To portray Yakubu as just another face of Nigerian corruption is to minimize his evil genius.
Truth is not always absolute. Sometimes, it has layers of correctness. For example, it’s a self-evident truth that Andrew Yakubu was a klpetocrat. But that’s a lower layer of truth. There is a higher and more relevant layer of truth about Andrew: He was his own country.
The former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation was an avaricious plunderer of the commonwealth. He stole a fabulous fortune while on the job and hid a treasure trove in his house to guarantee himself a happily-ever-after bliss after his incumbency.
However, to portray Yakubu as just another face of Nigerian corruption is to minimize his evil genius. He was not a puny treasury looter. He amassed 9. 8 million dollars and 74, 000 pounds: he had his personal 'external reserves'!
A whistleblower claims the staggering find is only a quarter of the whole picture. He suggests that Yakubu had moved three cash-packed safes to an unknown hideaway before the EFCC raid. This implies that we may yet grapple with the reality that this one man managed to enrich himself in 'external reserves' more than other countries on this planet!
A vital fact that emerged from this scandal is that the house Yakubu repurposed as the bank of his 'external reserves' is located in the midst of a squalid slum in Kaduna.
The Nation reported that the slum dwellers, awakened to the hugeness of the dark money, cursed their 'neighbor'. They were bitter that they were left in the dark all along. Without the EFCC shakedown, they would never have known that the otherwise forgettable building in their neck of the woods was a veritable Ali Baba cave.
But the annoyance of the slum dwellers had nothing to do with the impropriety of the looting. They were vexed by the element of hoarding. Their ‘neighbor’ did not find it in himself to make them partakers of the unsearchable riches of his heist.
They were outraged that Yakubu cornered all of that 'government money' and kept it while they lived hand to mouth. Had he been generous with a modest fraction of the loot, they would not have felt hard done by their ‘neighbor’. The memory of the crisp feel of two or three bills he happened to hand them some time in the past would have made them feel indebted to him. It would have moved them to defend his innocence and to accuse government of politically motivated witch-hunt.
Yakubu’s neighbors felt betrayed. They thought that, as the host community of his ‘external reserves’ bank, he was supposed to know that he owed the slum and the people something. They were mistaken.
Yakubu did not steal on behalf of the collective. He stole for himself and by himself. He stole for his exclusive betterment.
Yakubu was a cheerful taker. His worldview had no accommodation for ‘corporate social responsibility’. His philosophy was averse to charity.
Yakubu’s neighbors abused him for being content to maintain a barn of fallow cash in an area where children go to bed hungry. If he had extended a little of his surplus to the destitute in the vicinity, they would not have taken a dim view of his ‘external reserves’. His unmitigated stinginess did not permit him to rid himself of his surplus spoils.
They didn’t know that Yakubu could not have kept the lion share of the loot and democratized the remainder. He was solely interested and invested in his own affairs. He was incapable of subtracting from his wealth to make a dent on someone’s poverty.
BudgIt, the vibrant civil society organization fighting for the institutionalization of transparency and accountability in Nigeria, published an infograph that illustrates the opportunity cost of Yakubu’s ‘external reserves’. The diagram shows that 3.09 billion, the naira equivalent of his hard currency loot, would suffice to fund certain capital projects in federal government’s 2017 budget: construction of Suliya-Chaza-Babuni road; building of an Off-grid solar micro utility; building of a 700 megawatt Zungeru hydro power project; provision of 800 pieces of 11 KV transformer; repair, asphalting and provision of drainage on Mohammed Idrissa way, Potiskum, Yobe state.
That is to say, Yakubu arrested and locked two federal roads and two power projects in that single safe. He stole deliverables of development that could have improved the lives and livelihood the Nigerian people. He spoiled Nigeria to furnish his own niche.
Yakubu practiced the ultimate Nigerian looting. The highest ambition of the average corrupt public office holder in Nigeria is to steal enough from Nigeria to distinguish themselves from other Nigerians. They attain the peak of success when they salt away sufficient public funds to individuate themselves from other miserable Nigerians.
