Gone are the days when children and teenagers of school age are asked what they aspired to be in the future and they would gladly say doctor, pilot, teacher (God forbid nowadays) etc. If today an essay is requested for future profession, most would probably want to be a governor or senator, or simply, a politician, for this is the most profitable trade or vocation in Nigeria of today. Then, school children and adult alike envied these professions because of the dignity and even the physical appearance associated with them.
Even then some children wanted to just be mother or father because of the moral discipline and care parents give their wards. Parents taught morals and emphasis on patriotism, trust and keeping for people what belongs to them. Many parents still do, anyway. However, with the monetization of Nigeria politics everything changed that even parents and family members would threat to course or disown their own if he/she fails to bring home the ‘goodies’ of public office. These goodies are no other thing than the public treasury or our common weal.
Mr. A was a neighbour to Mr. B. Mr. B’s son who had a minimal education attained a political office. This son soon builds a mansion not commensurate with his office and moves his father therein. Whenever Mr. B comes to his former neighbourhood, he comes in various exotic cars. Mr. A who thinks poverty is not his portion would push his son to politics so that he too can live in mansion and get retinue of cars. The question of the source the money is no longer material; after all government money is our money. This is how monetized politics have corrupted the foundation of the society which becomes a national phenomenon. Nigeria politics with its associated financial corruption, especially those committed at the various arms of government-executives, legislator and judiciary- has made it a lucrative, do-or-die affair, no thanks to former president OO, that aspiring to be a teacher especially is like a spell is on someone’s head. No wonder the first two arms of government in Nigeria are fittingly known as executhieves (thieves that are to be executed) and legislooters (looters that are making laws).
It sounds ironical that crime has become a celebrated vocation in a country where people can hardly access the basic necessities of life. But why should that sounds surprising when in a country criminals are distinguished while real achievers are left to rot away with their achievements. Financial corruption in politics is so ‘profitable’ in Nigeria of today particularly when you are in government or close to those in government. It is no surprise everyone now is taking politics as a professional occupation.
At the start of Obasanjo presidency in 1999, he made so much noise about fighting corruption that he even set up the EFCC and ICPC; two organizations which I am yet to know the difference in their functions except that one is popular and is called EFCC and the other is just ICPC and is unknown! People who took him serious did not know he was talking about a different thing.
Nobody knew what he was talking about except himself. At a start, one Mr. Makonjuola, a permanent secretary in the ministry of defense was handed over to the relevant authority for stealing 480 million naira. He was arrested briefly and released. He eventually made his way out of Nigeria, not without government involvement. Today nothing is heard about that fellow nor our 480 million naira. But don’t be surprised when he comes back tomorrow aspiring for selection into a political position.
One Lagos boy Bode George was shielded from answering weighty charges of corruption for sometime by his friends in government, because he is too dear to the PDP (Party Deceiving People). Then his friends left government and his ‘enemies’ took over. He was convicted for lining his pocket with 830million naira and sent to jail for a paltry one year six months without the court asking him to return anything. His friends returned to government again, he came out of jail, celebrated in a church and, as a form of appreciation; he ‘delivered’ Lagos for the PDP in the last presidential election. As we have heard, in places like People Republic of China, the family of such kind of fellow will buy the bullet for his execution. Then who will not want to be like Lagos boy Bode!
DSP Alamyesigha was the woman-man governor of Bayelsa state from 1999-2005 (recall he enters Heathrow airport as a man in trouser and hat, but left as a woman in gele and buba). At the time governors invented the offshore-onshore dichotomy into our political lexicon, this woman-man governor was convicted of offshore money laundering. He was sent to jail for only two years. When he came out, he became a chief campaigner for Jonathan Goodluck’s presidency. Hmm, it is good to have friends in PDP.
Before Ibori was consigned from Abu Dhabi prison to London to face corruption charges, he was one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, personalities in the political landscape of Nigeria. The man, whose corruption case look like being guilty until proven to be mere suspect, could not be found wanton by our judiciary. Instead, a high court was established for him in his home state of Asaba to acquit and discharge him. He was the Odidigborigbo of Nigeria. Thanks to the Abu Dhabi and British governments else he would have become the Odidigborigbo of the whole world.
