Oil thieves and Buhari’s Ogbanjes
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.