President Muhammadu Buhari won the 2015 presidential election at the fourth time of asking, thanks to a reputation that borders on harbouring a disdain for corruption and the corrupt political elite.

The jury is still out on how well the president has waged his anti-corruption battle. However, they are those who consider Buhari’s anti-graft war a selective endeavor—one where members of his political party are shielded and where members of the opposition are hounded to no end and hurled into jail. 

The doubters often cite Orji Uzor Kalu’s proximity to the president and the APC campaign structure in spite of the fact that he’s still in court for an alleged N7.7billion fraud, and the president’s public romance with Kano State Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, even though Ganduje has been caught on tape stuffing wads of cash in his Babaringa. The money was alleged to be kickbacks from a contract he awarded. 

President Muhammadu Buhari at Fatima Ganduje and Idris Ajimobi's wedding (Kano govt house)
President Muhammadu Buhari at Fatima Ganduje and Idris Ajimobi's wedding (Kano govt house)

A couple of persons working in the Buhari inner circle have also been accused of corruption, but the anti-graft agencies never go anywhere near them.

Buhari endorses Ganduje at a campaign rally

On Thursday, January 31, 2019, President Buhari held aloft Ganduje’s hand at a campaign rally in Kano, as a sign of endorsement for the incumbent governor who is eyeing another four-year term in office. 

On January 16, 2019, when moderator Kadaria Ahmed asked Buhari about his plans for a Ganduje who has been accused of corruption at a town-hall called The Candidates, the president said he suspects that the video tapes had been manipulated with technology, he thinks something's fishy because Ganduje didn't have to receive the alleged kickbacks himself while smiling so sheepishly--since an aide could have easily been dispatched to receive the money on his behalf; and that he expects explanations from the governor when he heads to Kano to campaign.

Fast forward to this week. It’s been 24 hours since Buhari’s campaign in Kano and there has been no word from the presidency or from Buhari himself about what Ganduje said concerning his part in those disturbing videos where he appeared to be grinning from ear to ear at the mere sight of freshly minted dollar notes. 

President Muhammadu Buhari [@BashirAhmaad]
President Muhammadu Buhari [@BashirAhmaad]

Instead, the presidency issued a statement to remind everyone that Ganduje is immune from prosecution as a serving governor and that he is “innocent until proven guilty”. 

“In the circumstances, the matter is in court and the president has no power to dictate to the court or the Kano State House of Assembly, which is already investigating the matter, about what to do with the allegations against Ganduje”, a statement from presidency spokesperson, Garba Shehu, read.

The court actually stopped the Kano House of Assembly from investigating Ganduje

Yes, it is true that Ganduje’s case was being handled by the State House of Assembly but it is instructive that the presidency doesn’t know that on November 5 and December 8, 2018, Justice Ahmed Badamasi of the Kano High Court issued a ruling halting the lawmakers from proceeding with their investigation of Ganduje because “the assembly, by constitution, only has the power to make laws and review existing laws but not the power to investigate criminal matters.”

Justice Badamasi also reminded the lawmakers that the power to investigate criminal matters is vested in the police, Economic Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC.

The problem here is that a president who appears disgusted with the mere mention of corruption and who has vowed time and again to go after anyone close to him or against members of his family accused of corruption, is openly fraternizing with a governor who has been besmirched with an act bordering on corruption.

No one is suggesting that Buhari shouldn’t be caught standing beside Ganduje at a rally or anywhere else, or that Ganduje is guilty of corruption and should be avoided like a plague. But to go one better and endorse the Kano state governor was a stretch and an insult on the sensibilities of Nigerians from a president who claims to abhor corruption. To issue a statement defending Ganduje was essentially rubbing that insult in. Not to be able to strongly speak publicly against Ganduje also casts a pall on Buhari's avowed anti-corruption stance.

President Buhari has a duty to be tough against corrupt persons whether they belong in the APC or PDP. Thus far, he’s yet to prove to the wider public that his anti-corruption battle is anything more than a selective witch-hunt at worst and a window dressing at best.