By Muhammad Ajah
Is it right to claim that corruption, massive looting of public funds, armed robbery, youth banditry and gangsterism as well as militancy are queer attitudes that have crept into our lives? I remember my old mother used to tell me that the worst crime a family feared for its members was stealing peoples’ property which was likened to armed robbery.
So any family whose member was identified as a thief was cursed by the whole village and no one would marry from or be married to the family. Such thieving family would never be trusted or entrusted in the society until they repented and displayed otherwise openly for a long time. Because of the gravity of similar social vices, culprits were buried alive in big mould of sand or forced to drown in the river by tying heavy stones to them. This was in the good olden days.
“You be thief. I no be thief…”the famous Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, inferring the political characteristics of Nigerian leadership at a time not any better than the recent.
But now some Nigerians openly parade themselves as corruption agents, militants and bandits massively looting public funds and causing mayhem to the society that they are supposed to assist in building. They easily forget that some people genuinely put in their lives for the victory they claim in elections. What have the governments made up of these politicians at the three levels done for the families of those who died while ensuring that the politicians won their elections or relections, or putting it rightly, in defence of the nation’s democracy?
It is not new the statement accredited to former president of Nigeria, Chief Matthew Olusegun Obasanjo, popularly called Baba where he described the National Assembly as being made up of rogues. Obasanjo is such a leader that can be seen to possess faceless, fearless and considerably unassuming costume when corruption is talked about in Nigeria. At least, even if the other four of his fingers may be pointing towards his direction, he could be sure of what he says.
Whether it is accepted or not, Obasanjo is the pioneer in the making of NIGERIA TODAY. He is, and even while gradually losing grip of the rope hanging down from the Aso Rock, the godfather of many of those in power today. So, it is to be doubted that he may have put up a total falsehood for mere relevance – such relevance that he has maintained since Nigeria returned to democratic governance in 1999. After all, he can claim untouchability!
Obasanjo cannot be unaware of all the probes conducted and being conducted by the assemblymen. He cannot be unaware of the executive bills which are often imposed on the people through the national chambers and the financial efforts it takes to make such bills sail through the chambers. He had practically experienced and successfully enforced such in the past. Obasanjo cannot be unaware of the current bribery allegation of N44 million involving an assemblyman and the director general of Security and Exchange Commission (SEC). Obasanjo, having been too long in government at that highest level, remains an insider in government and therefore cannot just open his mouth to make frivolous accusations. After all, he also accused the judiciary and the police. He even acknowledged that some justices were sacked on bribery and corruption related matters during the hard democratic experiment of his tenures.
For the national chambers to find a soft landing for themselves and for Obasanjo is an attempt to cover the fawning ass of the foul. It is either they accept what Obasanjo has said and then swallow the shame or challenge the relevance Obasanjo is searching for and vindicate themselves.
What does the House Committee on Information, Hon. Zakari Mohammed imply by proclaiming not to join issues with former President Obasanjo who accused them of being rogues? Accused of being rogues! Is this accusation not enough – even if it is believed to be mere allegation – to sue the accuser to court for character assassination of the distinguished and honourable assemblymen? A whole assembly accused!
Zakari, in playing down this great accusation, could only find such words as, “…I think it is wrong for an elder to stand outside and pee into the house”. There are two sided revelations from this. It is either that the elder has become mentally weak that he can no more differentiate his position of being outside the house or he is sure that it makes no difference peeing into the house because the house has the similitude of a urinary. It is really a confusing scenario. The assemblymen should go further to clarify and reclaim their dignity within this context and challenge Obasanjo on this.
One startling revelation from Zakari’s defence was, “Since I came here as a legislator, I have not heard stories of Ghana-must-go bags but when former President Obasanjo was in charge, nocturnal visits of Ghana-must-go bags were a routine in an attempt to buy over the legislature and having failed especially with the last one over his third term agenda during which several MILLIONS OF DOLLARS were involved, I don’t think it is right for anybody to have headache over whatever he says”.
For the avoidance of doubt, it has been established by the assemblymen themselves that Obasanjo squandered public funds (millions of dollars) in pursuit of his then pet project codenamed ‘tenure elongation’. Has any action been taken by the assemblymen to unveil and punish the originators, proponents, distributors and collectors of the acknowledged millions of dollars? Obasanjo surely knows those who collected the money in full but refused to deliver their promises to him. Are there no more nocturnal visits within the political sphere?
