Current Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari and former leader Sani Abacha were at one time the Military Head of State of Nigeria and though both aspired to be civilian presidents, only Buhari was successful after several attempts. They are both from the northern part of Nigeria, both rose to the top hierarchy of the Nigerian military and even participated in the same coups like the one that installed Buhari to power. However, Ibhrahim Babangida was involved in edging out Buhari through a military coup that kept him in detention till Abacha released him and made him the head of the all-powerful alternate Nigerian government’s financier under Abacha’s rule known as the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF). The late Abacha and Buhari are both taciturn, gruff, intolerant of varying opinion, fierce in going after perceived opponents, and even shared the same mantra of anti-corruption.
It is obvious that they may have had soft spot for one another, because during the presidential electoral campaign of 2015, Buhari defended Abacha vigorously claiming that Abacha was never corrupt even though there were strong evidence to the contrary. Though after Buhari’s ascendency as president he has repeatedly asked Western nations to return the so called Abacha’s loot, but has failed to recant his earlier pronouncements that Abacha was incorruptible. There is a school of thought in Nigeria that have opined that if Buhari is able to continually describe Nigerians as corrupt, then he should be able to call out Abacha for corruption.
Some may ask, what is the importance of dwelling on Abacha? It is important because we have several cases that many Nigerians claim is evident of Buhari’s reluctance to deal with corruption within. The Buratai Dubai scandal is one, others include accusation of nepotism in Buhari’s nominations even by some of his former supporters like Dr. Junaid Mohammed, alleged doctoring of military procurement findings, allegations that his electoral campaign funds were sourced from stolen public funds, his resounding silence in the repeated killings by Fulani herdsmen amongst others.
Fighting corruption seems to be the beginning and the end of everything about this current Buhari administration. Most Nigerians may not recall that Abacha fought corruption. For those who doubt it, they should go back to the archives and checkout the several tribunals during Abacha’s era, the most noted of course was the “failed-bank tribunal”. What happened then is not so different from what the EFCC is doing right now. During Abacha’s era, like now, all alleged corruption were not considered equal, so though some may have been more grievous, they were not classified as corruption. For example, Abacha jailed several corrupt bank entrepreneurs and even though he stole billions of dollars, he was not corrupt as confirmed by our dear Mr President. Fast-forward to the corruption brouhaha now, in the eyes of the Buhari’s administration, though General Burutai owns homes worth $1.5 million in Dubai amongst other assets, he is not corrupt like it is alleged for the likes of Generals Ihejirika and Minimah.
Therefore, what one should ask is, “how is it that some corruption are considered corruption but some are not?” Is it possible that when this administration expires we may just find out that it is just as corrupt as alleged of past administrations including the recent Obasanjo, Yaradua, and Jonathan’s administrations? Finally, how would the Buhari administration rate with the Abacha administration when its tenure elapses and how would Mr. President compare to Abacha?