Chidoka, Obi, Atiku: ‘Ogbara uru agbaghi oghom,’ as Igbo philosophy
By Sunny Igboanugo
It was at the national secretariat of the now defunct United Progressives Party (UPP), that I watched Osita Chidoka propound the principle of Uche, Uchu, N’egwu Chukwu, as the foundation on which the entire philosophical ethos of the Igbo man is erected. It simply means, Wisdom, Industry and Fear of God. It was at the start of his campaigns for the governorship of Anambra State in 2017.
I was invited to the occasion, not at his behest, but that of my long-standing mentor, ally and friend, Chief Chekwas Okorie, the founder, promoter and original alter ego of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). Now, the APGA story and the place of Okorie in it, I’ve written countless times.
I had dealt with many of the lies created about the party, including the false narrative that the party was founded by the late Ikemba Nnewi, Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. But that is not the issue today. But be it known, that Okorie, one of the most prolific and original champions of the Igbo question in Nigeria has been badly wounded over the APGA issue and I share in that pain.
This digression is just to establish how I got sucked into the campaign of the former Corp Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and later Minister of Aviation during that period, by just that chance meeting. I had worked in my own small way from the angle of Okorie, who was the National Chairman of the party, and at one time its presidential candidate.
Apart from this, I had prayed fervently and hoped that Chidoka, would chase then Governor Willie Obiano out of the Government House, Awka, for the disaster he was then, and which he maintained till the end of his inglorious era, as demonstrated recently when he was chased out of Onitsha market, where he went to campaign for his wife for the Anambra North Senatorial seat at the National Assembly. Again, this is not why we’re here.
Here is why. The short stint with his campaigns then, starting with his address at the UPP secretariat to the party faithful, gave me the opportunity to inquire into his persona. What I found was a man of rare fecundity – deep thinker, flamouyant persona, uncommon power of oratory – qualities fitting for only the likes of Nnamdi Azikiwe, the late Owelle of Onitsha, Chuba Okadigbo, former Senate President and Kingsley Ozumba Mbadiwe. How I craved him being Anambr governor, my governor.
Today, I’ve not come to praise him, but to straighten out. I couldn’t have kept quiet after listening to him put his brilliance to duty recently. I hear he’s among the intellectual power-house of the campaign of Atiku Abubakar. That is exactly what I want to speak to, the subject matter, the koko, as the young folks would say nowadays.
As I said, I joined his campaign, at the background though, just by the first impression, after listening to his speech that day. I’m sure he wasn’t even aware or even if, impressed by my contributions. I never saw any of his reactions to my media interventions. But, as I said, it was more for my friend and the fact of my fascination of favouring an Anambra governor of his effervescent and other previously outlined qualities.
I deliberately chose to delay my reactions to his recent outing on Channels Television regarding the place of Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), for the major reason that I would want this intervention, for whatever it is worth to be in the minds of Nigerians, particularly Ndigbo, as they go to the polls on February 25 to elect the next Nigeria President. I hope it’ll be Obi.
Recall what I said about his Uche, Uchu N’egwu Chukwu principle! Now, I took time to lay that earlier foundation to underscore the fact that Chidoka is speaking in the manner he does now, as reflected in the aforesaid Channels outing, not for want of intelligence. In fact, he’s one of the most intelligent and intellectually gifted in the South East, if not Nigeria that I’ve listened to in recent times. That takes care of Uche – wisdom – one of the legs of that fabulous treatise. In other words, he’s not only fully in control of his faculty, he also knows the implications.
Relating his second item – Uchu – industry – to his present enterprise, only the former Minister knows what is driving him now. Industry or Uchu, could be pursued in different ways. After all, pastors, who make mega bucks out of their hoodwinked and brainwashed followers, are in their own industries. So are politicians who decide to make money at the expense of their own people. Even bandits, economic buccaneers who steal crude oil and 419 practitioners are in their own industry, as manufactures of goods and traders in the markets.
As for Egwu Chukwu – the fear of God – it could be modified to find expression in the raison d’etre for the pursuit of the industries. Or is it that the pastor adept at quoting the bible from cover to cover, but whose eyes are on the latest private jets, is not aware about God’s injunctions from the same bible? No! He probably benumbs his heart, by interpreting the same bible to give impetus and cover for his bad behaviours.
Chidoka, told his host that Ndigbo must invest their votes with Atiku of the PDP, because the South East could not afford to destroy their investment in the party in the last 24 years. That was the meat of his argument. Laughable, you think? I think so too.
I recall, being at the centre of it all in some ways that this was the same argument used to persuade the late Alex Ekwueme, former Vice President and the founding father of the PDP to remain in the party after the powers that were in Nigeria at a time not only denied him the presidency, but practically twisted his arms to snatch the party from him. He was told leaving PDP would mean that he laboured in vain. Many of the governors and political players, some of them my friends, were quick to cite politics at the centre as good for Ndigbo. Stretch it further, you’ll see that it was even the same argument Igbo elements in the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN), played against Zik’s Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP). The question, then remains, if the Igbo never made the desired impact at those times, what do they think would change now that would make the Obi momentum less attractive and less effective?
