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Dangote’s travails: Tinubu must know the world is watching

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By Sunny Igboanugo

Yet again, the din is reverberating. The echoes could be heard here and yonder and the world is listening, sure to engage in another baleful of laughter from the odious entertainment, coming from the usual source – Africa – nay, Nigeria!

Or haven’t you heard? Dangote, until recently, Africa’s richest man and definitely Nigeria’s most celebrated business icon is in the news. He is currently under the radar of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Of course, you know how it is with this Nigerian ubiquitous anti-graft agency – whosoever is on its spotlight, suddenly becomes a public subject. So, it is no surprising that Dangote is Nigeria’s biggest conversation now.

I have just read the details of the latest encounter and the exchanges thereto between the two. Immediately I did, the first reaction was to shake my head and repeat those eternal words by French writer and journalist, Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, who wrote in 1849, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose “ – the more things change, the more they stay the same!Or what do you think has changed since the founding of the EFCC in 2002?

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What do you think is different from the EFCC of yesterday and that of today, given the current unfolding drama? To boot, what do you think would come out of the macabre dance in the end? When you hear what Nigerians derisively dismiss as initial gragra, no other organisation in Nigeria fits better into the description than EFCC. Just like Shakespeare’s depiction of a tale told by an idiot – all sound and fury, signifying nothing.

The only difference here is that the EFCC men do not seem to be fools, but wise men adept at their game and well nuanced with their environment.Right from its first Chairman, Nuhu Ribadu, the commission has been known for being plenty on words and scanty on action in terms of actually catching and nailing the thieves they were supposed to go after – always frantically doing something to give the impression of working, but in the end achieving very little.

Even worse still, contrary and ironically too, the leadership of the selfsame body, are often caught bed with the same men and women who they misslabelled yesterday. They also on many occasions become the hunted themselves from being the hunter. Ribadu! O Ribadu! Remember him? He came calling everyone a thief. His stories were so enchanting that Nigerians salivated profusely like Pavlov dogs each time he appeared on the scene to tell them.

Recall that tale about how he rejected the $5million offered him by James Ibori, former Delta State Governor in that epic drama? I’m sure you haven’t forgotten another classic outing in the Senate in September, 2006, when he regaled the men of the upper legislative chamber of the National Assembly, and through them, Nigerians and the world of how five then serving governors – Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia, Bola Ahmed Tinubu of Lagos, Ahmed Sani Yerima of Zamfara, George Akume of Benue and Abdullahi Adamu of Nasarawa, were under his radar as well as doyens or babanlas of corruption. It was actually there that he made the infamous declaration that Tinubu’s crimes were of international dimension.

To emphasise that his declaration at the Senate was not a slip of the tongue, he was quoted by reporters a few months later, in 2007 to have said: “Tinubu and the rest should consider themselves very lucky… they ought to have been where Dariye, Fayose, and Alemieyeseigha are today. They cannot escape. It is a matter of time. They have the protection of the law. They enjoy immunity. We are after them because they still want to rule us again. The constitution is against indicted people. After their tenure, they will be prosecuted. They remain indicted and are not fit to hold public positions.”

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But what happened thereafter, when a Pharaoh that didn’t know Joseph in the name of Umaru Yar’Adua appeared on the scene? The same Ribadu became the hunted himself. For the period the former President was in power before succumbing to ill-health in 2010, Ribadu was actually on the run – a fugitive from Nigeria. It took the camp of the same Tinubu he vilified to give him some cover.

In no time, after the death of Yar’Adua, he was to return to the country to pick the ticket of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) founded by the same Tinubu to contest the presidential election of the following year. Today, the same Ribadu is working for the same Tinubu – the man, whose crime had international dimension. See how e dey go? What an irony.

But of course, that is the character of the EFCC. In fact, as time went by, the same Ribadu took several opportunities to deny that he said Tinubu was under investigation. Imagine! He actually looked Nigerians in the face with cameras beaming to his face and the entire world watching during one of his outings in his run for the presidency to do so?

Was Farida Waziri, who replaced him any better? From her appointment in May 2008 to her disgraceful ouster in November 2011 by then President Goodluck Jonathan, was she equally not dogged with the same allegations of the barber’s chair – all motion, no movement selective prosecution, accentuated by media trial of suspects?

In fact, the only significant conviction she secured was the 30-month jail term slammed on Bode George, former National Vice Chairman (South) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

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Even this did not endure, as the Supreme Court, on December 13, 2013, quashed the conviction, by a Lagos High Court, by discharging and acquitting the ex-PDP boss, saying the EFCC had no evidence that he had intention to commit fraud at the Nigeria Port Authority (NPA) where as chairman he was caught presiding over a contract bazaar that led to his ordeal.

Ironically, for a long time after her exit the former EFCC boss, the first female to head the organisation, remained in the public glare as speculations rose and fell over her fate. In fact, in one report, which was later denied, it was said that she was actually under investigation by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offences Commission (ICPC).

