Thursday, September 21, 2006

Nigerian Leaders Hark! What is the Value of a Man?

Airplane crashes are joltingly painful, especially to friends and relatives of the crash victims, yet, they are poignant reminders of the ephemeral nature of life. Without warning, in a fleeting moment all the substance and stature of the human being is brought to an abrupt and screeching eternal halt. We carp and squabble over money, power, politics, ideologies and things that are of meaningless consequence on the scale of the eternity of time and the infinity of space that makeup life and existence.

For those who died in the September 17, 2006 Army plane crash in Kwande, Benue State , it is the end of all these meaningless carping, squabbling and jostling. All their families and everyone with whom they interacted in the course of their lives have left are memories. The years and efforts put into their jobs and relationships reduced to mere electrical impulses transmitted across the tiny spaces (synapses) between the networks of connections (dendrites) and cells (neurons) that make up the brain and nervous system.

The worth of a man is often dictated by the type of memories we hold of him after he dies. We hold on to these memories cherishing the fond and good ones and trying to forget the not so good. Sometimes, there are those memories that are too grim to forget. Often, these are borne out of the actions or inactions of a man or woman in a given situation. In men who by fate find themselves in positions of authority and leadership, these actions or inactions often have far-reaching and compelling impacts on large sections of the society.

Good leaders often are remembered fondly with feelings of euphoric nostalgia and yearning. Bad leaders are remembered with loathsome bitterness and regret. Often, it is not that the good leader was pristine and perfect through and through, and did not falter or do any bad deeds, or that the bad leader is outrightly evil and did not do any good deed. It is the degree of these deeds and the level and type of impact (negative or positive) the deeds have on the society that determines a good or bad leader. On this scale, Hitler was most certainly an evil and bad leader. There is no question also that Abacha, Mobutu and Idi-Amin likewise were bad leaders who left indelible negative memories in societies which they led. In the same vein, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Ghandi are undoubtedly two of the greatest leaders of the 20th century.

Understandably, most leaders fall between the two extreme types of leaders given that one would expect a stochastic distribution of types of leaders. For some reason, Nigeria seems to have a more than disproportionate share of leaders of the Mobutu and Abacha ilk, perhaps because years of despotic and dehumanizing reign of military dictatorship has inured Nigerians to the anguish of bad leadership. Being on the left tail of the normal distribution for so long has warped the reasoning of the average Nigerian to the extent that he justifies acts that are flat out wrong and deplorable by flimsy self-serving strange, if not moronic logic.

Nigerian leaders would do well to strive to leave more positive impacting memories on the citizenry that they lead by doing good deeds and staying within the ambits of the law as they dispatch their responsibilities. Take the case of the late Finance director of INEC, who led a lie as a pastor while looting the government coffers to the tune of 7 billion Naira. Surely that individual has left an indelible negativity in the collective memories of Nigeria , likewise has Tafa Balogun, ex IG of Police and many other leaders in Nigeria . It would not be inaccurate to say that such Nigerians have led worthless and destructive lives. And for those who believe in life after death, the damnation is double barreled. Not only are the memories they leave behind forever seen as profane and despicable, these individuals are equally self-condemned to eternal damnation as defined by any of the major creeds in Nigeria that they are likely to belong. In the end, the true value of a man is measured by how many lives one has impacted positively and not how much wealth he amassed.

It is worthless to acquire wealth without impacting peoples’ lives positively with it, and even worse to acquire wealth illegally as many Nigerian leaders do. The world’s two richest people Bill Gates and Warren Buffet realize this and are giving back to the world almost all their wealth through philanthropy. These indeed are two great men and big men of the kind never seen in Nigeria.