How did Ekwueme fare in the end? Did he not meet the same fate of struggling in the same PDP? Before his own eyes, the South East that occupied the number three position, was divested of all the top political and government positions in Nigeria? Pray, what was an Igbo man in the Nigerian government structure even in the government Chidoka served?
Now, if not naivety, what else would make anyone think that there would be no other Atiku, with voracious appetite for power springing out from the same North by the time the present one serves out his terms and is gone, using the same argument to hoodwink future Igbo politicians? In the first place, by the time Atiku would serve out his term in 2031, he would be 84 and due to the age factor, as has been seen, totally in the hands of manipulators. Or is anyone entertaining himself that he would run for just one term?
Again, what signs are there to point to Atiku’s trustworthiness? What droppings did anyone see on the ground to look up to the tree to confirm that the caterpillars have attacked and are eating up the green leaves? Is it that through his support, the PDP National Chairmanship slot has reverted to the South? Was it that Atiku did not knowingly rush to buy the PDP nomination form ahead of the verdict of the zoning committee, to preempt the outcome by forcing the argument that it would be unjust to return his money? How many more genies would he be springing up tomorrow by the time the chips are down? Don’t forget, by the time in question, it would be President Atiku and no longer presidential candidate. How many Chidokas would look him in the face, speak out and demand anything for Ndigbo at that point. What happens if he turns out like Buhari to hate anything from the South East? If he cannot bow to pressure now, what would make him bend then? Indeed, how many people have Atiku promised President, to think that it’ll be the exclusive preserve of the Igbo?
Yes! Long before Chidoka propounded the principle of Uche, Uchu, N’egwu Chukwu, Ndigbo had already warned about the dangers of Ogbara Uru Agbaghi Oghom – counting gains without counting losses – a bad principle in trading. Could it be that the Ike Obosi, an authentic Igbo man has forgotten that counting gain and losses at the same time is at the root of good business – the symbol of Igbo success?
Last week, Ayo Adebanjo, the 94-yea-old leader of the pan Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, warned Nigerians that people like Obi, comes once in generation of a country. The next question from this mindset would then be, how many Peter Obi, has Nigeria seen its lifetime? Stretched further, by the time Atiku’s presidency runs its full course, eight years from hence, where would Ndigbo find another Obi to create the momentum being witnessed right now? What would be left of the Igbo, if Obi fails. Or does Chidoka, with all his intelligence, believe he’d be fit for purpose and would fit into that shoe?
Igboanugo, a journalist, wrote from Lagos
Now that Labour has been defeated!
The little hope Nigerians had about any form of respite from the vice grip of a merciless cabal operating in the country as a government, has finally evaporated. Early in the evening of Monday, June 5, 2023, news filtered in that the strike action called by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the concomitant protests thereof to challenge the sudden hike in the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), otherwise known as petrol, had been called off.
By later that night, the news was confirmed by Femi Gbajabiamila, Chief of Staff (CoS) to President Bola Tinubu, who went on to reveal, what he said was a set of agreements entered into by the NLC, which was joined by the Trade Union Congress (TUC), which was previously absent, but had to rush in later that evening.
In fact, there was a kind of uncanny drama that followed the entire sequence to Monday’s meeting. On Sunday, June 4, the TUC was at the same meeting at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, with the NLC vehemently denouncing the parley. In fact at the time the Sunday meeting was going on, Joe Ajaero, NLC President, was on Arise Television, swearing before his host that the main workers’ union would not return to the table for talks with anybody on the subsidy matter until the old prices were reverted to.
Then, on Monday, it was the turn of the TUC to be absent. Nobody knew why. Festus Osifo, the President, had told reporters after the Sunday meeting as leader of his team that the union for the senior staff in the public service, had also handed down a set of demands to the government, among which was a reversion to the old price and to be followed by a proposal for increase in the wages of workers.
It would take some keen, discerning observer to see something strange in the behaviour of the labour leaders or at least suspect that much. But the meaning might not register quickly for the uninitiated or a non-follower of the activities of labour unions in the recent past. An smart follower, would have discover the pattern long before the drama got on the way proper.
What is more, a casual glance would expose labour more as an accomplice in the handing of Nigerians the short end of the stick, over the decades, since the end of the era of the genuine leaders actually fought with their full chest out for the welfare of workers and the ordinary man in the Nigerian street.
As much as 1993, during the June 12 struggle, Nigerians who had relied on the same labour to retrieve their mandate, which was handed to the late Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO), Abiola, suddenly discovered that they were clutching on mere straws when the NLC under the late Paschal Bafyau, dumped the agitation and practically went into bed with the military government at that time, including Sani Abacha, arguably the most despotic leader ever witnessed in Nigeria.
