By Donu Kobara
DURING his recent visit to Tehran, President Muhammadu Buhari had an interactive session with members of the Nigerian community in Iran and told them that some former government officials are voluntarily returning public funds they acquired illegally.
He assured his audience that “the day of reckoning is gradually approaching”, that his administration will not settle for partial returns, will only be satisfied with full refunds of looted cash and is currently investigating various individuals”.
Apparently, the investigative net is being cast pretty widely to cover the past 16 years and evidence is being meticulously compiled.
And any ex-office-holder who is found to have committed financial crimes between 1999 and 2015 will eventually be formally charged to court and publicly exposed for betraying the nation’s trust.
Way To Go, Mr President! This is what so many of us want to hear.
Many Nigerians eagerly voted for Buhari primarily – or even purely – because he is famed for being unmaterialistic, disciplined, strict and allergic to theft; and there will be dancing in the streets if he punishes those who shamelessly stole public money and cruelly deprived us of the multiple benefits we would have gained if that money had been spent on hospitals, schools, roads and law enforcement instead.
I had an argument with a friend last weekend. He was trying to persuade me to feel very sorry for a former Minister who is very ill at the moment and receiving extremely expensive medical treatment abroad.
This ex-Minister, who is my friend’s friend, only owned a couple of houses when he entered office. Now he owns mansions in several Nigerian and foreign locations. And when he was in Goodluck Jonathan’s Cabinet, he flaunted his ill-gotten wealth.
When my friend started to tell me about the pains the ex-Minister was enduring, I cut him short and said that I’d rather reserve my sympathy for the impoverished Nigerians who have died because they couldn’t access halfway decent medical facilities, thanks to ex-ministers who made away with big bucks that should have been invested in providing good healthcare to the masses.
My friend accused me of being too harsh. He reminded me that Christianity encourages forgiveness and expressed the view that even sinners who have stolen vast amounts – and been boastful – deserve my sympathy if they are suffering.
I guess that my friend is right when he says that I should have a compassionate attitude towards any human being who is in bad shape. But it’s difficult to forgive VIPs whose chronic selfishness has wrecked so many lives and held Nigeria back.
Buhari won’t be able to catch every single guilty party (even in Western countries that are better-organised than Nigeria, some especially clever or lucky crooks are able to escape justice). But a significant number of guilty parties can definitely be caught; and it’ll do our collective psyche good to see examples being made of them.
A Nigerian shines in the UK
THE first Black Lord Lieutenant of Greater London has topped a list of Britain’s most influential Black people.
Kenneth Olisa, an entrepreneur and philanthropist, beat several Black British celebrities – including the Somali Olympic star Mo Farah and Steve McQueen, an Oscar-winning film director of West Indian extraction – in the annual Powerlist that marks the achievements of African and Caribbean people in Britain.
Olisa, aged 63, was the first British-born Black man to serve on the board of a public company (Reuters). He has also established a merchant bank (Restoration Partners) and had a library named after him after he donated a whopping £2 million to Cambridge, the premier league university he attended as a super-smart scholarship student.
Last April, Queen Elizabeth II appointed him Lord Lieutenant of London on the advice of David Cameron, the Prime Minister. The title, which comes with a staff of 90; and he’s in charge of all visits made by the royal family within the city. Sometimes, he even represents them at official functions.
Considering that Olisa was abandoned as a child by his Nigerian father and raised in very humble circumstances by an impecunious English mother, his achievements are particularly impressive. The Nottingham home he grew up in didn’t even have an inside toilet or bath. Yet, young Kenneth didn’t waste time on self-pity or regard failure as an option. He simply rolled his sleeves up, worked hard and rose and rose.
Olisa refuses to dwell on negatives, swears that he hasn’t encountered much racism and said, in an interview that was published in the British Telegraph last Monday:
“This Powerlist shows that Black people can do everything. There can no longer be an argument that if you can’t get on, it’s because you are Black. There are lots of other reasons you can’t get on – you’re incompetent, you can’t speak properly, you can’t spell, you don’t get to work on time. But it’s not because you are Black.”
Despite his father’s zero contribution to his upbringing and progress – and even though he is quintessentially British – I absolutely insist on regarding Olisa as a Naija brother and wonderful role model of whom we should all be very proud!
(After all, Kenyans get away with constantly bragging about President Barack Obama, even though he too was brought up single-handedly overseas by a White mum while his absentee father swanned off back to Africa to do his own thing!).