Buhari: Just Like the Mills of the gods by Femi Adesina

There is a saying bequeathed to mankind by the Greek physician/philosopher, Sextus Empiricus, who lived in Alexandria and Athens in the 3rd Century. It goes thus: “The mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine.”

What does this mean in everyday language? Justice may be slow, but it will come eventually. And for those who pray, it also means that God may not answer your petition immediately you make it, but He will eventually respond-at His own time. The vision is for an appointed time, and it will not delay. But if it tarries, wait for it. For it will surely come. The priest who shouts at God is being unnecessarily impatient and petulant. God will do what He will do-at His own time.

From the human perspective, Empiricus may have had President Muhammadu Buhari in mind, when he coined the saying about the mills of the gods. With our President, there is no rush on some issues, if they demand temporizing and being painstaking. The mills of the gods must be allowed to grind, if slowly, but exceedingly finely.

From his time as military leader, Nigerians who were of age then would recall that the then Major General Buhari often said; “this administration will not be rushed…” And truly, for the 20 months that the regime lasted, things were done with calm sure-footedness, and not at the dizzying speed that some people would have wanted. Easy does it. They stumble that run too fast. “Patience is the companion of wisdom,” according to Saint Augustine, the cleric.

And did the regime succeed? It did. It was on the road to forging a new Nigeria, where probity, accountability and discipline reign supreme, before a spanner was thrown in the works. Fifth columnists struck, and aborted our march to Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey.

Buhari was in limbo for many years. But in 2015, majority of Nigerians remembered what he had brought on the table between January 1984 and August 1985. So, overwhelmingly, they voted for him. And today, he is President.

But something fundamental has not changed in the man’s style. The mills of the gods still grind slowly. There are some decisions President Buhari will not take in a hurry. He will chew on the matter, digest it properly, and then come out with his position. There is no stampeding him, no setting of fire to his heels. The mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly finely.
Yes, President Buhari has changed in many ways. He was an autocrat, now he is a democrat. Then, he adjudged you guilty, slammed you in Kirikiri Prisons, and asked you to prove your innocence. Today, if he suspects that you are corrupt, he does nothing to you, till he can prove that you are guilty. That is the way of democracy.

But something fundamental has not changed in the man’s style. The mills of the gods still grind slowly. There are some decisions President Buhari will not take in a hurry. He will chew on the matter, digest it properly, and then come out with his position. There is no stampeding him, no setting of fire to his heels. The mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly finely.

On Monday, this week, the Engr Babachir David Lawal and Amb. Ayo Oke saga came to a denouement. The duo had been accused of some unsavoury acts, and sent on suspension in April, this year. A panel was constituted to look into the allegations against them, with a two weeks time frame.

A day before the report of the panel was to be submitted, President Buhari had to travel abroad on the second leg of a medical vacation. He was away till August 19.

In this period, some impatient Nigerians were totally restive. They even besieged the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, urging him to act on the report of the panel. They wanted to turn the man into jury and judge, discountenancing the fact that he had chaired the panel that conducted the probe.

When President Buhari mercifully returned on August 19, his plane had barely touched down, when the impatient people began to ask for the report of the Osinbajo panel. “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time,” wrote Leo Tolstoy. But such people would have none of it. They called for an immediate decision on the lingering saga.

On August 23, VP Osinbajo submitted the report, in six hefty volumes. Of course, there was an executive summary, as best practices would demand. And the noise continued from some quarters. We want action on the submitted report, and we want it NOW. They forget that “patience is not simply the ability to wait, it’s how we behave while we are waiting” (says the preacher, Joyce Meyer). And they also forget the mills of the gods, which grind slowly, but exceedingly finely.

They went forward to accuse the President of treating Nigerians with contempt. With scorn. Derision. Flippancy. Levity. They would rather justice had been miscarried, as long as the urge for blood was satiated. They would rather the President had played to the gallery, swinging the sword and decapitating everyone in sight, not minding whether they were innocent or guilty. Such people were like the mob in Julius Caesar, the work by William Shakespeare. They met Cinna the poet on the way, and accused him of being Cinna the conspirator, one of those who had murdered the emperor. Cinna explained that he was a poet, but they would not listen. They screamed: whether you are Cinna the poet, or Cinna the conspirator, Cinna is Cinna. You are a sinner, and must die. They killed him. And to justify the evil act, they rationalized that he was a poet that wrote bad verses. Good grief!