Since then, others after that era in upping the ante, established a certain pattern, which became emblematic of the Adams Oshiomhole era. It took a dimension in hoodwinking Nigerians to believe that the solidarity songs, the street protests and the sit-at-homes initiated were for them, when indeed, they were actually some well-choreographed activities to ride on their backs to feather their own nests.
Figure out the Oshimhole of those days and the one who now lives in a mansion said to be one of the wonders of Nigeria – built on a vast acreage of land with with artificial lake and swimming pool on the rooftop, to understand your true standing with those who have since taken over where he stopped.
It is even instructive that we’ve started hearing about strikes again in the period of Ajaero and Tinubu. During the eight-year period of President Muhammadu Buhari, when Ayuba Wabba, was in charge, the word seemed to have disappeared. That was why the government got away from blue murder with the way it related to Nigerians.
For all it is worth the said meeting said it agreed to establish a joint committee to review the proposal for “any wage increase or award and establish a framework and timeline for implementation,” and for the federal government, the TUC and the NLC to review the World Bank-financed cash transfer scheme and propose the inclusion of low-income earners in the programme.
It was also agreed that the federal government and organised labour would revive the Condensed Natural Gas (CNG) conversion programme earlier agreed with Labor centres in 2021 and work out detailed implementation and timing and to review issues hindering effective delivery in the education sector and propose solutions for implementation as well as look into and establish the framework for completion of the rehabilitation of the nation’s refineries, as well as for the federal government to provide a framework for the maintenance of roads and the expansion of rail networks across the country.
Now try and make sense out of it if you could. But even an imbecile knows that this is clearly an obvious joke. For all you know the same people who came out with the funny document they call agreement, would be on the issue of a new minimum wage for the next two years at the end of which they may come out with an addition of a paltry N10,000 extra to up it from the current N30,000.
They could not even push to reduce the PMS price by a kobo as the Oshiomholes used to do, when they would sneak in at night to fix the price with the government, come out in the morning to shout, then return in the afternoon to “negotiate” and in the evening, announce the actual figure they had already known all along.
No, even that drama that served as some kind of elixir and a balm to soothe the wounds of Nigerians, has also become a sort of luxury. What about the talk about local refineries? That demand too, which the NLC and TUC insisted as a sine qua non, and condition precedent for the removal of the so-called subsidy, has obviously died a natural death.
But wait for it. In the next few weeks when the appointments would start in earnest, check what the lucky ones would go home with. Of course by now, orders must have been placed for the latest makes of brand new vehicles that would roll out of factories in Japan or Europe – the real guzzlers of the nation’s resources.
Watch as each of the would-be ministers are escorted home with at least five of such vehicles, fuelled, of course at the expenses of the same government that has no money. Watch the sudden transformation that would come to them and their family members.
Watch as the other appointees and those close to the corridors of power spend money as if it is going out of fashion. Nobody would remember subsidy then. Nobody would tell you that government is broke.
That is when you realise that the Nigeria they envisage is not for you. If by now you have not realised what ‘state capture’ is all about, watch what would happen in the coming months and years. Nigeria is permanently cornered in such a way that citizens have nowhere to run.
You’ve seen how the judiciary has been used to stop the proposed strike even before it took off. Do you go to the street for protest? The same police and army, who have been complaining more than you about the hardship in the land, would all be too glad to shoot you, because that is the only means of letting off some pent-up anger or assuage the feeling of self-importance.
The media? Deadend as well. The last few days, would have shown that that road has been sealed as well, because either by default or deliberately, or for obvious reason, that road seems closed. The same media that are supposed to ask critical questions seem sold on the single story. If all you hear now even from such a critical sector that ought to be the last hope of the common man is that subsidy is a taboo, where else would you go?
So, in the end, it is what it is. Millions of Nigerians will suffer, millions more will die – of hunger, of disease, of suicide. Tragedy.
Why God disgraced Buhari!
By Sunny Igboanugo
Nna anyi Pope di emefie-emefie. Isi ya wee bulu na Pope ama emenata njo. Unless you’re a Catholic and Igbo, you might not grasp the true depth of this, because it loses a lot of its mystics and mysteries along the way of translation and transliteration. To fully comprehend, you have to be, or assume the place of sub-10-year-old child in a nondescript village some four or five decades ago, whose mental skies, struggled to grapple with all manner of images and imaginations coming from personal experiences and teachings of the older generation.
So, while chanting at the catechism class, Nna anyi Pope di emefie-emefie. Isi ya wee bulu na Pope ama emenata njo, it meant far more than its English translation of the infallibility of the Pope, which the teacher, made the students recite repeatedly.
For me, as for virtually every child in those classes, the only picture comparable to the processing of that teaching of the Pope, his infallibility and sinless state, was the imagery of Christ sitting at the right hand of God – more so, when you had heard some fantastic stories about the Catholic Pontiff himself.
