Corruption Allegation As the Burden of a Reformer, By Maiwada Dammallam
A recent story published by Sahara Reporterswhich “authoritatively” broke the news that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. T. Y. Buratai owns what the “revelation” wants to have the general public believe is an expensive property in Dubai, UAE, is one that would generate incredulous debate especially in Nigeria’s “e-rats” infested cyber jungle. No doubt, the story would be a convenient tool to hit back at Buratai for his clear ambition to sanitise and reform the army and restore professionalism into it.
Assuming that truly Buratai owns a supposed “choice” property in Dubai, does owning property in Dubai make a person corrupt such that the cyber highways would become agog with “emergency judges” putting the Army chief on trial for what’s clearly a non-existent offence?
By alleging that Buratai owns a property in Dubai, Sahara Reporters only wanted to sensationalise a simple issue because of the person involved. There was no effort by the online publication to dig into the basics of real estate investment in UAE, much less the “crime” of the COAS for investing in it. This is a simple concept that could be understood by just about anybody. In UAE, real estate investment is tailored to operate on the same principles the capital market operates on. One could buy shares of a given property and become a owner of the property in equal proportion with his investment. This is exactly the case with the much talked about Dubai property of Lt. Gen. Buratai.
The morality issue attached to the story would make people know his source for the original investment. Buratai has been a large scale farmer in the past 20 years. Farming is one of the businesses that a public official is allowed to engage in regardless of his or her profession or status. Having a farming history spanning 20 years would have generated excellent returns enough for one to comfortably afford to invest anywhere in the world.
Beside this, Buratai along with his two wives, have, for many years, been operating a quasi-micro finance social intervention scheme called ‘SANA’ARMU’ (i.e. our collective enterprise). Though largely a social intervention scheme, the family had equally earned enough money from this to afford the kind of modest lifestyle they live and to hold the investments they have. I challenge Sahara Reporter (or anybody at that) to contradict this.
But for the desire to confuse readers, the writers of that so-called story should have used their investigative skills to determine the cost of the Dubai property in which the COAS invested and his stake in it to, in turn, determine if his legitimate earnings from the mentioned sources above could justify his holdings. You don’t just go to town writing stories that can not withstand scrutiny, especially in this era when information is just a click away. I expect a reputable media outfit like Sahara Reporter to be more professional and factual, particularly on issues that could potentially cause severe damage to innocent people by tarnishing their hard earned reputations.
The good thing about unjustifiable attacks on reputations is the “boomerang effect”. One stands the risk of losing his/her reputation when in blind pursuit to destroy another’s. It’s no nuclear science to understand that if there was any ambiguity about Gen. Burutai’s investment in Dubai, there’s no way he could pass the integrity test of President Muhammad Buhari. If declarations made by him concerning his financial status did not conform with reality, he wouldn’t have been appointed by the president to carry out the onerous job of cleaning the mess left behind by the immediate past leadership of the Nigeria Army.
Having said that, it’s pertinent to ask Sahara Reporter to substantiate its allegations against the COAS. Please note that the army spokesperson, Col. Sani Kukasheka Usman has already punctured the key allegations contained in the Sahara Reporter’s story, so much so that one need not use Newton’s reading glasses to read between the contrived lines. The army spokesperson has declared that Lt. Gen. Buratai has no account with Skye Bank to conduct the transactions alleged. And,Sahara Reporter is yet to do its part of either proving the allegation by posting the account’s details or retracting the story. Secondly, it was proven beyond reasonable doubt that not only was Lt. Gen. Buratai never the army’s Director of Procurement, even though as COAS, he was the one who established the Directorate for the ease of procurement and probity.
Ordinarily, these inaccuracies were enough to bury the story in the trash bin but for the serious war launched by some aggrieved forces bent on taking their pound of flesh from Lt. Gen. Buratai for upsetting their sources of income and exposing them to the harsh reality of living under a social system with serious concerns about sharing public funds equitably and without allowing some people to use their positions to take undue advantage of the system. One would only be naive to expect anything but the ongoing continuous resistance to the new order in any way imaginable by the cabal that were used to a free ride on public resources. Nigeria is still rebooting for the new “system upgrade” installed by President Buhari to take effect.
Of course, Lt. Gen. Buratai has stepped on too many powerful toes for one to expect he would have a smooth sail in rebuilding a professional Nigeria Army which, before his appointment, was synonymous with corruption. He inherited an army that was bullied by Boko Haram at one end of the country, while being harassed by MEND on the other end, all because some people were starkly insensitive and chose to line their pockets with funds appropriated by the government to equip the military to match the ill-equipped street urchins that had taken full control of the country from two ends.
Maiwada Dammallam writes from Abuja