‘Tis The Season For Scandals

by Akintokunbo A Adejumo

The Police Equipment Fund scandal; the Siemens AG scandal; the Wilbros scandal; the Petroleum Equalisation Fund scandal, the Ettehgate scandal; the Austrian Schnelder scandal; and even the alleged depravity sexual scandal involving ex-President Obasanjo and his son and daughter-in-law. And only God knows how many are yet to surface. And this is not taking into account the various scandals involving corrupt ex-governors, though it seems ironically that Nigerians do not consider these as scandals – where leaders entrusted with governance betray the trust and confidence of their people and go on a stealing and looting spree. Yes, these are major monumental scandals, but have we not seen and heard them before?

Scandals, scandals. We do not even know what is going on in the states and local governments. The ones we know and read of are associated to the federal level. And there are more to come, I bet you. Right now, other scandals that are brewing are the scandal of $10 billion spent over eight years on the energy sector, and we still don’t have light; the several billions spent on new and re roads, and our roads are still un-motorable; the billions of naira spent in the Niger Delta and we know what the state is in the creeks; the sale of Nigeria Airways to Virgin; the monumental fraud called COJA or the All African Games; you name it, all these and others we don’t even know about are lurking behind the cupboards waiting to become full-blown accidents.

Now having said that, before some people jump on me and say I am not saying anything new, I will admit scandals like this are not new to Nigerians. Scandals have been with us since our inception, so probably the above title is not apropos. We seem to wake up every morning all our lives to be confronted with one scandal or the other. We now seem to be immune to it. The perpetrators are also not duly worried, because they almost always get away with it.

Before one scandal is thrown into the open and all kinds of investigations and panels dispose of it, another one surfaces which seem bigger than the last, thereby pushing the previous to the backroom. And the perpetrators of the previous one will breathe a sigh of relief and get on with their evil-doing. For example, are we hearing anything more about Ettegate, Wilbros, Siemens AG, Schnelder and the likes? No. These have been pushed to the backburner by the Police Equipment Fund scandal, which in turn will soon be pushed to the backburner by another scandal yet to surface.

What is being done for example to probe the Siemens AG scandal involving Senator Jubril Aminu (a former Minister for Petroleum and also Education) and three former ministers of Communications: Chief Cornelius Adebayo, Maj-Gen Tajudeen Olanrewaju and Dr Mohammed Bello and the Permanent Secretary Mr David Oyegun and another minister, now deceased, Haruna Elewi? If there is something being done, are we ever going to hear the outcome? There is Jubril Aminu, for instance, still strutting about imperiously in the Senate, blocking ambassadorial nominations on his own, without reference to his committee, a law unto himself. Thankfully, he has been exposed for the charlatan, visionless and power-hungry man that he is.

In the case of Wilbros, Shell Petroleum Development Corporation (SPDC), former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and former finance minister under the General Muhammed Buhari military regime, Dr. Onaolapo Soleye (Obasanjo’s best friend, so we are told) resurfaced as alleged beneficiaries of the $6 million bribe distributed by American oil service company, Wilbros Group to secure contracts for the eastern gas gathering system (EGGS) in Nigeria. Also middle level officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) are believed to have been named as being beneficiaries of the bribe. When will the results of the investigation ever see the light of day?

And for our erstwhile Speaker of the House, Mrs Olubunmi Etteh, the knives are still out for her, despite her having being forced to resign and keeping a very low profile in the Senate these days, while pressure is being mounted on the Federal Government to institute a probe into her alleged misdemeanours whilst in office.

The Schnelder scandal involved the daughter of the ex-President Obasanjo, Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, who knowingly and unwisely, and against her better judgement, used a false name to become a director of a company bidding to secure contracts. The knives are still out for her, but the scandal is, like it happens in Nigeria everyday, being gradually erased from our memories. Just like during the military era, when scandals such as the 28 billion Naira scandal during the first coming of Obasanjo was well suppressed and never saw the light of day, or the excesses of General Ibrahim Babangida, which Nigerians might never know. We only knew of Abacha, because he died.

Compatriots, scandals galore. You ain’t seen nothing yet. When these current Governors finish their term, you will be regaled with more scandals. And what about scandals within the ruling PDP itself? Wait for them.

Incidentally, most of these cases are not connected, but all these scandals happened to have occurred during Obasanjo’s Administration, with the exception of Ettehgate. That tell us a lot of that administration.

Then comes the big one – The Police Equipment Fund scandal. First of all, let me say I always shake my head and marvel at the way Nigerians come up with innovative scams – from the 419 “advance fee frauds” to looting the treasury. Apart from the criminality of the PEF scandal, the wickedness and utter evil of the perpetrators defy imagination. There are thousands of policemen with families, who are underpaid in the first instance, ill-equipped to fight crime, ill-trained, compromised because of poverty on our streets, and Hey presto, some very smart Nigerians (some nonentities called Godson Ewulum, Joseph Agharite and Inbrahim Dumuje) came up with the idea of setting up a fund for the police, in order to improve their work and lives. They sold the idea to the Federal Government of Nigeria under Obasanjo, through his former brother-in-law, one Kenny Martins, and Obasanjo swallowed it hook, line and sinker. And within a space of 6 months, these smart guys, smarter than most other Nigerians had had a capital base of 50 billion Naira, with all 774 local governments of the Federation forced by the Presidency forced to contribute 7.8 million Naira each to the Fund, which is completely illegal. State Governments, companies and other organisations were also more or les coerced into contributing to the Fund. And the Fund took loans from Banks too. A very good six-months work, if you ask me. It can only happen in our fatherland.

