by Tola Adenle
[With the incredible WIKILEAKS' reports of rivers of corruption from just about all at the top, including ministers, and with the three arms of government laid prostrate under charges and/or insinuations of corruption, what better time to re-run one of those essays from the past that sounds as if it was written yesterday.
This fits the recent category - "Crime Syndicate masquerading as a nation" - to a T.]
This essay could have been titled “Nigeria Limited” or the current “Nigeria Plc.” but even though either would have been okay, neither would convey the sinister or politician-as-entrepreneur image as in “Murder, Inc.” that ‘Nigeria, Incorporated’ seems to portend.
The stage that Nigeria has found itself right now was an inevitability because with the exception of a handful of the thousands of elected officials, the antecedents of the vast majority did not point to any bright future even in those heady post Abacha days. When I made reference to prison returnees in a previous essay, I was not, of course, referring to politicians like the President or Nduka Irabor of the House of Representatives who earned their solid ‘political prisoner’ stripes under Abacha and Buhari. Nduka, it was, who went to jail for flouting the dreaded Decree 4 with Tunde Thompson during their Guardian days. Even lesser political prisoners like Alhaji Lamidi Adesina would not qualify for ‘returnee’ as used in that essay.
The political arena is filled, for the most part, by returnees of the drug pushing variety, the credit card scam artists and advance fee fraudsters, a.k.a. “419ers”. In addition to those who got caught but did not get away with their crimes and are today found in high offices are those who dabbled into criminal activities like drug dealing, credit card fraud, certificate racketeering, etc. They are “respected” elected and non-elected officials in Nigeria’s Senate, House of Representatives, Houses of Assemblies, even the diplomatic service and others too numerous to list. With those kinds of backgrounds, what do we expect of them in politics when in earlier lives, these men AND women sought out the quickest ways to wealth? Luckily, politics is now a legitimate route to stealing, and no wonder there are countless “returnees” (no, not the prison variety) who abandoned the United States, Britain, Germany, to try their hands in politics.
There is a young kid that I know, an American “returnee,” who came back to run for chairmanship of a local government. Not only was he played out of the nomination process but he also lost an expensive vehicle he brought home to robbers of the armed variety. Why would a young man with a Pharmacy degree and a steady job pack up everything to contest the same position being sought by my artisan friend who told me about a year ago that he would “look for” the requisite School Certificate needed since he did not possess one? It is because word has gone out around the world that there is looting going on in Nigerian politics. I no longer see the young man; could have retraced his steps back to America.
Anyway, back to Nigeria, Inc. which LOOKS to the world like any other giant corporation, although it is not structured like normal organizations. At the top of this contraption, instead of a chairman of the board, sits a disparage group: most elected /lawmakers; most retired armed forces personnel of General rank, some traditional and religious leaders of the reactionary stripes AND the multinational oil producers.
There are no executive or non-executive directors. These, and the next group of “stakeholders” or “investors” as they describe themselves, are all directors. It is made up of not less than 99 percent of other politicians, most retired armed services officers of any rank, most civil servants above level ten, customs officers of ALL ranks, and many others too numerous to list. Please note that ‘politicians’ are not only the elected men and women but the party organizers, the so-called money bags who get deliveries of more bags from ‘Ghana must go round’ weekly, monthly or quarterly as returns on their “investments.” You could not have missed the donors [eminent directors, all] of millions at publicized fund-raising dinners. Then, there are those who muscle their ways into the group by sheer braggadocio: men and women “leaders” switching parties with “followers” they have not.
Below these directors in a uniquely-Nigerian “service to the people” organizational set-up are those on the outside, looking in, the junior civil servants, the lower-ranked armed services personnel and party thugs. For special mention in this group are ALL policemen (dozens on a two hundred mile stretch) at which they shamelessly extort money or kill those unwilling to pay. All of these labor to get some of the goodies that the directors may pass down through, for example, illegal police toll gates manned by lower-ranked officers and others. While not true, these men and women feel like beggars from Niger Republic in the midst of those higher up.
Please note that there is no mention of the Nigerian populace who voted these politicians into offices, or whose interests civil servants are to “serve” – anywhere in the lists of directors or stakeholders. The masses are not, sorry, in ‘Nigeria, Inc.’
Well, let’s take a quick look inside some aspects of ‘Nigeria, Inc.’ whose focus, like all properly-run corporations, is RETURNS to shareholders. What d’you think the much-talked about 60-40 is about in Lagos? I’ve also heard of local government chairmen, party ‘leaders’ and councilors sitting down after getting allocations from the Federation Account – not to see which of the Local Government Area needs should be met – but to share in the proportions laid down from party headquarters. Mind you, this is AFTER the governor would have taken his SHARE. Yeah, it IS unconstitutional but does that matter?
Anyway, that seems to be sane compared to the out and out in-your-face preparation to sharing in Oyo which, I am sure, will be child’s play compared to what goes on and will go on in countless other states. In a three-page SOS to the PDP chairman in the Sunday Tribuneof March 9, one of the investors, pardon me, directors, called on Chief Ogbeh not to “forget that I still have the party structure under my ambit and my credentials are still intimidating …” While I, like most of us housewives and market women may not know the meaning of “still have the party structure under my ambit …” those better educated in our group of “not in Nigeria, Inc.” will remember that the Latin word, ambire,meaning ‘to go round’ is used in the right context (as in ‘Ghana-must-go-round), and know the implications of the following from Alhaji Yekini Adeojo’s three-page eat-your-hearts-out you who are not in Nigeria, Inc.:
- “… I very reluctantly agreed to, while other posts were divided between the two groups … with Adeojo Group taking the larger share.”
- “My chairman … No one who has invested money … as the stakeholders have done, will like to sit back and see his investment going down the drain … stop X from destroying our investment … it is only then that our followers can reap the dividend of democracy.”
- “X has started advertising ministerial, ambassadorial and Federal Board positions due to Oyo … those interested to start bidding …”
There you have it ladies and gentlemen. We can now understand that the payment to obtain forms – ostensibly to run the campaign – from each gubernatorial candidate in Oyo by Chiefs Ladoja, Adeojo, Balogun (late Aminu-Kano’s PRP; AD; PDP), Adigun and Professors Olunloyo and Adedoja (lately, head of the Special Education College, Oyo) – three million naira each – is their “investment” in Nigeria, Inc. just as the N600 million claimed to have been earmarked by “New Kid on the Block”, Alhaji Braimoh for the Ondo gubernatorial race (ANPP) is his own “investment”.
Now, to add value to their “investments,” politicians have suddenly discovered philanthropy, the Greek gift variety. There are sudden scholarships by many who had never known the joy of sharing, ‘awards’ and ‘loans’ to market women, etc. A candidate from Osun, retired General Oyinlola has even gone a step further in this Greek Gift Festival to his fellow directors. He is so desperate to win that he has promised not to take any salary if elected and has also revealed through his press agent that he went to study law (after his first run of directorship) solely to help the poor! Remember, he was a director in the Lagos department of the Nigeria Corporation before retiring from the army. His co-directors from past boards are already doing well, thank you very much as current executive directors, (Senate, House, and gubernatorial mansions) and he, therefore, has some catching up to do if Osun people will only swallow the bait he’s cast wide.
Now, with all these people laying out so much “investments,” how many posts can be “shared” before the oil taps run dry!
The Comet on Sunday, March 2003. Length slightly reduced.