“Governor DSP Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa State arrested in London for money laundering” blasted on the front page of THIS DAY Online of 16th September 2005, for the entire world to see.
Very depressing news, but for a Nigerian, just what you see on the pages of the newspapers everyday and also the rumour mills making its usual rounds. It is business as usual, after all, wasn’t it a few days ago that President Obasanjo’s son was also alleged to have bought a US$530,000 in New York, US allegedly paying raw cash for it? And wasn’t it a few weeks ago that Vice President Atiku’s US$1.7 million house in posh Potomac District of Washington was raided by the FBI?
And so many other instances and reports of corruption in high places like that on a daily basis. I have lost count. It is simply mind-boggling. It is one scandal day after day, without respite – Presidency, Vice-Presidency, Governors, Deputy Governors, Senators, Representatives, “Honourable” State House members, Local Government Chairmen and Councillors, Civil Servants, Bank Chiefs, you name it. Unbelievable, despite the fact that we know that Nigeria is officially one of the most corrupt country in the world.
As I am writing this I keep on thinking: What kind of a people are we Nigerians? What the heck is the matter with us? What manner of men and women have we become because of money? Why can’t our leaders be honest and sincere and have the simple decency to better the lives of the people they have sworn to protect and serve? How can these people swear to the National Pledge, before God and Man, with the Bible and Koran in their hands and still continue to do what God does not want people in power to do? How do these rotten people sleep at night? How can they come out openly and tell us, in their most popular phrase “eschew corruption”? (“So and so urges Nigerians to eschew corruption”). Hypocrites!
I can’t for the life of me figure it out. It is annoying, frustrating and I am very angry. This is a country that has earned over $300 billion from oil alone within 40 years (and earns an estimated “declared” US$ 20 million a year from oil alone) and has absolutely nothing to show for it. It has not even made the simplest gesture of providing electricity, good quality healthcare, water, education, food and roads and rail for its people. Nigerian is one of the largest producers and earners of oil in the world, yet it is one of the poorest in the world, while its leaders, past and present have stashed away billions, if not trillions of dollars away from the country. Nigerians live in the most severe of economic and social conditions, in abject poverty, struggling to survive on a daily basis, dying everyday in thousands because their leaders have abdicated their responsibilities to them and are instead only interested in lining their pockets. These guys are laughing all the way to the bank, leaving in their wake, impoverished, dead and oppressed Nigerians. If this is the gains or face of democracy, then I don’t want it. May God NEVER forgive these leaders, past and present. Amen.
Back to this guy called Alamieyeseigha. I went to Yenagoa a few years ago and thought that because it is lying on the oil reserves of Nigeria and the state receiving almost 8 billion Naira every month from Federal Allocations, I would meet a city comparable to most capital cities in Nigeria. Yenagoa has only one main road. All the side roads lead to water. Hardly any modern building except the State House and the Secretariat. So what is this man doing with 8 billion Naira a month? And he is one of the most vocal Governors in Nigeria today, espousing his own qualities and success; yet, he was arrested in London for money laundering after Police investigations and arrest of a woman trying to transfer “£10 to £20 million pounds” and who confessed she was managing the account for Alamieyeseigha. And you know what? God works in wondrous ways. As nemesis would have it, the guy had to go to Germany for medical check-up (something he cant do in Nigeria because he has done nothing to ensure Nigerians have good medical and health care) and the arsehole was coming to London (despite warnings from his friends who had advised him to stay clear of the UK) and was arrested by waiting Metropolitan Police officers. If not for the decency of the Police in the UK, I would have advised that the man is thrown into jail and the key thrown into the Atlantic Ocean.
I pray that the Metropolitan Police tries him here in the UK and don’t release him on bail, as they did Governor Dariye of Plateau State, who then absconded to Nigeria only to claim immunity from prosecution. And the man is walking about free, and I am sure, still embezzling government money meant for improving the lot of his people. You can’t be more callous than that, can you?
