President Muhammadu Buhari, by his anti-corruption crusade is doing what some of us have longed for, for so long. We knew that we were making a lot of money when crude oil peaked at $115 a barrel, but we never knew where the money was flying to. We heard our governments earmarking vast sums of money for this or that project but our electricity is still having epileptic fits, our roads are still a danger to pregnant women, and our buses are still "10 sitting 20 standing." We knew something was wrong; we even knew what was wrong but we didn't know how far wrong things were.
Now as Buhari came in, we all had a frisson of expectation based on his campaign promises and the role he played in his first incarnation in 1984. So this is a Buhari de ja vu and our own epiphany.
The $2.1 billion set aside for the importation of arms to fight insurgency is now an open book. Since Watergate, every major scandal in America has often had the suffix "gate" attached to it. Nigerian journalists have promptly named this scandal either Armsgate or Dasukigate after Sambo Dasuki, the retired colonel who was
National Security Adviser in the immediate past. If the Buhari government has the will to probe further there will be, without a speck of doubt, other gates that can be opened. If they are opened, I assure you that all kinds of animals will file past: rats and rabbits, monkeys and goats, elephants and snakes, giraffes and gorillas and other assortment of animals some with horns and some without horns. We will then name them Siemensgate, Halliburtongate, Fertilisergate, COJAgate, subsidygate, petrolgate, ecologygate, NPAgate, footballgate, payrollgate, and NIMASAgate. You can add your own gates too because this list is only illustrative, not exhaustive.
Dasuki is a lucky man. In
New Words Dictionary he has a word "Dasukigate" named after him. It will remain so for ever. Even if he is not likely to be eminently proud of it, the point is that he is listed. There are other take-aways from this $2.1 billion
- So far the irreducible minimum taken away by the major "choppers" was one hundred million naira. If there is anyone who got less than that it means he is what Nigerians would call a "bloody fool," that is a fool that has nothing in his skull. There is a Nigerian proverb that reads, "if you want to eat a toad you should eat a fat and juicy one."
- No one among the "choppers" has denied receiving the money even though some said they got it through a third party or through some roundabout route.
- All the "choppers" paid the money into either their personal accounts or accounts of companies owned by them.
- All of them who collected the funds knew where it came from so they must have thought that they possessed the gift of serendipity which most of us are not lucky to have.
Now, this whole thing sounds like a bazaar, some kind of Belshazzar's feast, a feast of opulent excess. And you may want to ask where they put all of this stuff. In one stomach only? What should we call this? A stealing marathon or a looting Olympics or kleptomania's world cup. You can choose the one that turns you on.
They have started singing. Some say they are established experts in political engineering or security engineering, others have made some namby-pamby explanations, some kind of non-denial while some have coughed up some kind of Nuremberg defence, which comes this way: "I was just following orders." The puzzling thing to me is that they all seem to have the easy manners of the entitled and you wonder whether they still manage to sleep well knowing that there is fire on the mountain.
Some of them have had their assets seized already by the government while they wait for their day in court. The other day, my friend, Dan Agbese and I were discussing what should be done to the seized property. There are three ways of dealing with it (a) sell by public auction. Dan says they will find a way of buying it back so to him that is a No No. (b) The second option which Dan favours is the Peter Obi treatment: Get some bulldozers and level them the way Governor Peter Obi reduced the property of arrested kidnappers in Anambra State to rubble. Several states have adopted the Obi formula. I do not approve of this formula because if you level the building then there will be no building for people to talk about and the thief will live quietly in undeserved anonymity.
What I recommend is a conversion of the building or land depending on its size and location into a hospital or health centre, a school (crèche, nursery, primary) or a football field, a basketball court, a poultry or snail farm or a piggery or a High Court, Customary or magistrate court, or a factory, a warehouse, a public library, food-is-ready bukateria, a public toilet, flea market or mammy market or bend down market (BDM). What the government should decide to turn it into depends on what will be most beneficial to the public. In addition, I suggest there should be a plaque that indicates who the property was seized from, some kind of Hall of Infamy.
