Lord have mercy! It is extremely difficult to begin the skinning of this Diezani Alison-Madueke corruption cat. Normally, when you hear about corruption in Nigeria, you tend to wave it off as just one of those things…an integral part of the culture, if you will. And any Nigerian who says he is not corrupt is just being disingenuous. At least, that’s the perception most Nigerians have of each other. But hearing about the sheer greed in the Alison-Madueke scandal, you just wonder if Nigerians are not consigned to irreversible retrogression. Twenty billion naira missing here; £27,000 garnished there; £120 million taken here; £280 million swallowed there…all with Alison-Madueke’s imprimatur or alleged connection. It is morbid thievery that will take the trophy for corruption if proven to be true.
The complex web of sleaze, as excellently reported by SaharaReporters here is just breath-taking. You would need some analgesic to combat the bad headache you’ll get just reading through half the scam. This woman was simply out-of-this-world. I think she is a shining example of what Jonathan tried to say when he made his infamous “stealing is not corruption” gaffe. It is one thing to shave off a few hundreds or a few thousands when you issue contracts. We can call that “Corruption.” But it is outright “Stealing” (robbery, even) when you do what Alison-Madueke is accused of doing – taking everything; the money, the bag, the safe and the building…things you don’t need. It is greed of the highest order; unless you are not stealing for just yourself.
Ah ha! Therein lays the knot in the whole saga. Who else was on the take? Could Alison-Madueke have been stealing just for herself? Or was she the primary conduit for others? Beer parlor rumors have it that most corrupt Presidents…all over the world…are not stupid enough to steal directly. They use someone else who serves as the fall guy if the theft is discovered. I will start by looking at Jonathan himself. And I could just stop right there because it does not matter who else was on the take. Jonathan, clueless as he was said to be, could not have not known that the country, especially the oil industry, was hemorrhaging billions by the week. (By the way, whoever first described him as “Clueless” is a genius and deserves an award.) With the combination of a nonchalant mien, a dumb-look and a steal-all-you-can body language, Jonathan gave the carte blanche to incorrigible people with access and power. How could so much be going on under his nose and on his watch and he could claim like he did that he did not know things were that bad? If he didn’t know, how come he had the temerity to sack the former CBN governor (Sanusi Lamido Sanusi) for alerting him to the gargantuan fraud in the oil sector but could not muster the fortitude to sack the Petroleum Minister?
What about his wife? The woman waddled away in the PDP politics, particularly in the South-South, throwing unbelievable amounts of money at every single challenge to her authority. Nobody can convince me that she and Alison-Madueke were not collaborators. What about Okonjo-Iweala? Stella Oduah nko? (I thought she was never going to be outdone by anybody else. Was I naïve!) What about all those business partners of hers? What about all those PDP bigwigs? Does anybody think none of them wanted in on the jamboree?
Truth is, members of the cabal that Jonathan led ran Nigeria (and especially the Petroleum ministry) as if it was their father’s incorporated business. And they almost ran it aground. They were like refugees suffering from starvation who just happened to be thrown into a buffet restaurant. They fed their faces until they started to defecate what they first ate. They were the crudest kinds of thieves. They told themselves this was their chance to eat the national cake and ate they did.
And Alison-Madueke has not comported herself in ways that give her supporters (whoever is crazy enough to still be on her side right now) any ammunition with which they could defend her. Who has forgotten so soon that furtive look she wore when caught sneaking into Gen (retd.) Abdulsalam Abubakar’s compound, ostensibly to ask the former Head of State to intercede for her? Before she even left the place, word had gotten around town about her visit. Who has forgotten so soon how she bulldozed her way, literally in the last minute, onto a London-bound flight on which PMB was also traveling, just so she could have private moments with him alone since she could not secure an appointment in Nigeria? We now know Buhari was irritated by her and he barely muttered a word in response to her salutations the entire six-hour flight. (The Aso Rock staff who leaked Buhari’s movement to her was sacked pronto.) Who could have forgotten those nocturnal visits to Aso Rock by Goodluck Jonathan to bully PMB into providing the now-abused “soft-landing” for his Ministers? (Everybody knew he was only interested in protecting Alison-Madueke.) Who could have forgotten the emissaries…the Sultan and Fr. Kukah…both who abandoned their flocks and headed in the direction of Aso Rock at the behest of Madueke? And who could have forgotten how, when PMB did not commit himself to any agreement, Madueke absconded to London, even before the inauguration of the new government? If she was innocent, incorruptible and a good steward of the great responsibility thrust upon her, why did she leave Nigeria so unceremoniously?