Corruption is not only profitable but sometimes come with some comics that even onlookers like us would wish that corruption cases continue. Iyabo Obasanjo was among the sinnators, sorry senators, who cornered ministry of health’s three hundred million naira into their pockets. May be her own was handbag anyway. When her case came to light, a lot of drama and comic was taking place as the only-can-bark EFCC ‘tried’ to arrest her. She was said to have scale her fence in a night gown (Solana Olumhense recommended her for sport minister for this feat) to escape EFCC’s operatives. The EFCC feigned not knowing her whereabouts and ‘declared’ her wanted even though there was strong rumour (recall the great late Gani Fewenhimi said rumour is best source of news in Nigeria) that she was hiding in the senate president David Mark’s compound. When she eventually came out of her hiding, perhaps after assurance that the case would get to nowhere, she was tried in the media by EFCC and today nothing is heard of her case again.
The Senate chamber seems such a sweet cover for looters that anyone who has looted at executive level goes for protection there. It is therefore no wonder that at the end of the tenures of governors they quickly transfer or attempt to transfer to the senate chamber to get protection. A few examples would suffice.
Saminu Turaki, the then governor of Jigawa state was arrested in 2007 for misappropriating ₦36 billion of his state fund. Reports or rumours had it that he confessed using the state money for the infamous Obasanjo’s third term project. To make onlooker like us laughed a little, he shed tears in one of his few appearances in court. It was all smiles for him afterward when he realized his case was one of just the show-off of the EFCC. He was also tried briefly in the media and the case is now resting in its grave. To keep the EFCC farther away from him, he contested for a senatorial position on ACN ticket in the last election but did not make it.
Boni Haruna was another former governor picked by EFFC in 2008 for not accounting for state fund running into a ‘paltry’ sum of ₦250 millions. It is a chicken change when compare with what his colleagues looted. As you are reading this piece now, you and I wonder if he remembers he has ever been invited by EFFC. To make the EFCC not to ever remember that he has a case with it, he too ran for senatorial position on the platform of ACN for Adamawa south in the last election but lost. The case is at appeal level. If he ever makes it, he will join the league of former governor Adamu Abdullahi of Nassarawa state who is now enjoying the protection offer to criminals, sorry mere suspect, by the senate chamber.
As for Ex-governor, now senator, Adamu Abdullahi, he was once brought to court by EFCC for embezzling ₦15 billion of state fund. Now in the senate, his case may not or is never to be heard again. Perhaps Saminu Turaki and Boni Haruna initially underestimated the power of the senate chamber to protect looters which is why they did not apply for tenure there earlier. However, former governors Saraki and Goje of Kwara and Gombe states respectively, did not risk that carelessness. EFCC opened a corruption case against Goje last October for ₦52,000,000,000 fraud. Onlookers like us are watching as these zeroes are too many and he is just a mere suspect!
And not long after Olusegun Agagu of Ondo state was sent packing by Salami’s appeal court (not all appeal court send away election riggers), the EFCC made a headline that they seized his passport in an apparent smartness to prevent him from running away from the country to evade corruption charges. He was accused by EFCC for embezzling state funds. But his accusation and conviction only ended in that passport seizure announcement. He aspired to be a senator in the 2011 election in order not to be ever harassed by EFCC. Because prevention is better than cure, Agagu’s neighbour, former governor Oyinlola also attempted being a senator but was defeated by the ACN candidate. Would EFCC still be after them?
It was not amusing therefore when Senator Nuhu Aliyu, a-three-time senator, once said some of his colleagues in the hollow, sorry hallow, chamber were people of criminal records. He even threatened then to mention names if he was pushed. Senator Nuhu as a former DIG would probably have prosecuted some of them and had them convicted.
Ex-governor Reverend Jolly Nyame of Taraba state was picked by EFCC in 2007 for corruption. He was accused of misappropriating ₦1,300,000,000 of state funds. Mind you these are just nine zeroes after 1.3. Being a clever looter who knows his right and the law, he told the court that the EFCC had no right to try him because he had only stolen state money not federal government money! Does that sound weird to you? Not at all, as EFCC is a federal agency. I believe from that his display of his good knowledge of our law, the case suffered a setback. In 2011, four years after, the EFCC re-opened the trial may be when they had no other thing to do. We only hope it will not take another four years again before we hear anything about it.
