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Remember this phrase!


In the Nigerian political universe, this phrase is the new Sheriff in town.

It is the new banner being raised by the tribe of “Fidei Defensores”, massed around the Buhari presidency; stubbornly holding the fort, and notoriously swinging the sword in defense of that dogma of “presidential infallibility”.

For these, Buhari can do no wrong. And for these, any criticism of their principal is the equivalent of hate speech; blasphemous and heretical. And for these people, they would gladly invite the whole amphitheater of both the old and the new gods to choose and consolidate the kind of thunder that would fire any tongue that dared criticize the object of their worship.

It is the new phrase in town. It seems the term “terrorist” or the label “hate speech” for anyone or any articulation opposing the incompetence of this administration is now becoming stale. Hence the need for a more primeval, more atavistic, more sinister, and emotionally-laden term designed and deployed to rouse the most primitive fears of the august emperor and cause him to rise in fear to disembowel, or decapitate the source of that fear.

You would not be hearing this phrase “anti-north”, on the radio or television. You would not be reading it on the pages of the newspapers. But it has gained serious traction and currency in the dark crevices of the presidential court at Aso Rock. And it has been finding its way into the infected ears of the President.

If you have not read Ibe Kachikwu’s letter to his boss, President Muhammadu Buhari, you better hurry and attend to that.

Kachikwu recorded for all eternity the fact that his access to his principal, and boss, has been superlatively hemmed in. And towards the end of that letter, he cited the accusation hanging on his head like the Sword of Damocles. His detractors say he is not to be trusted because he is “Anti-North”. Kachikwu’s letter to Buhari, his boss, had this phrase buried towards the end. Kachikwu advanced this to his boss as one of the major reasons peddled by his detractors to remove him from Buhari’s good graces.

And that seemed to have worked. Buhari’s ears may have been infected. But it seems that the British doctors could actually perform miracles. He seemed to have heard that phrase “Anti-north”. If not, why has his boss been avoiding him?

Kachikwu’s access to his boss has been circumscribed. His very opening paragraphs submitted as much. He tried severally to gain an appointment with him to no avail.

Remember that Kachikwu is supposedly the Minister of State for Petroleum. He is supposed to be overseeing, at the president’s good pleasure, the “Sanctum Sanctorum” of the Nigerian nation. He is supposed to be the Master of the keys.

Without petroleum, our national coffers would be empty. Without petroleum allowing rivers of petro-dollars flow into our treasury, Nigeria, which has defecated out every economic sense in the lavatories of unbridled corruption, abandoning herself to the vagaries and fluctuations of the oil market, would go bankrupt.

Without petroleum, Nigeria would be swimming in Venezuela-like implosion, with catastrophic consequences; not only for over 200 million of her citizens; but for the stability of the West African sub-region.

Without Petroleum, which we have ignorantly canonized the be-all and end-all of our economic aspirations, Nigeria would have ceased to exist in its present form as a conglomeration of federated grievances, bound by oil.

Overseeing petroleum and making sure that Nigeria’s golden goose keeps laying the golden eggs for as long as it can was Kachikwu’s responsibility. That is the office Kachikwu was saddled with as a junior minister by a president who gave him the strings, but kept the keys for himself; just like Obasanjo did.

That undue process seems to be the norm in this critical sector since time immemorial. It is not what riles me.

Corruption has been culture there. NNPC has been the synonym for corruption in the Nigerian consciousness. From the days of Rilwanu Lukman to Deziani Alison-Madueke, Nigerians have been regaled with tales of sleaze that relegates Ali Baba and the Forty thieves to the isles of unserious trifle.

In fact, if I am to paraphrase Chinua Achebe; expecting NNPC to be corruption-free is like expecting a goat not to eat yams. At NNPC, corruption and massive looting has been the standard operating procedure. It has been a miry stinking morass of sleaze.

Former presidents have been accused of stealing from this money machine. The Obasanjo military regime was accused of stealing or misappropriating 2.8 Billion dollars from here in 1978. Muhammadu Buhari, the current president, was the federal oil commissioner then. He was fingered in that yet to be conclusively-explained saga.

Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida was accused by the Pius Okigbo report of stealing and frittering away the 12billion dollars Gulf War Oil windfall in 1993.

An Ex Managing Director of NNPC, Mr. Andrew Yakubu, virtually built a house simply to store and hoard the dollars he stole. He hoarded over 3.04 billion Naira in several foreign currency denominations.

No day passes by without one reading of the theatre of sleaze presided over by Deziani Allison Madueke at the NNPC under Goodluck Jonathan.

Today, it is the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, accusing the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Maikanti Baru, of impeachable illegalities and massive corruption.

I am afraid that Ibe Kachikwu would go the way of Lamido Sanusi.