They thought they were crazy…Jonathan and his kitchen cabinet. But their craziness had not met Buhari’s craziness. The man would listen to all entreaties and nod in faux agreement with you as you speak. Do not mistake that nod for acquiescence. It is a simple “I am listening to you.” Now, didn’t Abdulsalam speak with Buhari about Madueke? Yes, he did. Didn’t Buhari nod in agreement with Abdulsalam? Yes, he did. Didn’t all those other emissaries speak to Buhari on behalf of Madueke? Yes, they did. And didn’t Buhari accord them enough respect for their efforts? Yes, he did. But Buhari was still going to go after Madueke until he got Nigeria’s money out of her. The man is a man of his own. He told us that much, and in our characteristic insatiable quest for sweet nothings, we did not believe him. If Jesus Himself came down to speak to us, we would not believe Him. We prefer someone who would lie to us.
Jonathan and his people never reckoned with losing the presidency to PMB. They thought they could buy INEC and continue to loot the country for another four years, after which they would hand over the sordid baton to another morally bankrupt PDP President. And then relocate to Kiribati to enjoy their loot. Wheels started coming off their wagon when PDP started to implode under their very eyes and the multiple fratricide led to the unmitigated disaster at the polls. The ignoble Edwin Clarks of the South-South kept egging him on, getting him to throw “motor-park tout” invectives on Obasanjo. A man living in a glass house and throwing stones has himself to blame. Now they have become fugitives even in their own country, running from pillar to post. And the overseas destinations to which they could run have shrunk. From grace to grass…they are now shopping for overpaid, over-bloated SAN attorneys to help secure permanent or interlocutory injunctions…whatever would help keep their cases from being decided. The chickens will soon come home to roost for most of them. Even the former “Olori Oko” himself does not know what fate awaits him in the hands of PMB. I am sure he rues the day he made that concession phone call to Buhari. I am sure he hates Attahiru Jega to death for not preserving the presidency for him.
But all of this will be ordinary sugar rush if Buhari does not embark on a systematic excision of corruption from our body polity. We all know Buhari’s integrity is without blemish. Everybody, irrespective of tribe or political persuasion, knows the man is an epitome of discipline and incorruptibility. But he is not going to be around forever. Patapata he does eight years as President. What happens after that? How do we make sure we do not return to the Jonathan-type of governance? With all his faults, Obasanjo righted Nigeria’s course and all we needed was someone else to take the reins from him and continue the race. Instead, we retrogressed into 12th century civilization. How do we make sure another Buhari takes over from this one so our country can have a somewhat sustained period of growth and self-actualization?
I say we all join hands with this President to educate ordinary Nigerians. The multitude that suffers from pollution in the oil-producing areas needs to know that it is money meant for cleaning the region that one person has siphoned off for personal use so she could come back and further enslave the same people. Those Nigerians starving need to check their leaders and see who is taking food away from them and their children by siphoning money meant to improve agriculture. We need to let everybody who has lost a family member to our horrible roads know that the politician to whom they are saying “rankadede” is the same one who stole the money meant for fixing the roads. Ordinary Nigerians who get turned back from hospitals for lack of money and those who lose loved ones to routinely treatable diseases need to know that those for whom they voted were the same ones who diverted funds meant for medical care.
We need to start that public awareness now. Henceforth, it really should be one man-one vote. Let all aspiring politicians canvass for votes and subject themselves to the scrutiny of the people. Let the era of godfathers die with the 2015 elections. Let’s make politics a noble vocation in which people of integrity…like this Buhari…can be proud to participate. Let’s take our country from these “Ajegudujeras” and secure for our children a better future. This Buhari cannot do it alone. But he can enable us. We must no longer allow our development to be arrested by the Alison-Maduekes.
By Abiodun Ladepo
Ibadan, Oyo State