Thank you Oga . . . !!!!

Lesotho Times - - Scrutator -

Iam tak­ing a break from lo­cal pol­i­tics and con­fin­ing my­self to for­eign af­fairs this week mainly be­cause africa is on the march. Never in my wildest dreams had I an­tic­i­pated that Nige­ria, of all coun­tries, could con­vene free and fair elec­tions and achieve a smooth trans­fer of power. af­ter our own suc­cess­ful elec­tions in our tiny en­clave we dare call a coun­try, we can safely say the con­ti­nent is on a roll.

I hope the strangely named Good­luck Jonathan got a call from our own very Cy­clone Tom and Size Two to re­spect the will of the peo­ple.

If that hap­pened, then we are in­deed trend­set­ters de­spite be­ing a measly en­clave of only two mil­lion, 100 times less than Nige­ria’s gar­gan­tuan pop­u­la­tion.

Nige­ria is tra­di­tion­ally a place where all the un­think­able things hap­pen. My only visit to that coun­try was very re­veal­ing. My col­leagues and I had to pay bribes to get our own lug­gage at the air­port in La­gos.

We had checked in our bags at O.R. Tambo to fly to La­gos in the now de­funct Vir­gin Nige­ria, the air­line founded by Richard Bran­son, be­fore the flam­boy­ant busi­ness­men fled Nige­ria’s can­cer­ous cor­rup­tion and closed the air­line.

We had in­deed con­firmed at the board­ing gate that our lug­gage was in. It’s some­thing I al­ways do.

But upon ar­rival in La­gos, and af­ter all the im­mi­gra­tion and cus­toms for­mal­i­ties, we did not get our bags on the lug­gage carousel. It re­mains a mys­tery to me that only my suit­case and those of my four col­leagues from Namibia, Swazi­land and South Africa were miss­ing.

af­ter wait­ing for close to two hours in the boil­ing di­lap­i­dated so called mur­tala mo­hammed in­ter­na­tional air­port, a man from the Nige­rian cus­toms depart­ment ush­ered us into a dim room to in­form us that our bags had been left in Kigali, Rwanda.

We were all dumb­founded. We stared at each other speech­less. This had been a di­rect flight from O.R. Tambo and we had not made any stopover in Kigali. There was also no chance that the plane could have mys­te­ri­ously opened its rear doors to drop our bags in flight to the ex­clu­sion of all oth­ers. We ex­plained this fact to the cus­toms man, who had re­fused to give us his name.

He then shouted; “Kigali or no Kigali, do you want your bags or not…,”. It was way past mid­night and we were all feel­ing drained in the trop­i­cal hu­mid­ity.

“We want our bags please, please, please Sir !!!” We all re­sponded at once.

“Then put $50 each on the ta­ble…,” the cus­toms of­fi­cial barked. We were all stunned. We stared at each other once again speech­less. I only had M200 in my wal­let since our en­tire up­keep in La­gos was be­ing paid for by our con­fer­ence hosts.

Itumeleng, our col­league from South Africa, who had trav­elled to Nige­ria many times be­fore, then drew his wal­let and gave the cus­toms of­fi­cer $200.

“That’s all we have…,” Itumeleng re­marked. With a wide grin on his face, the cus­toms of­fi­cer grabbed the notes and left the room.

Seven min­utes later, he reap­peared push­ing a trol­ley with all our bags. It then dawned on me that I was in the land of Oga.

Out­side the air­port build­ing, there was a lone taxi left as the air­port was by now largely de­serted. Itumeleng po­litely asked the driver if he could take us to our ho­tel. The driver said he had al­ready knocked off but could as­sist us for R50 000 Naira.

But be­cause that whole money would go to his com­pany, he de­manded a fur­ther 20 000 Naira for him­self. But since there were five of us and he would have to fit the four of us in the back seat, he de­manded an­other 20 000 Naira just in case he is caught by po­lice. Itumeleng had some wards of Naira from his pre­vi­ous visit and du­ti­fully paid the driver a whoop­ing N90 000 to get us to the ho­tel.

