By Banji Ojewale
A new race of men is springing up to govern the nation; they are the hunters after popularity, men ambitious…the demagogues, whose principles hang laxly upon them, who follow not so much what is right as what leads to a temporary vulgar applause. – Joseph Story (1779-1845), American Judge.
President Muhammadu Buhari has offered the ‘ideal’ measuring rod to assess him and other public officers while serving the people or when out of office. We don’t need to consult any arcane research or some tongue-twisting grammatical construction to guide us in determining whether outgoing executives have fared well or underperformed. All we should do is to consider the body optics: Has the office holder lost weight or gained extra flesh? A little bit of extrapolation: Is the departing fellow poorer or richer? If he is still in office, do his airs suggest he is on the route to earning a mention in the club reserved for the likes of Aliko Dangote? What’s his sartorial disposition? Is his now a knack for Savile Row, London – the confluence of tailors and billionaires.
The other day, when he took a non-forensic look at Mohammed Adamu, Nigeria’s inspector-general of Police, our president concluded that the security chief has been working hard in the light of his diminishing weight. Buhari spoke when he was taken up on the frightening reports of insecurity here and there. We are not to worry, he assured us; the man he has charged to deal with those giving us sleepless nights is himself suffering insomnia, leading, naturally, to loss of weight.
You would also emaciate if you do not eat well. It’s a contradiction to say of a gourmand that he is simultaneously slenderising. So our IGP has been so busy battling the antisocial elements in our midst that he’s had no time to be a glutton. There is nothing he has amassed; therefore there’s nothing to gobble to make Adamu grow out and burst his uniform. After all, you prey on what you have. You eat sparsely as you acquire sparingly. It gives you a lean figure, unfatty bank account, and above all, ascetic nights so that like Obafemi Awolowo, “when most people in public office and in the position of leadership and rulership are spending whole days and nights carousing in clubs or in the company of men of shady character and women of easy virtue, I, like a few others, am always at my post working hard at the country’s problems and trying to find solutions for them.”
I believe these are neat deductions we arrive at from Mr. President’s pronouncements on the police boss as we also examine the president and others in their asset statuses at the end of their tenures on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) has asked Buhari, his vice, Yemi Osinbajo and a train of others, to drop their asset scorecard
with the bureau not later than Tuesday May 28, 2019.
When Buhari was moving in as president in 2015, he told the CCB through Garba Shehu, one of his media aides, that he had N30 million in the only bank account he operated. He had five homes and two mud houses in Daura, his hometown in Katsina State, along with two undeveloped plots of land in Kano and Port Harcourt. Still more: he owned farms, an orchard and ranch, all harbouring 270 heads of cattle, 25 sheep, five horses, a variety of birds and a number of economic trees. Further more:
he had cars, two bought from his savings, with others supplied by government as an ex-head of state and some donated by well-wishers after Boko Haram savaged his jeep in 2014. The record with CCB also says our president had shares in Berger Paints, Union Bank and Skye Bank.
Osinbajo, according to Garba Shehu, came in with N94 million and US$900,000. He has property in Victoria Garden City and Ikoyi, both in Lagos, and a flat in Redemption Camp, along the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. Also, a mortgaged property in Bedford, England. Our vice president, apart from his law firm, had shareholding in six private companies including MTN Nigeria.
In relation to the law applied by Buhari to rate IGP Adamu, we should expect a diminished, not enlarged, portfolio of asset by our public office holders as they give us the account of their stewardship at this end of their tenures. Or have they added to what they had? Have they worked so hard and selflessly that they have shed weight? Have they become anorexics, with their apparel, hitherto full-bodied on them, now hanging to give them the prized Mohammed Adamu-like shape?
In March this year, Osinbajo told Nigerians that he had evaluated Buhari ahead of meeting CCB’s requirements at the close of his boss’ first term in office. His findings: “When I looked at his assets declaration form, I was checking it in 2015, I said to him, ‘Mr President, I am so much richer than you, it is an embarrassment…’ I can tell you that he is perhaps; even poorer than he was in 2015 when I saw his declaration of assets.”
That should be the goal of every true leader. You don’t go into office to embark on a hunt or expedition for unbridled riches. You don’t go in and return boasting you’ve put on weight. You don’t become a public officer and all your mission is to abandon your Ajegunle tailor and Aba shoemakers for Italian designers and customised products. You don’t go into office flying abroad for medicare and sending your children to private and foreign schools and hospitals, leaving the people you serve at the hands of the deadly system you refuse to tend to.
The leader posterity recognises is the one who pauperises himself while serving his people. He dies for them, if duty to the people demands this. But we’ve had leaders who want it the other way round: the society must be castrated at the altar of their gargantuan greed; and we must go under for them to milk us dry.
Banji Ojewale writes from Ota, Ogun State.