The writer of this article pays his respect to the 13 people who lost their lives in the Military aircraft crash last Sunday and pray that their families find the strength to bear the loss. Were Nigeria a well run society perhaps this might not have happened. Perhaps the army would have had newer aircrafts with better trained pilots and air traffic control staff. Perhaps there would have been a well structured emergency response procedure in place and rescue teams to rendered adequate and prompt help immediately after the crash. But that is if only governors, presidents, directors, vice presidents, legislators, civil servants and private and corporate executives would stop looting millions of dollars and pounds to acquire homes in Europe and America and fund profligate life styles. Until all the brigandage stops, Nigerians unfortunately would be bereft of the true value of life.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Nigerian Presidency 2007 - “Kingibe, the Dark Horse?”

Ambassador Babagana Kingibe’s declaration to vie for the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) last Thursday is yet another punt in the political game leading up to the 2007 Nigerian presidential election. Kingibe could not have come out at a more auspicious time. Had he made his intention known earlier than now, he probably would have been marked for cavil and calumny by other aspirants who had made theirs known (tacit or overt) long ago. Babangida and Atiku, two who had, are under the scrutiny of every Nigerian and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and deservedly so, given the huge wealth both individuals have purportedly amassed allegedly by virtue of their positions in government.

With both men stewing in the morass of the Petroleum Development Trust Fund (PDTF) and the Globacom deals, it is hard to see how either man will escape unscathed by the time the dust settles on these allegations. If the case of impropriety and frank fraud either man is accused of is proven, then disqualification from vying for the presidency will be the least of their problems. There appears to be some veracity in the allegations though, as the key conduit, Adenuga, through whom the illicitly acquired wealth is alleged to have been laundered is at large, having fled to Ghana over a fortnight ago to escape interrogation by the EFCC.

There have been speculations of a dark horse in the PDP fold, one believed to have the blessing of Mr. Obasanjo and who enjoys some sort of local and international regard and acclaim, and not tainted with allegations of corrupt self-enrichment. Mr. Kingibe seems to fit this profile and may indeed be the dark horse if there ever was one. He is currently a special OAU envoy in Sudan and was a one time chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the early 1990s. Kingibe was also the running mate to the late MKO Abiola, the widely acclaimed winner of the aborted June 12, 1993 presidential elections.

This may count for some political leverage with the western Nigerian electorate. Even though it should not matter, being from the same “geopolitical zone” as Atiku gives him some regional acceptability as well as deals a dilutory blow to the Atiku political machinery. Kingibe is a charismatic orator, with a good command of the English language and a keenly developed diplomatic mien evident in the way he responds to questions and comments. He has also cultivated a grassroots and populist following and so belongs to that rare breed of Nigerian political elites who enjoy the sincere patronage and trust of the common-folk.

The Kingibe candidacy is one that will be keenly watched particularly since majority of the other possible candidates come from the fold of the present PDP governors, most of whom according to the EFCC, are involved in some acts of gross abuse of power or graft. Added to this, none of these PDP governors enjoys as wide a followership as Kingibe. Which ever way this goes, Kingibe and his supporters would have to court the PDP echelon and party stalwarts from the South-south and south-east to get their backing since both regions have vowed to wrest power come 2007.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Atiku's Bundle

In developed societies where the rule of law, order and decorum prevail, the right thing for any public office holder indicted in acts of impropriety or abuse of office is to resign. Over and over again we have seen this happen in the USA and Britain. Only last week, the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair announced that he would be leaving office next May because his party has lost confidence in his leadership. The US defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, has tendered his resignation several times in the last couple of years because of popular criticism of his handling of the US invasion of Iraq, only to be turned down by President Bush. Even though the cases leveled against these two men are not gross acts of corruption, Blair and Rumsfeld understand the import of loss of confidence in a public officer by the populace.