President Buhari took his time. If you know the man, he must have gone through the six bulky reports with a magnifying glass, a fine tooth-comb. Better that 100 criminals escape, than kill a single innocent man unjustly.

And finally, on Monday “come finally comes to become” (apologies to the late K.O Mbadiwe). The President communicated his decision to the country, which was acceptance of the recommendation to terminate the appointments of the two men who had been investigated.. A large number of Nigerians were relieved that a closure was being put to the saga. But trust those who had murmured and grumbled. They refused to be pacified. They are the type that when you answer their niggling question successfully, they change the question again. They came with many other queries: should the matter have taken so long? Was the matter not to be swept under the carpet, if we had not raised hell? Why were the two men not summarily handed over to the security agencies for prosecution? But if the President had taken the last option, and had directed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to pull in the two men, they would have said: Enhen, we always said it. He was tele guiding the EFCC from behind all these while. Now he has shown his hands. The hand of Jacob, and the voice of Esau.

Head or tail, you can never win with some Nigerians. If you don’t have your bath, they say you are a ruffian, and you stink. If you have your bath too frequently, they say you love the opposite sex too much. No wonder some people say public service is a thankless job. If only we would change our mindsets, and also change our conduct.

But some people forget. Early in the days of this administration, President Buhari had told them: “Some people call me ‘Baba Go Slow.’ I will be slow, but I will be steady.” Isn’t there eternal truth again in the saying that slow and steady wins the race?

There are some matters that require speed. They should be treated expeditiously. No doubt. There are some others in which you could sacrifice fairness and justice on the altar of speed. When you have such, it is better to err on the side of caution. It is better to lay all the cards on the table, consider all the sides of the coin. Such was the Babachir/Oke saga.. They were men who had served the President faithfully, from what one could see. He dare not be precipitate in determining their destinies. Fair is fair, and foul is foul.

Talking again of the mills of the gods. The National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) held at the party’s secretariat in Abuja on Tuesday. I was there. The atmosphere was friendly, almost convivial. At a point, someone moved a motion of confidence in the Buhari administration. The seconder, a former state governor, added to the motion, seeking an endorsement of the President as candidate for second term in 2019. As he raised the motion, I saw the President gesturing, with his two palms downwards. The gesture meant, please, cool down, not now. This is premature. And the National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, weighed in, accepting the motion of confidence, and deferring the one on automatic candidacy. Everyone was satisfied.

You can imagine my consternation the next day, when I saw the newspaper headlines.. It was as if some of them were reporting a meeting held in outer space. They said a bid by governors to get automatic ticket for the President had failed. One newspaper exulted: “Govs’ bid to get automatic 2019 ticket for Buhari fails.’ Pure fiction. Concocted story. It never happened the way the newspaper had conjured. And it was the President himself who had dissuaded those who made the move, by his gesture. Hate news seems to have crept into the polity, and otherwise credible newspapers have eaten the forbidden apple.

Well, we were talking about the need for patience. Jean-Jacques Rousseau says “Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.” And Robert Schuller adds: “Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come.” That is where I pitch my tent. Under President Buhari, for Nigeria, the storm will pass (and is, indeed, passing), and the spring will come. The mills of the gods grind slowly, but exceedingly finely.
I believe. What about you?

.Adesina is Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari

No Soft Landing For SGF, Oke – Probe Panel

The presidential panel probing allegations against the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayo Oke, again yesterday ruled out soft landing for both.

A source privy to the investigations told our correspondent that the panel would not give anybody soft landing.

“The panel is handling both issues with utmost diligence irrespective of the personalities of those involved,” he said.

That came as the panel’s chairman, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the members-National Security Adviser Babagana Monguno and Attorney-General of the Federation Abubakar Malami, resumed sitting yesterday.

They met for over six hours to examine various documents and other information obtained so far.

Babachir is being probed over alleged violation of the law and due process in the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on the North-east. A Senate ad-hoc committee had earlier found him culpable of alleged complicity in a N200m grass-cutting contract to clear “invasive plant species” in Yobe State.

Oke is being investigated over claims made by the NIA to the $43.4m and other currencies stashed away in a residential apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos.

No government official was seen before the panel as at 7:40pm yesterday when our correspondent left the vice president’s wing of the Presidential Villa where the panel is sitting.

Apart from Babachir and Oke, officials of the  Bureau of Public Procurement, the agency responsible for vetting government contracts above N50m, have also been quizzed by the panel which is expected to round off its 14-day assignment next Wednesday.

