I fully understand the import of writing this article: more so I am aware that the final judge of any academic discourse is the reader. This article will be controversial in content and I ask you the reader to be ready for the home truth coming from an ordinary Nigerian that does not claim moral sanctity or high ground. All I humbly seek to do is to do what is right by my conscience, and what I have asked God to allow me use my gift of carving words in writing for – for the advancement of mankind, for the defense of the defenseless and for expanding the frontiers of free speech and decency.
In the past few months the underground media and later the mainstream Nigerian media have been inundated with stories of corrupt Nigerian officials putting up residences abroad, buying mansions in foreign lands and supposedly sabotaging the war that we all have declared against corruption. Against all odds, most of these stories have emanated from web based journalists especially those situated in United Kingdom and United States: two countries that have become overnight refuge for confused and dislocated citizen-refugees, most of whom will truly prefer to be back home in their country were it not for the profound decadence of a nation of such huge potential like ours.
Down to the crux of the matter however, this onslaught on allegedly corrupt officials have been led mostly by a group of young men that publish their essays (that is the most honorable description I can give it at this point) on www.elendureports.com . Initially, when their stories first appeared, their works were glorified by citizens at home and abroad, and in all due respect earned the attention of the already pocketed national mainstream media in its own right as a true and tested work of amateur journalist – a product of the raw breed of journalism that have spurned blogs and web based pseudo-journalistic frenzy. It was a true brand of democracy – voice for the voiceless, opinion for the opinionated. However, in recent days I have been examining where we were about six months ago and where we are now.
Recent stories that have appeared on Elendu reports leave much to be desired both from the stand point of true professionals as well as human decency. The seeming direction the activities of these men who have taken the crusade of a nation to the internet as a two man brigade is very ominous, and it is my opinion that it needs to be saved from itself. The success that the early stories on Elendu have had seems to be consuming them slowly but surely (Remember the story of the elephant? Ao merin joba – ereku ewele).
The website with its salvo against Dr. (Mrs.) Okonjo-Iweala the indefatigable finance minister appears to be the first shot in the leg. Examining the story of an hardworking former World Bank chief who built a house in America and continues to be normally domiciled there (at least most of her family does) shows that Elendu and his cohort (Sowore) have begun to be derailed from the real task of fighting truly corrupt official. A simple examination of the said story that was supposedly on Vice President Atiku, shows that the address of Mrs. Iweala has no place in that story. Indeed, while I subscribe to the fact that her occupancy of a public position of such sensitivity deserves some level of public scrutiny, the publication of her address seems in my opinion to have been willfully done to expose her to ridicule and the consequent dangers associated with disclosing such confidential details. I truly side with the minister, her brother and her husband in their rejoinders to the Elendu boys. While their contribution to the topic of corruption is highly appreciated, a libelous or semi-libelous (as it might indeed be implied) publication like this is not good for the general discuss of ingrained corruption that have threatened to sink the ship of the Nigerian state. The salaries and sources of income for the financial minister have been in the public realm for a long time, so also have her long years of professional career that is admittedly well deserved, well paying and honorable for Nigerian women in particular, and Nigerians in Diaspora generally. This sort of publication directed against her person, or intended to do so willfully or not shouldn’t be tolerated by true journalists that worth their salt.
Another one of such actions was taken against the President’s immediate family when against all known convention the President’s son was accused of corruptly buying a house in New York. For God’s sake, the state of the President’s relationship with his children is public knowledge – he is known to have even ordered some of his own children not to see him in Aso Rock and reportedly caused one of them to be literally bundled out of Abuja at one instance; this is a man that has never been known to tolerate nonsense from his own immediate family and he has not hidden this from all Nigerians. Indeed, the back up to these stories were never provided. As a resident of the United States it is a known fact that most information related to the purchase of private property is protected by various privacy laws of the land, and I am still skeptical of the sources of this information or the legality of obtaining them. May be we are using illegality to fight illegality and may be it is Olu Obasanjo that should cause Elendu and his boys to be investigated for infringing on his privacy rights by the FBI!
Indeed, in addition to these obvious gaffes the recent publication, amendment, recants and stories associated with the Sokoto State governor goes to show the limited time the Elendu boys are putting into their fine art. It is my opinion, that anything worth doing is worth doing well – and it will indeed remove from the credibility of their opinion if they keep coming back with amended facts after the initial damage on people’s character has been done. An examination of the rejoinders to their articles on this website ( www.nigeriansinamerica.com ) shows that most readers will like them to fully check their facts before rushing to the press.
Also, the recent Bukola Saraki case is another one of such essays which has further dented their status at least from the stand point of most readers I have been opportune to talk to. While I will not in a million years attempt to defend the rights of governors or past public company directors to acquire property abroad, the premise of the articles which are based on a seeming false hood that the Nigerian Constitution prohibits the purchase of assets (foreign or local ) is a gaffe that is one too many. Undeniably, the section of the constitution containing such clause read as follows in the 5th Schedule, Part 1, section 11 clauses 3:
“Any property or assets acquired by a public officer after any declaration required under this Constitution and which is not fairly attributable to income gift or loan approved by this Code shall be deemed to have been acquired in breach of this Code unless the contrary is proved.”
