To be clear, I am angry. Don’t wonder why it is that way. Actually, if you were in my shoes, you’d be as angry as I am.
I read in the papers that this year’s list of national honours awardees has been released. As a stakeholder in the Nigerian project, I thought my making the list was already a settled matter. I had expected my friends to call me and tell me they saw my name, and then offer their congratulatory messages before dropping the calls. It never happened. I quietly called SA (Yes, you won’t know him. He’s one of my boys at the Villa) and asked if he had seen the list, and whether I was there. He told me I wasn’t included.
Then I begged him to forward the list to me. I wanted to find out whether the tradition had changed this year. Have the criteria for awarding the national honours suddenly changed? He forwarded the list to me, and I took my time to read through. It wasn’t to search for my name. I believed SA when he said my name wasn’t there. He has more time to pore through long lists than myself. I don’t read too much. It isn’t what makes one rich or powerful. SA must have done a proper reading before confirming to me that my name wasn’t there. I was searching for the names of those in the list.
I saw them. And my anger further increased.
Why was my name skipped? To clear your doubts, I would list my achievements which every rational mind would confirm fall into the requirements for the conferment of national awards.
About thirty years ago, I met Chief (again you won’t know him. I’d rather not disclose his identity) who advised me to become a contractor. He said it was the easiest way to make money. I respected Chief a lot, and still respect him. You see, he’s one of the best men in this whole world. He held me by the hand and showed me how to meander through the rough trails of the Nigerian society. And he’s vastly experienced in Nigerian matters. So I managed to get some loans from him – of course he became a shareholder – and we set up a construction company.
Since that year, we have won several contracts in many states of Nigeria. We also have all the monetary values fully settled by the government ministries and parastatals in charge of them. Yes, we didn’t complete any. Chief warned us not to complete any. And he was right. Chief has always been right. He warned that if we complete the jobs, we wouldn’t have enough money to “thank” the government people involved. And once the government people aren’t thanked for one job completed, they would not give you another one in the future. Since that secret was given to me, I’ve always made it a point of duty to thank the government people after each job. And that has helped keep us in business since then. None of the roads handled by us were completed. And who really needs a tarred road anyway? Did our forefathers go by paved roads? And didn’t they live longer than we do today, right? You see, we are not into that business of project completion.
This record effectively puts me amongst the rank of those qualified for national awards. I am shocked that I am not there. But I’ve watched from year to year how the governors with whom I shared contract money have been awarded.
Well, I stopped being directly involved in the day-to-day running of the construction firm many years ago. But myself and chief still help them get contracts from the governors and the presidency. O yes, we simply peddle our influence and voila!, contract is won. I am now in oil and gas. We import the money-minting machine and claim subsidies. I have actively participated in several subsidy claims. We know how to do it. We didn’t need to import the number of litres we would eventually claim payment for. Who does that? There’s money in oil and gas, and by the grace of God, we have made the money. Adenuga is there. And with my level of contribution to the nation’s economy, why wasn’t I considered worthy of receiving this year’s national awards?
This is even more painful because I belong to our great party. From Abuja, I took the party to my state in 1999 and financed it single-handedly. In all previous general elections, I’ve delivered. I have been the one personally financing the boys who helped our great party stuff ballot boxes in the whole of my senatorial zone. Yes, I recruit the boys and pay them for the job of keeping us victorious in elections. I am a chieftain of our party, yet this is the treatment I receive from our own people. During last year elections, or even before then, I made sure some direct data capturing machines were hidden for me and chief in the bush. We used them to handle special registration of our boys who would do multiple thumb-printing for our great party. And during the elections, we delivered. After this manner of sacrifice, see the treatment I’m receiving.
I explained to chief and he asked me to exercise some patience and wait till next year. He was a governor during one of the defunct republics. Actually, he has once been awarded, but that was when it became quite obvious that chief left office without constructing even a kilometer of road. He told me to work harder at giving decision makers more cuts from all the contracts we’ll be winning. He also advised that I get more daring in the quality of boys I use for ballot-snatching during elections. I will do what he says, chief knows too much about this system. It’ll be risky if I ignore his advice.
