Oil thieves and Buhari’s Og­ban­jes

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

The is­sue of cor­rup­tion and trea­sury loot­ing by op­er­a­tives of the im­me­di­ate past ad­min­is­tra­tion will not go away in a hurry, not as long as Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari calls the shots in Aso Rock. I think the pres­i­dent has made it quite clear in sev­eral in­ter­views that he will not in­ter­fere in crim­i­nal mat­ters and that those ar­raigned be­fore the courts should go and de­fend them­selves. That is as it should be.

In their usual re­duc­tion­ist man­ner, some hirelings of the PDP and ben­e­fi­cia­ries of fraud from the sta­ble­men and women of yore have been at­tempt­ing to couch the on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the loot­ing of the trea­sury as po­lit­i­cal vendetta. Their ar­gu­ment is not that their pa­tron has not de­frauded the coun­try. No! Their point is that their man/woman was not the only thief on Planet Earth. They want mem­bers of APC, the rul­ing party, probed first be­fore the author­i­ties ask them to give ac­count. Typ­i­cal ar­gu­ment of thieves, you would say.

They make one vi­tal mis­take. The anti-cor­rup­tion fight is not for Buhari alone. All Nige­ri­ans who want to leave their coun­try bet­ter than they met it have fully sub­scribed to the war. I re­call what God­win Daboh Adzuana,now late, told me when we were ar­gu­ing over whether his anti-cor­rup­tion cru­sade was borne of al­tru­ism or self-serv­ing con­sid­er­a­tions. “Let me tell you, Wole”, he said, “If we all con­tinue steal­ing at the rate our coun­try­men are steal­ing, very soon there will be noth­ing left to steal. At that stage, even those who have not stolen will be on the re­ceiv­ing end of the back­lash from the wretched pop­u­lace”.

We have been so ra­pa­ciously raped by em­i­nent rogues that we have al­most be­come numb. When a new rev­e­la­tion of sleaze makes the rounds, we sim­ply shrug. I once feared some­time ago that we might shrug our way out of ex­is­tence. I was there­fore glad when Oby Ezek­we­sili dwelt ex­ten­sively on the is­sue of cor­rup­tion in her pa­per, “Cor­rup­tion, Na­tional De­vel­op­ment, The Bar and The Ju­di­ciary” pre­sented at the 52nd yearly gen­eral meet­ing of the Nige­rian Bar As­so­ci­a­tion (NBA). Don’t go to your grave with­out read­ing that piece!

Ezek­we­sili es­ti­mates that about $400 bil­lion oil rev­enue has been stolen or mis-spent in Nige­ria since 1960. “In fact”, she de­clares, “re­sults re­veal that as much as 20 per cent of the en­tire cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture will end up in pri­vate pock­ets an­nu­ally. The neg­a­tive ef­fects of cor­rup­tion is starkly demon­strated by the fact that based on cur­rent track record, Nige­ria will miss all the Mil­len­nium De­vel­op­ment Goals (MDGs) tar­get set in 2000 de­spite the rich­ness of is nat­u­ral and hu­man re­source en­dow­ments….

“The Global Financial In­tegrity es­ti­mated that be­tween 1970 and 2008, Africa lost more than $854 bil­lion in il­licit financial out­flows, an amount, which is far in ex­cess of of­fi­cial de­vel­op­ment in­flows…”

Given rev­e­la­tions com­ing of var­i­ous Euro­pean cap­i­tals on the as­sets of our former gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and their ac­com­plices, per­haps Oby has un­der­es­ti­mated the financial haem­or­rhage af­flict­ing her coun­try.

*Sa­hara Re­porters* re­cently made pub­lic its cor­re­spon­dence with the At­tor­ney-Gen­eral of Switzer­land where the law­man dis­closed that his coun­try had re­ceived a re­quest from the UK on Nige­ria’s money fraud­u­lently stashed in that coun­try by our *‘looto­crats’*. In a well or­ches­trated scheme, Nige­ria was deemed to have lost close to $50Bil­lion in less than six years that Diezani Al­lisonMadueke reigned supreme as petroleum min­is­ter. When I think of what that kind of money could do to change the story of Nige­ria, I shiver.

As usual in mat­ters of this na­ture, Diezani is not alone. I hear she has about 200 ac­com­plices at var­i­ous lev­els what my friend Chuk­wukadibia would de­scribe as “mon­key by-gang, by-gang”. There are peo­ple from all di­rec­tions of the com­pass in the list. That is one area in Nige­rian pub­lic life where fed­eral char­ac­ter is as­sured. When the elite want to share booty, there is no trib­al­ism. When they con­spire in the dead of the night when all hon­est peo­ple should be

the out asleep, eth­nic­ity takes a back seat. But when they are caught and or­dered to give ac­count, they re­sort to base sen­ti­ments.

Iron­i­cally, the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives had, in May 2013, called for in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the con­tracts in­volv­ing At­lantic En­ergy and Seven En­ergy, say­ing that Madueke had trans­ferred state as­sets to pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als with­out com­pet­i­tive ten­der. But the min­is­ter had re­sponded that no ten­der was needed be­cause the con­tracts in­volved no sale of eq­uity in the oil fields. The House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives probe failed. Now, sea­soned lawyers tell me that Diezani would be look­ing at 12 to 15 years in the Queen’s pen­i­ten­tiary if she is found guilty. Euro­pean lead­ers, please, first things first - help us repa­tri­ate as much of our money as you can be­fore the le­gal fire­works be­gin. *Stub­born as Og­banje* Put on your hu­mour cap. An *og­banje* is an *abiku*, a child “call­ing for the first. And the re­peated time” (Soyinka). Two of Buhari’s nom­i­nees for min­is­te­rial po­si­tion re­mind me of the *abiku* phe­nom­e­non. First, Chris Nwabueze Ngige. This man had set a record as the first serv­ing gover­nor to be ab­ducted/kid­napped in Nige­ria. He later re­gained his throne and has since logged a sen­a­to­rial ten­ure un­der his belt be­fore the lat­est min­is­te­rial nom­i­na­tion. Like him or loathe him, Ngige will al­ways show up like an *og­banje*.

The other *og­banje* is, of course Ro­timi Chibuike Amaechi. (Ro­timi is an Abiku name in Yoruba­land.) As Speaker of the Rivers State House of As­sem­bly, Amaechi won the PDP’s gov­er­nor­ship nom­i­na­tion but the pow­ers that be gave the flag to some­body else. Amaechi went to court. He won. Af­ter his first term of four years he con­tested for sec­ond term and won. When I learnt that po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents pe­ti­tioned the sen­ate against his nom­i­na­tion, I chuck­led and re­vis­ited John Pep­per Clark’s ver­sion of Abiku:

“We know the knife scars, Ser­rat­ing down your back and front … Are all relics of your first com­ings. Then step in, step in and stay.”

So be it.

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