This is secessionist looting. The thieves steal so they can become discrete, independent one-man states. They steal to become nation entities unattached to and unaffected by Nigeria.
Yakubu made a country out of himself when he began to build his individual ‘external reserves’ to the detriment of Nigeria. He didn’t hoist a new flag but he effectively declared his own independence when he diverted Nigerian petrodollars to his personal warehouse.
By looting secessionally, he drew an invisible border around himself and his household. With his ‘external reserves’, he protected himself against Nigeria. He is unaffected by rising food prices. He will always have forex to pay the tuition fees of his kids studying abroad. If he took ill, he won’t be liable to fall a victim of Nigeria’s healthcare system.
If EFCC had spared Yakubu sleuthing, he would have lived a very exotic, un-Nigerian life. He and his ilk impoverish Nigeria on staggering scales because they want to exempt themselves from the tragedy that is Nigeria. They want to live as alien Nigerians. They want their ‘case to be different’.
The presence of Yakubu’s ‘external reserves’ in a slum epitomizes the proclivity of selfish Nigerian officials to construct an island of enjoyment in a desert of deprivation. It speaks to the depravity of their life of the internal exile. They hate the country and purport to serve it while they are actively undermining it.
In the austerity days of President Shehu Shagari, the federal government seized the airwaves with an ingenious jingle. An antsy Andrew character, lugging his baggage and excited about his prospect overseas, was in a hurry to leave Nigeria. At the last minute, he cancelled his travel plan. He was persuaded that Nigeria was on the threshold of recovery and so he didn’t need to abandon the country.
Andrew Yakubu was a different Andrew. He fled Nigeria. He was neither a patriot nor an optimist. He believed Nigeria could only get worse. He stole from an already failing country both to catalyze its bankruptcy and to insure his own future!
Yakubu would not concede that he is a thief. He said his ‘external reserves’ represented a stockpile of ‘gifts’. He reaped cash gifts upon cash gifts during his time as GMD of NNPC.
The Jonathan administration sacked him for ‘insubordination’. Only heaven knows how impressive his ‘external reserves’ would have been if his tenure was not abridged, if he had been obedient and compliant to Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke, then Minister of Petroleum.
Ironically, a few days after the exposure of Andrew’s ‘external reserves,' EFCC discovered a 37.5 million dollar mansion owned by his former boss in Banana Island, Lagos. This is in addition to a Port Harcourt hotel and an 18 million dollar Abuja house recovered from the ultra-corrupt oil goddess last year.
Allison-Madueke is unarguably the most audacious thief of her gender to have ‘served’ Nigeria. Today, she is a cancer patient in UK in part because she stole herself free from Nigerian health facilities.
Her five-year tenure as minister of petroleum saw the highest turnover of GMDs of NNPC. She sacked 5 GMDs, averaging a dismissal every year. NNPC is the biggest cash cow of Nigeria. It’s possible they dared to prove a competition in larceny and it rubbed her the wrong way.
While Allison-Madueke was minister, former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Emir Sanusi Lamido, alerted President Jonathan that 20 billion dollars was missing from NNPC coffers. The president invited him and demanded his resignation!
During the 2015 presidential campaign, Jonathan wooed South-West monarchs with million dollar bribes. After his defeat and departure from office, EFCC found 15 million dollars in his wife’s bank account.
She claimed that the amount she could not have earned legitimately, given her pedestrian career history, was her savings for her overseas medical treatment. A group of sycophants swore that her ‘external reserves’ were ‘gifts’ brought to the First Lady by Santa Claus visitors!
The biggest problem of Nigeria is separatist individualism. Those who are supposed to build Nigeria are preoccupied with the business of self-aggrandizement.
Nigeria is an epic disaster because of the preeminence of the Andrew Yakubu demographic. Public officers prioritize the building of their ‘external reserves’. They usurp the wealth of the citizenry and even covet the slums –the very sanctuary of the poor!
You can reach Emmanuel at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @EmmaUgwuTheMan.