I have met the former Minister of Petroleum, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke before. It was about three years ago in an Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston. Unfortunately for me, former US president, George W Bush Jnr was also at the event. Everyone – including my woman! - rushed off to have their picture taken with Bush. Not me. I kept my eyes on Diezani. In the end she gave me her card and asked me to call on her whenever I was in Nigeria.
In Nigeria, I ferried myself to her imposing office after a few unreturned phone calls. It was, ‘come today; come tomorrow’ until I ran out of steam and returned to the UK. That was the last time I collected a card from any visiting Nigerian person. But even at that, I’ve always had a soft spot for Mrs Alison-Madueke.
However, I knew there would be trouble ahead when shortly thereafter I saw on Saharareporters pictures of some fine kids living it up, popping champagne and crystal as the flew in the plush interior of a private jet. Those fine young kids were Alison-Madueke’s. It requires no genius to put two and two together when a few short years later, the National Assembly accused the ex-minister of squandering about $10 million on private jet rentals and summoned her to come and defend herself. Instead of doing just that, Diezani went to court and found a Judge willing enough to issue an injunction that prevented the Legislators from looking any closer at her apparently oily hands.
It has happened before: In December 2009, one Justice Marcelleus Awokulehin of a Federal High Court in Asaba looked into a total of 170 charges of theft and corruption preferred against James Ibori, former governor of Delta State and dismissed them all! In his ruling, Marcelleus fell just short of declaring the Ogidigbodigbo an Urhobo saint.
Nevertheless, the British got their hands on Ibori and the brother is currently doing a 13 year stint in one of her Majesty’s padlocked guest houses. Since that episode, Nigerian officials have learnt to stay well clear of the UK at the expiration of their tenure. For instance, have you heard of Emmanuel Uduaghan visiting London recently? No, you haven’t; but what compelled Alison-Madueke to go anywhere near the UK?
Well, the story is that Alison-Madueke has at least one property in the UK she purchased through a Yoruba lawyer circa 2012 for around £4 million. Somehow, the British authorities felt there was something fishy about that purchase and have been all up in Diezani’s business ever since. And just last Friday, the ex-minister was collared in London along with four other people. They were all charged with bribery, corruption and money laundering. Already, money is being taken off her.
It would appear Alison-Madueke is no student of history. If she is, she would have known about one DSP Alamieyeseigha and the capabilities of the British authorities. Alamieyeseigha barely escaped that island with his frock and mascara intact. Similarly, a short phone call and Ibori would have explained to her all the energy his is expending not dropping the soap at shower times.
In conversation with some politicians and past government officials from the South-south, I find that they often advance this argument that folks from other parts of Nigeria have stolen a lot from the country, and so it is their turn. Some of them actually passionately justify this and see it as some kind of sacred duty. But is stealing and corruption the best way to redress power and wealth imbalance in Nigeria?
There is no running away from the fact that in our country, southern government officials and leaders try to outdo each other when it comes to corruption. They certainly out perform their northern counterparts when it comes to stealing. It could even be reasonably argued that the brazen and large scale theft that took place under Babangida and Abacha were intellectually aided by southern collaborators. What we seem to possess in the south is a completely warped sense of duty and a pile of university degrees that does nothing to improve our humanity. Our people (the big men and the not so big) steal without a care in the world.
I know for a fact that as a fresh governor of Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim was waylaid and got 419ed by some Igbo boys posing as London Metropolitan police officers. Ohakim was relieved of a briefcase containing more than £1 million in his hotel room. The very next morning, the man ran out of the UK in absolute panic. The imposters were later intercepted by the real police and the money was taken off them. That money eventually found its way into the British treasury.
As was the case with Alamieyeseigha, the British government took over a lot of Ibori’s UK assets which were quite considerable. They are getting ready to do it again to Alison-Madueke. As we speak, the UK government has filed a separate application against Mrs. Agama, Diezani’s mother, for the seizure of an undisclosed amount of money. Foolishly, we continue to lose our meagre wealth to our erstwhile colonial master and other wealthy nations. What an irony!
Our wealth still flows outward with mainly southern ‘educated’ leaders piloting the out-going ships. It would be interesting to know how many private homes and businesses past and present British and American government officials have in Nigeria and in Africa. Again, education without humaneness; without sense.