If the purpose for what all these money were meant for had been achieved, these men would probably have been nominated for the Nobel Prize or some kind of international accolade. If this massive amount of money had been used to improve the welfare of Nigerian policemen, much could have been achieved to improve security of lives and property in Nigeria today. But no, typical of us, these smart guys had to do otherwise. They registered the Fund as a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) and created, wait for it, a Police Equipment Foundation, and diverted the assets of the Presidential Committee on Police Equipment Fund, and the money soon disappeared into the hands of these four people as well as those who stood by them at the time. They then went on a spending spree, but not for the Nigerian policeman, (although they procured 250 exotic BMW cars and some SUVs for the Police, read the top brass of the Police – I could just see the Nigeria Police Force chasing armed robbers on the streets of Lagos with fast BMWs and SUVs) whom they claim they were trying to help. Luxury cars were bought at inflated prices and without due process, and handed out to as presents to influential individuals and government agencies, including our very own National Assembly, security agencies and Royal Highnesses. I would guess this was to compromise these people so that they won’t talk. A pre-launch dinner ate up over 200 million Naira. Can you imagine what 200 million Naira will do if it goes directly to improve the lot of the policemen? It would probably pay their salaries for 3 months minimum, and have some change left to pay arrears. Which of those BMWs and SUVs do you see painted with Nigeria Police Force on their sides today? Why not Armoured Personnel Carriers, fast motorcycles, Land Rovers and modern machine guns?

But you see, there is a phrase “falling out of thieves”. Indeed, they fell out, as they would by the law of nature. In fact, we probably would not have known about this scandal if not because one of the smart guys, Ewulum, was not carried along fully by the others. It appeared they wanted to cheat him out of his share, and so the poor guy blew the whistle on the others. And there we have it – another full-blown, out-of-this-world scandal. And, you guessed it, the last administration is connected to it somehow.

Boy oh boy! The evil that men do lives after them. Even when they are alive, it does. So one can understand the reason why Obasanjo remains the most hated and vilified Head of State of Nigeria today. I will confess I am very sad by this, because Obasanjo was a man I really, sincerely believed in, when God gave him his second and even third chance to redeem himself and turn Nigeria around for good. But all these scandals which mostly happened during his term, does not put him in good light at all, and a lot of Nigerians are very disappointed and bitter. And this does not include Obasanjo apparently turning a blind eye to the excesses of the governors who served during his time, using them instead to further his own personal ambition and agenda.

Again, corruption scandals are not new to us, but for how much longer must we tolerate them and have them swept under the carpet and life goes on? A few billions in the pockets of the perpetrators, laughing all the way to the banks with their illicit loot, while Nigerian children are dying all around us for want of good medical care, good education and good food; or commuters dying on our miserable excuse for roads called expressways; while police and robbers slug it out on the streets and the police ending up as the losers?

Else I forget, and this is another scandal. Some army divisions were said to have booed the Chief of Army Staff, and they are complaining that their superiors have not been entirely forthcoming with the amount of money they are supposed to spend on defence and welfare of the soldiers. If this is not a recipe for mutiny, I want to know what it is. If this is not insubordination, I want to know what it is. When very junior officers start heckling a whole General, you know there’s nothing like discipline in the Nigerian Army. Ogugbuaja, a former Police PRO said it in the late 80’s that men and women of the Nigerian Army have nothing better to do than drink beer and eat pepper-soup, so they have time to plan coup d’etats. He was right, wasn’t he? He was promptly deployed to a far outpost and nobody ever heard of him. That was during Babangida’s time. Now we cannot have confidence in our military to defend our borders like Bakassi and our sovereignty. Our Navy are heavily involved in bunkering and stealing of our main resources – oil. Just refer to whole ships vanishing into thin air on our seas. Most of our Air Force personnel have never even seen the inside of a fighter plane, not to talk of flying it.

So will we ever see these degrees of high-level corruption in Nigeria again, even after exposure? You bet we will anytime soon. Don’t expect fraud from our leaders to disappear altogether. These scandals tend to run in cycles because they are tied to power and money, and as long as we continue to select, and not properly elect our leaders, we will continue to have the leaders we deserve. It is as simple as that.

In a decent society, all these people involved would have been arrested by now, but have they? In a decent society, the ruling PDP would be voted out at the next election, but will this happen?

Time to go. I have lived in this world with all the Nigerian corruption scandals to last me a lifetime. I doubt it if I can take it anymore, and continue to see Nigerian children on the streets begging for money to eat, while these people continue to wine and dine and laugh in our faces.

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