Ending the battle over Nigeria's capital market

by Odilim Enwegbara

It was not just a piece of good news; it was the best news coming from Nigeria’s capital market. And for someone following this capital market drama, I felt happy that it finally has come to an end, thanks to the wise decision of the government. The presidential recall of Ms. Arunma Oteh from her compulsory leave was the best thing to do by any serious administration wanting to ensure that the ongoing reforms she has been associated with are not just continued, but also brought to completion to speedily arrest the dearth of medium- to long-term funding and to entrench the much needed culture of savings, investing, and wealth creation.

It was also a good decision because it sent out that much awaited presidential signal to all honest and patriotic Nigerians home and abroad that the President will be there to protect and defend them as he just did in the case of Oteh versus the capital market cabal. In other words, this singular step of the President is a revolution in itself because for the first time in the history of our great nation, members of a powerful corrupt cabal have been refused to get away with harassing and intimidating an honest and patriotic Nigerian for standing in their way, and for attempting to wrestle the soul of Nigeria’s capital market away from them for the good of the Nigerian people.

It saddens me each time I see Nigerians who decry the country’s corrupt system to turnaround and fight the very few remaining honest and patriotic citizens who risk their lives trying to dismantle the same corrupt system they condemn. That even some staff of Securities and Exchange Commission (no matter how few they’re in number) could carry protest placards against Oteh shows how Nigerians have cheapened themselves to the extent that they can dance in support of the same cabal who’ve been sending them to a one-way economic slavery. That is the irony of a big country with a small people mentality.

I found it unbelievable watching some SEC staff on a television channel carrying protest placards against the return of the same Oteh that Nigerians around the world watched with pride her boldness to confront the malaise in the capital market and publicly tell the country’s enemies of progress that now enough should be enough. Why on earth were these folks refusing her return if not for the fear that with her return corruption would be impossible? What a shame that this is the best way to welcome the woman that just defeated the cabal in her patriotic battle to retrieve Nigeria’s capital market from them!

Shouldn’t we have learned something from our mistakes in protesting against the fuel subsidy removal, which later turned out to prove that it was the same oil cabal using fuel subsidy to milk the country dry that set in motion the protests?

Could it be because some agents of the cabal paid these staff members to carry placards that led them to do so against their conscience? Which is better, supporting compatriots who fight the cabals on our behalf or supporting the cabals not only because they brainwashed us but also because they handed us some peanuts as bribe? Why should Nigerians rather than buying a ticket to prosperity prefer buying a ticket to poverty and disenfranchisement? Can’t forgoing bribe of a few Naira be part of our sacrifice towards building a great and prosperous nation?

If as citizens we’re truly sincere fighting corruption, then, we should have been bold enough to support those few Nigerians who fight on our behalf. Shouldn’t we have supported Ms. Oteh for going after Ms. Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke-led capital market cabal? By opposing her return, knowingly and unknowingly, Nigerians are telling the cabal, you can come back and continue your business unopposed. Shouldn’t we be intelligent enough to figure out why they were all after Ms. Oteh? Would they have been after her if she has been playing along? Is there any way the cabal would have been fighting her had she been their friend? Does it require an extraordinary mind to discover that the ongoing efforts to crucify and mutilate Oteh using the media are the very handiwork of the cabal?

When I read that ‘without removing Oteh government is not fighting corruption’, I wonder who parades these stories if not the same cabal that she just defeated! Isn’t it now clear that it was the same cabal calling this January for the heads of Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala and Mrs. Allison-Madueke for wanting to remove fuel subsidy that is today also calling for Oteh’s head?
Since falsehood is much easier to market to the people than the truth, my question here is: When will our people learn to first examine the facts objectively before taking sides? When will patriotism mature in Nigeria? For how long would we speak ignorantly in support of baseless stories, stories without merit? I’m sure that if we all knew the magnitude of fraud that Oteh has uncovered examining the books of NSE, no doubt, we would be singing her praises as well as agreeing that this government is truly fighting corruption with all the energy it deserves.
I can’t agree more with the words of John Adams (second president of the United States) for arguing that ”democracy can never blossom without well-informed citizens being its watchdogs. And no one could have put it better than Edmund Burke who said, ”Your [government] owes you, not its industry only, but its judgment; and it betrays instead of serving you if it sacrifices it to your opinion.” John 8:32 reads, ”And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” Therefore, let’s remember that it’s not only the truth that will set us free, but our knowledge of the truth.

So, rather than naively follow baseless stories, stories fabricated and sold to the media by the cabal, shouldn’t it be our honest duty as responsible citizens to always be able to read between the lines so as to understand that government is truly fighting corruption?

As citizens who are not well-informed, we are yet to come to terms with the fact that it was during the ten years of Ms. Okereke-Onyiuke’s tenure that Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) became synonymous with fraud; when fake stockbrokers were allowed to conduct illegal trades; when stock market schemers smiled to the bank, while sending millions of unsuspecting investors to their irrecoverable financial calamities, including being dispossessed of lives in some and most cases their hard-earned life-savings, pensions, and homes, especially having them lured into fraud-ridden margin loans?

Do Nigerians know that Ms. Okereke-Onyiuke single-handedly picked Mr. Al-Faki as director general of SEC, enabling her to be calling the shots at SEC, the commission that was supposed to be supervising NSE? Do Nigerians also know that Mr. Al-Faki’s sacking of some core professional staff of SEC was part of the cabal’s hidden agenda to incapacitate SEC which freely allowed greedy operators in stock price pump and dump manipulations?

Is it difficult to recognize that by sending Oteh on a compulsory leave by a board whose tenure was expiring in five days, the SEC Board was publicly demonstrating to Nigerians that all it was just doing was appeasing the cabal, a cabal that not only lost at the judiciary but also at the National Assembly? Given all that the government knows, and given that here is a president who knows that facts should be separated from baseless sentiments, should the executive too be acting according to the scripts of the same cabal it wants to put out of business? Shouldn’t we praise this government for resisting all the political odds and pressures from the cabal, in making the right decision by recalling her after discovering that she was innocent of all the accusations engineered by the cabal? If nothing was found incriminating in the investigations against her, isn’t it the wisest decision on the part of the presidency to waste no time in recalling her, especially when that is in the overall interest of the Nigerian capital markets and the Nigerian people?

It is a

kin to Theodore Roosevelt’s classical view that ”the best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men [and women] to do what he wants done, and wise enough to protect them when they fallout with [less-informed] citizens for pursuing the longer[-term] good of the state.” This is indeed why, the government after having carefully ”studied the report submitted by the external auditors, and having noted that Oteh was neither indicted for fraud nor criminal breach in any form by the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) during its examination of the records of the commission’s transactions covering the SEC’s project 50, which she supervised,” made the right decision in quickly recalling her from her compulsory leave.

That President Jonathan has brought this unending ‘Cold War’ to its final end is gallantly a demonstration of being more of a statesman than a politician. It is on this good note, especially given the kind of psychological trauma Oteh was subjected to by the Hembe led-House Committee on Capital Market and Institutions and later by the Ad-hoc Committee on the Near Collapse of the Nigerian capital market, prior to her arrival in 2010 that I suggest that it should be magnanimous for the Speaker of the House of Representatives to publicly apologize to Oteh while inviting her to a coffee as his guest.

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