Just when the whole nation or much of it is applauding the recent determination of President Obasanjo to now demonstrate a zero tolerance level for Corruption in Nigeria, another scandal regarding the sale of Federal houses in the commercial capital of our nation has put the President and one of her Ministers, Mrs Osomo of Ondo State on an embarrassing collision course.
The revelation coming at a time the President has just fired another Minister for allegedly bribing a few members of the Nation’s Senate to do something the President was totally against. I would have thought the crime committed by Mrs Osomo is equally as serious, if not more serious than that committed by Minister Osuji, if you factor in the millions of Naira involved in the deal as published, and if you realize the names published are just those of prominent Nigerians and blood relations of one of the so many wives of the President, talk less of other blood relations and girl friends of the President and his first lady. The list has left out relatives, in-laws and friends of the Minister from Igbo Otu, her home town and so many of her friends from Ondo State and other parts of Nigeria. Usually when a Minister does that kind of unsolicited favor for people in power, they do so in consonance with a well known Ijesha adage which says “Awe, Se kan ko mi, ku o se kan ko ra re”, meaning “I do one for you and I do one or two for myself to silence you for ever” I am sure that what we have heard is only a tip of the iceberg. If the President probes further, he would realize that “Rere ti run” like the Yorubas say. In more civilized society the rebuke the President has openly and publicly issued the Minister was enough embarrassment to quietly warrant the Minister’s immediate resignation. It is a different ball game in Nigeria. I won’t be surprised if Mrs. Osomo sits tight as Minister hoping and praying that the scandal blows over after a short time. If she wants to be deviant or foolhardy like Professor Osuji, she might even head to the Courts to seek some kind of redress. We are so shameless as a people and so deeply engrossed in corruption that most of us can no longer tell the difference between what is decent and what is not. Corruption will not abate in our country until our public men and women learn to be sensitive to shame, and to resign, if necessary, like public officials do in civilized countries.
I am not too surprised that we are dealing with another scandal so soon after the Osuji affair. I envisaged that much in my part 1 of this article when I predicted the President can only succeed in his efforts, if he does not allow whistle blowers to be muzzled or victimized. I said so because corruption has eaten so deep into the very bones of our nation where victims and possible whistle blowers are in short supply because they know our leaders are just too corrupt to show any worthwhile interest in whistle blowers and what they do to sanitize our society. The few whistle blowers who have tried to expose the culprits in the past, have ended up being made the scapegoats at the end of the day.
There are a few exceptions, however, but unless the people involved in those exceptions, speak up, there is no way for the public to know. As an Assistant Secretary Grade 1 in 1970, at the Federal Ministry of Education, I recall playing the role of a whistle-blower on a Deputy Permanent Secretary who was clearly abusing his office as the Chairman of the Tenders Board and taking bribes with impunity. I was Secretary to the Tender’s Board at the time, and I deliberately blacklisted some of the Contractors the Chairman had wanted me to favor in the award of contracts, because he had already taken money from them. I came to know because one or two of the contractors had told me so, in an effort to get me implicated. The then Permanent Secretary to whom the Deputy and I both reported at the time, was the one and only Ahmed Joda. If the man is still alive, he or anyone close to him, may one day stumble on this confession. But for Ahmed Joda, I could easily have been dismissed from the Service for speaking up against the big boss. I can tell you there are very few Ahmed Jodas left in the Nigerian Public Service of today. That man was squeaky clean and downright honest. When I read he was made Chairman of the Corporation in charge of Liquefied Gas and the Cell Phone Project for Nigeria, I knew he was the right man for the job without any question in my mind.
My point is that it is not just enough for our President to be a crusader against Corruption in our country. There has got to be a credible marriage between the Messenger and the Message. The President’s decision to openly blast Mrs. Osomo was the right thing to do, but he must not stop there. If the minister does not voluntarily resign, she should be fired just like Fabian Osuji, if the President’s crusade is to be taken seriously from this time on. I have taken pains to do some research on the list of people said to have won the public lottery, and the amount they are required to pay for each of the properties in question. The outcome speaks volumes on the state of corruption in our country.
