(Vanguard of Sunday, September 3, 2006)
I was with an aspirant for a political party office at Abuja the other day. Surprisingly, he is gunning for an office in one of the opposition parties. He is the darling of those who like fireworks that type of hype that brings dirty people down before the eyes of those who love to have company at their level.
Simply put, these howlers love to hate the rich not because they do not like wealth but because they associate the type of wealth that comes within hours in Nigeria with theft and dishonesty. They will tell you they do not know how the rich made it.
Yesterday, they were as poor as the church rat, but today, they have so much money that all you are told is that the Good Lord be glorified for the fortune. And when EFCC comes around, you see the high and mighty scampering for cover. The crime busters may be exaggerating but is there nothing to what they are doing? Are the opposition parties really crying wolf where there is even no sheep?
But this petrel of the new breed politician was talking tough, praising President Obasanjo, tongue-in-cheek, for the good work he has done with EFCC. Let them go for the jugular of whosoever is found wanting in performance of public duty.
Ribadu must remain at post. Why should he leave because some people are complaining? And why should the law be watered down? No, the commission should be given more powers to deal with fraudsters in our midst. Which means that the political aspirant under reference, hereinafter called my chat mate, is not in support of what the Nigerian Bar Association has been asking for. Ribadu is doing a nice and fine job, my chat mate said.
Imagine what these people have been doing with our money, resulting in the absence of light in spite of the billions sunk into the power sector; the billions that have gone down the drain in spite of the announcements that had been made about roads being built; the billions that have been spent on every sector for which the President is being described as the builder of modern Nigeria. And so on and so forth. So if there is someone who knows where the thieves are, let him bring them out and disgrace them, said my chat mate politician with the heart of a 30-year-old revolutionary.
I asked for copies of his party’s constitution and manifesto. He did not have them because almost all the political parties have, since return to civil rule in 1999, not seriously thought about their constitutions and manifestoes after registration. That is why I want to come, he said.
We must start even this late to entrench politics of issues, not run-them-down politics; not kill-them politics; not politics of character assassination. His party would revise the manifesto by looking seriously at what duties are there to be performed in the social, political, educational, economic, cultural, environmental and foreign policy sectors, and document what would be done at the national level, the state level and the local government level.
But what policies had his party been carrying out over the years? He said I should know. Have you seen any two governors doing the same thing to reflect any party directive since we returned to civil rule in 1999, he asked me as if I was the one to answer questions.
I said I regarded the point he just raised as meaning that the parties have had no focus. What then influenced the votes cast? He asked where; and I wondered if we were not discussing Nigeria and the 1999 and 2003 elections. He said he knew we were discussing Nigeria but that he was asking about what part of the country I was referring to when I asked what influenced the casting of votes.
He said the rule was that votes were cast in some parts of the country and that in many other parts, even if votes were cast, the votes did not count towards winning or losing elections. Did I not know that those who lost were declared winners and that those who won were declared losers? But at the end of the day, I opined, those who rigged more won and those who were too weak to rig lost.
Is there no way out of this pre-occupation with cheating? My chat mate was emphatic that the cheating was a means to an end and that as long as that end was the focus of the Nigerian politician, the stealing would continue. Don’t you know, he told me, that politics is a business and Nigerians are ruthless businessmen?
My mind suddenly began to relay weird pictures of those who are said to have signed spiritual bonds with the devil to make it in life materially. What of the many mad women who are pregnant? Who went into them? Are they sane people falling in love with the mentally deficient or the demand for that chore was one of the conditions for accessing wealth? What of those who are said to be willing to give their wives and children or even lose their manhood in search of money?
What were all those rich people doing at Okija, and is it only in Anambra State we have such powerful totems to which the high and mighty pledge loyalty? Haven’t I heard of people opting to shorten their lifespan if only what they touch can turn to money? But one way in which all the frippery is uncalled for is politics where you have neat clean money stolen from the treasury.
What EFCC seems to be doing now is saying that there must be a stop to this madness and although the aspirant is not in the President’s party, he is excited that this war is on in full swing?
Out of my reverie, I asked my chat mate why the EFCC war is selective. He laughed, saying he has abundant proof of that. But he told me not to worry. EFCC is a government set-up, he said, and it will sweep tomorrow the nooks and crannies it cannot sweep today. Did I not know how things work in this country? The government in power is protected while there, but when it leaves, its bottom gives way and the stench is all over the place.
The pictures in my head took over. Didn’t I see what happened when the Gowon government was toppled and how the Tarka and Daboh quarrel turned out to be only the description of an ant in a forest populated by gorillas? How many of the governors probed by the Murtala Mohammed? Obasanjo regime scaled the fence of honesty? Did I not see the many politicians that went through the investigations and trials of the post-Shagari era?
Didn’t I remember that some of the politicians were sent to jail for 300 years? Where was I when the police pounced on tenants and landlords and moneylenders by just filling out a form detaining them because someone had filed reports that some contractual obligations had not been met?
The piece of paper which was a detention order signed by Idiagbon and was to be filled out after investigations had taken place took the place of the investigations! What of Abacha? All that rot spoken about him when he was there being begged to rule this country for 10 years, who was bold enough to spit a word in opposition?
What had the family not been through since the man was said to have died after eating an apple imported by an Indian? Even IBB? Who spoke about his so-called many sins including the entrenchment of corruption in the body politic, the wasteful spending of the $12 billion windfall on non-priority projects, the killing of Vatsa his best friend, but for the fact that he was in charge when the 1993 Presidential election won by Abiola was annulled.
Would he be this roughened up if he had not declared his intention to contest the 2007 presidential elections? Do I think that all that the PDP is doing about people resigning a month before the primaries is not targeted at Atiku? Why do I think that Globacom boss Adenuga is being harassed when he should be given national honours for investing this big in Nigeria?
Is it a crime to gun for the highest office in the land? And why have they intimidated Marwa who made so much success of his tenure as governor of Lagos state, and who would have become Nigeria’s first graduate to be elected president? Don’t I know that Nigeria has never produced a graduate as head of state, outside Sonekan who was a bird of passage?
I had never been so dumb in my life, listening to thoughts coursing through my head. But I asked if my chat mate had heard of the saying that there must be responsibility in the face of communal guilt. He said he associates me with a lot of words that a dictionary would help explain but as I could see, there was no dictionary in his office, only posters for the office he was seeking.
I asked him if one who had killed another could plead that because other people killed and they had not been brought to book, he should not be brought to book. My chat mate said that was why he wanted Ribadu to stay so that those not brought to book while the President is still in office can be brought to book when he quits, which he said must be on May 29, 2007.
My chat with Buba Galadima took place before I heard the news of EFCC bursting into the campaign office of Atiku in Abuja and looking for whatever it is they were looking for. By the time you read this, Buba may have clinched the office of secretary general of the All Nigeria Peoples Party or failed to do so, that is if the convention of the party took place yesterday as was planned.
(Published in Vol. 2 of Democracy Watch, A Monitor’s Diary by Tony Momoh, pages 190 – 194; Lagos, 2008)