I recall my elder brother, whose story-telling skill, surpassed that of Chinua Achebe, narrating how the world would gather in Rome, on rare occasions, to watch the Pope bring out his hand from a tiny window and wave to a privileged crowd. For no human ever saw the Pope physically. With his propensity for adding salt and pepper to every of his alluring, but mostly, fantastically false, if not mischievous narratives, it is impossible to ascertain how much he knew himself and whether he did not believe those stories either.
How was I to know that so soon after, I would be among the privileged, not only to see the waving hands of the Pope, but his whole being, shaking hands and embracing people, not from a window, but in a crowd?
What is more? I have also since discovered that the teaching of the infallibility of the Pope is completely false in the manner it was presented to us by those catechism teachers, whom I assume, knew no better themselves or preferred to believe themselves out of piety for the Catholic faith.
It was much later that I got the context and concept of the teaching. The Pope is infallible only when speaking ex-Cathedra – when he mounts the Papal Chair of St. Peter to make pronouncement. In other words, papal infallibility, in Roman Catholic theology, is described as the doctrine that the Pope, acting as supreme teacher and under certain conditions, cannot err when he teaches in matters of faith or morals. This, some say, is derived from Christ’s promise to remain always with his church and to send the Spirit to “teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” (Jn 14:26).
For this, there are four conditions: “When the Pope (1) intends to teach (2) by virtue of his supreme authority (3) on a matter of faith and morals (4) to the whole Church, he is preserved by the Holy Spirit from error. His teaching act is therefore called “infallible” and the teaching which he articulates is termed “irreformable.”.
What it means in clear terms is that the Pope, as an ordinary human being, is as vulnerable to sin as any other person. In other words, he could commit sins and indeed, commits sins. Further down the line, it also means that if the Pope, the only being, known to have been conferred with this status of infallibility, is himself a sinner, who most often admits to this fact, goes to confession, like any other Catholic. It means therefore that no human being is free from sin.
But Muhammadu Buhari, doesn’t appear to acknowledge this fact of life. My reading of him, both in public conduct and charactersation, conduces of one who had since, not only believed the godlike image conferred on him by a fawning group of followers, but appropriated same to himself. Unlike the Pope, who acknowledges his frailties as human, he appears to see himself as infallible, and seems to frown at any suggestion otherwise.
Granted that he might not have made himself God and did not confer the status on himself, but he not only grabbed it, he hugged it or so it seems. That, to me has proved fatal.
The Bible, reports that this was the sin of Lucifer. He was said to be so beautifully made and possessed everything that not only did pride set in but he became so possessed with and hugged his status, so much that the next move was to rebel against God and take His place. It was for this that he was cast into hell. But here on earth, the world is replete with numerous other examples of how pride and self-conceitedness had pushed people to fall from glory to perdition.
Else, what could account for Buhari being such a disaster in office? What could make Buhari become a reference pointer for monumental failure in all aspects of public engagements as President? What is it that he lacked? Arguably, no other President or indeed elected official in Nigeria enjoyed the type of acceptance that welcomed him to the seat of power eight years ago. Such was the ululation that a certain Dahiru Buba, had to trek from Gombe to Abuja in solidarity.
But what did Nigeria get in return? Woes and tales of woes – uncanny, bizarre and eerie outcomes – sorrow, tears and blood – weeping, wailing, mourning and gnashing of the teeth. Those who rolled out the drums to celebrate, now retreat into their cocoons, fasten their doors as they retire to daily supplications against the dangers outside, praying for an end to their nightmares. The din from the collective hissing as the people turn away their faces, bidding their ears be deaf, now echo resoundingly.
How else could a man be humbled? How else could a man be disgraced? The king, who was so impervious to counsel and forbade his subjects from advising him, has now become a pitiable object of mockery as the flies besiege him because nobody could tell him about the patches of elements from the toilet that have stained his royal robe. Perhaps a lesson to others coming after him.
Already, the ubiquitous professional courtiers, jesters and entertainers, in Aso Rock Villa, at its corridors and elsewhere, who saw nothing wrong in the faux pass of the eight years of the locust, and who told him that he was the best thing to happen to creation, are fast disappearing, perhaps with their eyes on another target.
Yes! The cheerleaders, who chanted that it was the best that The Man of Wisdom – who sees tomorrow sitting in his comfortable couch, should take his time, when Nigerian practically descended into limbo from which it never woke up or recovered, are already shifting ground and brushing off all vestiges of vicarious responsibility of what they helped to create.
Yet, they were the ones that rationalised it when a bemused public began wondering what was happening, after the signs of danger started manifesting. They shouted down petrified compatriots, who dared raise their voice at the early inanities. Those who dared question the rationale of waiting for a whole six months to appoint a cabinet were called names. Even after it turned out that those appointed was an assemblage of funny characters after the world was made to believe that some strange beings from outer space were coming – opportunists, whose only interest appeared to be a seat at the table to share in the spoils of the game, those who complained were denounced and called – wailers!