Buhari makes history to repeat itself. In 1984, he made history when he packed all the suspected thieves in the Shehu Shagari government into Kirikiri Maximum Prison. In his second coming, Buhari has made Kuje Prison in
the new pilgrimage ground for the suspects. Some are going there in handcuffs which are the cuff links for the suspects; others may be going there in legcuffs; some are going there in wheel chairs, don't be surprised if some of them go there in wheel barrows.
I understand Kuje is a modern prison. I visited the place once when a friend of mine was detained there, but I did not have the opportunity to check what the place truly is like. However, I know a little about the prisons in
. In my younger days in this business of minding other people's business, I had the dubious distinction of being warehoused in some of these places: Ikoyi Prison, Alagbon, Calabar, Ikoyi Police Station and Awolowo Road detention centre. What I can assure you is that none of them is the equivalent of Transcorp Hilton Hotel. I do not think that Kuje is significantly better. Even if it is, a prison is still a prison.
The other day, I saw Olisa Metuh, the PDP spokesman, being driven to court in a pick-up van. Lucky man, he had a luxury ride. In the days gone by some of us had the dubious distinction of being driven to and from court in a Black Maria, that dark, dingy and monstrous vehicle with only peepholes for ventilation. The good thing though was that you had the road cleared for you, siren and all. They always cleared the road for the occupants of Black Maria in case you are ready to die from asphyxia you must get to the court or the prison first.
Not being regulars, I imagine some of the suspects may not have been prepared for their trip to the prison. The famous lawyer, Gani Fawehinmi, who was perhaps the most regularly detained man always had his toilet kit ready in case the police came for him. He was detained so often that it became something like a joke. One of the
judges once told the press after putting Fawehimi in jail: "There are always rough tactics for rough men." On another occasion, the former President Ibrahim Babangida
, in response to a question as to why he detained Gani Fawehimi, said that since all the governments before him had detained him he had to do likewise instead of being an exception.
Looking at some of those who have been detained at Kuje prison recently, you notice that each of them comes out with a beard whose complexion is a little charcoal and a lot of chalk, what the Americans call salt and pepper hair.
When the politicians detained by Buhari in 1984 were discharged from Kirikiri Maximum Security prison they all called for prison reforms, because Kirikiri was worse than a dungeon. These were some of the men who had ample opportunity while in office to improve the prisons but did not. I have no idea what the Kuje prison and EFCC or DSS detention centres are like but I imagine that they are very much like other prisons in
: awful. In most of
prisons, those awaiting trial outnumber the convicts. And among those awaiting trial are some who have been there for years because their cases have not been decided despite several adjournments.
For them to have the right impact the on-going corruption cases must be settled quickly at the High Courts or Code of Conduct Bureau. There is no doubt that some of them who lose these cases at the High Courts will go to higher courts such as Appeal Court and Supreme Court. They will do so in the hope that Buhari will not contest the election in 2019 and if he does he may not win. They also believe that anybody else that may become president from any party will not be an anti-corruption crusader like Buhari. So their game plan will be to drag the case on for years through frivolous adjournments and appeals. Buhari and his team should therefore factor these scenarios into their plans so that these cases don't go on forever.
When you look at the sordidness of the current corruption saga you may wonder what sort of country
is. Yes, there is corruption in every country but is there one as scandalous as this one and the others that we had glossed over in the past. Other countries punish their corrupt citizens but
hardly does. That is why many people are keeping their fingers crossed as they wonder whether or not Buhari can crack this Gordian knot. We all need to encourage him to succeed.
In October 1939, Winston Churchill had described
thus: "A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma." That description of
perfectly. As we move from one gate to another, more worms will crawl out of our corruption can. Then you will see why I think
is a riddle, a mystery and an enigma.
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