The panel is enquiring into the circumstances in which the NIA came about the money, how and by whose or which authority it was made available to the NIA, and to establish whether or not there had been a breach of the law or security procedure in obtaining custody and use of the funds.

President Muhammadu Buhari had last Wednesday ordered the investigations and suspended the NIA Director-General, Ambassador Ayo Oke and Babachir pending the outcome of the investigations.

The Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, had last Friday specifically furnished the panel with information on the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the money in Ikoyi.

A Tale of Greed, Ego and Balderdash By Yakubu Mohammed

A Certain theory, though of doubtful origin, has it that in the Nigerian public service, even a confirmed saint, so anointed by the Holy See himself, can be tarred by the devil’s brush and converted as one of his trusted disciples.
This theory, I can swear, has not been put to test in any school offering public administration as a course of academic or professional studies. Certainly not at the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria, ASCON, in Topo, Badagry or at the Centre for Management Development, CMD, in Lagos. Nor, for that matter, in any of the best universities in the country.

But now, there is an opportunity to prove the veracity of this theory or give the lie to it once and for all. And that opportunity has been provided, gratuitously, by Engineer David Babachir Lawal. You remember him? The one who held sway as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, with the elegant acronym of SGF from August 27, 2015 until he was forcefully separated from that exalted office last week by President Muhammadu Buhari, his employer. No other opportunity can equal this. And, it is as clear as day light, no other candidate can match the suspended chief scribe with his rich background, a man whose occupation, by his own admission as stated in his curriculum vitae, is politics and his profession is engineer (sic).

The interesting thing about him is that he was a man beholden to the president. He was perceived to be a man of unimpeachable integrity, the man who wore the toga of probity and accountability as part of his flowing babaringa or on the sleeves of his richly embroidered kaftan. A saint, almost. Such a person could not be casually accused of any wrong doing in office, even by the most audacious of lawmakers, or made to suffer any irritation in the hands of petty minded critics, eternally looking for one’s faults.
The president carefully selected Babachir for that office convinced of his loyalty and integrity, to say nothing about his intelligence and competence. In fact, don’t forget that on assumption of office, Babachir himself assured the nation that he was coming to that office with his incredible competence and integrity. For a job well done, even our most unassuming president would be forgiven if, in the privacy of his bedroom, he did, indeed, congratulate himself for his uncommon find in Babachir in whom he swore to repose an absolute trust and confidence.

For a proper appreciation of his position, it is germane to put in focus the cardinal programme of the Buhari administration. Reduced to three, they would appear in this order: war against corruption, war against insurgency as represented by the Boko Haram menace and the recovery of the ailing national economy.

Setting up the machinery of government to implement this lofty programme of action was not going to be a tea party or a child’s play. Certainly, it was not a monkey business. Buhari needed a competent and tested hand to man the engine room of his administration. The SGF would be the fulcrum around which government machinery would revolve. Policy formulation and implementation would be the main focus of the office. And the man for that job would have an overdose of the kind of humility and temperament required to make friends, not foes, for the administration.

In his absolute wisdom and to the best of his ability, armed with all the information available, Buhari chose Babachir David Lawal for the job, convinced of his unalloyed loyalty. Convinced also that he would not betray him, that he would not fall into the temptation of regarding the all pervasive filthy lucre as part of the fringe benefits of that office, believing in all honesty, that Babachir is not one of those eternally consumed by ego and self-conceit, those who are endowed with the unconscionable capacity to talk first before they think later.

Did Buhari make a mistake in his choice of chief scribe and other key staff? Unfolding events will confirm this one way or the other. But the signals that something was amiss were there from the beginning.

Unprovoked, the newly installed Secretary Babachir let the world know, in case of any doubt, that, but for the foresight and insistence of Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, national leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, he would not have been picked as SGF. His brothers from the North, he said, would not have allowed it to happen because he was not a Muslim. Impolitic?

Babachir forgot to mention garrulousness as one the unenviable qualities he brought to that office. And his uncanny ability to detect balderdash two or three kilometres away. Worthy of note was when a certain Senate Committee headed by Senator Shehu Sani accused him of awarding contracts to his personal company and recommended his suspension and prosecution. He waved it off as balderdash.

Balderdash? The last time I checked that word, it was not an engineering term. Certainly not a word to be used for distinguished lawmakers, even if you think they are not distinguished, even if you hold them in the lowest possible esteem. Certainly, it would be deemed unbecoming of a man representing the president of this country to use those words even in extreme anger. But that is where there is a high premium on decency and decorum.

