Abdulrasheed Bawa, a 40-year-old and one of the pioneer professional staff of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has been appointed to lead the organisation. His nomination by President Muhammadu Buhari was attended by hue and cry and there have been a flurry of activities by some individuals and groups that filed petitions against the nomination, but the Senate has confirmed his nomination as required by law. Thus, barring future decisions of the court of law to the contrary, Bawa is the new czar of the frontline anti-graft agency.
Ordinarily, Bawa’s appointment outside of the police, his age, training, impressive educational background and acclaimed experience in handling high-profile cases ought to be applauded by Nigerians. However, the deluge of criticisms of the appointment has actually drowned what could be construed as positives in the choice of Bawa, not because Nigerians are incurable pessimists, but because previous experiences have shown that the Buhari-led Federal Government seldom makes any sensitive appointment based on altruistic considerations. The card of primordial partisan interests exemplified by cronyism, nepotism, regional and religious biases has always been on display on the table of such appointments and discerning Nigerians could not see why the emergence of Bawa is any different.
It is most probable that every other ground of massive censure of Bawa’s choice derived essentially from the apparent lopsidedness and the absence of fairness and equity in the previous federal appointments. And even in the instant case, it is difficult to discount the concern about primordial interest, except the Federal Government can come up with incontrovertible and verifiable evidence that Bawa has a profile that is unequalled or unsurpassed by those of other EFCC core professional staff of different ethnic extractions. When issues like this are brought up, the appointing authorities are riled, because they prefer to play the ostrich and would rather want Nigerians to accept that they are stupid based on their own unfair and ignoble estimation of them. For instance, the attempt, and usually futile, to justify or rationalise previous bad decisions of government in this regard has often revealed how lowly Nigerians are held in the inner recess of the minds of their leaders.
Is it not curious that in the wake of the schism over the nomination of Bawa, the authorities secretly elevated him from grade level 13 to 14? Obviously, there was a lacuna that needed to be overcome in his qualification for the position and that was why he had to be promoted by fiat and in a clandestine fashion without regard for other potential candidates who may not require such unwarranted breaching of procedure and process to qualify for the position. Another baggage Bawa carries is that his appointment undermined the EFCC Act and that could impact negatively on personnel of the anti-graft agency. Yes, despite all the misgivings about the nomination, even by lawmakers, it was confirmed by the legislature through a voice vote, which could be officially interpreted to mean that there was no dissenting opinion among them, but has that cured the defects in the process cum procedure of the nomination? No.
What is right has no other name and the obverse is also true. The society has records and in respect of the matter at issue, EFCC has Bawa’s records of enlistment, service, his activities and performance. The record should contain information on his feats, gallantry, exemplary record as an operative and, of course, his years of service to determine his qualification for the position. It is either such record was not properly checked or the forces behind his nomination were so fixated on his appointment that they simply ignored the lapses , only to be correcting same in the middle of the process and after the nomination had been announced. Thus, the controversies such as secrecy of promotion, insinuations about his affinity with certain individuals in the corridors of power, and disregard for the diversity of the country and enabling law of EFCC were inevitable because of the somewhat inauspicious circumstances of Bawa’s emergence. And to be sure, those controversies and insinuations are minuses to the public perception of his administration of the anti-graft agency even before his assumption of office as its leader.
As one of the star propositions of President Buhari to Nigerians at the time of his employment, the anti-corruption war ought to be fought in a more effective, transparent and serious manner than the present official approach suggests. One, the underlying factors that have perennially caused the successive leaderships of the EFCC and that of its supervisory ministry to be at loggerheads should be deconstructed and ironed out. Virtually all the previous heads of EFCC whom Bawa has had the privilege of working with were unceremoniously booted out of the agency, not necessarily because they were insubordinate to the constituted authority as being bandied but because they refused to be pliable agents in the hands of principals with vested interests. That, in itself, should be instructive to the new anti-graft czar; notwithstanding the chummy relationship he allegedly enjoys with politicians in power, Bawa has his job cut out for him. Two, corruption has more or less become an existential challenge in the country and as such government’s approach to tackling the menace should be strategic. The implementers of official strategy deployed to combat sleaze should be the most capable hands available, but that is not the case.
It is on record that since inception, the leadership of EFCC has been restricted to only a section of the country. This gives the notion that there is no worthy or qualified person from the other section, an erroneous impression that is not supported by statistics on human capital stock in different parts of the country. That does not augur well for a society as complex and variegated as Nigeria. Nonetheless, we wish Abdulrasheed Bawa success on his new and onerous assignment.
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