With these early signs of failure not heeded and him being goaded and egged on, things could only get worse. The government had come in with a blazing record of fanfare and public trust with the mantra of Insecurity, Economy, Anticorruption on its lips. Alarmed Nigerians, who had been crying about the records of the government of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), especially that of President Goodluck Jonathan he displaced in 2015, had believed that he was going to wave his magic wand or release the genie out of the magic lamp to tackle the problems.
But like a possessed emperor, everything took the penchant for an uncanny pattern – policies decreed with a sort of brainwave. For instance, without warning, Nigerians, who had been encouraged to domicile their individua foreign currency accounts locally, woke up one morning to be told that they could no longer withdraw their money from their banks in Nigeria. The immediate result? Chaos and more chaos. Many citizens, believing that their lifesaving had vanished died of heart attacks and other debilitating ailments developed as a result. The bedlam that ensued as panicking customers rushed to the banks in search of a way out to reclaim their forex became the inevitable skyrocketing cost of forex and the crisis today.
By the time the policy was lifted, the value of the forex had hit the roof as Nigerians in panic, rushed straight to the banks to withdraw every cent they had saved and took their money elsewhere. Today, a dollar that stood at less than N200 is gradually inching towards the N1,000 mark. This was his idea of making the greenback stand at par with the naira.
You heard him boasting the other day how he closed the Nigerian borders some years back. Again, that happened without warning. Nigerians woke up one morning to hear that. What was the reason, you would ask? His answer was that he wanted to end smuggling of rice. The result? More foreign rice found their way into Nigeria, but at higher cost, because the fat cats in charge of the borders, responsible for the problem in the first place, who ought to have been called to question and checked through a fortified and deliberate means, grew fatter as they smiled to the banks, by simply upping the ante and raising the stakes for the rice smugglers. That was another of his fantastic ideas!
But there was more. Genuine businessmen, suddenly found it impossible to transact inter-border trades. Consignments they had ordered could not cross into Nigeria, while those to be exported outside got stuck back home. As their capital began to deplete and finally drained out, many obituaries were announced. Again, it was either heart-attacks or suicide induced illnesses. On the contrary, the cost of rice, both local and domestic soared to the level that many Nigerians took what used to be their staple out of their menus or looked for ways of making up. Again, another economic masterstroke!
In the end, for all his economic solution was worth, Nigeria became the poverty capital of the world, with all imaginable economic indices – inflation, employment level, Gross Domestic Product (GDP), life expectancy, money in the pocket, etc – going south.
Don’t forget that at the time he came in, the debate was that Nigeria was among the fastest growing economies in the world and the biggest economy in Africa and the capital for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Whether true or not, at least that was what was on the table by the time Jonathan was leaving office as President. But today, what is the debate all about? Nigeria hitting the bottomless pit – at the very nadir of its economic existence as a country.
Why? Don’t ask me! They have a ready answer to that. COVID-19! War in Ukraine! But in their haste to blight out original local memory, they forget that the nosediving economy of Nigeria formed the major issues of the nation’s debates far before these latter-day events. The presidential campaigns of 2019 was all about how the nation’s economy had hit the jagged rocks at the bottom of the valley.
But, as they blame the crises, other countries have since moved away and moved on, quickly. In the first place, they will not acknowledge the obvious – that no other countries across the globe engage in the clandestine and ugly lifestyle that became emblematic of their governance model during their years. Which and how many other countries in the world went about borrowing and spending same like drunken sailors within the period in question? How many countries used virtually every kobo or cent they earned for servicing debts?
How many countries gave open license to a group of people in their countries to kill compatriots, simply because they had recourse to a President, who would admonish the victims to live peacefully with your neighbours? Yet this was a General who went about the insecurity mantra and promised to tame troublemakers.
They would remind you readily that 14 local governments were in the hands of insurgents by the time they came into office. But ask them, was there any local government that election in 2015 did not hold before they took over? They sing a song about how the North East have been liberated from Boko Haram? But speak to experts and hear a somewhat more plausible explanations.
You would hear that after announcing their presence through bombings in Abuja and other cities in the North, terrorists, especially Boko Haram, which has since coalesced with the Islamic State of West Africa (ISWAP), simply changed gear, farmed out their soldiers and spread out across the country, such that today, no single day passes without records of kidnapping and slaughtering Nigerians in different parts of the country.
Today, the Genelismo, is leaving behind a record of close to 70,000 deaths – of his countrymen slaughtered in cold blood – in peacetime to boot? That is even the official record. Some argue that unofficially it is far worse, putting it at double or even triple of that. Recall that at the beginning, he had ordered the military to end Boko Haram in three months. But all that had to end in the damning picture of death and sorrow.
The rest of the picture is painted in the bombing of a Nigerian train and kidnapping of hundreds, the breaking into the best fortified jails in the country and releasing some blood-thirsty killers, who are today prowling through the forests and local villages, milling through the streets and roads to decimate the people to the extent that today road travels have become the worst nightmare of Nigerians.
