Original title: Nigeria, Surrounded
Author: Sonala Olumhense
Source: Nigeria Village Square Sat 22 Nov 2008.
What would you do to someone you truly hated, if you had the authority to do exactly as you pleased? Caution: murder is excluded as an answer to this question, as “someone” could be more than one person, perhaps whole peoples. I will give my own answer in a few minutes.
Before I do so, I remind you, my dear reader: it is about six years since Nigeria began to “fight” corruption. In a fight, one party usually wins, or to have the stronger hand. In this combat, it is our opponent who seems to be winning, but we have played enough of the right game for the world to mistake the aroma for the food. Some of them are beginning to give us the benefit of the doubt in important reports, but how realistic is that?
A war demands troops and commanders. Equipment and supplies. Strategies and manoeuvres. And then, naturally, we expect to find casualties and prisoners; that is how you win. What you do not expect to find are defectors and fifth columnists.
The first thing one notices in our so-called war is that there are hardly any casualties. One or two unfortunate people are all we can point to after six years in cases that, in the end, may have had little to do with graft and everything to do with politics. That is the tally. The supposedly “injured,” (undergoing trial, awaiting trial) are all over the place living better than the Queen of England, partying harder than Madonna and travelling better than the Sultan of Brunei.
What about the commanders? In random order, as I cast my eyes over the horizon, the army is advised by an ethically-empty and professionally uncaring Attorney-General and Minister for Justice. Increasingly alleged to be involved in all kinds of personal malfeasance and even dismissed by the political salesman Terry Waya as “the greediest man in Abuja,” it took Mr. Michael Aondoakaa only months to build himself a mansion fit for a king. He has converted his office into the best friend of corrupt former governors in trouble abroad.
In the past fortnight, the press has reported the arrest by the State Security Service, of his younger brother, Innocent Aondoakaa. From him, they obtained extensive evidence of several filthy deals bothering on extortion that the AG, in collusion with the Economic and Financial Crimes (EFCC) chairperson, Mrs. Farida Waziri, has been involved with.
In the anti-graft “war,” it is to be expected that Mr. Aondoakaa would work closely with the leaders of the anti-graft agencies. With Mrs. Waziri, who heads the EFCC, the AG seems to be doing well. With controversy swelling over allegedly missing or distorted EFCC files, Mr. Aondoakaa has said nothing. He is galvanized only on the side of an accused governor. Nothing speaks more eloquently about his place in history.
As another “commander” in a critical front in the “war,” I have cited Mrs. Waziri in this column as being tainted. Among others, she has openly, publicly and brazenly flouted the statutory reporting requirements of her agency. There is therefore no official or organized record of what the EFCC is doing.
Unofficially, Mrs. Waziri seems to be a competent swimmer. Her favourite pool to enjoy is the river of corruption and ineptitude that runs from the troubled former governors to her office and on to the Federal Ministry of Justice. Her relationship with the President and the AG makes it most unlikely she was really sent to fight corruption; her sad track record so far makes it most unlikely we will ever celebrate her as a champion graft-fighter.
Another command in the war is the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC). The ICPC, which is now headed by a former Supreme Court judge, Mr. Justice Emmanuel Ayoola, stirs once in a while to remind Nigerians it is still alive and maintaining a website. Apparently, that is how they justify their statutory claims. The ICPC, which is actually older than the EFCC, seems to have decided that both corruption and power are to be feared; it is not really going to confront either.
What about the police? While the Nigerian policeman has acquired a bad name over the years for his corruption and brutality, he now has a leader without limits. Inspector-General Mike Okiro is linked with several cases of corruption himself, including private schools and shopping malls in Abuja worth billions of Naira that he could not possibly have paid for from his police salary.
The IG also owns other businesses that conflict and compete with his job. His Bharmoss Ventures, for instance, claims expertise in “construction, real estate acquisition and development as well as engineering.” How does a policeman “sell, improve, manage, develop, exchange, lease, mortgage, enfranchise, dispose of, turn of account, or otherwise deal with, all or any part of the property and rights of the company,” and still protect and serve anyone who is neither selling to, nor buying from him?
Meanwhile, over at the federal legislature, David Mark presides over the Senate. Mr. Mark makes no ethical claims. He is a former minister who is stupendously wealthy, with vast financial tentacles and property that span Africa, Europe and Jersey. It is unknown how he came about any of them, including 6 million British pounds his former wife convinced a court to freeze several years ago.
Mr. Mark’s counterpart at the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, a “new generation” politician who came to prominence only recently as Speaker, is currently embroiled in allegations of sleaze following the purchase by the House of hundreds of cars. In the past month, his image has taken a hammering.
Meanwhile at the top of the judiciary, some Supreme Court justices are reported to have accepted inducements from the tag team of Aondoakaa and EFCC’s Waziri, who have a budget of about $30 million for the purpose, towards purchasing justice that is favorable to President Yar’Adua in the electoral petition before the court.
And up at the presidency itself, Patience Jonathan, the Vice-President’s wife, remains a screaming siren. For two years, nobody has touched her, a woman twice held for money-laundering, once for N104 million, and then for $13 million (US). There is no war against corruption in Nigeria for as long as Mrs. Jonathan is sitting comfortably on her backside shielded by her husband, Yar’Adua, and Aondoakaa.
And then President Yar’Adua, who took office 18 months ago and promised a new day. The trouble, for me, is that I thought the President could tell night from day. He promised the rule of law, but is arresting journalists he said he would sue. He promised Nigeria a better deal but refuses to be honest with them about his health. He says Nigeria will implement the Millennium Declaration Goals but prefers to stay in bed. He speaks of Vision 2020 the same way we count our gold medals before the Olympics.
It seems to take Yar’Adua days to wake up, weeks to realize he has not got out of bed, months to decide to fire his ministers, even more months to actually fire them, and then months to announce a list that is evidently more flawed than what he did one year ago. In a country so far down the drain from its potential, a country needing a dynamic, 24-hour-per-day performance, we are hostages in more ways than one.
So, dear Nigerian, what would you do to someone you truly hated, if you had the authority to do everything? The answer is that, to make him suffer forever, you would leave behind a poison that keeps on poisoning.
Before our eyes, someone who obviously hates Nigerians handpicked Mr. Yar’Adua, knowing his deep limitations of vision, ability, motivation, and even health. It is a stroke of evil genius, the poison that keeps on poisoning.
But understanding this ought to make Nigerians rise in strength, not deflate in agony. We are a nation surrounded, but we must rise—prepared to take our destiny in our own hands—and say the word.
That word is: “Enough!”