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Sting dollars: Between the lawmaker and the oil magnate

By  Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
PARDON me please, but in a manner of speaking, the s..t has hit the ceiling fan ofNigeria’s political and business elite; and the dangers are real, that a lot of well-starched apparels are likely to be soiled. Big time!

The Chinese curse says may we live in interesting times and these are the best of times and the worst of times in our country! If per chance, the ruling class inNigeria “wobbles and fumbles” through the myriad of problems dogging its every step and misstep, it would go down as one of history’s greatest survivors.

But it is too compromised by its irresponsibility; the institutions of state are rolled over by incompetence and the innards of ruling class hegemony are threatened by the incredible levels of corruption, that the survival of its class project can only be because its nemesis have refused or been unable to make the critical transition, which all students of radical political philosophies know very well, from class-in-itself to class-for-itself.

More than ever before, the times inNigeria have seen the ripening of the objective conditions for revolutionary upheaval; but the subjective factors are underdeveloped; compromised and unorganised.

And since society, like nature abhors vacuums, Nigeria is witnessing anarchic forms of rebellion in response to the crass irresponsibility of the ruling class.

Several accounting distortions

If I have done a more radical reading of our reality today, it is precisely because that is what is called for in the unfolding mess around the $3million bribery scandal in the House of Representatives. The fuel subsidy probe is arguably, one of the most important developments sinceNigeria’s transition to civil rule in 1999.

Nigerians discovered, thanks to the work done by the Hon. Farouk Lawan led committee, that the subsidy regime was one of the most corrupt processes in Nigeria’s recent history. Payments under the regime saw mind-boggling increases: in 2006, N261.1 Billion; in 2007, N278.8B; N346B was paid out in 2008 and they rose to N2.5trillion in 2011. Meanwhile, N999million was paid out in a total of 128 cheques amounting to N127. 872Billion, WITHIN a 24hours period, on the 12th and 13th of January, 2009.

And to stretch our wonderment further, different departments of government could not agree on exact sums paid the barons of fuel importation. The officially quoted amount was N1.3trillion; then the Account General of the Federation gave us N1.7trillion while the CBN said the amount was actually N1.8trillion. It took the Farouk Lawan-led committee to “finally” reveal that the country actually paid out N2.5Trillion!

The probe achieved a lot; it revealed the real reason why the nation’s ruling elite DELIBERATELY dithered about the construction of new refineries; it was too profitable for a few importers of refined products for them to refine here. For them preachments about creating jobs and strengthening national sovereignty meant nothing. Their profits were far more important than the country.

They also revealed the deep and complex ties between and within the political and business elites ofNigeria. Those paid corrupt monies read like the Who-is-Who of major donors to the electoral fortunes of the PDP. So the probe exposed the ugly hind place ofNigeria’s bourgeoisie; even a student of Pol. Science 101, can see how corruption ties up the nation’s political and business life.

Instead of being a nation-building ruling class,Nigeria’s own rulers and their class project have increasingly become a danger to the survival of the country itself! The fuel subsidy probe represented the finest moments of an activist and people-responsive House of Representatives; the moment also found its man in the diminutive Hon. Farouk Lawan, a four-time ranking member of the House.

Lawan is a very adroit manipulator of the opportunities which parliamentary life gives to individuals who combine cunning with the ability to read the portents of politics and predict exactly where the pendulum of power and influence swung! An ambitious man with a sweet-sounding voice as well as a reservoir of deep opportunism often camouflaged as ‘principle’, Hon. Farouk Lawan lapped up the moment to kill many birds with the subsidy probe boulder: strengthened his ‘integrity’ bona fide as well aspositioned himself at the front of the 2015 gubernatorial queue inKanostate. It was too good to be true!

The probe ruffled too many feathers and those at the receiving end were baying for blood. Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done to prevent a mongrel dog from eating fecal matter. Historically, the legislature, since 1999, had established an unsavoury reputation as the centre of sleaze; between 1999 and 2007, President Obasanjo used monetary inducement to stoke the greedy instincts of parliamentarians.