Can Hon. Zakari patriotically and religiously authenticate his claim that since 2007 when Obasanjo left office as the President of Nigeria or at least from May 2011, that Ghana-must-go bags have ceased to come the ways of politicians, including the assemblymen? Why has Obasanjo not been investigated despite all the glaring indices that his regime was believed to be administratively corrupt? A regime of unequalled squandermania, power-throttling force, socio-economic vandalization and religio-political victimization!!
In the same vein, the Deputy Minority leader of the House, Hon. Suleiman Kawu postulates, “Obasanjo does not have credibility in Nigeria. Remember he was dragged to court by his own son accusing him of sleeping with his wife”
The Senate also swiftly responded to Obasanjo’s claims, however, urging Obasanjo to move a step further and name the “rogues and robbers” that are members of the National Assembly.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Media and Public Affairs, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, while at a press conference in Abuja challenged Obasanjo, “in the new spirit of transparency and openness Obasanjo should assist the National Assembly by naming those that he knows in the National Assembly as either rogues or criminals. That would help us to be able to sanitize the polity and we sincerely thank him for his role in Nigeria, someone who cares very deeply about the Nigerian State and how it is at the moment”, adding, “the National Assembly can never engage in any talk back to the president.”
Is Obasanjo a Rock that he cannot be summoned to the National Assembly for interrogations? Remember that harmless Muhammadu Buhari has severally been verbally drilled over his misquoted statement on the 2015 elections. Buhari has been subjected to merciless tongue-lashings by Nigerians most of whom he is capable of fathering even in the political sphere. Poor Buhari!
Nonetheless, we should not forget that Obasanjo started behaving like a born-again Christian after leaving office as the president of Nigeria. Those who watch African Independent Television (AIT) may have seen when he appears to sing a gospel song saying, “I have decided to follow Jesus…” To this, one of my nieghbours burst into a wild laughter saying, “Is it our Lord Jesus whom we Christians worship that Obasanjo means?”
Recently addressing a group of Christian youths in Lagos at an event themed “The Building Blocks of Effective Leadership”, Professor Pat Utomi revealed some dysfunctions he had witnessed in the Nigerian system and x-rayed the difficulties of changing the system. Speaking under a topic, “Towards Creating a Network of Corruption-Intolerant Youth Leaders”, he narrated several instances of corruption involving government officials and the aftermath of underdevelopment and disclosed that a man who once duped him was now a senator.
He said, “A man who had 419ed [duped] me in the past is now in the Senate. And I called the attention of a senior senator who is from the same state with the dupe, and who also knew about my dupe story with the man before, that this man is a thief and he was aware. The senior senator wanted me to keep quiet, and he said that is the problem with me, and that after all, seventy percent of government people are 419ers”. Unbelievable!!
In somewhat affirmation of Obasanjo’s claims, Leadership Newspapers of Monday, May 28 2012 reported Sani Shu’aibu Teidi, one of the suspects standing trial before the Federal High Court, Abuja, for massively looting the pension treasury to have alleged that he and his accomplices paid Senator Aloysius Etuk-led Senate Committee a 3 billion Naira bribe in dollars. Akwu achaa n’ike mbe!!
According to Teidi, the huge bribe was to stall the prosecution of the accused persons. He alleged that the Senator Aloysius Etuk-led committee failed to fulfill an earlier promise of helping to stall their prosecution after collecting the 3 billion Naira contributory bribes. Trouble burst out over the sharing of the bribe. Teidi said Senator Etuk attempted to outsmart his colleagues by declaring 500 million Naira only i.e. a one-sixth of the actual bribe.
Feeling betrayed by the Senate committee leadership’s greed and inability to properly handle the corruption matter, Teidi resolved to make public all information on the botched agreement. “In fact, the N3bn bribe offered the senate committee was contributed by all the accused persons, each with the amount of 500 million Naira. The committee made us believe that when we give the money being demanded, it will give us a safe landing, thereby escaping prosecution, but, to our greatest dismay, they only succeeded in cutting their own share,” Teidi claimed.
All in all, this is a case that should not be ignored. It is either Obasanjo is right or he is openly summoned to explain if he spoke in rhetoric or was misquoted. This theory of allegation and denial in Nigeria should stop henceforth. On the other hand, what joy and results have the several probes carried out by the assemblymen brought us? Are these exposures just a tip in the iceberg?
Muhammad Ajah is a writer, author, advocate of humanity and good governance based in Abuja. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org