It was good that Mr President swiftly intervened on the Rasheed Maina’s matter by asking him to quit office once more. And we urge the government to sustain the momentum on consequence management as the best way to deal with corrupt practices.
For this prompting alone, the Maina saga has proved useful even if unintended. It provides a rare opportunity for the government to reignite the war against corruption which fire was fast waning and fading. Now the entire populace can be re-mobilized for a most vital national assignment – war against graft.
We need such a quick response on regular basis in order to check the unholy acts of the ‘hyenas , baboons, rodents’ that had invaded all corners of the country including hallowed places and to assure all that we truly mean business of cleansing society of oozing stench of corruption.
We need something strong to shake the tree to allow the rotten fruits drop in order to save the good ones from infection. We need to drive it home that there is still a space for morality in our soul and to visit the wicked in society with punishment to correct the wrong. The best way to do this is through effective consequence management: punish the wrong, and reward the right.
Maina’s return to the office he abandoned over two years earlier is a big slap on the face of public service and anything decent in our land. An abomination of the first order, it is a great dent on our national character and a severe violation of all that is sacred to us all . Highly despicable, it is simply difficult to fathom except that ours is a country of many stupid wonders, how a man on the run from justice and thus declared a wanted by the appropriate authority could be imagined, let alone be seen hobnobbing with security men and top government officials without due report to appropriate authority.
His return at all represents all that is bad in the country. Except that he is an exemplar of the Nigerian super man, his action simply defiles human reason, imagination, morality and laws of the land. It is tragic not only because it defiles ethical conduct in public life, but also because it reveals the worst in us- our ugliness, unfeeling and unpatriotic disposition to our dear country.
He is certainly not an ordinary Nigerian. He belongs to the tiny group of elite who see nothing wrong with wanton pillaging of our common wealth under their watch.
Woe besides a nation whose elite are selfish and corrupt. Thus much more frightening is the amazing power of the few over the majority and their attendant misuse of political and administrative powers. It was emblematic of the ungodly powers of a mindless cabal and its reckless use of their position to defile rules and cause havoc for the rest of society. It tells a sad story of unholy and immoral people far beyond pardon. It is elite’s game of disorder and lawlessness at its peak. It is simply confounding.
The Maina saga brings to mind the wonder bird dancer – Idulu of Esanland. According to Esan fable, Idulu the bird of love and peace dances stylishly all the time because it is responding to sweet music played by invincible spirits but seen and heard only by the wonder bird. In a word, who are those playing the music Maina dances to from time to time? Who are his backers? Why is he so courageous and even daring? What gives him the shameful courage in a hopelessly shameless country?
We need to know them all for sanction. Before now especially during the Senate’s investigation of the scandal at his pension reforms board about three or so years ago, we used to think that he was a Jonathan strong man given his stubbornness before the National Assembly and his invincibility before the police force. Now with his easy ride to the office of Director of Administration in the Ministry of Interior and apparent dinning with the top notchers of the present administration he can be safely said to be a Buhari right hand man indeed. Or is it more correct to say he belongs to ‘any party or man in power’?
However, as we burrow the messy ground the more with highly squeezed nose, what is probably more correct to say in the twisted and troubling circumstance of Nigeria is that the man Maina is highly connected to the establishment. He belongs to tiny gods of Nigeria with whom he dines and wines on consistent basis. Certainly, he is the typical Nigerian strong man with superman credentials for beating the law. A large kind in disposition, the Nigerian super strongman buys everything around to beat the system to stay secure in spite of obvious infractions. The rule of law means nothing to him
Otherwise, how can officer leave his post for over two years unauthorized -quite against public service, dismissed for same reason of serious misconduct, charged to court for criminal offense, dodged appearance in court, declared wanted but only to come back not to official frown and query, but to sumptuous welcome party. He was given a red carpet treatment and the warm embrace of some high ranking government officials under the guise of fake legality as though nothing odd ever happened.
Instead of the big stick of dismissal which the public service rule prescribes for leave of absence without permission or report him to the appropriate authority which patriotism and ethics demand, he was ushered into a plum office of administrative power with gusto and garlands including handsome cash backing of over N20m as arrears for the period he was away unauthorised. It was even garnished with double promotion specially cooked by a highly tele-guided committee which worked from the answer as given to the question as set which allowed for undeserved elevation and appointment as Acting Director of Administration in the all important Ministry of Interior of a government that sees itself as foremost fighter of corruption in the country.
Men, nothing worse or more harmful than this could hit the public service. But as Mrs Patience Jonathan would have reminded us ‘there is God. It was an embarrassment of the greatest proportion ever. Truly everything about Maina is against the rule of the book, against the public service rules and ethics he has bastardized and ridiculed. It is against morality which has no place in his actions as well as the rule of law which he has no iota of respect or regard for. In fact he believes he can manipulate the laws and has manipulated them so far to his favour. Yet, we want our nation to grow, to move forward, and the system to be clean and holy. Foul! Nations do not grow and move forward that way.
At least three sad lessons emerge: no patriotism, no culture of shame and no moral conscience, feeing and obligation to the the nation state. While it is in deed a shame that there is no patriotism and sense of moral obligation to the state at all it is deeply frightening to know that a wanted man was reportedly protected by security agents and given first class treatment by top government officials. And in a season of whistle blowing no one reports to the appropriate authority and now has escaped Justice in Nigeria.
The rest of the world watches as Maina has become a magician of sort who at will can morphed from visibility to invisibility depending on who is involved. Before the law enforcers he suddenly disappears but appears thereafter before ordinary folks . But that is Nigeria for you where evil thrives because of elite’s conspiracy and connivance.
This leads me to my final interest in the Maina phenomenon- the relationship between man, structure and national development.
How does the Maina saga fit into contemporary restructuring debate? What lesson? It is helpful to recall that in the raging debate on restructuring there are those who see it as a pre-condition for national development today while there are others, who disagree insisting that good hands should be produced to do the needful with available structure.
The Maina saga gives a glimpse of what could happen in a restructured Nigeria without addressing the human side – the elite’s failure. There are laws to check misconduct in public office. The structure through the civil service rule provides sack for for any one who absconds from his post but those who handled the Maina case welcomed him back handsome reward of promotion. In other words, in spite of the existence of laws, civil service rule, court warrant and all that that could check man, Maina was unchecked. He went out and came into the country at will perhaps with the knowledge and aid of those who should check him. He would have still remained in office but for Mr president’s counter directive. This means that the structure though important is at the mercy of man. And no structure is better or stronger than those using it.
Mark you Maina’s action has been condemned by all well-meaning Nigerians from all corners of the world on moral, patriotic and administrative grounds. So, no tribal or regional religious readings to it. But it sent an unmistakable message across: Structures do not prevent misrule or corruption but people do. Present structure is
not the problem of Nigeria but the absence of good hands to make the structure work to expectation. This is why the war against corruption is slow: no elite’s consensus against corruption and support for the actions against it.
Dr. Abhuere, Founder/Director of Centre for Child Care and Youth Development , Abuja