Even the anti-corruption on which his entire personality derived its essence, he didn’t fare any better. In fact, it turned out a ruse. Under him was a systematic bastardisation of the entire concept and process of fighting corruption. While the institutions, erected by previous administrations became huge public theatres where macabre dramas were churned out almost every day, his own appointees in various positions, were no less ready to join in the circus.
That was when you heard of how men of the Department of State Services (DSS) broke into the homes of judges in the thick of the night and roused their scared lordships from their bed, some of them in their birthday suits with their spouses, while still asleep. It was a time the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), regaled an entirely stunned nation with their own version of the drama.
On occasions, it was either caches of dollars rolling out from conveyor belts at the airports or stashes of local and or foreign currencies discovered inside uncompleted buildings. The anti-climax was the discovery of a whopping N13billion hidden in a residential apartment in Ikoyi, Lagos. But wait for it, till date, the selfsame agency has continued to keep sealed lips over the identities of the owners. Just like in other cases.
Remember, that drama took place in 2017, six years ago. But since then, mum has remained the word. Instead, the next stage of the drama was that Ibrahim Magu, the theatre director and curator, became a character in the obscene drama himself, when he was suddenly arrested and hounded out of office in the most controversial manner.
In the end, just as his appointment became mired in controversy when, in spite of being denied confirmation by the Senate on the declaration of the DSS, which forbade it, his end, saw him practically being dragged on the floor to the Justice Ayo Salami panel, where he was made to face charges of monumental corruption. What an irony.
You did also hear more recently of how his successor, Abdulrasheed Bawa was accused of demanding a bribe of $2million from the Governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle. The governor, who made the disclosure with his full chest out, in a BBC Hausa Service interview, had dared him to do his worst about it and face further revelations, with evidence. Have you heard anything else since then? Never! For all you might know, an olive branch must have exchanged hands to cease fire, for obvious reasons. That was the texture of the anti-corruption war.
If you were still at sea as to the colour of corruption a la Buhari, turn to the COVID-19 era. It was an ear-full! You’d hear all kinds of funny tales – how tens and hundreds of billions of naira, were disbursed to your fathers and mothers, uncles and aunts in your villages and how they danced in the streets thanking your Buhari – how your children and those of your relations were fed well on daily bases, with an egg a day in tow. The funnier part is you’ll be declared a liar and hater of the President, if you as much as asked for proof. If you asked which child and continued searching for the schools where the goodies were being distributed in your locality, you’re quick to be labelled a hater.
Didn’t you see that video where one Hajia Sadia Umar Farouq, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, had stacks of money, from which she was handing out stipends to those women dancing and singing in appreciation? We even heard on one occasion how about N2.6billion was shared out in one day. Funny?
In fact, the bazaar of that era became so widespread that tracking became almost impossible. Don’t even attempt to count the figures. Was it the N60billion for the revival of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), N100-plus-billions for aviation, or the N30billion from Ca-COVID warehoused by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for infrastructure and essentials? Where would the counting start or end? It was a situation of the proverbial elephant meat where people came to take their own cuts. All you heard were billions and more billions.
It even got to a point where Nigerians, who could no longer wait started breaking into warehouses and started helping themselves. A particular warehouse in Lagos was actually invaded to retrieve cartons of palliatives meant for the people. Even in their various states of damage due to long storage, they were carted away all the same. The strange part was the same item was already bearing the image of a certain Lagos lawmaker and high society woman, preparatory as giveaways for her birthday. Of course, she was not alone. While moneys disappeared into thin air, most probably finding their ways into banks abroad, food items, medicals and other essential products, meant to be shared were taken to private homes or even repackaged and sold in the markets. Consequences? Find it!
What consequences could be meted out to those involved in mere pilfering of pittances when the main brigands who completely shut the nation out of its very economic livewire were neither identified nor punished? Or didn’t you hear that in the last three years, not a single kobo accrued to Nigeria from oil sales. They simply disappeared into oblivion. Every single cent of oil sold! During the period, oil thieves, said to have existed for decades, simply went haywire, graduating from mere piping of products into local barges to allowing shiploads coming into the country, lifting the oil and taking off to their destinations without batting an eyelid.
Even when one of the ships was caught in the shores of another country and sent back to Nigeria, what did we hear? It was said to have completely burnt down, of course, with probable evidence destroyed. But don’t even bet on it. That could even be a decoy. The same ship in question, might have set sail again, this time under cover. The patrons of the banditry could have also procured an old carcass from somewhere and set it ablaze to confuse Nigerian. Even beyond the drama, have you heard anything again?
Don’t even talk about the case of oil subsidy. That has since become an old, worn-out story. What is new is that the thievery have become more pronounced and stakes gone higher. As the heist went on in the oil industry, other sectors were not spared. You probably didn’t hear about the can of worms opened up at the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), when the former Director General Hadiza Bala Usman launched her book, recently. Find and read her tales.