What beats me again is that why do these idiots have to take the money out of Nigeria? I will tend to more sympathetic to them if they decide to establish some business, industry or farms and employ otherwise jobless Nigerians (which they helped create in the first place). At least we can say the money is still in circulation within the country and they are also helping and contributing to the economy. No, they won’t do that. Remember one former Military Governor, now a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (I really have to laugh at the irony of this) who used his ill-gotten wealth to go and invest in a golf course in Ireland? A golf course for crying out loud. And his people are suffering, hungry and desolate back home. But he likes golf and Tiger Woods so much, he bought a golf course. That says it all. That is his own idea of responsibility to his own people. How will Nigerians benefit from a golf course bought with their money in Ireland? You ask me. I can only wonder at hoe these people think, if they think at all or if they have any conscience at all. Wonderful. I still find it mind-boggling.
Back to the Bayelsa governor again. Then suddenly we have a man turning up in London from Nigeria, claiming the £1 million allegedly found in the governor’s house in London was his. Very corny. The Police can’t believe him of course and he’s laying himself wide open to being an accessory to money laundering, unless of course, this man is prepared to take the fall for the governor. All well and good. His family will be well taken care of when he’s serving a jail term, instead of the governor. Case closed.
However, the news of the governor’s arrest has been met with very mixed reactions. A group called The Niger Delta Civil Society Coalition lauded the Metropolitan Police for being alive to their responsibilities. Another group, The Concerned Bayelsans International, saluted the courage of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the British police for effecting the arrest, saying, “We commend the bold attempts at helping to rid Bayelsa State of fraudulent miscreants, parading themselves as political leaders, but who are bent on perpetually enslaving generations of our people and the state, easily the richest in Nigeria, for their own selfish interests.”
On the other hand, some groups in Bayelsa State have issued threats against British and Nigerian interests in the Niger Delta. One of the groups, the Executive Council of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), has advised the British authorities and the Federal Government to ensure the release of Alamieyeseigha forthwith. “Otherwise, we cannot continue to guarantee the safety of their investments and citizens in our territories,” the group warned. The Ijaw Youth Council has reportedly enjoined its various groups and affiliates to “mobilize, be on full alert and await further notice;” and said the governor’s arrest was meant to deliberately provoke the people of the Niger Delta to violence so that a state of emergency could be declared in the Bayelsa.
On its part, the OPU BAYELSA, a Yenagoa-based non-governmental think-tank, condemned what it calls “the ongoing persecution of the Governor-General of the Ijaw nation and Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha by the British authorities working in close collaboration with the Federal Government of Nigeria.” The group regards the “attempt to demonize Chief Alamieyeseigha,” as an attempt to rubbish the whole Ijaw.
We also have reports that the entire State Executive, including the Deputy Governor, the Speaker and the House of Assembly of Bayelsa State are backing the governor. But of course, what else do you expect? They must be a certain party to all the governor’s alleged dealings and mismanagement of funds. The stolen money must trickle down. How else has he been surviving? In a way, I agree with them, because until proven guilty, we must not be hasty in removing Mr. Alamieyesigha. Let justice take its course.
However, the Supreme Egbesu Assembly (SEA) said the governor should not escape justice if he had committed the alleged laundering scam, and urged the British Police to conduct a full, impartial investigation into the case, stressing that “if Alamieyeseigha has violated British laws, he should be made to face the consequences.”
Similarly, civil society groups in the Niger Delta have urged local and international anti-corruption enforcement agencies to probe other government officials from the region, and ensure that the case against Alamieyeseigha is dealt with exhaustively.
