Integrity is not built overnight. It comes with a dedicated, structured and disciplined lifestyle, which eventually brings out the inner traits and character of a person. These traits and character are evidence of years of foundational character-building. It could be either in a person or an institution.
As a security writer, I usually pay very detailed attention to the activities of each security institution and their leaders, same with the foremost anti-graft institution, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which is mandated to fight corruption in Nigeria.
I have covered the institution from the time of the founding head of the institution Mr. Nuhu Ribadu, to the present acting chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, who was appointed on November 9, 2015.
The story has been that of a consistent effort by each leader to build a trustworthy institution based on integrity and unstained accountability. One cannot overlook situations where some leaders and officials, who were not angels, have erred. These challenges notwithstanding, the leaders and personnel have not been deterred to create a name for the institution. A name that has opened international doors to the institution to the extent that Nigeria is being consulted on policies on how to fight corruption. When Magu was appointed, it was due to exhibition of forthrightness, patriotic dedication and deep sense of commitment to duty, even President Muhammadu Buhari, after reading the report that was written on Magu, must have doubted that there were still police officers with such sterling qualities, high character and dedication to duty in Nigeria. I remember one Monday morning in 2007, as the managing director of the police newspaper and a media consultant to the Inspector-General of Police, my orderly ushered a young man into my office who introduced himself as Chief Superintendent of Police Ibrahim Magu, from the Force Criminal Investigation Department (remember, investigators don’t wear uniform). On that particular day, he came to exchange ideas on my back page column in the police newspaper, The Dawn.
That was when I marked him out as one of the brilliant and budding police officers who loved to acquire knowledge. At that point, we did not strike any relationship except the cordiality of always engaging on security issues and at times fantasizing on what would be ahead. Along the years, he was deployed to the EFCC as an investigator and a sensitive case brought him before the President where he exhibited his dexterity as a dogged and disciplined investigator. Sequel to that, he was appointed the Acting Chairman of the EFCC. At this time, I had already moved ahead in my career as a security consultant and journalist. In his own case, his appointment automatically made his personality a more pronounced public figure. However, over the years, Magu’s humility, forthrightness and fear of God blossomed.
I discovered that Magu usually engaged in dry fasting thrice a week and hardly allowed any thing to divert his attention from keeping his prayer sessions as a Muslim. His self-discipline is good to emulate. The days of his political tribulations have not deterred him, neither has his resolve to continue to fight the octopus called corruption in the country shaken, even among his colleagues, who most times drop banana peels of corruption along his professional path.
I have come across hundreds of senior police officers as a crime journalist. He easily falls into the bracket of those unique officers who cherish their father’s name and want their intergrity fully intact, no matter the rough situation, such a list is endless. Close contact with him easily exposes him as a good conversationalist, one who is not pretentious but firm to the extreme of stubbornness. Once, I was in his office to secure an interview, and I had seized the privilege and pleasure to study his temperament and disposition while attending to visitors and his colleagues. The way he relates with his colleagues attests to the success story of the commission so far. The solid foundation laid by past leaders has helped him to further better and improve upon the commission during his tenure. He is a very thorough officer with an eagle eye for every detail.
On this particular occasion, one of his investigating officers had submitted his final report and the next thing l saw him do was to pick a very big Webster’s dictionary, he opened it to confirm and correct a particular word, which was mistakenly used in the report he was going through. He read through the lines, striking off some words and replacing them. It became obvious that he was a left-handed person.
“He prowls like a lion that is fearless and stings like a scorpion,” so he has been described. No wonder all the “big” names in politics, security and business circles that he had arrested must have been deceived by his small physique. His loyalty to his appointment is unarguably impressive. Magu is definitely like the Biblical David that is not afraid to wrestle via investigation and bring down any corrupt political or business Goliath.
He is indeed a gift not only to the Nigeria Police but to the nation. He believes that, though corrupt politicians would fight him, that notwithstanding, his achievements in the course of his tenure at the EFCC would speak for him if not now but in the near future. Those who spoke about him said he is an expansionist who has opened up more offices for the commission and has recruited more officers than any of his predecessors.
Magu, his colleagues say, is a reliable superior who goes after the welfare and well-being of his subordinates in order to enhance their efficiency. This is why corrupt officers in the commission don’t last once they are detected. If there is anything that gives him sleepless nights, it is the striking off of the commission’s cases and the losing of cases in the courts across the country. Once, he openly lamented before his colleagues, “I am not happy with this trend.”
Like a Fulani wrestler, many Nigerians are carefully watching his next step as he engages another opponent in the fight against corruption before a high court, believing that his next fighting tactics would surely grant him the needed victory as he continues to champion the recovery of looted billions of naira. It is evident that Magu is the most talked about, monitored appointee of the President.
In my column dated November 14, 2019, titled MAGU: TIME TO RETURN TO BASE, I craved his indulgence to return back to the police as a good fighter instead of waiting for powerful people that he has stepped on their toes to either gang up or plan for his downfall. Surprisingly, he continues to forge ahead with an extraordinary vigor and dedication.
When the news broke on May 12, 2020, that two Chinese businessmen had offered bribe to the zonal head of the EFCC in Sokoto, Mr. Abudhalli Lawal, and he bluntly rejected it and arrested the men for prosecution, security observers argued that it was because there was integrity and discipline in the commission, that was why an officer of the commission in faraway Sokoto State could exhibit such sterling qualities as he was accountable to his boss at the headquarters. Others also argued that the Sokoto officer could have quietly collected the bribe from the Chinese businessmen without raising a voice.
In all, what this explains is that the integrity in Magu has transcended into a behavioral attitude among many of his officers. One should not forget that, out of every 12, there is a Judas. The one that gladdens the heart of many Nigerians is that officials of Nigeria’s foremost anti-graft agency shamed corrupt Chinese businessmen who believed every security agent in Nigeria was corrupt.Once again, by this outstanding feat, the EFCC has once again made Nigeria proud.