Diezani et al: Let the in­ves­ti­ga­tions be­gin

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

On Fri­day, Pre­mium Times broke the story of the ar­rest of Diezani AlisonMadueke, for­mer min­is­ter of petroleum. She was ar­rested in Lon­don by the UK Na­tional Crime Agency on sus­pi­cion of bribery and money laun­der­ing. The event re­minded me of our only en­counter where she was chastis­ing me for my in­ca­pac­ity to un­der­stand the anti-cor­rup­tion stance of their gov­ern­ment. In Septem­ber 2012, I re­ceived a call that the per­ma­nent sec­re­tary of the for­eign min­istry wanted to see me im­me­di­ately. I went to the of­fice to meet the ur­bane gen­tle­man, Martin Uho­moibhi who as al­ways was decked in a suit and el­e­gant bow tie. He told me that Pres­i­dent Kuf­four had been in­vited to the 2012 In­de­pen­dence Lec­ture that month and he would like me to pro­vide a Nige­rian per­spec­tive but would want an as­sur­ance that I would not at­tack the gov­ern­ment. I told him that if he had re­searched my back­ground he would have known that I was no praise singer and ad­vised him to search out the large bevy of praise singers avail­able in the coun­try. He gave his sweet smile and told me he had done his due dili­gence on my back­ground and I was not in­vited by ac­ci­dent. He said he has a doc­tor­ate de­gree from Ox­ford and was a lec­turer in the Univer­sity of Ibadan with mas­sive re­spect for aca­demic free­dom so he would not dream of cen­sor­ing me. There would be enough ac­co­lades in Pres­i­dent Kuf­for’s lec­ture and it would be more bal­anced if there were a few crit­i­cal thoughts ex­pressed he ex­plained. How­ever, as it was a pres­ti­gious event with the en­tire cab­i­net and diplo­matic corps in at­ten­dance, an at­tack on the Gov­ern­ment would not be suit­able. We agreed and I turned up on 18th Septem­ber to par­tic­i­pate in the event. Af­ter my pre­sen­ta­tion, Pres­i­dent Jonathan re­sponded with fury and anger, an ap­proach that is not in his usual cool and friendly man­ner. What ir­ri­tated him were the com­ments I made on the fuel sub­sidy demon­stra­tions re­pro­duced be­low:

“In Jan­uary this year, I was one of the thou­sands of Nige­ri­ans in the streets de­mon­strat­ing against the re­moval of fuel sub­sidy by my beloved Pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan. The lead­ing in­tel­lec­tu­als of the regime came out to crit­i­cise us for our lack of un­der­stand­ing of ba­sic eco­nom­ics. We were told that the ev­i­dence is clear that the sub­sidy is un­sus­tain­able. We were dis­missed as en­e­mies of the trans­for­ma­tion agenda who did not re­alise that the money for the trans­for­ma­tion agenda was go­ing into fuel sub­sidy rather than eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment so we were sabo­teurs. We stood our ground. We said there was noth­ing wrong is sub­si­dis­ing the peo­ple but the prob­lem was that peo­ple were not be­ing sub­sidised, the money was be­ing stolen. To­day, the jury is out. It was not a sub­sidy regime; it was a regime of mega loot­ing. With­out our demon­stra­tions and protests, Pres­i­dent Jonathan would have never un­der­stood that the spin he was given about ab­stract sub­sidy was the nar­ra­tives of the mega thieves and not the pa­tri­ots. All min­is­ters gen­uinely com­mit­ted to the trans­for­ma­tion agenda are there­fore in­vited to join the next demon­stra­tion to be or­gan­ised by oc­cupy Nige­ria.”

In his re­sponse to my com­ments, Pres­i­dent Jonathan in­sisted that the demon­stra­tions were an in­di­ca­tion of ma­nip­u­la­tion. In his own words: “Dur­ing the demon­stra­tion in La­gos, peo­ple were given bot­tled wa­ter that peo­ple in my vil­lage don’t have ac­cess to, peo­ple were given ex­pen­sive food that the or­di­nary peo­ple in La­gos can­not eat. So even go­ing to eat free food alone at­tracts peo­ple. They go and hire the best mu­si­cian to come and play and the best co­me­dian to come and en­ter­tain; is that demon­stra­tion? Are you telling me that that is a demon­stra­tion from or­di­nary masses in Nige­ria who want to com­mu­ni­cate some­thing to gov­ern­ment? For me, if I see some­body is ma­nip­u­lat­ing any­thing I don’t lis­ten to you but when I see peo­ple gen­uinely talk­ing about is­sues I lis­ten. I am hardly in­tim­i­dated by any­body who wants to push any is­sue he has. I be­lieve that that protest in La­gos was ma­nip­u­lated by a class in La­gos and was not from the or­di­nary peo­ple.”

He then di­rected Madam Diezani Ali­son to re­spond to what he called the charges I made against his Gov­ern­ment. She gave a long-winded speech about the strat­egy of Pres­i­dent Jonathan to de­stroy the cor­rupt fuel sub­sidy ca­bal and de­scribed my po­si­tion as be­ing in tan­dem with the cor­rupt ca­bal that did not want cor­rup­tion to end. I was not given a right of re­ply so I had to keep my anger to my­self about de­mon­strat­ing for free food and bot­tled wa­ter and for do­ing the hand­i­work of the cor­rupt ca­bal. I sup­pose we will soon see ev­i­dence of Diezani’s com­mit­ment to an­ticor­rup­tion in the Bri­tish courts.

At the end of the event, I asked two of my for­mer stu­dents who were then di­rec­tors in the For­eign Min­istry about my hon­o­rar­ium. They were more in­ter­ested in get­ting me out of the place. They ex­plained that the nor­mal in­ter­pre­ta­tion that would be given was that the per­ma­nent sec­re­tary had in­vited a speaker to em­bar­rass the Pres­i­dent and that at that mo­ment I was not the most loved per­son in the For­eign Min­istry. They es­corted me to my car and I went off and thank God the per­ma­nent sec­re­tary sur­vived

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