By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
ONE of the most significant issues of recent revelations of high wire corruption in Nigeria today, is the way that leading politicians have brought their children into the corruption loop. Top Nigerian politicians are appearing in courts together with their sons. Humungous sums of public money are stolen and shared by fathers and sons (their daughters are entering the political fray too). Ruling class irresponsibility has led to the detention and arraignment of fathers along with their children, for stealing monies in their care, expected to be used for the betterment of society.
Grand theft has become domesticated and turned into a family enterprise. Politicians “won” elections ostensibly to make life better for all citizens, but turned the privilege of access to state funds, into avenues to carry out the unconscionable looting of our states and country. This they have done in cahoots with their children. In the “DASUKIGATE” affair, the same Fathers-and-Sons tag teams have also emerged: Aminu Baba Kusa and son; Attahiru Bafarawa and son; Dr. Bello Haliru Muhammed and son; while in earlier cases, there were Murtala Nyako and son; Bamanga Tukur and son; Amadu Ali and son; Sule Lamido and sons.
It is customary in feudal culture to prepare children for successions; and there are very elaborate processes of leadership development to ensure that these children become ready to assume leadership. In the United States, we have seen the establishment of political dynasties within the context of democratic politics, as in the case of the Kennedys and in recent times, with the Bush family producing two presidents, and a third now aspiring, as well as the Clintons, man and wife. Modern Nigerian politics has never really seen the trend consolidated. In the First and Second Republics, the Awolowo family attempted to create a political dynasty; Segun died, but Oluwole and Tokunbo became politicians of some visibility. However, they came from a background of genuine service to community and country and had been tutored within the disciplined ambience associated with their patriarch, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. People knew what they stood for and their followers could plot their public conduct as politicians and their values to society.
The new Nigerian form of Father-to-Son intervention in contemporary politics has nothing honourable associated with it. It is elaborately concocted within the context of a capture-and-control form of politics, where individuals become governors for eight years and they then use the opportunity to loot their states blind.
One of the major phenomena of Nigerian politics, in the period since 1999, is the emergence of governors who after their years in power, have ended up becoming richer than the states that they have governed. They institute processes to retain power through proxies after their years of governance, in order to continue to control the finances and the political processes of their states.
This process has been implanted in Kwara, Lagos and Akwa Ibom, for example, and is the template that most governors have tried to implement, to varying degrees of success.
In many instances, stolen funds have often been kept with business associates who often ended up betraying their governor benefactors/associates, after they vacate power. The fear of what might happen to stolen funds, kept with friends and associates, has largely been responsible for the new phenomenon, where fathers now use their children to keep stolen funds. President Muhammadu Buhari’s emergence is helping to expose this grand process of theft and the budding Fathers-and-Sons-Kleptocratic Complex that is taking shape in Nigeria.
The final piece of the jigsaw of this complex is an attempt at creating a copycat political and economic scheme. The Saraki family is the most successful example of a family that has taken full control of the political and economic space in Nigeria. The patriarch of the family, the late Dr. Olushola Saraki, was the most dominant political force in Kwara state for over three decades. While it lasted, he built and oiled a political machinery that installed and removed a succession of politicians in Kwara state. Most people did not reckon that he had a grand plan, and that was to bide time until his children came of age. By 1999, he kicked that final piece of the jigsaw into place, with the son, Bukola, becoming a Special Assistant in Obasanjo’s presidency, while the daughter, Gbemisola, entered the House of Representatives. Finally from 2003 to 2011, Gbemisola served as senator for eight years and Bukola Saraki governor for the same period. The funds of Kwara state literally became an extension of the Saraki purse and the family through Bukola Saraki, has remained in control for twelve years and counting! The Saraki process of political and economic control as well as financial domination has no parallel in Nigeria. They took Societe Generale Bank under (along with the funds of hundreds of Nigerians); they also superintended the demise of Kwara and Kogi states’ owned Trade Bank and at a point, a long-term Bukola Saraki sidekick also ran Intercontinental Bank!
This unique template of grab-and-control has also largely escaped interrogation. The family seemed able to weather any and all forms of political, economic and security storms. What other politicians want to do is assume political, economic and financial control in their states, in the same suffocating bear hug way that the Saraki clan has held Kwara state for decades. Bola Tinubu is trying to institute the same process in Lagos.