I cannot tell how the president felt. Those who thought that Babachir’s incredible background made him unsuitable for that job and proceeded thereafter to swear he would not last six months, have been proved wrong. He has lasted a whole of one year and eight months. And there is nothing to suggest he would not bounce back. In the nearly 30 months on the job, his enemies, bad belle all, had accused him of all sorts of transgressions including the most outrageous: collecting bribe to offer appointments to unwary Nigerians.

But I think it is the handiwork of his political opponents. For instance, how could they even think that the man would send his cronies out to canvas for money from prospective office seekers? How can people descend so low, in the name of politics, to suggest that he would even tamper with the list of approved board members, remove names and insert his own. Such perfidy was obviously beneath him but they did not give up.

To give a lie to those peddling these dangerous speculations, his office has had occasions to put out disclaimers and denials. One, his office did not give out jobs. The Federal Civil Service Commission does. He was only the chairman of the committee to reconstitute boards of federal agencies and there was no way he alone could influence who was appointed and who was not appointed. In any case, chairmen don’t take bribe and they don’t eat kola. The bottom line was whatever their antics, they amounted to no more than balderdash.

As if to nail him by all means, fair or foul, his critics and a legion of his enemies came up with this grass cutting business. In summary this is how they went about it. According to a report in the Daily Trust of Thursday, April 20, 2017, the Senate Committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North East under the leadership of the aforementioned Shehu Sani, had accused Babachir of being director of Rholavision company while serving as secretary to the government and also influencing the award of contract to the said company to engage in grass cutting.

The contract was awarded by the Presidential Initiative on North East, PINE. And Babachir, to make the story clear, was the chairman of the presidential initiative. The Senate committee did not stop at finding fault with him for breaching code of conduct for public officers. It went further to say that the contract was not even executed. It then recommended Babachir’s suspension and prosecution.
But he denied it all. And the presidency backed the embattled scribe by officially clearing him in a letter to the Senate signed by the president on January 17 this year. The presidency said that Babachir was not given a fair hearing and asked Abubakar Malami, attorney general and minister of justice, to wade into the matter.

A lot of water must have passed under the Aso Rock bridge since then. What is not clear now is what has changed? For the matter to take this long to resolve, I guess, it has to do with the president’s avowed determination to ensure fairness and his legendary proclivity for shielding or protecting his faithful followers. Loyalty has its reward and Buhari is not unmindful of that attribute. But when the push comes to a shove, the needful has to be done. And the needful in this case is to give Babachir the last chance to prove his innocence or his guilt. And for the president to make the necessary sacrifice to redeem the image of the government, to prove it can bite, without fear or favour, as much as it can bark.Credibility, personal and presidential, is at stake.

The First Sign Of A Beating Heart By Sonala Olumhense

Next week, perhaps at the Federal Executive Council meeting, President Muhammadu Buhari will receive the report of a three-man panel headed by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo he asked to investigate two top officials.

His credibility flagging, President Buhari set up the panel last week to examine allegations concerning Babachir Lawal, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), in the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE).

Mr. Buhari also asked the committee to investigate the infamous discovery of over N13 billion in various currencies in a private luxury apartment in Lagos.

The other members of the panel are the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, and the National Security Adviser.

To facilitate the investigations, President Buhari suspended from office Mr. Lawal, as well as Ayodele Oke, the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), who had declared the money to be his agency’s.

On the ethical warfront, this is the first clear sign of a beating heart in the president since he assumed office.

The key question is now whether Buhari is man enough to see to the prosecution of the SGF. The job of the Osinbajo Panel is to make that specific recommendation, following the facts, and let the chips fall where they may.

Mr. Oke’s case is equally historic: N13 billion found in cash buried in seedy stories by Mr. Oke, who was last seen banging his head on the gates of Aso Rock as his worst nightmare unfolded.

According to him, the N13 billion was approved for his agency for “covert” operations by President Goodluck Jonathan in February 2015. It has however since come to light that what his agency actually received on that occasion was nearly $300 million.

According to The Cable which broke that part of the story, the funds came from an NNPC subsidiary. It opens a whole new window into Pandora’s Box.

But N13b is what, for at least another week, indisputable. N13b in cash, not in a bank account. In various currencies, not just in naira. In a private, dubious apartment, not an office.

