Days of Reckoning for Thieving Governors

by Abiodun Ladepo

Our kleptomaniac former governors must be in a rude shock right now – confounded and dazed. The story that used to make the rounds at many State secretariats was that once president Obasanjo left office, Nuhu Ribadu and his troublesome Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) would be silenced; even disbanded, with Ribadu himself excoriated and excommunicated, and probably even tried and jailed for trampling the “rights” of those thieving public officials.

And for a hot minute, it seemed like Ribadu was in a retreat. During the months immediately preceding the elections and the exit of Obasanjo, the EFCC was silent. No newly announced allegations of corruption, and hardly was there any threat to arrest any politician. We now know that the EFCC’s silence and retreat were tactical. It would be indecorous of the Commission to inundate the political atmosphere with accusations of corruption during the elections. Such an act could unnecessarily heat up the polity and tilt the elections in favor of one party or the other in a country (not Nigeria) where the voter’s vote actually counts. And being such a decent man, Ribadu thought he should give our politicians and the political system the same respect accorded their peers in some parts of the world.

Well, the elections (if you want to call them that) are over and now we have cascading arrests of hitherto VIPs (Vagabonds In Power a la the late Fela Anikulapo) stumbling over each other as they are herded to jail. Was this not what the EFCC had promised to do? When the Commission announced last year that it was going to abide by a court’s ruling baring it from arresting some “impeached” governors, former VP Atiku’s hirelings masterminded the massive disinformation that circulated within the club of the roguish governors that Ribadu and his EFCC would be a thing of the past after the elections. The intent was to provide aid and comfort to those governors that were on his side as he, Atiku, battled unsuccessfully to explain away his role in the PTDF scandal.

Those governors, naïve as infants, took Atiku’s words to the bank (literally) and continued the raping and fleecing of their respective treasuries.

Probably the most pathetic of those governors was Jolly Nyame of Taraba State. Reverend Nyame (a man of God, what a shame!) could not battle his conscience any longer, so he confessed. The EFCC had accused him of stealing N1.6 billion (please do not confuse that with N1.6 million) and he has admitted to stealing most of that money. He even went further: he graciously agreed to return the loot. What a genial man and a thief! This so-called Reverend bilked his state of money to purchase three aircrafts. He bought two (at a highly inflated cost, I would imagine) and then pocketed the money for the third. What good do two aircrafts, or even one aircraft, do for the poor people of Taraba state who do not have potable water, decent housing, tarred roads and steady electricity? This man of God approved the purchase of office equipment at the cost of N250 million. He did not recall if any of the office equipment was actually bought. “I did not investigate,” he wrote in his confessional statement. He did not remember how much some of his contractors contributed to his various campaigns and how much direct kickbacks he got on sundry other contracts. But the preacher was not a complete moron. Just on the off-chance that the EFCC might come after him later, he used one of his adherents, Abubakar Ibrahim, as conduit to siphon N80 million out of the contract for a water project that was…you guessed it…not executed! He awarded a N25 million (also unexecuted) contract to a friend for…take a wild guess…the study of erosion! We will write an endless epistle here if we are to mention all of the 41 charges leveled against this blind thief.

Reverend Nyame is the exact caricature of the banality of governance as seen by many of those in government today: invest a pittance of your previously stolen money during electioneering (either as a Customs officer, as is the case with Atiku, or as a Police officer, as is the case with Oyo State’s Alao-Akala), or get your friends and godfathers to foot the bill, so that when you “win” you can reap multitudes of your investment. It does not matter what the people of your state want or need. Every so often, let a crumb of bread or a morsel of Amala (as we have seen at Baba Adedibu’s Molete residence in Ibadan), fall off your table so that the hungry (and the angry) populace can scramble over it, fight each other over that tidbit, and forget who their real enemy was.

Another tragedy of a governor was Joshua Dariye of Plateau State. You will recall that he was the one that was arrested in Britain over money laundering charges, granted bail and then jumped bail, returning to Jos, the state capital, to unabashedly continue the looting of his state’s coffers. After a lot of arm-twisting and blackmailing, the EFCC got the State’s Legislature to impeach Dariye with the hope that once he lost his immunity, the Commission could arrest him. But Dariye was several steps ahead of the EFCC. He quickly absconded, and from his hideout (much like that other thief from Ekiti State, former governor Ayodele Fayose), mounted a vigorous legal battle to prevent the EFCC from arresting him. He prevailed, as the courts faulted the laughable manner by which he was removed, and he returned to power. Now as an ordinary citizen, no longer protected by immunity, Nemesis has caught up to him.