With that, he got his way with often, controversial and self-serving laws and in the process also held the entire Second Tier of government hostage.

It was the cat-and-mouse game played out between him and his greedy parliamentary hostages, which led him to constantly demonise them, whenever they objected to his increasingly absurd requests and the final nail in the coffin of their troubled relationship was the rejection of the Third Term Agenda, despite the reported billions of naira parliamentarians had allegedly collected from the old despot. The bitterness will not clear in their relationship; that explained why the old dictator recently went back to describe them as rogues!

Sacred cow, importation guru and perpetual donor

So when the story broke this week, that Hon. Farouk Lawan had demanded a bribe of $3Million from one of the “sacred cows” of that tie-in between the world of politics and business, Femi Otedola: diesel importation guru; member of the Presidential economic team; perpetual donor to PDP presidential funds and a ubiquitous figure in the presidential entourage, it looked like Farouk Lawan, for once, did not read the political portents too carefully.

He lost the plot! By allegedly demanding the bribe, he overplayed his hands and seemed to have allowed greed to override his survivor’s instincts; how could he fail to know that this was one moment to reign-in the propensity for greed? Did he forget the number of powerful toes the committee stepped on in the course of its exposes? Given the years he has spent in the National Assembly, did Hon. Farouk Lawal somehow forget that the powerful forces he constantly alerted as trying to bribe the committee he headed were going to fight back dirty, using the apparatus of state security? In the end, it was that apparatus which allegedly nailed him in a sting operation, video evidence and all!

It was therefore an obviously shocked and embarrassed House of Representatives, which spoke through Hon. Zakari Muhammed, at the beginning of the week, that “this House will never take sides with corruption and we will always stand on the side of rule of law”. The underlining reason for the sting operation was not just to catch Hon. Farouk Lawal collecting bribe from Femi Otedola; the central purpose was to discredit the fuel subsidy report that exposed the political elite and their business allies.

Those implicated in the elaborate fuel subsidy scam would have reasoned that if the chairman can be caught on video collecting bribe, why should his report not lose credibility? But that is precisely the point. We must not allow the baby to be thrown away with the bathwater! Nigerians must protect the sanctity of the report of the Fuel Subsidy probe panel. Those implicated as having fleeced our country must be prosecuted and be made to return the loot to the Nigerian people.

That is without prejudice to whatever punishment fits the alleged misdemeanour that seem set to destroy Hon. Farouk Lawal’s political career; he rode the tiger of political opportunism for so long and is now looking like ending as meal for that voracious beast!

The revelations of the past few days are very startling, but Hon. Farouk Lawal is fighting back; this week, it was revealed that he reported to law enforcement agents as far back as April 24, of pressures to bribe him to influence the report of the fuel subsidy investigation committee.

On the same day, he had intimated the Chairman of the House Committee on Financial Crimes of Otedola’s persistence to offer him bribe to influence the outcome of the investigation. When pressed on why he did not inform the House in session, Hon. Lawan said he kept mute because it would overshadow the essence of the fuel subsidy probe.

Events tally but spin differs

When news of the bribery allegations initially surfaced, Hon. Lawan had warned that “the present mudslinging is not unexpected in view of the caliber of people whose actions and inactions were found wanting in the report”. He added further in response to the dramatic video footage that “I am aware that in their desperation to discredit the report and divert attention of the public from the real issues of large scale fraud in high places established in our report, a video footage displaying a caricature of my person allegedly having a dealing with a marketer reminiscent of the military era when dignitaries were invited to the villa to watch a video clip of a phantom coup involving Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is already in circulation”.

From an observer’s point of view, we can see that details of events tally, but the spin differs. Somewhere between the lawmaker and the oil magnate, is lost the truth of the unfolding scenario. The scene is set for the mother of all roforofo fights.

That was why I said that the s..t has hit the ceiling fan and very few over-starched Babar Riguna and other choice dresses of members of the political and economic elite of the nation, can escape the s..t!Nigeria’s ruling class is in a terrible mess. They brought home ant-ridden faggots of corruption and misrule and in the process, have invited the visit of anarchic violence that dogs our country today!

 


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