Allegedly for operations so “covert” they are unknown to the agency he heads. Operations so “covert” they are unknown to the government he now serves. Mr. Oke will have to talk very fast, without contradicting himself.

It is of some reassurance that among those testifying before the panel will be the EFCC boss, Ibrahim Magu. By now he has a record of all persons buried or missing.

Yes, Magu, men do cry, and this is his opportunity for you to weep openly. Tell your full story, which is a tale of many interlinked and bewildering parts. Hurt the ears of the panelists the way the story has hurt yours. You may not get another chance.

The panel will also interview Mr. Goodluck Jonathan, who allegedly approved an NIA loot. For some reason, he also decided that local covert operations be conducted not just in cash, but also in foreign currencies.

The former President will also have to talk very fast because the “NIA funds” bear a striking similarity to the $2.1 billion that former NSA Sambo Dasuki disbursed generously into political, partisan non-security hands in Mr. Jonathan’s name.

Clearly, the Osinbajo’s panel will be shoddy if it does not, given the circumstances, ask the former president to specify any similar funds or approvals he approved. It is Mr. Osinbajo’s opportunity to protect his own image as a transparency-crusader, lawyer and Christian by asking this question.

It is also important because one assumes he will want to defend his name. Jonathan’s authoritative response will help cross-check the tales of all those who claim to have acted, or erred, in his name.

It is common knowledge that during Mr. Jonathan’s tenure, Coordinating Minister & Minister for Finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala treaded carefully—that is, slowly—in disbursing funds. Mr. Jonathan is known to have responded to the complaints of some officials by having Mr. Dasuki grant instant cash to them.

On this point, Mr. Jonathan will, I am certain, be happy to look at the former NSA’s cash book and certify which disbursements he authorized. It would then be important to reconcile those extraordinary disbursements with those that were subsequently released by Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala for those offices.

In this connection, it is important to remember that last year, Buhari biographer John Paden said he had learned from Buhari that as President, Mr. Jonathan often requested and used illegal “off-budget funds.” According to that account, Mr. Buhari has evidence of this in certain letters written by Mr. Jonathan.

For two years, Mr. Buhari has sadly “fought corruption” by blaming his predecessor but without asking him any of the obvious questions. For Buhari to continue to do that would mean he has adopted the stealing-is-not-corruption philosophy. This is an opportunity to correct that.

In other words, next week should be an exciting one for all genuine transparency interests in Nigeria when Buhari receives the report. But what follows?

Everyone knows President Buhari has been disappointing in office in dealing with allegations concerning his officials, and for failing to name corrupt persons.

Will Mr. Lawal be treated differently? In a sense, he already has: his case should have been referred to the EFCC months ago, not the highest-level presidential treatment he is now getting. If he is found guilty, will he be prosecuted, or will he be let go with an apology, his baban riga unruffled?

It is also of interest that the president gave the panel 14 days for an assignment that ought to last no longer than three, or perhaps about seven, should Mr. Magu arrive with a library of documents.

But what happens after 14 days? One possibility is: NOTHING.

Remember: in May last year, Buhari’s government, “embarrassed” by the second consecutive disastrous report on Nigeria by the Global Fund, made some fire-eating speeches.

The Fund’s first report in 2010 revealed that Nigerian officials and organizations had embezzled nearly $500m meant for fighting HIV&AIDS. Worse still, Mr. Jonathan’s government failed to honor a promise to prosecute those who were implicated, and The Fund scaled down its commitments to Nigeria.

Still, in the 2016 report, it reported continuing abuses, including wide discrepancies between drugs ordered and delivered; $20m paid to suppliers without confirmation of delivery; and $7.65m in unsupported expenditures.

The Fund specified “extensive evidence of systematic embezzlement of program funds, fraudulent practices and collusion…and misappropriation of funds.”

In response, the Buhari government, feigning concern just like its predecessor, set up various investigations to make the international community happy, the first one by the EFCC.

The second was headed by the Health Minister, Isaac Adewole; and the third by the Auditor General, Samuel Ukura: two panels set up by Mr. Lawal, the SGF.

The fake Adewole and Ukura panels were to submit their reports within four weeks. One year later, nobody has been identified or punished.

That is why the gleeful sniggering and giggling on American television last week as they showed videos of the cash haul in an apartment in Lagos was painful, but understandable.

But a poor Osinbajo report, or response to it, will be no occasion for giggling, especially at home. It will mark the end of any pretensions to serious governance.

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Twitter: @SonalaOlumhense