On our way, I posed a ques­tion to the driver. Why do we have to pay you a bribe to do your job? Why do we also have to pay a bribe to your broth­ers at the air­port to get our own lug­gage? Itumeleng in­ter­jected me and said, “Hey you! Stop It! We are now in La­gos….” I then kept my peace.

The driver dropped us on one side of the road. It was by now rain­ing heav­ily and in front of us there was a very wide storm wa­ter drain which was flood­ing and sep­a­rated us from the ho­tel.

An­other guy ap­peared hold­ing two huge wooden planks and laid them in front of us to en­able us to cross the drain. But be­fore we could do so he de­manded N1000 from each of us. again, Itumeleng obliged.

The worst was yet to come though. Dur­ing my two week long stay I be­friended a mid­dle aged gen­tle­man by the name Ibbo. His fa­ther was a one-time state gover­nor and their fam­ily was filthy rich. Ibbo had a big prob­lem though as he ex­plained to me dur­ing a din­ner date.

He had com­mit­ted fraud and faced a lengthy pri­son term. The judge han­dling the case had nev­er­the­less reached out to him and promised Ibbo ac­quit­tal if he paid the judge a “good” bribe. The prob­lem, as Ibbo ex­plained, was that they could not agree on the ap­pro­pri­ate quan­tum that would con­sti­tute a “good” bribe.

Ibbo said he had of­fered the judge one mil­lion naira which had been re­spect­fully re­jected. He had thus asked the judge to set a fig­ure. Be­fore stip­u­lat­ing an amount, Ibbo claimed, the judge had de­manded to visit Ibbo’s house to as­sess the value of his house, his ve­hi­cles and his house­hold prop­erty.

The judge had also de­manded to visit Ibbo’s vil­lage to see the num­ber of cat­tle he owned in ad­di­tion to de­mand­ing to see all of Ibbo’s bank state­ments. Ibbo du­ti­fully obliged and took the judge to his home and vil­lage.

rmed with all this in­for­ma­tion, the judge com­pleted his eval­u­a­tion of Ibbo and de­manded a N10 mil­lion bribe. Ibbo felt the one mil­lion Naira he had of­fered was ad­e­quate and was un­happy with the judge’s de­mands.

“It’s up to you Oga, Ei­ther you pay or you go to pri­son for 10 years…..,” the judge al­legedly told Ibbo.

Said Ibbo. “I had no op­tion but to pay. Here in Nige­ria, you have to pay a bribe pro­por­tion­ate to your wealth and ju­di­cial of­fi­cers de­mand to as­sess your worth be­fore levy­ing an ap­pro­pri­ate bribe fig­ure .”

“How do you do it in Le­sotho?,” asked Ibbo. I ex­plained to him that in our King­dom, the ju­di­ciary is ab­so­lutely in­cor­rupt­ible and com­pletely bribe free. He couldn’t be­lieve it. “So I must come and live in Le­sotho then,” he re­marked. I told him he is most wel­come.

That visit of mine to La­gos was way back in 2005 af­ter Nige­ria had al­ready tran­si­tioned from mil­i­tary rule. Ab­dul­salam abubakar had given the reins to Oluse­gun Obasanjo af­ter the 1999 demo­cratic elec­tions. abubakar him­self had as­sumed the reins from the vile and de­spi­ca­ble Sani abacha, who had been poi­soned by two pros­ti­tutes while hav­ing a three­some.

Abacha, who stole more than $10 bil­lion from his coun­try’s cof­fers and stashed it in for­eign banks, used to deploy Nige­ria’s mil­i­tary planes to col­lect pros­ti­tutes for him mainly from In­dia and Thai­land.

He would then in­dulge him­self at pres­i­den­tial vil­las be­fore get­ting the pros­ti­tutes trans­ported back at huge cost to the Nige­rian tax­pay­ers. abacha’s enemies, who knew his ways, were thus eas­ily able to ac­cess him us­ing th­ese pros­ti­tutes.

fter as­sum­ing the reins upon abacha’s death on June 8 1998, Abubakar proved to be the per­fect gen­tle­man and opted to do things dif­fer­ently. He swiftly re­leased all po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers in­clud­ing Obasanjo who then went on to win the 1999 elec­tions. But be­fore va­cat­ing of­fice, Abubakar did what suc­ces­sive Nige­rian mil­i­tary rulers knew best.