What the above tell us is according to a Yoruba proverb which says that “No matter how bad a person is, some people will never desert him”. The utterances of the Ijaw Youth Council and others supporting the governor leave much to be desired. Their perceived persecution of the governor and themselves has been misplaced. They have failed to address the real issue and are looking everywhere except for the truth. Did the Federal Government of Nigeria and EFCC deposit the allegedly stolen money in Alamieyeseigha’s accounts or his pocket? The money, if proven to be embezzled or stolen or whatever is Nigeria’s money, it is Bayelsa state’s money, and it is the Ijaw and other ethnic group in Bayelsa’s money. It is not Alamieyesaigha’s (or other government official’s) money to spend as they wish, with no accountability. The man has spent 6 years governing Bayelsa State, enriching himself and his cohorts of sycophants, family and friends.
When are Nigerians going to be honest with themselves instead of hiding under misplaced and misguided loyalty? The fact remains that these “elected” politicians are stealing us blind. They are evil, corrupt, wasteful, lack management skills and decency. They do not have any ideas and are at best, mostly mediocre in their performance. They have nothing to really shout about, except their arrogance in power. They count their blessings and achievements by how much they have stolen from the people of Nigeria. The late Fela Ransome-Kuti has aptly called them VIPs – Vagabonds In Power. Most of them will put it forward that they are performing because they are paying civil servants and teachers’ salaries. Is this an achievement? Why wouldn’t you pay salaries to those working in the first place? Especially, when we know that the money is coming from the Federal Government in the first instance and must be paid anyway.
Alamieyeseigha, if found to have committed this fraud and all the other charges that may be brought against him, must be punished. This will serve as an example to other thieves who call themselves governors and politicians. Excellencies and Honourables indeed. They are neither excellent nor honorable.
I commend the Federal Government and the EFCC on this and only pray that they do not relent in their efforts to bring the many others like this man to justice and shame. No efforts must be spared in tackling and exorcising corruption from our society. It is a malignant cancer which must be treated with the utmost force it deserves. A bad disease requires a bad medicine. Of course, it is impossible to apprehend all those who have committed and perpetrated economic and financial crimes against the people of Nigeria, but we must try to catch as many as we possibly can and make examples out of them to deter others. This is the only way forward or we, as a nation are doomed.
The battle against corruption in Nigeria is going to be very tough. It is a cancer that has eaten into every fabric of our society. The whole world associate Nigeria with corruption. It will not be easy because a lot of people, highly placed are making a fortune out of it and are not prepared to let go of their ill-gotten gains. They are prepared to kill for it, even their family members who oppose them or try to expose them. They are already doing it, we know – hired assassins, arson, juju killings, frame-ups, etc. But no matter what, we cannot allow them to overcome. No way. Our very lives and survival as a people and nation depends on it. Corruption is one single bane that is holding back our human, economic and social development. We can blame it for almost all that has gone wrong in Nigeria today.
To fight corruption in the form of treasury looting, we should be ready to fight several battles at once and at all fronts. It is now common for government officials and politicians accused of looting to plead that “everybody else is doing it” or to say it is because they come from one ethnic group or region or belong to a certain religion. Dariye of Plateau State said “those who live in glass houses must not throw stones”, they premise being that all of us are doing it, why single me out? What a shameless bastard? Shame on the Plateau House of Assembly too for not throwing him out. I sincerely hope the Bayelsa State House of Assembly will not go down the same road, but from their current utterances, this will be so.
A word is enough for the wise. Clean up your act. Be responsible and committed to the welfare of your people. You can run but you cannot hide. Nemesis is coming for you. Jerry Rawlings killed off 4 former heads of state in Ghana decades ago, and now we see how Ghana is doing. There will be blood on the streets of Nigeria one day not too far away and that blood will be the blood of the corrupt. Not the blood of a northerner, southerner, Christian or Muslim, Ijaw or Yoruba or Ibo or Hausa or Nupe or Gwari or Ibibio or Ogoni or Idoma. It will be your blood.
THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN AND PUBLISHED ON SEPT 23 2005 AT http://nigeriaworld.com/articles/2005/sep/233.html