Catholic Archbishop of Sokoto, Bishop Hassan Kukah and the Presidential Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina have clashed over President Muhammadu Buhari’s inaction.
The war of words took place at a book presentation by Mrs Farida Waziri, a former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in Abuja on Tuesday.
Kukah was the guest speaker while Adesina was the reviewer of the book titled: ”One Step Ahead-Life As A Spy, Detective And Anti-Graft Czar.”
Kukah, represented by Reverend Father Patrick Alukumu, triggered the clash when in his final remarks, said he had yet to understand why the Executive used former Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen’s asset declaration form as one of the grounds for his sack when Buhari had not declared his assets publicly.
He said: “Let me ask two or three questions that I have heard being asked. First, is it in the law that the chairman of EFCC must be from the police force and a Muslim from Northern Nigeria?
“Two, people have asked, how is it that the President used Justice Onnoghen’s asset declaration form to prove his corruption and proceeded to sack him, yet the President himself has not publicly declared his own assets as he promised during his campaigns?
“Thirdly, why has Mr. (Ibrahim) Magu not been confirmed as EFCC chairman and what is the state of the trial of those who attempted to kill him in December 2017?”
The Catholic priest who spoke on the topic: “Is corruption a biological necessity or a political invention,” also noted that corruption had become endemic in Nigeria with only a few fighting it.
He added: ”I believe that every public officer who has had a chance to hold public service owes the citizens an account of their experiences. Very often, people fear that they do not wish to ruffle feathers, but the absence of the records of their experiences means that in future, the birds will not even have any feathers at all.
“It consigns our nation to repeating the same mistakes, it allows too many demagogues to parade themselves as heroes. It allows those who ran away from the war to claim that they led the war and things get even worse when they pass on and take the libraries of their knowledge to feed the ants in their graves.
“The book has a reviewer and therefore I am merely making some little contributions to the debate on corruption and the future of our country.
“I have deliberately posed a provocative question as to whether what we call corruption is a biological necessity or a political invention. This question may not have an answer but I approach the theme of corruption not from the political point of view scoring but as an academic exercise to which we must all subscribe so as to avoid the political pitfalls of irredeemable sentimentalism.
“Corruption has become so endemic that in Nigeria, it is the only thing that works. We have constantly modified the language of corruption. The word corruption is too harsh and so we have softened it. Its synonymns are any of the following words: Chop, Egunje, Dash, Family Support, Self Help, Kayan Aiki-Backhand, Underhand, Padding, Mobilisation, Eating etc.”
He commended Mrs. Waziri for the book, which he said should go down as a very important work in many respects.
But Adesina, before discharging his assignment as the book reviewer, denied that the President promised to make public declaration of his assets.
He said Buhari only assured Nigerians that he would at all times do what the Constitution says.
The President’s spokesman challenged Kukah to come up with his evidence on the issue.
Adesina said: “I remember that I was appointed on May 31 2015 and when I resumed work, on June 1, 2015, in a private meeting with the President, one of the first questions I asked him was, this promise about public declaration of assets, when are you doing it? The he asked me, ‘can you please show me where that promise was ever made’ and lo and behold, we searched everywhere and there was no place where the President ever said he will do a public declaration.
“And he asked me ‘what does the law require? The law requires you to declare your assets and that is what I will do.’
“ And yet since that year (2015), they keep repeating it that he promised a public declaration.
“Sir, can you tell Bishop Kukah that I challenge him to produce that promise by the President. Because the President stands on it till tomorrow that he never promised a public declaration.
“ In 2015, he made his assets public. In 2019, he has declared, he has chosen not to make public. He has not broken any law. So, please let’s not continue to repeat what is untrue, what is an inexactitude. That’s my message to Bishop Kukah sir.”
Buhari, who was represented by the Minister of Interior Rauf Aregbesola , hailed Mrs Waziri for putting her experience together as a platform for learning.
The President said: “We must know that corruption is a major challenge of governance and development, which we must all seek to eliminate from our system.
“Our administration’s commitment to eradicating corruption has been unwavering and we shall unrelentingly pursue its eradication.
“We have made significant progress in loot recovered, leakages blocked and the arrest and prosecution made. If the impact have not been too apparent to some observers, it is because of the deep root corruption has taken and the extent of despair before our advent.
“Nevertheless, we have received good report and commendation from home and abroad on our success in fighting corruption. With our steady efforts we have great hope that corruption will be eliminated in our country.”
The President hailed Mrs Waziri’s courage and determination, saying that “for the right or wrong reasons, it is very unlikely that the anti-corruption czar will have a smooth ride during and after her office.
”I charge you to double your efforts as we continue with this historical mission to cleansing our land of this moral filth and major hindrance to our development,” Buhari said.
First Lady Aisha Buhari, who was represented by the wife of the Vice President, Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo, noted the importance of girl-child education.
The personalities at the event include a former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon; Turai, wife of former President Musa Yar’adua; former Commonwealth Secretary General Emeka Anyaoku; former Senate President Ken Nnamani.
Chief Remi Makanjuola, the Chief presenter of the book and royal fathers.