By Dele Sobowale
The tragedy was long foretold on the pages of SUNDAY VANGUARD. The possible fall of Professor Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke from grace was contained in two separate warnings which she ignored, as it turned out, to her peril.
Back in 2003, when she organized the election fund raising for the re-election of President Obasanjo and Vice-President Atiku, under the umbrella of the illegal CORPORATE NIGERIA, I had taken the hitherto professional Director General of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, NSE, to task for mixing politics with business in a way that was not only inherently corrupt but unconstitutional as well.
Furthermore, it was clear that she was using her clout as the DG-NSE to raise funds for her chosen candidateÂ Â because no company would have resisted her demandsÂ . She ignored all the criticism in the media, including my own prediction which is now restated below.
â€œThe Director General of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, NSE, runs the risk of being remembered, not as the person who built the Nigerian Stock Exchange but as the person who wrecked itâ€. That was in 2003.
But, then Obasanjo and Atiku were re-(s)elected, and what should have been prosecuted as crime was rewarded with the Chairmanship of Transcorp, to which a great deal of our commonwealth was transferred at give away prices.
Professor Okereke-Onyiuke and Alhaji Dangote, among others, purchased billions of Transcorp shares at fifty kobo initially; all the shares were later sold at N7.00 or more to the rest of us at great profits to themselves. Nobody heard any noise while the going was good for the conspirators and their God-father Obasanjo.
Yet it was clear to some of us, that the shady deals that were then common in the Nigerian Stock Exchange would one day boomerang and when that occurs, the unholy romance between politics and the economic dynamics of the market will destroy the house of cards which was then swiftly under construction -even as far back as 2003.
Reliable insiders have indicated that despite the outcry in 2003, some corporate entities listed on the Exchange still went ahead and made secret donations to the Yarâ€™Adua/Jonathan ticket in 2007. It was done covertly to avert the attention of the prying media and civil society groups.
Not once, was the amounts collected made known to the public; the donors themselves did not know how much was eventually collected and the disbursements to various ends. That sort of lack of accountability was not the conduct expected of a Chief Executive of an institution which dealt in macro-finance where transparency and accountability were the supreme acid tests of soundness. But, nobody questions apparent success; apparent, because it was clear to some of us that all that glittered was not gold.
â€œFrom the sublime to the ridiculous there is only one stepâ€, (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, p 236), wrote Thomas Paine, 1737-1809 years before the Professor was born, but the lesson which Paine sought to teach those whom Fortune had favoured was totally lost on her. She must have considered herself untouchable.
Having got away with organizing illegal campaign contributions in Nigeria, it was only a short step to taking her show to the international arena. For reasons best known to her, this Harvard University trained graduate, who lived in the United States, and who knew that US law forbids campaign contributions from foreigners, nevertheless went ahead to organize a fund raising campaign for US Presidential candidate Barrack Obama under the auspices of an illegal organization called AFRICANS FOR OBAMA. That willful disregard for the rules of law earned her, in my SUNDAY VANGUARD column, the nick name â€œMadam Obamaâ€. It was not meant as a compliment.
Once again, millions of naira were collected, which incidentally could never have been sent to the Obama campaign organization, and only God knows what would have happened to the funds if another alarm was not raised. In the end, she again received only a mild slap on the wrist for what was a premeditated scam. She must have taught she got away with another escapade. But, she also must have forgotten Nemesis. I did not. Read what follows.
â€œShe [Professor Onyiuke] needs good and wise advisers in a hurry; otherwise a life time of commendable achievement is about to go down the drainâ€, Dele Sobowale, August 21, 2008.Â Â It was almost two years to the date, when in a tail end piece to my article on â€œMadam Obamaâ€™sâ€ illegal intervention in the US elections, that I wrote that warning (or was it prophecy?) about the, now, former DG-NSE.
Like most people who have pushed their luck too far, â€œProfessor Onyiukeâ€, was probably the last to know that the wheels of Fortune were about to turn the other way. But, my intuition told me that she was riding for a fall. Why?
She had gained prominence and power on account of the bubble in the NSE, fuelled in the previous three years by banks manipulating and publishing false annual reports and accounts; by corrupt practices at the Exchange including, but limited to, insider trading, share price manipulation, unsecured credit given by banks to buy shares which would otherwise have been under-subscribed and the corrupt practice of FACTS BEHIND THE FIGURES.
Each and everyone of these sharp practices which were undermining the market had been treated in must columns in the SUNDAY VANGUARd at one point or the other. Clearly, if she ascended the power escalator when the index was rising; then she stands a great risk of falling out of favour when there is a reversal. That was the reason for asking her to bail out before the roof caved in. But, as usual the warnings contained therein were ignored.
So in May 2008, after disposing of many of my own shares, a Stock Market crash was predicted; it was further predicted that the recovery will take several years in coming. The former DG would have none of that. Instead she made an announcement predicting a quick recovery before the end of 2008. It never came; not in 2008, not in 2009.
Now with the scandal engulfing the Stock Exchange, you donâ€™t need a prophet to tell you it will not occur in 2010 either. If anything, the losses will mount and with them rising anger against a woman who was once a role model for male and female youths alike.
What is more important, had the DG-NSE left in 2008 as advised, she would have left with some ovation. Today, the entire world will remember how in August 2010, a life time of commendable achievement actually went down the drain in Nigeria. Pity!