In the opening paragraph of my article, “We Really Must Be Really Scared Now!” written in June 2009, I wrote “I am scared for myself, my family, my people (all Nigerians), Nigeria itself. Please don’t get me wrong, I am not going to let Nigeria kill me. I am just sad and scared because idiots are getting away with murder, literarily. I am scared because I might die outside Nigeria, with my family scattered all over the world, not wanting to have anything to do with their fatherland. Lord, am I scared?”
It is the morning of 14 September 2010, and I am still as scared as ever about events in our country, Nigeria. I woke up to disturbing (at least for me, because in Nigeria, such sentiments depends on which side of the fence you are or which side your bread is buttered) news, namely:
1. Former military ruler, Ibrahim Babangida, is in advanced talks with Peter Odili, former Governor of Rivers State, as he closes in on a running mate for the 2011 Presidential Elections, and secondly,
2. Kwara State Governor, Bukola Saraki, on Monday informed President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice-President Namadi Sambo of his desire to contest the presidential primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party.
These two pieces of news sent me into a depression. Of course it has been in the news a long time that Babangida wants to contest to come an pick up what he forgot in Aso Rock, the depressing news (and incidentally, became good news, after settling down a bit and letting my brains work and get the better of me) is that of Odili being considered for his running mate.
Odilii was said to have been recommended by no less a person than the irrepressible Raymond Dokpesi, chairman of DAAR Communications, and director general of Mr. Babangida’s presidential campaign. The two men (Odili and Dokpesi) had reputedly beneficial business dealings which, in our dear country, translate into stealing state funds, bribery, embezzlement and other fraudulent uses of state funds. Also, Dokpesi was the director general of Odili’s campaign when he tried to run for president in 2007. At the time, Odili was alleged to have invested N400 million of funds taken from the Rivers State treasury, into Dokpesi’s company. The EFCC, under Farida Waziri, quizzed Mr. Dokpesi over the money, but no charges were ever brought against this sacred Nigerian cow.
Odili, a medical doctor by training, was governor of Rivers State from 1999 to 2007, completing two terms. His tenure was marred by human rights violations, insecurity, violence and widespread fraud. He was the alleged “godfather” of some of the now notorious Niger Delta militants, who he used as political thugs to rig and win elections or do his other nefarious bidding and then dumped them, causing them to act on their own because their source of funding had been withdrawn by their Godfather.
During his governorship, Rivers State was, in theory, one of the wealthiest states in the country owing to its enormous oil revenue, but Mr. Odili instituted relatively few improvements. Instead, the former governor is on record for acquiring a South Africa-based hospital, and two Brazilian jets.
In November 2006, Peter Odili announced that he would run for president in the 2007 election under the ruling PDP. However, a day before the PDP’s presidential primaries, Odili stepped down from the contest, paving the way for fellow governor, Umaru Yar’Adua, to emerge as the party’s flag bearer. Reports say Mr. Odili (who was initially, President Obasanjo’s choice for President) was forced out of that contest when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) led by Nuhu Ribadu, barged into then President Obasanjo’s office and slapped down thick files containing reports implicating Odili in fraud, mismanagement of state funds, money laundering, and abuse of office. Obasanjo had to call Odili and told him to look at the files and asked him politely to step down. It was also said that Odili was made to return over 30 billion Naira he was alleged to have stolen or he would go to prison. I heard that on the eve of the PDP primaries, Odili had booked every hotel room in Abuja. It was said that he salted away over 250 billion Naira during his tenure as Governor of Rivers State. I will believe that, if you dont.
Odili filed a suit challenging the powers of the EFCC to probe his administration. The court, in his home state of Rivers, granted him an indefinite injunction stopping any investigations into his finances, describing it as a breach of his civil rights. (Only in Nigeria)
Till today, Odili is still walking round in Abuja a free man, looking up his ill-gotten investments in South Africa, probably flying in his jets just around Nigeria on ego-trips but barely going to Port Harcourt because he has been declared persona non grata by his people. He could only sneak in under the cover of darkness without the usual fanfare and then sneak back out the following morning or lay low until darkness comes again.
