President Buhari endorsed Ganduje in Paris, even though the Kano Governor is still under investigation for corruption. It was poor judgment from Nigeria's leader.
Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, is still under investigation for allegedly receiving bribe from contractors.
In a series of video tapes recorded with a spy, lapel camera, Ganduje was seen grinning sheepishly at contractors as he received wads and wads of dollar notes as kickbacks, before stashing them into his out-sized Babanriga (traditional clothing worn by northern Nigerians).
Interestingly, President Muhammadu Buhari who rode to power on the back of a promise to crack down on endemic corruption in Nigeria, refused to utter a word about the Ganduje ‘Gandollar’ videos since they first hit the internet in October, until he arrived Paris this week for the Peace Forum alongside other world leaders.
Speaking before the Nigerian community in Paris, President Buhari called Ganduje a responsible leader.
"I commend the governor for doing so much. He once invited me and I went to Kano. The good projects started by Kwankwaso in education and healthcare, Ganduje completed them.
"He completed the projects and now the people of Kano are enjoying the benefit. I think that is very responsible of him”, Buhari said of Ganduje.
And then in the same breath, Buhari tore into Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Ganduje’s predecessor in Kano Government House, for diverting public funds to further his political interest.
“Kwankwaso diverted the balance of Kano money to contest for presidency”, Buhari alleged without providing a shred of evidence.
Those who say President Buhari has been waging a selective war against corruption, one that allegedly targets only members of the opposition, have just been handed one more weapon for their armory. It is interesting that Buhari would label Ganduje 'responsible' and Kwankwaso a ‘thief’ at a time when Ganduje is still being investigated for corruption and Kwankwaso is not.
The only reason Buhari could have said what he said in Paris is simply because Ganduje is a member of the APC and Kwankwaso has since jumped ship to the PDP from the APC.
It appears that this president only labels people corrupt once they are no longer a member of his team or political party. Which probably explains why former Abia Governor Orji Uzor Kalu, for instance, has not been labelled corrupt by the federal government even though he is standing trial for an alleged N7billion fraud.
In September, Kemi Adeosun resigned as Buhari’s finance minister, but no one—not least anyone in government—is talking about prosecuting her for benefiting from a forged NYSC exemption certificate and using that certificate to game the system. Two other high ranking officials of the Buhari administration have been accused of dodging the mandatory one year national service and certificate forgery, but the president has preferred to look the other way.
APC Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, has been accused of corruption, but no one in the presidency or in the upper echelons of the governing party, is talking about it.
Other public officials who have been accused of corruption and who belong to the governing APC, are often given a silent treatment while opposition party members are labelled corrupt in TV appearances and press statements. There appears to be one rule for APC members and another for everyone else.
However, no political leader—whether from the APC or PDP, and not least a president who says he harbours a disdain for corruption—should be seen backing Ganduje at this time until the Kano governor has been cleared of the allegations.
What Buhari should have done in Paris was assure his audience that he would allow the anti-graft agency and other investigators do their jobs without interference from the presidency. He could have done anything but refer to Ganduje as 'responsible'.
No one is saying Ganduje is guilty because the law says he’s innocent until proven otherwise. But a president who flaunts an anti-corruption badge on the local and international stages, had no business calling Ganduje a responsible leader and performer at this time.
Buhari’s comments can be seen as an exoneration of Ganduje and an interference with the entire bribery probe. The best the president could have done on Ganduje at this point was promise not to shield him from prosecution. In Paris, Buhari simply showed his hand. And it wasn’t a good one to watch.