Also cooling their heels in the custody of the EFCC are former Jigawa and Abia State governors, Saminu Turaki and Orji Kalu. Turaki just added the appellate “weeping governor” to his many laurels as he broke down in the dock when he realized the enormity of the charges preferred against him. He sobbed like a baby as he witnessed his own fall from grace to grass. While his people waxed stronger in professional begging for alms and even “exported” the trade to neighboring states, Turaki wallowed in the “delusion of grandeur” as he junketed around the world with the meager resources of his state. The EFCC has asked him to cough up N33 billion that should have gone to things like education, health and basic amenities.

Dr. Kalu, we all remember, was that motor-mouth entity that matched Obasanjo gaffe-for-gaffe in the last administration. With a penchant for sticking both feet in his mouth every time he spoke, Kalu promised hellfire and brimstone if he was ever arrested. So confident was he of his ability to hoodwink Nigerians, and so contemptuous was he of the EFCC that he ran for president. He ran for president! He must have reasoned: why not? If Abubakar Atiku could run for president, why could I not run for president too? Name it, Kalu owned it. He owned the Sun Publishing Companies, publishers of the Sun group of papers. He owned Slok Air Nigeria Ltd, which was angrily grounded by Obasanjo a few years back. He also owned Slok Marine Vessels. In other words, the man owned airplanes and ships! He owned an insurance company, a recreational resort and he even owned his own bank – Banque International – based in Sierra Leone and Gambia! And these are not even half his properties. This man amassed all his wealth just since becoming governor of Abia State. My Igbo friend, Chukwudi, an automobile parts dealer at Gate in Ibadan could not contain his anger as he cursed the man endlessly. Had Kalu invested the State’s money in all those projects, few would have raised an eyebrow. Now Kalu is facing 107 charges of theft. He is being asked to return N2.7 billion to the poor people of Abia State.

This, surely, is a season of cataclysm for our erstwhile governors. They had thought that they had gotten away with the loot. Back when Obasanjo was president, many of those thieves argued convincingly that OBJ used the EFCC to witch-hunt them because they did not support the much-ballyhooed third-term agenda. We all bought that crap. Now that OBJ is gone and we have a seemingly less intimidating president Yar Adua, who will they blame now? The former governors that are now hyperventilating in the EFCC boiler rooms were the same ones that supposedly delivered the PDP’s “landslide” electoral victories. So, why are they being victimized? The truth is, whether you like OBJ or not, the EFCC is one beautiful gift he gave to Nigerians. The Commission will not catch all thieves, but it will catch some and deter many. And that is all we need in Nigeria now.

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Umuidi July 27, 2007 - 8:07 pm

in all of these naratives, beautiful satires, where do you place Obj? your essay smacks of prejudice…or have you too grovelled over amala from off the stable of otta farm?

Toyin July 27, 2007 - 2:49 pm

I am lost for words ! The only thing that keeps coming to mind is how can a so called group of smart people take this crap ? Freaking amazing ! They all deserve death penalty, not jail term.

julius July 27, 2007 - 10:28 am

Day of reckoning indeed, have you heard the judgment passed on Alamieyeseigha? Well he got 2 years each for 6 charges that will run concurrently, and since he had already spent months in detention he has only few weeks and he will be a free man. Guess what we are not serious yet, Zheng Xiayu, china's head of drug registeration got death sentence for accepting bribe, he was executed in May. This is what fighting corruption is all about, not giving someone 2 years or 3months giving to Tafa Balogun. If common criminals on the street can be executed why not these maximum looters. EFCC and the judiciary needs to step it up, some of these thieves need to pay the ultimate price. God Bless Nigeria.

Owena July 27, 2007 - 6:14 am sentiments exactly!

bola July 26, 2007 - 3:40 pm

Ole's, barawos. Let them rot in jail and may posterity judge them as harshly as Abacha because they were stupid enough to think it is stealing business as usual in Nigeria.


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