You have to wonder where they are getting that kind of money from, to begin with. If you take10,000.00 Dollars to any Bank in America at any given point, the Bank’s first reaction is to have you explain your source of that money. By the same token, if you are buying a property for multiples of one million, it behooves Government to find out your source and how much you pay by way of taxes. That is one way to minimize or nip corruption in the bud before it becomes a cancer. That is my first point. The mere fact the properties built with a fraction of their present market value are being sold for so much, is in, of itself, a big corruption to start with. The President saying he is going to cancel the whole exercise, and do it all over again, is going to be nothing but mere gimmick, as the selling prices of those properties have already placed them well beyond what the average middle class Nigerians can afford, even if they are getting a loan from the Bank. The properties will simply go to another group of the multi millionaires in our country with ties to the President. Period. It is profiteering at its worst, and it is morally indefensible and reprehensible, if you ask me.
Having said that, I just want to go thru the list and the prices they are all expected to pay for the houses allocated to them. I once lived in one of those quarters and my uncle the late Deji of Akure, used to live in one of those Ocean front houses at Alexander Avenue at Ikoyi, while he was Commissioner of Police in the 70s. I personally know many of those properties, and their possible values at the time they were all built in the colonial era.. Agreed that the values of properties have gone up astronomically in Lagos. It is still unconscionable for the Federal Government headed by a born again Christian like our President to be taking undue advantage of her citizens like that. You will see the point I am making when you see the winners and how much Mrs. Osomo’s Ministry is selling the properties to each of the “lucky” winners.
First on the list is Henry Abebe who is getting number 23, Milverton Road, Ikoyi for 158 million Naira. Second on the list is Yemisi Abebe who is getting number 12, Ikoyi Avenue for 80 million four hundred thousand Naira only. Next is John Abebe, Personal assistant to the First Lady getting 18, Iru Close for 64 million eight hundred thousand Naira. Next on the list is Franca Abebe who is getting 7 B, Maroko Road for 57 million six hundred thousand Naira. Next on the list is our out-going Senate President who is getting number 23, Queen’s Drive for 208 million eight hundred thousand Naira while Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Oshun State Governor is getting number 16, Alexander Avenue, Ikoyi for 112 million eight hundred thousand Naira. Next on the list is Felix Odumegwu of the Nigerian Breweries who is getting two, namely 23, Lugard Avenue for 98 million four hundred thousand Naira and
11 A, Lugard Avenue for 79 million two hundred thousand Naira. Only God knows how many Distributorship of the Nigerian Breweries he must have dolled out to the Osomo and the Stella Obasanjos of this world to be shown that kind of favors in a country of 120 million people. We are still waiting to find out how many of those houses have gone to Minister Osomo herself and people close to her, and how many have gone to the other wives and children of Mr. President himself. The whole situation stinks.
I now go to a few members of the Nigerian Judiciary on that list starting with Justice Ejiwunmi of the Abuja High Court who is getting number 1, Gerrard Road for 97 million two hundred thousand Naira while Justice Roseline Ukeje is getting her 1, temple Road for 699 million two hundred thousand Naira while Justice Olujimi is getting his 41, Glover Road for 86 million while Minister Ogunlewe is getting number 7, Alexander Road for 94.8 million while Rear Admiral Onoh is getting number 1 A, Oroke for 56.4 million Naira. The list goes on and on without end. That is Nigeria for you. The scandals in Lagos are nothing compared to those in Abuja one of the most expensive capitals in the world. You would be mystified.
One can now see why our close to 70 year old President is still one of the most eligible Bachelors of our country with young girls falling over one another to have babies for him, if he would spare a moment for them. Being a relation of people in Government opens so many doors to you in our country. I am positive that the same Federal Government or State Government or Government Parastatals would have to be the one paying all these millions out to these lucky winners of Government Lotteries through the contracts these individuals have fraudulently won from the same Government. It is a vicious circle of a problem. I think our President really has his jobs cut out for him. He has got to start the crusade against Corruption from his own bedroom, if he wants to be taken seriously because I suspect there are many in his own household and kitchen cabinet that would have to be called to order before another scandal rears its ugly head.
The way he deals with the ones we already know about, would serve notice to such individuals he really means business and that not a single sacred cow would be spared in this effort. He may have to fire his entire Cabinet, and probably himself by the time the clean house exercise is completed.
I rest my case.