So my take on this? Please forgive my bias, but as a CORE anti-Babangida’s return to Aso Rock, this is indeed positive news. At the beginning of this article, I said I was depressed by the news; but as I write this article and let my brain wake up from the lethargy generated by this news. I also recollect Abraham Lincoln’s words: “A statesman is he who thinks in the future generations, and a politician is he who thinks in the upcoming elections” Odili and IBB are both politicians, corrupt ones at that and they cannot think in the future. It is impossible. The bank balance of these two rogues is probably enough to provide uninterrupted power supply in Nigeria; two treasury looters united by ambition. As thick as thieves, they say. Of course they have every right as Nigerians to contest for any position they so desire, but the good news is that, their coming together is going to do more damage to their ambition. Babangida apologists, who have always challenged Nigerians to bring out any evidence of Babangida’s corruption and other allegations, are even now squirming in their seats at his choice of running mate, who was easily and unquestionably one of the biggest treasury-looter in Nigeria under the tenure of Obasanjo.
Again, Nigerians need not fear an IBB/Odili ticket; they have had it before they even started. Their combination has confirmed the fears of Nigerians that they are going there to loot again. Also, we should rejoice that Babangida has again played into Obasanjo’s hands, who it was who terminated his Presidential ambition in 2007 when he (Obasanjo) sent a plane all the way from Abuja to Minna and presented him some hard evidence which compelled him to withdraw from the Presidential race, saving face by saying the late President Yar ‘Adua was his “brother”.
Problem is they have money and if we let them get there, Nigeria’s treasury will be emptied in no time, there will be genocide. We will be taken back to the 70’s when there was no visible infrastructure, and by time they finish with us, or the treasury, we will be grateful for the few ones we have now. I am not crying “wolf” here. Look at my previous articles on several issues.
A digression: On an interview on the highly condescending Alistair Soyode’s show on BEN Tv, there was one of of IBB’s apologists, in his fifties. How did he defend Babangida’s qualification to come back and be President of Nigeria? This man said IBB qualifies to be Nigeria’s next President because he (IBB) married a woman from the East and speaks the 3 major languages in Nigeria…what does one say about such thinking?
Now, Dr Bukola Saraki, incid
entally another trained medical doctor (like Peter Odili), who was never known to have practised his medical profession anywhere before. He simply went straight to his father’s (another medical doctor who hardly practiced medicine to fulfil the Hippocratic Oath of doing good for mankind) then- thriving banking business immediately he came out of university entering the bank first as a director and later the vice chairman, second only to his father. That bank, Societe Generale (SGBN), collapsed some years ago, and along with it went the money of innocent depositors. But it was not an ordinary collapse, because the Directors of the bank, that is, the Sarakis’ personal fortune went up shortly after the collapse. Obviously, the depositors’ money went into the Sarakis’ pockets.
According to SaharaReporters “It was that their family owned bank – Societe General Bank of Nigeria (SGBN) – whose fortunes had been on the downturn since 1995 while the personal fortunes of the Saraki’s, particularly, Bukola was on the rise, had gone completely under. According to a copy of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) Assets Declaration forms obtained by Saharareporters – filed and signed by Bukola Saraki on every page- Bukola’s personal fortunes only sky-rocketed while depositors lost huge investments in the SGBN which eventually went out of business in 2003 shortly after the Sarakis won the controversial elections into the senate and governorship seat in April 2003 and were sworn-in as the Governor of Kwara State and Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria respectively”.
Yet despite this obvious lack of business acumen and poor financial or fiscal management, the younger Saraki went into politics and was elected, or rather, selected as the Governor of Kwara State.in 1999. Of course it was the visible hands of his powerful father, who had, and still has a very strong grip on Kwara politics. He had been dictating who will be the Governor of Kwara State for the past 20 years or so, if not more.
