra­phers still in the cham­ber, the two top of­fi­cials were seen hav­ing a hot ex­change while Vice Pres­i­dent Yemi Os­in­bajo, Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser Mo­hammed Monguno and new sec­re­tary to the Gov­ern­ment of the Fed­er­a­tion [SGF] Mr. Boss Mustapha were seen fran­ti­cally try­ing to bro­ker a truce.

From what re­porters heard and saw from afar, Kyari and Oyo-Ita were quar­relling over an on­line news re­port two days ear­lier based on a leaked let­ter that the HoS re­port­edly sent to Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari over the Maina­gate is­sue. In her re­ply to the query is­sued to her by the pres­i­dency when the Maina­gate scan­dal broke, Mrs Oyo-Ita was quoted to have told Kyari that weeks be­fore Maina was re­stored to the civil ser­vice, she whis­pered to Pres­i­dent Buhari af­ter a FEC meet­ing that some of­fi­cials were push­ing hard for Maina’s re­in­state­ment in the ser­vice and she warned him of the con­se­quences of do­ing so.

Nei­ther the Pres­i­dency nor the HoS has pub­licly de­nied that such a let­ter was writ­ten. In fact, the al­ter­ca­tion in the Villa was a back hand con­fir­ma­tion that in­deed there was such a let­ter, oth­er­wise there was no need for the top of­fi­cials to quar­rel over a non-ex­is­tent leaked let­ter. The Chief of Staff’s grouse, for which he ac­costed Mrs Oyo-Ita in an open fo­rum, were two. One was why the let­ter leaked and the sec­ond was a chal­lenge to the HoS to pro­vide proof that she in­deed warned Buhari of the push to re­in­state Maina. Re­gard­ing the leak, the pres­i­dency is stand­ing on shaky grounds be­cause it did not pun­ish any­one for pre­vi­ous high pro­file leaks, no­tably of Kaduna State Gov­er­nor Nasiru el-Rufa’i’s per­sonal memo to Buhari or Min­is­ter of State Ibe Kachikwu’s let­ter to Buhari. Even worse, NNPC re­leased its Group Man­ag­ing Director [GMD] Maikanti Baru’s let­ter to Buhari in re­sponse to Kachikwu’s let­ter and said the pres­i­dency au­tho­rised it to do so. As for pro­vid­ing proof, the HoS re­port­edly re­minded Kyari that no cab­i­net of­fi­cer car­ries a cam­era with him or her while brief­ing the pres­i­dent.

Un­less the gov­ern­ment de­nies the ex­is­tence of such a let­ter or the pres­i­dency flatly de­nies that the HoS whis­pered her warn­ing to Buhari, this prom­ises to be the most se­ri­ous twist in the Maina­gate scan­dal, and one with the worst im­pli­ca­tions imag­in­able. It will be re­called that as soon as the scan­dal broke, the pres­i­dent or­dered Maina’s sack for the fed­eral ser­vice and de­manded an ex­pla­na­tion from the Head of Ser­vice. Mrs Oyo-Ita was away in Cal­abar that day but she rushed back to Abuja and sub­mit­ted a writ­ten re­ply to Kyari be­fore the close of work that day, as di­rected. Since then the Pres­i­dency has not said any­thing again about the af­fair; no one has been pun­ished as far as we know and gov­ern­ment has not said who did what in re­in­stat­ing Maina into ser­vice.

That is why the HoS’ claim that she ac­tu­ally briefed Buhari on the push to re­in­state Maina be­fore it even hap­pened has such dire im­pli­ca­tions. There are two ob­vi­ous ones: ei­ther Pres­i­dent Buhari ap­proved of Maina’s re­in­state­ment, which would amount to a colos­sal lapse of judge­ment, or he did not ap­prove it but when the HoS told him, he took no ac­tion. Some lawyers have said that it was wrong of the HoS to call Buhari aside and ver­bally warn him of Maina’s im­pend­ing re­in­state­ment, that she should have fired off a memo in­stead. We be­lieve this ar­gu­ment does not hold wa­ter be­cause Buhari did not wait for a memo be­fore he fired Maina from ser­vice when the scan­dal broke.

Un­less the pres­i­dency ur­gently pro­vides cred­i­ble an­swers to the many ques­tions that are still swirling on the Maina­gate scan­dal, re­spon­si­bil­ity will grad­u­ally shift from sus­pects such as min­is­ters and other of­fi­cials to the pres­i­dent him­self. Very soon news­men and leg­is­la­tors will be­gin to ask the fa­mous ques­tion that Senator Howard Baker Ten­nessee asked dur­ing the US’ Water­gate scan­dal in 1973: What did the pres­i­dent know, and when did he know it? Con­fronta­tions be­tween high of­fi­cials in the open glare of news­men will not solve this prob­lem. They should move fast and pro­vide Nige­ri­ans with the an­swers of who did what to re­in­state Maina, who knew what and when he or she knew it.

Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.