A mundane knowledge of law would reveal to any reader that this section only prohibits buying properties with income whose source(s) cannot be proven. If the President earns 10 millions naira a year as I suspect he does and he erects 10 million naira property at home or abroad then he does so legally within the confines of the law. In any case the state takes care of the living expenses of most chief executives across our land. Whereas a governor has previously been blessed by God, luck or just plain Nigerian factor (you know what I mean, without been caught which I abhor by the way) materially before assuming office, such governors can legally claim that they still reserve the rights to acquire assets at home and abroad provided the sources of such income cannot be traced to pilfering state money. In any case, while the Sokoto Governor and indeed the Kwara state governor can prove their sources of incomes it appears to me that Governor Dariye and Guv. Alams have not met this threshold. Indeed, Governor Saraki purchased his property before assuming the seat of power and using his name in the said article is just stretching our imaginations too far. In my opinion, the inability of the story to gain traction like the Atiku or Alams scandals shows the shallowness of this often time out of context reports.
As if these gaffes are not bad enough the most recent article in Elendu reports really casts doubts on their intentions and stated aims. The article supposedly shows Mrs. Remi Oyo the President’s press secretary limping and being helped by certain police officers. However, the website conveniently claims that the picture was taken after she was manhandled by certain police officers. No prove, no real story – just plain gibberish! This story has nothing to do with corruption or the person of Mrs. Oyo (who fought gallantly and is still doing a very good job in her present position). It just shows a pattern that can be seen in recent stories on Elendu Reports that the website has taken a high ground – staking out against all government officials regardless of creed, stance or ideology. Methodologically seeking to ridicule anyone they can ridicule and cause embarrassment to anyone that is obviously an easy moving target to their tirade, including our nation Nigeria.
Their recent theatrical display at the New York Independence celebration that saw them burning our dear national flag further bolsters this point. As a Nigerian I consider it an insult not just on the flag but on every Nigerian it represents; it is the flag we fly in honor of our war dead, heroes and men who does us proud in sport meets around the world, and burning it makes no respectful political statement in my opinion. How do you expect Americans to treat us, if they see us burning our own dear flag? What manner of patriotism is this? When did we degenerate to acting in the tradition of the far right or left of the American society that are largely confined to the fringes of a truly democratic society?
This brings me to the point I have been trying to make, that the Elendu reports appears to be exploiting a gap that have existed in our nation courtesy of long years of rule under militricians– which is , a basic distrust of power and those who wields it. In the seeming no win position that Mrs. Iweala finds herself, she is part of a government that will be naturally distrusted while in power (since it is our natural instinct as Nigerians) and her defense will generally fall on deaf ears which makes her interestingly a voiceless person in this difficult times for her family.
While I would have done well to just commiserate with her privately like most other people will do, I think it is only right if the Elendu boys are called to order. A fundamental distrust of our government should not turn to a systematic belittling or disrespect of the office these people occupy. If we hope Nigeria will get better we all would have to join hands to make it better by either being in government or keeping an honest tab of government actions without degrading our public offices. My fear is that one day, my children or I will be occupying an already soiled public position that has been degraded by cynical stories, shallow journalism and unwarranted attacks on previous occupiers. Is it not true that the reason most activists in government fail is that the position they occupy was the same one they denigrated so much that they are hard to trust when they occupy it? (Ask Ebenezer Babatope and Oronto Douglas now defending Governor Alams of Bayelsa state.)
Nigeria will only move forward if we are all committed to a true fight against the evil first, and then the evil doers. Every nation deserves the leaders they get, and I posit to say that the thieves occupying our state houses across the land are our brothers, our sisters, our aunts, our uncles, our cousins etc. They grew up in a Nigerian society that glorified money above integrity and worshipped personalities over ideas- these are simply sad commentaries of a society gone really bad to a point of seemingly non-redemption. A society that made praise singers like Sunny Ade and Ebenezer Obey overnight millionaires, while they sing the praises of thieves to high heaven! A society that will demand that a newly appointed commissioner first distribute government contracts among his kinsman and then his local government and then the state. Haba! A society that will have someone defending a kleptomaniac governor in foreign land as a true son of the land – what a country!
In conclusion, I hope while my article will evoke some good honest debate on the motives of our modern day instant noodle journalists, we will concentrate on the facts of the matter – that the work of killing corruption in our national life will be significantly slowed down if we degenerate to unwarranted name callings, libelous publications and half baked truths in our struggle to unearth the festering worms of public decadence that have overtaken our national life. I have questioned other people’s motives, and I wait that mine be questioned – all I ask for his fairness, equity and unemotional discourse of the subject matter. I rest my case.
Last Line:When rumors increase, and when there is an abundance of noise and clamor, believe the second report.