Chief equally told me how sad he felt to know that his friend, a judge, who acquitted many former governors of all glaring criminal charges against them wasn’t part of those who made the list. Chief lamented that the man had worked very hard all these years to ensure he excelled in our national trade; from upholding rigged elections to acquitting rogue governors in his court. This is even worse because in the list, there are some people like him. Chief says the judge didn’t work hard enough to make the list. He has advised him to learn to discharge and acquit all offenders in his court, and to start charging higher in bribery. Chief is sure that this improvement will guarantee his inclusion in next year’s list.
I called my lord spiritual (you don’t know him, he’s a bishop) and asked him why his name wasn’t there. My bishop was sad. And I understand. Bishop has done his best in the last two decades to deliver prayers to those in government, in sufficient doses, in exchange for cash which comes either in forms of seeds, tithes or offerings. He ensured he never asked his followers to question the government. He was consistent in his protection of government and “upholding them in prayers”. Today the time for reward has come, and bishop wasn’t recognized. He couldn’t understand why his name was omitted. By virtue of the names he saw there, he thinks, like I do, that he is eminently qualified to be in the list; except, of course, if his level of nation-killing is underestimated by the award givers.
Just yesterday, Alhaji called me. He is a traditional ruler (I won’t tell you his name). We’ve always worked together right from my early years as a contractor. He has been very instrumental to the successes of successive governments. He helps mobilize his people, for money, during elections. In fact, his house was used as INEC registration centre the other time. He helps mobilize underage voters just like I help out with ballot-snatchers in my senatorial zone. And just like me, he was left out of the list. He has determined to do more during the next election. He believes, like I do, that we may not have done enough. He even knows the traditional rulers in the list and seem to agree that those ones perform miracles both during and after elections. Alhaji will up his game this time.
While I was searching for the names on the internet, I ran into some disgruntled elements accusing the government of patronizing their loyalists, as well as corrupt people, with the national awards. I don’t understand what their problem is. There are stakeholders in every society, and Nigeria is no different. One of the boys who writes on Ekekeee.com (a foolishly political blog created to discredit all the good works we stakeholders have been doing to keep this country as one), Efe Wanogho, was even questioning why a taxi driver who returned a certain amount of money wasn’t included in the awards list. That is stupidity elevated to the height of philosophy. Who listens to that taxi driver? How can he bring peace to this country in times of conflict? How many boys does he settle per month? People just sit in their homes and talk what they have no sufficient knowledge about. He returned that money because it is small. All these people who put up a façade of sainthood are waiting for the opportunity to be exposed to real money. We aren’t moved at all. Well, that’s not even my business.
Back to my anger, I am convinced Mike Adenuga hasn’t done better than me in this stakeholding business. For instance, our companies are into the subsidy game together. In fact mine, Akpako Oil, did more subsidy claims than Adenuga’s Conoil. So why wasn’t I included?
Okay, my other governor friend (I have many of them as friends, by the way) is also sad. He belongs to our great party also. Historically, he did the impossible by becoming a member of three political parties in just two weeks. In fact before he became a governor, he was the Chief of Staff of his former governor. And he did a great job, helping in the stealing of sufficient billions from the state coffers. And again, he also made history by winning the governorship from prison. That alone qualifies him for the honour of a lifetime achievement award. And now that he is a governor, he has even pushed the boundaries of his qualification further north. He has reduced the state to a non-functional space, which, again, in itself, qualifies him eminently for national recognition. But they refused to include him.
When I was talking with him, he was touched that his counterpart from Delta State played a similar role as a commissioner to the former governor there. But he was wondering if he hasn’t reduced the state enough to be included in the list. But if the rumours filtering in are anything to go by, he’ll be topping the list next year. We hear he went to buy a ship recently. That is unprecedented. The awarders can’t let that go unrewarded.
You see, we need this recognition badly. It helps to shore up one’s credibility – which is not in doubt anyway. For me, I’ll have to start thinking of delivering the whole of my state to our great party in the next elections.
I even asked Chief if my financial contributions to our party is that small as to make me considered a lightweight, but he dismissed that. Trust Chief, he is the smartest man I’ve seen. But he suspected something. He suspected that the awards committee has one or two things against some of us. I gave this a serious thought and concluded we’d need to see the members. How much will it cost to make them happy? Small money. Small thing.
Next year can’t be this way for me. At my level of both political and economic influence in this country, two titles – “Chief” and “Dr” – aren’t just enough. I am deserving of a CON, at least.
Follow me on Twitter as @ekekeee for further direct engagement.