Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari's anti-corruption credentials are being questioned following the Nigerian government’s reaction to an unflattering report credited to banking giant HSBC.
The bank, according to major Nigerian dailies, said in a report that the politicisation of economic policy would also slow reforms and at times actively decelerate economic growth. The report is also claimed to have said that another four years of a Buhari government will stunt the Nigerian economy and kill off the drive to grow its different sectors.
The bank is also credited with a prediction that the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will defeat the APC candidate, President Buhari, in the upcoming 2019 presidential election.
The Guardian cannot, however, verify the veracity of the report.
Buhari rode into power in 2015, largely, on the wings of his much-vaunted anti-corruption stance. While a few high-profile convictions have been secured, there are a few cases involving his trusted aides that are yet to be prosecuted.
Regardless of this, his aides continued to insist that he is the best bet if Nigeria real want to drop the toga of being a “fantastically corrupt” country.
But the reaction of the Presidency to the HSBC report dented their claims.
Here is why.
On a few occasion, Buhari publicly vouched for the credibility and integrity of one Nigeria's most feared military leaders, General Sani Abacha.
He went as far as saying that Abacha was not corrupt despite the millions of dollar stashed away in foreign banks by the military ruler.
In another account, he once expressed doubt about confirmed cases of theft of public resources by Abacha.
It was not a surprise earlier in the year that he chose to describe over N100 billion, a third of what the Federal, State Local governments shared in February 2016 as money “identified as illegally taken from Nigeria under Abacha”, rather than the usual “Abacha loot”.
“Under Abacha” portrays it as if other people, not Abacha himself, committed the “illegality” without Abacha’s knowledge.
The phrase he used in that instance is a deliberate attempt at further recreating a positive image of the man whose reign was blighted by despotic tendencies.
But it was a bit surprising that the presidency turned around, in a bid to discredit the HSBC report. It accused the bank of a man Buhari has vouched for, to syphon “more than USD 100,000,000’ out of Nigeria.
If anything, the belated acknowledgement of the sleaze perpetrated by Abacha unwittingly cast doubts on the readiness of the Buhari government to tackle corruption without bias.
The Nigerian government also acknowledged, without unknowingly, that it has failed to prosecute “more than 50 other Nigerians, including a serving Senator".
Like Atiku Abubakar’s campaign organisation said, “It is at once comical and pathetic that the Buhari government’s statement called HSBC corrupt” only after the bank cast shadows of doubt on the president’s ability to move Nigeria forward.