Lai Mohammed's International Media Engagement Report: Aiming at the Enemy, Shooting the Boss

By Adeola Oladipupo

In a bid to mend Nigeria's battered image abroad, the Nigerian government thought it necessary to engage prominent international media organizations. While I perceive this act as noble, I am of the opinion that the Honourable Minister of Information's comment after the engagement is a politically motivated attack of the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar that unintentionally and inevitably questioned or doubted the effectiveness of President Buhari's fight against corruption. Before I expatiate my opinion, note that I am not a card carrying member of any political party.

The minister, in his comment, as reported by Nigerian tribune newspaper, claimed that the international media raised questions about the candidacy of the former Vice President in the coming 2019 presidential election given the anti-corruption stance of President Buhari. An examination of the comment will reveal that not only was the integrity of Atiku Abubakar being questioned, the integrity and the effectiveness of President Buhari's fight against corruption was in doubt. The Minister had unintentionally shot his principal at the foot.

The emergence of Atiku Abubakar as the Peoples Democratic Party's presidential candidate made the call for him to undergo an integrity test louder. Majority of the call was from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), a party he used his wealth and means to assist to clinch the presidential seat of power in 2015. Throughout the campaign process in 2014, he was the darling of the APC. Is it not hypocritical for the Buhari government to label Atiku as corrupt given the fact that his wealth was used get the President into power? If the anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria have not prosecuted the former Vice President, it means that he is either innocent or someone somewhere is not doing their job. If the Minister's comments after the engagement was not an attempt to demarket the former Vice President, he would have said that though the international media raised questions about the candidacy of Atiku, he (the minister) informed them that the government of Nigeria found the former vice president not corrupt, so there was no need to question his emergence. I am of the opinion that that is how a fair and just government should operate.

The minister's report should make the President realize that associating with corrupt people, targeting mostly members of the opposition party in the fight against corruption and ignoring cases of alleged corruption in his government will result to doubts of his effectiveness and sincerity in the fight against corruption. Cases of corruption should be dealt with by a strong anti-corruption institution that is politically neutral and not a strong man in the institution that is politically partisan. There are numerous cases of alleged corruption within the government that have been silenced. The President whom many Nigerians voted for to fight corruption will give account oneday how far he has gone in doing that.

As the 2019 presidential election approaches, it will be difficult for President Buhari's men to accuse Atiku Abubakar, a big financier of Buhari's 2015 election campaign of corruption. Pointing one finger of accusation at Atiku will inevitably result to four fingers pointing back.

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