Does anyone ever remembers there was a time EFCC was in the media that it had laid siege to arrest governor Liyel Imoke for corruption after he was thrown out briefly by the Appeal Court. That Abuja drama was where the case ended and Liyel Imoke was re-elected and is still the governor of Cross Rivers state.
Ex- governor Abubakar Audu of Kogi state jumped from one party to another in a bid to come back as governor of the state he governed for 6 years. He has his reason. His being away from government house made the EFCC visited him in 2007. We only had of his case again few months back as the just concluded Kogi state governorship election gathered momentum. He failed to win and we hope as well the EFCC will continue to pursue him to show it was not a case of political persecution.
Nearly all the Nigerians former governors have a pending case with the EFCC. Named them: Ayo Fayose, Orji Uzor Kalu, Joshua Dariye, Micheal Botmang, Rasheed Ladoja, Chimaroke Nnamani, Attahiru Bafarawa, Akwe Doma, Gbenga Daniel, Alao Akala, etc. Curiously, none of these guys wear the look of a person with a criminal case; rather they are factors in the politics of their respective states. Also, they are celebrities of some sorts as they would usually turn their court appearance into political rally. Wonder, they say, shall never end. But, they, their parents, wives, children and close associates live in affluence in the midst of a society that is battered with poverty caused by them. Let us now move away from the Governors Forum of corruption and yet illustrate the fact that our polity is a sanctuary for looters.
‘Dr.’ Andi Uba has dubious academic credential on top of his questionable source of wealth. He aspired to be governor on two occasions but God saved Anambra people from the itchy finger of this man. But having realized that his name appears in the media too often for the bad reason which might cause EFCC to look in his way briefly, he contested and ‘won’ a senate seat from Anambra state in the 2011 election. He is now honourable senator ‘Dr.’ Andy Uba. It is bye to EFCC.
Charles Soludo, the then CBN governor was not sure whether the EFCC would begin to try him in the media because of the bank consolidation scam that was trailing him. Knowing where to take cover, he wanted to be the governor of Anambra state in 2009. He failed, but has been seen associating more with ‘powerful’ politicians of questionable characters.
Our judiciary on the hand has helped other arms of government in the consolidation of corruption. They glaringly sell judgments to these corrupt politicians who rigged their way to office. However, only judgment, but not justice, can be bought or sold. Some of our courts even offer laughable judgments that people sometimes envy the convict. For instance, the then governor Igbinedion of Edo state was handed a trifling ₦3.6 million fine by the court for looting his state dry in the tune of billions. This would embolden looters rather than deter. Some court even gave a perpetual injunction, instead of perpetual jail term, restraining anti-corruption bodies from prosecuting a corrupt politician, thereby denying us the viewers the comic of such trials. The case of Odili is a case in point. Lawyers have also used technicalities rather than substance to keep corrupt politicians out of court or their delay trials because that is the way they too can have their own share of the loot. The longer the trial goes the more the loot gets to them.
The fight against corruption has been rather a joke than serious business. The immediate past EFCC was more like a media house than anti-corruption body. Femi Babafemi, the body’s head of publicity, would always give us the news of the numbers of arrest they had made and the list of count charges they had assembled, rather than the numbers of conviction they had. In a turn of event, Ibrahim Lamorde returned to EFCC last month as chairman of the organization. He was the body’s head of operation when most of these cases were opened. It is pertinent to remind him that the EFCC has a number high profile cases that it pretends not to know about. We only hope that his EFCC revive these cases, including that involving the grammarian Dame Patience GoodLuck Jonathan and start fighting corruption the way it is supposed to be so that people will begin to see corruption as evil; and that public office is for service not for corrupt enrichment. As such our children can start to want to be doctors, teachers, pilots, engineers, father and mother, again. And when they want to be politicians, they will be the ones who lead and serve the people rather than the ones who loot and suffer the people.
NOTE: This piece was written before Andy Uba was sent packing by the Appellate Court.