But the news of his interest in becoming the next president of Nigeria is my concern here. According to Olurotimi Adeola in Transparency For Nigeria (www.transparencyng.com ) “What is he (Bukola Saraki) bringing to the presidency that he couldn’t showcase in Kwara where he has spent the last seven years administering? Or maybe he believes his father who is the great political oracle of Kwara state have extended his sphere of influence to the entire country this time around. It’s an open secret, that Dr. Olusola Saraki, the father of Governor Bukola has manacled the people of Kwara state politically in the last three decades. He alone determines the ‘soul’ of the state; in spite of this, one cannot point at any tangible benefits to the malnourished masses of that state in his over thirty years of control. Governor Bukola Saraki is a beneficiary of his father’s conquered political sphere no doubt; without the elder Saraki, Governor Bukola would never have won a councillorship seat in his state. Little wonder his sister Senator Gbemisola too is gunning to replace him……What would be Bukola Saraki’s leadership credentials if he finally enter the race for presidency? Is he going to show us, how he has created employment opportunities in Kwara and prove that most Kwarans are now gainfully employed as a result of his pragmatic stewardship in the last seven years? Is he going to showcase to Nigerians, how lives and properties are now so secured and safe in Kwara State, and that all residents go to bed with their two eyes closed? Or present to Nigerians, a Kwara State where water supply and electricity run for twenty four hours without interruption; where public hospitals are well equipped and manned by qualified and satisfied staff; where public schools meet required standards; where there are good network of roads, good public transport, standard markets etc; and finally a grateful and appreciative citizenry? If these are not the credentials Bukola Saraki is bringing to the race for president, then he has no business seeking the presidency of Nigeria”.
According to some reports, Bukola Saraki bought 15 luxurious cars including a Ferrari, all of which were worth N240 million between 1997-2003, a period described as most critical in the life of the SGBN while he was the Executive Vice Chairman of the SBGN. (I saw that Ferrari in Ilorin – Imagine driving a Ferrari on Nigerian roads, madness) I also heard that the Sarakis physically went into the vaults of the bank and carted away every penny they could find to finance the 2003 elections that gave them double victory in Kwara State as well as another victory of constitutional immunity from prosecution by the relevant agencies of government
My advice is that now is the time for depositors and investors who were cheated of their life savings by the Saraki dynasty to take necessary and appropriate legal actions to retrieve their investments with accrued interests. The resulting bad publicity and outcry should be enough to put a permanent stop to this inordinate ambition by a so-called aristocratic dynasty to foist themselves on Nigerians and continue the treasury (and indeed, bank vault) looting they started in their state.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that Bukola Saraki is above the laws of the land. Obasanjo refused to commit himself to a probe of how SGBN failed, because Saraki Senior himself was bigger than Obasanjo, and Obasanjo dared not probe him and his family. Saraki is now one of the most powerful Governors in Nigeria. Incidentally, he’s hardly in his home state of Kwara. He’s always swaggering around in Abuja and ruling Kwara State as an absentee landlord. He has got a lot of people in government – via political appointments, civil service, Foreign Service, police, immigration, henchmen and hatchet men, etc – who are very loyal to him.
The politics of powerful connections and father/family towering influences should be exorcised forthwith in Nigeria politics.
Please let us not allow Babangida/Odili and Bukola Saraki to even get their names on the ballot paper, and if they do, LET US REJECT THEM OUTRIGHT.
This is the time to sensitise the Nigerian electorate to the risks in electing Babangida-Odili to even act as road-diggers or dog-catchers for Nigeria. Open your eyes; use your ears and use your brains!
This is the more reason why we need to embark on public enlightenment and education campaigns to ensure that the voters know competent candidates with track records this time around, not just opportunists, charlatans, pretenders, the corrupt and the corrupters and people who think ruling Nigeria is their birthright.
The TRUTH has to be said always.