President Buhari has saved his anti-corruption war by sacking Babachir Lawal and Ayo Oke.
At least from the outside.
A wanted fugitive accused of theft on a grand scale had just been reinstated into the federal civil service on Buhari's watch and the duo of Babachir Lawal and Ayodele Oke were placed on ‘eternal’ suspension at a time when an outright sack would have sufficed.
Then Buhari acted.
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The president terminated Abdulrasheed Maina’s appointment and a week later, he was kicking Lawal (his SGF) and Oke (the man whose agency hid $50M in that Ikoyi apartment) out of his government. They had become bad news and just had to go.
It took six months for Lawal and Oke to get fired but sometimes, the wheels of government can be painfully laborious and annoying. There had to be due process, there had to be a white paper and nights of deliberations. Buhari can also be annoyingly slow because he likes to take his time when he should be moving with some zest and zip.
It's a character trait that grates and riles.
In any case, pulling the trigger on Lawal and Oke at long last won’t hurt the president’s anti-corruption credentials. Lawal has been a Buhari ally for as long as anyone can remember and there were times it felt like he was untouchable. Kicking his butt was Buhari saying ‘in this war, there would be no sacred cows’.
Buhari was majorly elected to tackle endemic graft in Africa’s most populous country and as long as Lawal and Oke remained in government, the anti-corruption war looked a lie.
Thankfully, the presidency has also announced that all fired men will be prosecuted by law enforcement and tried in accordance with the laws of the land.
Buhari is still some way off winning his anti-corruption war like he promised during the campaigns, make no mistake. Institutions badly need strengthening in the face of pervasive graft and for all his disdain for corruption, Buhari can’t win this battle all by himself. He badly needs co-travelers and fast.
However, firing indicted persons within his administration is a huge statement of intent and will further cement the president’s reputation as an anti-graft crusader.
Long may this continue.