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Mixed Metaphors: Half The Story By Sonala Olumhense

How do you know that President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption offensive is still awaiting an offensive?

The first sign is that handcuffs are not being sold on roadsides and in traffic in Nigeria.  Hopefully, this does not mean that the security and anti-corruption agencies are importing handcuffs.  For a country where anything, including cars, can be sold in traffic, it would be reassuring to see heaps of them on the shoulders of merchants running between cars.

Another sign is that only Olisa Metuh, the outgoing spokesman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been seen lately wearing the appropriate jewelry in public.  That is an epic and epochal failure of message.  

I mean, if the fear is that Metuh might flee, the cuff-links ought to be on his ankles, the same location where—I imagine—such other prominent suspects as Sambo Dasuki, Raymond Dokpesi, Olu Falae and Nduka Obaigbena are wearing theirs.  

Another sign is that the current anti-corruption lexicon still isn’t featuring the names Farida Waziri and Ibrahim Lamorde.  These are the recent leaders of the economic and financial crime district who know where all the real corpses are buried.  

Perhaps the most prominent sign that the anti-corruption motion is in need of movement is that despite eight months of the “change” government and despite all the noise, we have yet to hear one single “guilty” declared in a court of law.  

Yet another sign: last week, President Buhari sent to the National Assembly two bills: the Money Laundering Prevention and Prohibition Bill 2016; and the Criminal Matters Bill 2016, aimed at enhancing his anti-corruption crusade.  

By coincidence, they arrived at the same time that the Assembly, which is debating the 2016 budget, was receiving a letter from former Nigeria leader Olusegun Obasanjo accusing its members of corruption, impunity, greed and of repeatedly breaking the nation’s laws.

Among others, he cited illicit salaries and allowances, as well as constituency allowances the legislators are collecting without maintaining the constituency offices demanded by the law.

To which Senate president Bukola Saraki swiftly issued a response, declaring that under his leadership, the Senate was committed to such national dreams as good governance, transparency, accountability and due process. He advertised “bold and progressive reforms” the Senate has introduced in the management of the finances of the publicly-reviled Assembly.  

Actually, both Obasanjo and Saraki were right, last week, as Obasanjo, the national champion of political hypocrisy, was matched for hot air by Saraki, who is on trial for corruption.  
Obasanjo’s self-serving intervention is a potent reminder that the anti-corruption initiative of his friend, Buhari, is a joke that can be told by anyone, from master comedians to people with no sense of humour at all.
That is why, it is told and sold abroad by no less a person than Buhari’s predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, who is making speeches and collecting “awards” for his dedication to democracy and development in Africa.  
So successful was Jonathan as a democrat and developer that last week, an international magazine dismissed him as “an ineffectual buffoon who let politicians and their cronies fill their pockets with impunity.”  It is the first time that a former Nigerian leader has ever been so roundly insulted.

To understand the complicated and convoluted nature of the anti-corruption terrain, it is important to remember that the man single-handedly responsible for inflicting that buffoonery on Nigeria was Obasanjo, in 2006.  Jonathan had been indicted publicly by a federal panel, but Obasanjo handpicked him for a seat on their party’s presidential ticket.  

It should not be forgotten, either, that that sequence of events followed the collapse of Obasanjo’s third term ambition which included bribing members of the National Assembly.

As time unfolded, the same Obasanjo had the effrontery to complain about Jonathan being a terrible president!  And the same Obasanjo now has the shamelessness to complain about the NASS being corrupt!!

Last week, the tragi-comedy club continued with Obasanjo being reminded of that 2006 fiasco and the bribery by no less a fascinating specimen than Senator Dino Melaye, who reminded Obasanjo of the “open display of that bribery money on the floor” of the House of Representatives. 

“That government exposed the National Assembly to corruption and easy money,” said Melaye, who was at that time a Representative. “I hope this is not an attempt to cover up and distract attention from the Halliburton and Siemens corruption allegations.” 

He was referring to two international scandals Obasanjo has not discharged.  

Continuing the smoke and mirrors, Jonathan was telling some listeners in Switzerland he intends to spend the years following his being sacked from office by Nigerians “advancing democracy and good governance” in Africa. 

“If we do not spend billions to educate Africa's youths today, we will spend it fighting insecurity tomorrow." 

This is fascinating because he was in the presidency for eight years but chose to advance not education, but corruption.  It is curious he did not tell the Swiss of his novel discovery that stealing is not corruption; and that his goats, sequestered with Nigeria’s yams, simply did what came naturally.

He declared, instead, that he will not speak about the $2.1 billion arms scam for now, allegedly because he does not want to interfere with the proceedings by the judicial system.  That is a man who sounds as if he has hired a half-smart Political Strategist.  

Back home, his Coordinating Minister/Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was deploying no such subtlety, rising to her full height in denouncing respected lawyer Femi Falana, who has called on the International Criminal Court to try Nigerians involved in the arms scam, including her.  

Falana forgot that Okonjo-Iweala enjoys defining her own sainthood.  She has retained a Media Adviser to help her hurl heavy abuse at her doubters when what she really needs is a Political Strategist with knowledge of history.  

Such a person might have reminded her of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe cautioning against breaking a leg while dancing before the dance has even begun.  He might have reminded her about Ayi Kwei Armah’s fascinating bird, chichidodo. 

In “The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born,” Armah wrote: “The chichidodo hates excrement with all its soul.  But the chichidodo only feeds on maggots, and you know the maggots grow best inside the lavatory. This is the chichidodo.”

Yes, every former Nigeria government official fears—and ought to fear—an anti-corruption enquiry.  But it seems counterproductive to throw hypertensive tantrums ahead of such an enquiry just because one’s name has been mentioned in a proverb. 

As someone who held the two most important cabinet posts in Jonathan’s “Transformation Agenda” government, the unfolding reality is an opportunity for Okonjo-Iweala to showcase the unquestionable quality of her character, not the imperious foulness of her tongue.  

The way I see it, when the smoke of history clears, Nigerians will know what the one who shared the meat with his teeth did, as my people would say.  Remember: moments before mankind’s current clock began, Pontius Pilate cleverly washed his hands, when it was his heart that was the issue.

For six years, Jonathan neither guaranteed to education the 26% of the annual budget he was preaching in Switzerland last week nor mentioned the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by name.  Last week, four months after the MDGs expired, he was advocating their fulfilment.  Little wonder The Economist called him names.
The war against corruption will be exciting.  Let our nation salute, for a change, some men and women of honour. 

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