By Pini Jason
WHEN last did you read about Rep. Farouk Lawan, Femi Otedola and the US$ 620,000 thriller? Where is Farouk Lawan? Where is Femi Otedola? Where is the 620,000 dollars bribe money? How did the story end?
What has happened to the Farouk subsidy probe report and the companies first deleted and re-inserted in the list of culpable companies? What has happened to the House Committee of Ethics etc probe into the bribe saga?
Why is the House of Representatives silent on this but rather prickly about the implementation of the budget? Why has the story slipped out of our minds and out of the news pages? So what we have to debate now is what percentage of the budget has been implemented or how much of the budget allocations have been released? Is there a conspiracy of silence?
Honestly, this amnesia was predicted. On 10 July 2012 I wrote here that: “My prediction is that at the end of the day, this case will become another Ibori case. Rep. Farouk Lawan will walk away free and the nation may need to apologise to him!” This pattern of anti-corruption war has been with us. When the government’s back is pushed to the wall, it simply leads us through a charade while it waits for the matter to flip out of our minds. For effect another sizzler is introduced to effectively sedate us.
Meanwhile alleged oil subsidy thieves are being charged to court and granted bail for N20 million! If you can steal N4 billion, why would it be difficult to post bail for N20 million? Just forget the trials. They get their bail, trial stalls for years and we forget and move on to another movie slide.
The list of those charged at least confirms one fact. Nigerians are right that political cronies are holding the oil industry, and by extension Nigerians, to ransom. Nigerians are very much aware of the corruption campaign contributions have created in the oil industry.
A few years ago it was alleged that one of the richest Nigerians raided banks in Lagos for billions to contribute to a presidential election.
Immediately after the election, the individual allegedly got five waivers from the Federal Government as the government slapped a fuel price increase on Nigerians! There can be no doubt that campaign contributions are closely linked with the sleaze in the oil industry.
The United States puts a limit to campaign contributions to avoid inherent corrupting effects. This type of limit is in the INEC laws but is hardly enforced. But I believe that we can, if we put our minds to it. Again, there is always a concern about the influence of lobbyists in US politics and government. For us, the question is how much space we can give oil lobbyists in the management of our economy.
It is a mark of Nigeria’s un-seriousness that the dreaded oil mafia and avaricious monopolists constitute our economic management! With that, it should not surprise anybody that the Farouk/Otedola tango would go the way it has. But such behaviour sets Nigeria on the path of destruction and diminishes our standing in the eyes of the world.
When things happen this way, especially at the highest level of the government, corruption is no longer an isolated disease to be dealt with but a pandemic that requires a concerted mass action to uproot it.
Therefore, if the Federal Government continues to equivocate in taking firm action to rid Nigeria of corruption and instead continues to play on our collective intelligence, it risks unwittingly inviting an unorthodox solution to this national plague! As I wrote this (last week Wednesday morning) I was watching a TV clip of thousands of Nigerian children (ages five to 17) being trafficked into slave labour.
These children are enslaved by poverty, poverty induced by corruption! These children are enslaved because a greedy few among us continue to pocket the billions belonging to all of us! I really do not know for how long this will continue before something monumental gives!
As we continue this fuel subsidy bellyaching, the big question is: why should we be importing what we should be exporting? Nobody seems to have the answer. Nobody sees this anomaly as a national disgrace.
Obasanjo and oil industry corruption
When General Olusegun Obasanjo was being foisted on the nation in 1999, he was touted as the greatest nationalist that ever walked the soil of Nigeria. He also believed the dubious ascription and it showed in his swagger (I dey kampe!).
That this nationalist looked corruption, especially in the oil industry, eyeball to eyeball and blinked, then looked the other way, and anointed some of the present day fuel subsidy thieves is the greatest leadership failure of all time for Nigeria. Obasanjo was oil Minister for almost all of his eight year tenure.