You’d also may not have heard how the Abacha loot controversies – how each of the millions of dollars returned from foreign countries became mired in a morass of inane tales – how they developed wings. The recent we’ve heard is how Abubakar Malami was being drilled by members of the National Assembly on the loss of $2.4billion unremitted oil revenue.
If you didn’t or have not been following, you’d certainly be unaware of the current case of the Nigeria Air, a project in which multiple millions of dollars were buried only for planes owned by another entity to be brought into the country. Read that up also. That would help you understand the damage of the Buhari regime.
What could be more petrifying than the 2023 general elections? In fact, Nigerians would have forgiven him if after destroying virtually all things he touched, he had bestowed the country with a credible election as he not only promised them but boasted to the world. But like Pharaoh, whose heart remained hardened in spite of the afflictions of his people of Egypt, he was determined to punish Nigerians further – the reason he conducted the worst election in the history of Nigeria.
As the curtains fall on his inglorious era, the world could only scoff at a Buhari, who got everything he needed to be great, but who is leaving the stage totally disgraced for failing to perform. It was with with his hands that he destroyed the mystery of a Spartan, no-nonsense nationalist, and replaced same with an unforgiving, petty leader, who went as low as to arrest and detain a compatriot for naming his dog Buhari. That’s his record.
He also would be remembered for running the most divisive and nepotistic government in history, where unless you were either a Fulani or Muslim, you must take the short end of the stick, where the likes of Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho would be hunted down, hounded and clamped into detention or sent on exile, for airing their opinions but Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen, who wiped out whole communities are released and handed down privileged positions.
As he exits power, it would be the end of an inglorious era – the end of body language which heralded the beginning – the end of Mai Gaskiya (the Man of Truth) – the end of deceit and lies. Hopefully, it will also be the end of the killins – the sorrow, tears and blood in Kaduna, in Jos, in Benue, in Owo, in Anambra and other places!
Yes! His aides and hangers-on will defend him and give him titles, but for millions of Nigerians, he remains the worst the country has ever witnessed. That fact will come home soon when the coterie of courtiers as cheerleaders must have disappeared and history begins to take its full count. Yes! The haze would soon disappear to leave a disgrace, lonely man who earned his place for not only being wicked to his people, but playing God!
Lessons? They’re already dressing Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the one on whom he conferred a stolen mandate with the same robe. They call him great names – lullaby him as The Wise Man of Bourdillon, The New Aso Rock Jagaban – the new God. Will he hug the title? We watch!
Police, EFCC and a citizen’s dilemma
By Gbade Ogunwale
I filed a petition with the Federal Capital Territory Police Command seeking redress for an injustice I suffered. The petition, dated March 23, 2021, detailed a case of unlawful confiscation of my properties and a criminal breach of trust.
The suspect had deceptively confiscated my Honda Accord car, a brand new Dell laptop and a colour HP Printer.
But weeks after the petition was submitted, there was no word from the Police. Worried by the deafening silence, I contacted the Commissioner of Police at the time to inquire why the petition was not acted on. But the CP said the issues raised in my petition were not within the purview of the Police.
According to him, they were within the mandate of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Consequently, he advised that I file the petition with the EFCC. Following his advice, I filed a fresh petition dated April 19, 2021, and addressed it to the Chairman of the EFCC, Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa. It was officially received and acknowledged.
It is pertinent to state that in my separate petitions to the Police and EFCC, I supplied the suspect’s mobile telephone contacts alongside mine, to ease the investigation. But several months after, there was no word from the EFCC either.
A few days after I filed the petition, I got hints that the suspect had been arrested by EFCC operatives. I waited in vain for the anti-graft agency to contact me to enable me state my case against the suspect. I then filed a reminder, dated July 7, 2021, to the EFCC, stating among others, that I was aware of the suspect’s arrest and wondered why I was not invited to state my case against him.
I got no reply. I was forced to call the attention of the EFCC Chair Bawa to the matter. I forwarded the cover pages of my original petition and the subsequent reminder to Mr Bawa through WhatsApp. Almost immediately, the EFCC chair responded through a WhatsApp call, saying that neither the original petition nor the reminder was brought to his attention.
Mr Bawa said he was in Europe for some official engagements at the time but he promised to make his findings right away and get across to me through his men on the ground.
Less than two hours later, I received a telephone call from a Special Assistant to the Chairman, Ngunan Kakwagh. The aide told me that the EFCC had indeed prepared a written reply to my petition and the subsequent reminder but that the agency could not locate the address for onward delivery to me. I had to be physically present at the agency’s head office the very next day where I was handed the letter.
The letter, dated September 3, 2021, reads: “We refer to your letter dated 19th April 2021 and reminder dated 7th July 2021 addressed to the Executive Chairman of the Commission on the above subject matter. We have reviewed your petition and found that it does not fall within the Commission’s mandate.
“Consequently, your petition was referred to the Inspector General of Police vide letter ref. no. EFCC/EC/IGP/09/534 dated 11th May 2021 for investigation. Please accept the assurances of the Executive Chairman’s highest regards and respect.” Kakwagh signed the letter on behalf of the EFCC Chairman.