He emp­tied the coun­try’s trea­sury. Though he re­lin­quished power to civil­ians, abubakar is re­puted to be wealth­ier than Bill Gates, Ro­man abramovich, Pa­trice mot­sepe and War­ren Buf­fet com­bined. He main­tains lav­ish homes pop­u­lated with young con­cu­bines around the world.

He is living life to the very fullest, cour­tesy of Nige­ria’s ema­ci­ated tax­pay­ers. But for re­turn­ing his coun­try to democ­racy and for break­ing with his men­tor abacha’s hor­rific past, Nige­ri­ans were able to for­give him and let him en­joy his loot.

fter tak­ing over from abubakar, Obasanjo did not en­tirely cover him­self in glory. His hand­picked suc­ces­sor Umaru Yar’adua was a wreck. He died in of­fice 5 May 2010 with­out hav­ing changed the for­tunes of Nige­ri­ans. But un­like Abacha, who died in ig­no­min­ious cir­cum­stances, Yar’adua suc­cumbed to ill­ness.

Nige­ria is a huge para­dox, just like so many other African coun­tries. af­ter the re­bas­ing of its econ­omy, Nige­ria is now ranked the wealth­i­est coun­try on the con­ti­nent. Yet a ma­jor­ity of its nearly 200 mil­lion peo­ple are de­press­ingly poor. In­fra­struc­ture is close to non-ex­is­tent and its towns and cities are near slums. Nige­ria is africa’s largest oil pro­ducer.

Yet its cit­i­zens face fre­quent fuel short­ages. This is largely due to its lack of re­fin­ing ca­pac­ity as suc­ces­sive mil­i­tary rulers ex­ported bil­lions of dol­lars into theirs and their chil­dren and con­cu­bines’ pri­vate Swiss ac­counts in­stead of build­ing re­finer­ies to process crude oil. Like most of africa, Nige­ria thus ex­ported its crude oil for re­fin­ing in Europe only to buy back re­fined petrol at a much more ex­pen­sive cost.

ut be­cause money would have been stolen in large quan­ti­ties there would be lit­tle left to buy ad­e­quate fuel.

De­spite be­ing elected in civil­ian elec­tions, Obasanjo and Yar’ Ar­dua seem to have per­pet­u­ated the same old story with no marked im­prove­ments in the living stan­dards of or­di­nary Nige­ri­ans.

It is com­mon cause that if a meteorite were to hit earth, it will most likely hit a group of Nige­ri­ans, ei­ther stand­ing or sit­ting play­ing a game of drafts in Kathmandu, Christchurch, Green­land, Texas, the North Pole, Mokhot­long, Benghazi, Belfast or any other cor­ner of the world.

Even be­fore democ­racy re­turned to Nige­ria, its cit­i­zens had al­ways voted with their feet. I have met Nige­ri­ans in places where I have least ex­pected to en­counter any hu­man be­ing. Don’t ask me what I would be do­ing there.

TBhe April 2011 elec­tions which ush­ered in Good­luck Jonathan into power af­ter Yar’ ar­dua’s death left 800 peo­ple dead. Muhammed Buhari who had par­tic­i­pated in all elec­tions since 1999 and lost all of them cried foul and his Congress for Pro­gres­sive Change (CPC) re­fused to ac­cept the re­sults. If Obasanjo was bad, and Yar’ar­dua was Nige­ria’s most in­ef­fec­tive, sickly marsh­mal­low pres­i­dent, then Jonathan was a hope­less dis­as­ter.

The in­sur­gent group of re­li­gious drunk­ards that pass by the name Boko Haram fes­tered un­der Jonathan. Even as it slaugh­tered tens of thou­sands, Jonathan re­mained so in­dif­fer­ent that many rightly be­gan think­ing that he was a Boko Haram share­holder.