Fortunately, these new-fangled Fathers-and-Sons Corruption Complexes are now being exposed by the Muhammadu Buhari Presidency’s anti-corruption drive. Those who want to copy the Saraki (or even the Tinubu) template of domination and control have chosen a very difficult moment in Nigeria to implant that form of domination.
The truth is that a new era is dawning in Nigeria, where citizens are much more dedicated to interrogating the excesses of the ruling class. A Fathers-and-Sons Corruption complex can no longer work in contemporary Nigeria!
The case of citizen Sunday Vincent
YANA yawon banza. Yana lake-lake da mugun nufi”.
(A typical accusation of “wandering” in a colonial Northern Nigerian court).
Last week, the media reported the case of 27-year old Sunday Vincent, who was sentenced to three weeks imprisonment for public nuisance, by a Kado Grade 1 Area Court in Abuja. The judge, Alhaji Abubakar Sadiq gave Citizen Vincent the option of paying N3, 000 fine while warning him “to desist from committing any crimes”. The media report had described Sunday Vincent as a “convict, of no fixed address” and had been “convicted for wandering a round the streets and gave no satisfactory explanation on what he was doing”.
The prosecutor, Zeerah Douglass told court that Vincent had been arrested by a police patrol team attached to Adetokuno Ademola Street, Wuse Two, and was then taken to the Kado Police Station, Abuja. This was on January 1. Citizen Vincent’s offence was said to be punishable under Section 198 of the Penal Code.
This case would have escaped all of us, as dozens of other such cases. Citizen Sunday Vincent’s case is a typical expression of the class dynamics in our neo-colonial country, and this law with its roots in colonial society is a throwback to periods in history that should have been overcome.
The offence of “wandering” had long been abolished as long ago as the Second Republic, under President Shehu Shagari, and it is a surprise that it is still embedded in the Penal Code, which is applicable in Northern Nigeria. It is also incredible that Citizen Vincent was sentenced by an Area Court, given the level that it belongs in the overall effort at administering justice in our society. How can a citizen of the Twenty-First Century in a democratising country, be “convicted for wandering around the streets”? Incredibly enough, on January 1st, a day when people are usually in a mode of revelry! What was the mental state of that citizen? Was the question asked at all? And what about the sociological issues associated with survival in a society where the predatory, neo-colonial capitalist economy isn’t creating jobs, housing and other essentials of life?
Colonial laws: It is absurd that citizens of Twenty-First Century Nigeria will be convicted under laws that have their roots in the Vagrancy Act of 1824 England, whose intention was to remove those classified as “undesirables” from public view.
The 1824 Act in England “had assumed that homelessness was due to idleness and thus deliberate, and made it an offence to engage in behaviours associated with extreme poverty”, according to WIKIPEDIA. So when Citizen Sunday, was described as “of no fixed address” and therefore “convicted for wandering around the streets”, we can see the direct historical links with England, and the law under which he was convicted.
The truth is that the law in a class society basically reflects the dynamics of class relations. In Nigeria, we have managed to build one of the most unequal and unjust societies in the contemporary world. Our predatory form of neo-colonial capitalism insulates members of the ruling class from the law, or allows them many opportunities to manipulate or circumvent the law. There are leading men and women of business and politics, who have looted funds in public and private institutions. They employ the best lawyers to help in ensuring that they go scot-free or when they get convictions, they spend time in hospitals. It is therefore no surprise, that one of the easiest ways out for the rogues of the Nigerian ruling class, is to plead for opportunities, to go see their doctors abroad. When they are looting Nigeria, they are hale and hearty, but when time comes to get their comeuppance, they suddenly fall sick!
Stewardship and husbandry
Last week, the histrionics reached a greater height, with one of the Mandarins of Nigerian political society, arriving in court in a wheel chair! This is a gentleman, who has spent the past sixteen years being recycled from one position to the other. Bukola Saraki, for example, has done everything under the sun, to stave off the possibility of being called to account for his stewardship and husbandry of the finances of Kwara state since 2003.
He has the finances to employ the best lawyers and has been moving from different courts to ensure that he does not get a day in court. If he and other Mandarins can pull it through, what they want is to get the type of perpetual injunction worked out for Peter Odili!
For our ruling class, their words resemble those of a character from one of Victor Hugo’s writings, who said having become so rich he has earned the right to be above the law! That is not the situation for Citizen Sunday Vincent. In his arrest, conviction and imprisonment he underlines the injustices of Nigerian society today.