The letter was silent on the issue of the arrest of the suspect, which I raised in the reminder petition. I demanded to know why the suspect was arrested without me being contacted. The aide admitted that the suspect was indeed arrested then. But the aide said he was arrested based on a separate petition filed against him by a different complainant. A coincidence? But does that not say enough about the suspect acting true to character?
In that letter, the EFCC claimed to have referred my petition to the IGP vide a letter dated May 11, 2021. But it took the personal intervention of the EFCC chair for me to get it on September 3, 2021, which is four months after. The wording of the letter gave the impression that it was written after a review of my original petition of April 19 and the subsequent reminder of July 7. If this was the case, then EFCC’s referral letter of May 11 is deemed to have preceded the review of the reminder of July 7 by 51 days.
I filed the petition with the office address of the Abuja Bureau of The Nation Newspapers for easy accessibility. But the EFCC claimed they could not trace the address, so the letter was kept in their files for four months. However, at the intervention of the Chairman, they found the telephone number with which they contacted me.
I proceeded to the office of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to trace the said referral letter from EFCC. There was no trace of the letter there. A concerned police officer at the Force Headquarters advised I file a fresh petition with the FCT Police Command.
I was emotionally drained at this point so I had to take a break to reflect and to allow me to gain some inner strength.
I resumed the pursuit about a year later with a fresh petition dated September 13, 2022, addressed to the FCT Commissioner of Police. There, I met a new CP who, without much ado, received the petition by himself. After reading through it, directed that it be sent to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for investigation.
After days of surveillance, the suspect was brought in for interrogation. He admitted being in possession of my car, laptop and printer but he said he was not prepared to return them to me.
After days of running back and forth, the police ordered him to return the three items in his possession to me. On his own terms, he asked to be given three weeks to replace the laptop and the printer. He set a four-month timeline to either return the car or pay a mutually agreeable value for it.
But that was just one leg of the two-pronged petition. The other leg, which is much more high-ended, bordered on criminal breach of trust. Investigation into that aspect, which is considered to be within the mandate of the EFCC, is now being kept in abeyance at the CID.
After much dithering, the suspect replaced the brand-new laptop with an unserviceable one that looked like something he picked from a junkyard.
Also, he procured a badly refurbished printer as a replacement for the new one he collected from me. I promptly indicated my rejection of the unserviceable laptop. The two items have been gathering dust at the CID office since then.
The four-month timeline he set himself to replace or pay for the car expired on January 31, 2023. But he asked for a further extension of time till February 28, 2023. It was granted but he still defaulted. Apparently, as a decoy, he obtained my bank account details through the Police to enable him to transfer the agreed sum to me. He never did.
I called the investigating CID officer on March 14 to report that the suspect had yet to pay up. The officer replied that the suspect had been ignoring his telephone calls and text messages. And as you are reading this piece, the suspect is still being evasive while police investigators appear helpless. That’s where we are now.
I must state here that the investigation process at the CID has not only been frustrating but also distressing. As the complainant, I had to, on two occasions, wait with the investigators for the suspect to arrive for scheduled appointments.
On one occasion, I had to leave after waiting for an hour without the suspect showing up. At every turn, they made it look like I was begging for some underserved favour. That has been the attitude and body language of the suspect, and even the investigating police officers.
In the course of arresting and investigating the suspect, I was made to part with N50,000 for “logistics”. I was also made to pay an additional N100,000 for the “processing of documents”. That’s besides other incidental expenses I incurred along the line. A case of double jeopardy?
Worried by the frustrating turn of events, I approached a certain EFCC officer who I fortuitously ran into at a recent public event. I narrated my experiences to him following which he requested to see a copy of my petition. I gave him a copy a few days later and I waited for his opinion.
After going through the contents, he opined that I ought to have filed the petition with the EFCC instead of the Police. He was categorical that it’s purely a matter for the EFCC – that is the aspect bordering on criminal breach of trust.
According to him, it shouldn’t take the EFCC much time to crack the case and resolve it decisively. He was momentarily flustered when I handed him a copy of the EFCC letter that referred the petition to the Police. Reading through the letter, he paused for a moment, reflected briefly, and with measured subtlety, said: “Something must have gone wrong somewhere.”
There and then, he advised I withdraw the petition from the Police and file a fresh one with the EFCC. It’s quite distressing that a petition that originated in 2021 is being tossed back and forth, first from the Police to EFCC, then back to the Police. Now, I am being advised to withdraw the petition from the Police and file it afresh with the EFCC. Again?
The question is: will the EFCC take a second look at the petition if it is withdrawn from the Police? What if the agency decides to, once again, send it back to the Police as it did in the first place? Will it not be back to ground zero? It has been an unending circle of motion without movement from 2021 to date. The law, truly, is a dumb ass that even the crooked can ride. So where do I go from here?
Ogunwale works with The Nation newspaper.
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