Many thought the flam­boy­ant Jonathan would sim­ply rig the polls, cause un­told blood­shed and plunge Nige­ria deep down the precipice. But for al­low­ing the demo­cratic process to un­fold by al­low­ing free and fair elec­tions and for boost­ing Africa’s im­age by hand­ing power peace­fully, I am pre­pared to say to Jonathan; Thank you Oga!! Many many thanks Oga!!!

Nige­ria is a sad story. It is a text­book ex­am­ple of how bad gov­er­nance kills a na­tion’s hope. With all that Nige­ria has ex­pe­ri­enced, I would have told you to go for a head trans­plant if you had told me prior to the just con­cluded elec­tions that Jonathan would al­low a free and fair poll. But that is ex­actly what he did. We must all ap­plaud.

The power em­blem is now firmly in the hands of an­other mil­i­tary ruler turned civil­ian, Buhari. I am very hope­ful. Buhari de­throned Shehu Sha­gari and lasted only 20 months in power un­til 1985 be­fore be­ing de­throned by Ibrahim Ba­banginda. Ba­bangida is also renowned for de­ploy­ing 30 tonne trucks to empty the Nige­rian trea­sury on the eve of his leav­ing power.

Buhari ranks as the only Nige­rian leader to not steal or if he did steal, to have stolen very lit­tle. The san­dal wear­ing 72 year old is re­puted to be a firm dis­ci­plinar­ian and the only leader to have at­tempted to tackle cor­rup­tion de­ci­sively in Nige­ria. He is a strict dis­ci­plinar­ian renowned for whip­ping Nige­ri­ans who dis­obeyed Nige­rian in­clud­ing those who re­ported for work late.

Since africa’s back­ward­ness is partly at­trib­ut­able to the lazi­ness of its peo­ple, that must have been a good thing. I am very hope­ful of Buhari’s pres­i­dency. Be­ing the big­gest oil pro­ducer in Sub Sa­ha­ran Africa, the sev­enth largest Opec ex­porter of crude, and africa’s most pop­u­lous and wealth­i­est na­tion, at least on pa­per, the least we should ex­pect is to have a Nige­ria that con­tin­ues em­bar­rass­ing the con­ti­nent. Let’s hope Buhari can de­liver. Democ­racy, is mean­ing­less un­less ac­com­pa­nied by good lead­er­ship.

Closer to home, Tan­za­nian Pres­i­dent Jakaya Kik­wete has an­nounced that he is look­ing for­ward to re­tir­ing in Oc­to­ber af­ter serv­ing his fi­nal term. De­scrib­ing the job of pres­i­dent as stress­ful and thank­less, Kik­wete said he was look­ing for­ward to spend­ing more qual­ity time with his fam­ily.

No at­tempt to cling to power at all. Which leaves Robert mu­gabe as the only sore point on the con­ti­nent. Our god for­saken Zim­bab­wean broth­ers and sis­ters, who have be­come as ubiq­ui­tous as Nige­ri­ans in terms of be­ing found in ev­ery cor­ner of the world, now en­joy the du­bi­ous hon­our of be­ing ruled by the old­est pres­i­dent in the world.

Is­raeli’s Shi­mon Peres, who at 90 com­peted well with mu­gabe, since grace­fully re­tired. Peres was in any event a fig­ure­head or cer­e­mo­nial pres­i­dent of Is­rael. Why Mu­gabe is not ashamed of him­self is be­yond any ra­tio­nal com­pre­hen­sion.

Dur­ing his live press con­fer­ence with Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma this week, mu­gabe ap­peared like he would col­lapse into the mi­cro­phone and lectern due to old age. At 91, he is not about to give up power and has de­clared he wants to re­main in of­fice till he is 100. He has just com­pleted a vi­cious purge of all those in his party who want him to re­tire in­clud­ing his re­spected for­mer deputy, Joice Mu­juru.

Per­haps just like Abacha, the big­gest con­tri­bu­tion mu­gabe could have made to his wretched peo­ple and to­wards im­prov­ing africa’s im­age is to have died a long time ago.


For­mer Nige­rian Pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan (left) and his suc­ces­sor muham­madu Buhari.

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