He chose not to repair our refineries. He could have built four refineries in eight years, but he chose not to. Rather he created a bureaucracy, PPPRA, to superintend a fraud called fuel subsidy. And a bunch of ruthless cowboys who organised presidential birthday parties ran riot on the economy while Obasanjo’s EFCC chased shadows.
Today, Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida who so bastardised the economy so much that he wondered why it had not collapsed are panicking. Last week fretted about the threatening collapse of Nigeria! Obasanjo and IBB represent the tiny elite for whom Nigeria works. When they claim that Nigeria’s sovereignty is not negotiable, on whose behalf are they speaking? If Nigeria breaks their tiny club will be the losers.
Things will not be worse for us the downtrodden. They better put on their military fatigues again “to fight” for the survival of Nigeria and, maybe, atone for their sins and in the process, if lucky, with only their sweat and nothing else. Nigerians are really, really angry.
President Jonathan must hasten not to continue on the economic path trod by Obasanjo. The National Assembly must realise that whining over constituency projects, insisting on legislating for us the way only they deem fit, summoning and throwing out Ministers, conducting probes that expose their clay footing and dismissing us as “a vocal minority” do not impress hungry Nigerians and do not ease the sufferings of the children trafficked into slavery by poverty.
Let me sound a note of warning; if nothing urgent and convincing is done to wean Nigeria of impunity and obsessive corruption, Nigerians will take to the streets again and when they do, the January 2012 outing will just be a mere rehearsal!
On Osun Chief Judge, Aregbesola has my vote!
I READ in Thisday newspaper of Sunday 29 July 2012 of the seeming controversy in Osun state over the intention of the Governor Comrade Rauf Aregbesola to appoint a Lagos Judge, Justice Oyewole, as the Chief Judge of Osun.
These agitators did not quote the part of the Constitution the Governor would breach if he appoints an Igbo man as his Chief Judge. Have Nigerians Judges not served as Chief Judges in other African and Caribbean countries?
I think Aregbesola is on a firm ground, being himself a beneficiary of the appointment of people in a state other than theirs. Check this out: In Ashiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s government, Alhaji Lai Mohammed from Kwara was Tinubu’s Chief of Staff; Comrade Aregbesola was the Commissioner for Works, Kayode Anibaba from Ogun State was Commissioner for Environment, Bamidele Opeyemi from Ekiti was Commissioner for Information, Dele Alake from Ondo was Commissioner for Information and Strategy before Opeyemi.
Lagos state people did not protest. All of these people made their fortunes in and from Lagos State to advance their political careers. Nobody is clear where Tinubu himself comes from, but people say he is not a Lagosian. What else qualified these Dick Wittingtons (apologies to Brigadier Mobolaji Johnson) to invade Lagos other than that they are all Yoruba? Tinubu appointed an Igbo a Commissioner and they made a singsong of it as if he is less entitled to it than these other non-Lagosians!
Incidentally the Justice Oyewole in question is reportedly from Ila in Osun State and was made a Judge of Lagos State in May 2001 by Governor Tinubu. So, why should what is good for Lagos not be good for Osun State? People should not open a Pandora box.
Last time, politicians in Lagos protested against the nomination of Mrs. Tokunbo Awolowo Dosunmu as an ambassador from Lagos state where she had lived and paid taxes almost all her life. The protesters included those who made their political careers by invoking her father’s name! Of course, the inimitable Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, then Senate President, ignore them and, in his words, “confirmed Mrs. Dosunmu as Ogun candidate via Lagos State”!
Politicians and some greedy civil servants must not form an alliance to retard the progress of Nigeria towards a common citizenship; the type of thing that has caused blood to flow in Plateau State. Governor Ohakim’s Commissioner for Housing, Mr. Tito Asakheme was originally from Edo state, but had lived in Imo for more than 25 years! Ohakim had Advisers and Assistants from Abia and Anambra.
Gbenga, a Yoruba who spoke better Igbo than many born in Owerri worked in the Accounts department of Ohakim’s Government House. He still lives in Owerri. The only thing I know that can stop Aregbesola from appointing Justice Oyewole as Chief Judge of Osun state is the hierarchy of seniority!