When Muhammadu Buhari took over as Nigeria’s president less than a year ago, he vowed to wipe out the corruption he said threatened the very existence of Africa’s largest economy.
But as he investigates former ministers and high-ranking officials, members of the opposition People’s Democratic Party accuse him of carrying out a vendetta against them. Buhari ousted the PDP following March elections, ending the party’s monopoly on power that it held since the end of military rule in 1999.
The PDP called for Buhari to be impeached last week for “various constitutional” breaches, including the arrest this month of its national spokesman, Olisa Metuh. He was detained as part a probe into whether the previous government stole as much as $5.5 billion meant for fighting Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency in the north. Sambo Dasuki, the national security adviser under the administration of Goodluck Jonathan, was also arrested as part of the same investigation.
“Yes, there is a witch-hunt, because there are witches all over the place,” said Folarin Gbadebo-Smith, head of the Lagos-based Center for Public Policy Alternatives and a former council leader in the commercial capital. “There are guilty parties out there.”
The arrests have heightened regional and ethnic tensions in Nigeria, a country of 170 million split between a mostly Muslim north and a predominantly Christian south. Buhari, a 73-year-old northerner and former general, got the bulk of his votes from his home region and the religiously mixed southwest through his All Progressives Congress coalition, formed in 2013 by a merger of smaller opposition parties and disgruntled PDP politicians.
Some southern and most southeastern states voted overwhelmingly for the PDP’s candidate, then President Jonathan, a Christian who hails from the oil-producing Niger River delta region.
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