Atiku has been accused not only of complicity in misuse of power but the outright abuse of power and perpetration of acts of gross corruption by the systematic manner in which the Petroleum Development Trust Fund (PDTF) under his control was used to fund various shady deals ranging from the iGate/NDTV deal to the Marine Float and Globacom deals. The fall out of these is still unraveling. Only on Friday, September 8, 2006 the head of iGate, Mr. Vernon Jackson a Kentucky, USA businessman, was sentenced to an 87 months jail term, plus 2 years probation upon completion of the jail term by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis in Alexandria, Virginia. William Jefferson, the US congressman linked in the iGate bribery scheme with Atiku is under FBI investigation. Mr. Mike Adenuga, the conduit through whom Atiku is alleged to have purchased shares in Globacom with PDTF funds expropriated by Atiku for that purpose, has fled Nigeria for Ghana en-route to England to join his twenty-something year old sons, executive officers in Globacom and who also had earlier fled Nigeria to escape investigation by the EFCC.

These charges are serious and not to be taken lightly. In what appears to be a bold-faced attempt of self preservation, Atiku has gone to court to seek an injunction to stop the report of the findings of investigations of these allegations from being tabled before the National Assembly. In addition, he has gone further to claim that the monies paid into the accounts of his company, Marine Float Limited, was under the joint control of him and President Obasanjo as the monies were meant to be used for the Obasanjo/Atiku reelection campaign. If indeed this was the intended use of the monies how come they were not held in an appropriately named account? Why was the account not under the control of the PDP? What does the paper trail as regards the outflow of monies from the account reveal? Were expenses incurred for the Obasanjo/Atiku reelection campaign paid out from the account or was the account used to fund private projects of Atiku’s or Obasanjo’s? These are questions to which answers can be easily obtained through forensic accounting.

Atiku acknowledges that 100 million naira was paid by the Plateau state governor, Joshua Dariye to Marine Float towards the Obasanjo/Atiku reelection in August 2001, two years before the 2003 reelection. The question that arises here is: - Is there any legal grounds on which a state governor is permitted to make such a contribution from the coffers of his state to the presidential campaign? None exists the last time I checked. On this ground alone, the Vice President is liable, along with the governor of Plateau state, who as we know, is a fugitive of the British justice system, having jumped bail in 2004 in London to escape charges of money laundering. For all we know Dariye and Atiku may have been in cahoots in looting the coffers of the state and the 100 million naira was Atiku’s share. Or perhaps Atiku used the Marine Float account to fraudulently obtain monies from donors by intimidation using the Obasanjo/Atiku reelection as a cover. Either way, Atiku is clearly at abeyance with the law with the Marine Float Limited affair.

Undoubtedly, Atiku and Babangida played pivotal roles in the 1999 election of Obasanjo as president. It is unlikely that Obasanjo could have mustered the resources and support he enjoyed in the campaign leading up to his nomination as the PDP candidate and his eventual election as president without the roles played by these two individuals. That however does not render them untouchable or immune to investigation to the extent that there are questions about their conducts in business and as high level officers of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

The world over and throughout history, people in public leadership positions are expected to conduct their affairs beyond reproach. As William Shakespeare put it, “Ceaser’s wife must be above suspicion.” But you don’t automatically attain this just by virtue of your leadership position, it is something that is earned through personal conduct and actions, and which can be easily cross-referenced in its transparency. If indeed they are beyond reproach, Atiku, his supporters and business partners (Adenuga in particular) should be forthwith with the truth and allow for the proper proceedings to take its course rather than cry wolf and make accusatory statements and recriminations to garner undeserved ill-willed sentiments against the investigators, the Federal Executive Council and President Obasanjo.

It is hoped that when the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters finally comes out with its guidelines on procedures on the deliberation of the report which has been tabled before it with a letter from the president that the senators dispatch their duties without bias and partisanship.

Monday, September 11, 2006


It is unclear what Akinsanya Juliuson was trying to say in his special feature of September 11, 2006 on the website, titled: - “NUHU RIBADU: LET HE WHO IS WITHOUT GUILT CAST THE FIRST STONE.” The article, from my perspective, was a Hodgepodge of banal Nigerian sayings and incoherent ramblings and philosophizing of what appears to be Juliuson’s perception of life.