In the last administration, headed by Goodluck Jonathan, Sanusi accused the NNPC of stealing over 20billion dollars of the Nigerian people’s money. Sanusi was sacked for his troubles. Pricewater Coopers audit eventually stood on Sanusi’s side, showing that at least 18.5billion Dollars were missing.

That money is still not fully accounted for. All Nigerians have been fed were accusations and counter accusations of the Nollywood variety. There has been no convictions. No court proceedings. No administrative changes. In fact in the light of Kachikwu’s latest bombshell, it seems that it has been “business as usual”!

That the NNPC is a citadel of impunity and conscienceless thievery has never been in doubt. What riles me is that this government came to power piggybacking on an anti-corruption rhetoric, which has shown itself to be a tale told by an idiot; all sound and fury signifying nothing.

What riles me is that this government touting itself as our last line of defense against corruption has been peddling corruption when it suits her; and condemning it when it suits her. For this government, it is corruption when the past government was in power. But now that the same toxicity is discovered in her own ranks, then silence.

Babachir Lawal is yet to be arraigned. This was the Secretary to the Government of the Federation; Buhari’s Secretary of Government. He was caught with his hands in the till. He was caught allegedly stealing from the poorest and most vulnerable amongst us; the IDPs- The refugees internally displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency. This government commissioned an investigation. The report is in. The President is still dragging his feet, waiting for us to forget that he hired a thief.

Now, Kachikwu, a serving minister under this government, has literally accused his principal of criminal complicity or incompetence.

Kachikwu’s letter can be understood against the backdrop of the fact that Buhari doubles as the president, and the petroleum minister. Kachikwu is the minister of state holding operational brief for the president here. And according to any rational organigram, the GMD of NNPC must pass through the Minister of State to get to the president.

So, when the GMD by-passes his superior officer and “appeals directly to Cesar”, and gets approval for an intransparent award of a contract in the north of 26Billion dollars, it is either the president approved that racket or he does not know about it. And that means that Mr. Baru is playing both ends.

If the above scenario is the case, then the President is complicit in that shadiness. Or he is not aware. If he is not aware, then he cannot acquit himself of grotesque incompetence in any court of reason.

And if the President was in receipt of Kachikwu’s letter since August 30th and nothing has been done in this regard, then a reasonable conclusion can be drawn that the president is masking corruption in his own ranks. And when one adds Babchir Lawal’s alleged sleaze to that, one is then confronted with a possibility that the anti-corruption war may have been a hoax all along.

Can you now understand why critics are of the view that this government is using its anti-corruption and the anti-terror narrative to hunt down, muzzle, and eviscerate the opposition.

Can you now see why the “anti-north” nepotism peddled by those who have the president’s ear supplies the missing puzzle in relation to the president’s seeming hostility to the South?

Deziani is being tried on the pages of the Newspapers. Dasuki is still imprisoned without a conviction in spite of court orders to release him on bail. But Lawal and Baru are still breathing free air.

If you argue that Babachir Lawal and Baru’s case are mere allegations, I would then ask whether the case against Deziani and Dasuki were not in the same class; yet they are being harassed and one imprisoned.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not holding brief for any of these suspected thieves. I am all for an accused having his day in court. But equality before the law means that all of us should at least expect the same treatment for similar offences.

The fact remains that the complexity of Nigerian dysfunctionality does not allow for the “dangers of single story” in the sense that Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche advances it. To that end, arguing nepotistic affinity for the North as the ground for Buhari’s seeming incompetence in the face of the corruption he pledged to tackle might sound so very pedestrian. But that such narratives are being peddled in the corridors of Nigerian power is really instructive.

It is the own-most right of every leader to choose those he can trust to execute his vision. JFK filled the office of the Attorney General of the United States with his brother Bobby, who by virtue of that became a part of his kitchen cabinet as well as his chief enforcer. This action raised murmurs of the “Irish Mafia” in the White House. Both brothers were later to perish at the hands of gunmen at the height of their powers. That moment in history made America eschew nepotism and appearances of nepotism in public office. She made regulations forbidding presidents hiring their family members in cabinet positions.

This shows that nepotism creates impressions that comport to the tolerance of mediocrity.

Sycophants and hangers-on know the value of intimate acquaintances in cooking conspiracy narratives, designed to gain them advantages and positions around every throne of consequence. They know that once one peddles our most intimate acquaintance as a narrative, one grabs and holds our attention and can manipulate us to his or her heart’s content. Kidnappers for ransom know this trick and they deploy it too well. And one of those primeval acquaintances is our affiliations of origin or tribal associations. In Nigerian politics, it is our ethnicity or tribe.

And Buhari must have been getting an earful of this narrative. No leader is immune from that. But Buhari’s failures in this regard could be gleaned from the fact that his appointments, utterances and body language have been shamelessly Pro-North.

And in a diverse and multi-ethnic country like Nigeria, that is a recipe for disaster.

Why are people agitating again?

Gwazia ndi yard unu!

Written by
Onyemaechi Ogbunwezeh
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