Was Juliuson trying to make allusions to the EFCC chairman’s conduct in his execution of his duties? Was he extolling or excoriating them? From the title, one may deduce that Juliuson was probably doing the latter, but like the typical Nigerian politician, Juliuson was cryptic in his pronouncements, which were interspersed with “biblical rhetoric” to suffuse some element of piety in the write up. He claims that he does not judge people, but Juliuson’s article seemes to be warning the EFCC chairman to tone down his activities or face some damnation. “Man is such a harsh judge. We so readily want our own indiscretions and mistakes to be over looked, but seldom are willing to overlook someone else's. Why does it sometimes seem as if we revel in the chance to find fault in others? Is it because we feel better about our own shortcomings when we compare them to those who are more obviously flawed?” Juliuson writes. Is he making reference to Ribadu’s knack for saying it as it is not caring the “status” of the person under investigation?

Juliuson also continues: - “Honesty is not the best policy in Nigeria of today. Sensitivity is. Some people are born insensitive, some achieve insensitivity and others have insensitivity thrust upon them. This is not the right quotation. But I am sure we all know why I make that remark now. We are dealing with several silly someones, several brood of vipers.” Obviously Juliuson condones dishonesty, acts of criminality and gross corruption that the EFCC is trying to excise from the Nigerian polity. Juliuson should know that the law is no respecter of social status. Criminals, regardless of their status are prosecuted if investigated and found wanton. One thing Juliuson must understand is that as a commission set up to combat corruption, the EFCC has the statutory obligation to prosecute all those found to be wanton in their investigations. All the commission does is argue the case before a judge, who, based on the evidence provided by the commission, and the argument of put forth by the defendant decides the case.

It is true that the default in law is "innocent until proven guilty" and this is upheld by the prosecution process followed by the EFCC. But that aside, come on Juliuson, how much is the salary of these so called “persecuted” that they live the profligate lifestyles that they lead? Alamieyesiegha’s salary as governor was not denominated in pounds and dollars, and even if it was, it was hardly so much so that he could afford to keep one million pounds in the house he bought in London only a few years ago when he became governor. Besides, Alamieyeseigha was apprehended by the British police, an unbiased and autonomous organization.

If the Atiku/Adenuga case is what sparked Juliuson’s article, let it be known that the case is connected to the US congressman, Jefferson’s saga, which has been under the FBI investigation for a while now, and that the evidence provided in the report was collated through an international joint effort between the FBI and the EFCC. It is no secret that Adenuga (purported whiz kid) has been a conduit through whom a number of Nigerian present and past leadership have funneled funds looted from the coffers of Nigeria since the mid 1980s.

To use one of the banal Nigerian sayings that Juliuson omitted in his incoherent write-up, “let us call a spade a spade.” The EFCC has been doing an excellent job since the young man; Ribadu has been at the helm. The commission deserves, from all Nigerians, the highest praise and respect. The most tendered reservation people have of the commission is that it has gone after some highly placed members of the society, and that these folks do not deserve to be investigated and interrogated. Well, if there is some question about the source of wealth of these individuals, particularly if their gross remuneration while they held government positions are insufficient to afford them their level of wealth, investigating them is the only way to clear up the discrepancy.

The one thing that Juliuson seemed to get right is that the EFCC chairman, in his stoic and committed manner of delivery of his duties, is putting himself and family at great personal danger given the degree of influence and vindictive capabilities of the individuals he is going after. But this is the hallmark of a brave and valiant man in the battle against corruption. By being reticent and condoning depravity and corruption, and sweeping it under the carpet, as recommended by Juliuson, the EFCC or any other agency charged with the job of combating corruption would be tantamount to selling its soul, as Juliuson seems to have done in the name of his incoherent and grossly erroneous notion of what he thinks “decorum” should be.