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Ibrahim Lamorde, her replacement, did not smell roses either even with his own long lists of cases, which ended up nowhere despite the media noise accompanying them. In fact, Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, chaired by Samuel Anyanwu (APC-Imo East),  on Thursday February 25, 2016, sought for an arrest warrant against the former EFCC boss over allegation by one George Uboh Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Public Alert Security Systems, that he tampered with the N1 trillion of assets recovered by the anti-graft agency during his time as the director of operations and later chairman.

His defence however was that the Senate was after him in the wake of the EFCC’s investigation of Toyin Saraki, wife of then Senate President, Bukola Saraki, over allegations of graft while her husband was the governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.

Is it Ibrahim Magu? His own case was even more entertaining and intriguing, if not completely outlandish. It was an era of catches of currencies – foreign and local being discovered in abandoned buildings, sewage tanks, burial grounds or practically rolling out from the conveyor belts at different airports. Perplexingly, no one was ever linked to these monies outside the generic – corrupt individuals.

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How did the same Magu end up? On July 6, 2020, the news broke of how the same anti-corruption czar was whisked away by security operatives straight to the Presidential Villa to answer multiple queries on issues of monumental corruption and abuse of office – the same Magu, who was everywhere boasting about how he was going to get every corrupt official under lock and key and dismissing all the four fingers pointing back at him as – corruption fighting back. Phew!

It is in this context that the present case of Dangote versus EFCC must be situated. Why? Why not? The entire development mimics previous episodes. Olu Olukayode, the new man named for the position by President Bola Tinubu, in October last year, had presented the mien of a man that would take a different route.

In fact, having been the Head of Operations at the commission, and a lawyer to boot, one of the expectations was that he understood the flaws of the agency and would therefore avoid the pitfalls, principal of which is – noise! But with this Dangote case, it seems he has failed the first major test?

How come this case is all over the place in the media? In the last 48 hours or so, the pages of major newspapers had been plastered with screaming headlines of how the EFCC invaded the company’s headquarters in Lagos “in search of documents.” Haba! Must it be so? What stops the agency from quietly stealing into the company to seek the documents in question?

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The picture the public gets is that in many cases, the EFCC due to its pattern of putting the carts before the horse it comes out ill-prepared such that a smart Alec of a lawyer makes mincemeat of the usually watery cases it presents, only for it to blame the judiciary in the end.

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For a man like Dangote, with the resources to buy the best lawyer in Nigeria and elsewhere, could it afford to adopt this pattern that has failed over and over before? Unfortunately, it seems so?

Sunday Esan, spokesman, who gave the details of the operation, said the company had gone to the EFCC office with the same document they sought, while its personnel were storming their office, wondering the basis for the show.

Hear him: “On 4 January 2024, our team delivered the first batch of documents to the EFCC. However, officers of the EFCC did not accept the documents, insisting on visiting our offices to collect the same set of documents directly. Whilst our representatives were still at the EFCC’s office to deliver the documents, a team of their officers proceeded to visit our offices to demand the same documents in a manner that appeared designed to cause us unwarranted embarrassment. Worthy of note is the fact that the officials did not take any documents or files from our Head office during their visit as these were already in their office.

“We must emphasise that, to our knowledge, no accusations of wrongdoing have been made against any company within our Group. At present, we are only responding to a request for information to assist the EFCC with their ongoing investigation.”

But the commission seems unfazed, apparently. In a report The Nation, quoted its operatives as saying: “We demanded for some vital documents but Dangote Group was not forthcoming. As an anti-graft agency, EFCC will not join issues with Dangote Group but Nigerians should wait for the outcome of the ongoing investigation. No one or group can impede or delay investigation. We cannot be deterred, we will get to the roots of the forex allocations in 10 years.”

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It is up to you, compatriots to choose what or who to believe. My only worry here is the noise. We’re not just talking about anybody here, but Dangote. No matter how you view it, there is a vantage place for him in the history of Nigeria, in fact, its whole essence at this time. Take it or leave it, he is a national asset and big Nigerian brand.

We have already started hearing the sordid story that the EFCC is after him because he did not support President Tinubu during the last election and therefore, the operation has nothing to do with the Forex issue. Sounds familiar? That indeed will by not only a calamity, but great tragedy. For the world is watching!

My name is Sunny Igboanugo and I’m The Tiny Voice!

 

 

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Samoa Agreement: They gave our fathers mirrors, now, they give us SUVs

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By Sunny Igboanugo

Picture this! Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy (MoF-CoMoTE) in Nigeria. During this period, her official movement was like that of an Arabian monarch. Pomp and circumstances, pomp and pageantry, pomp and ceremonies, whichever is applicable.

It was chaos – blaring sirens, breakneck speeding pilot cars, swerving and dangling along the road with dark-goggled, war-like-well-kitted policemen hanging or perching dangerously on them – a convoy of luxuriant Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs), looking as if freshly-minted from the factories in Japan, squeezed in the middle and trailed by backups with equally well-kitted operatives. You would never miss it.

Today, the same Okonjo-Iweala, is now the Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), a global entity worth zillions of times in rating and influence than a mere minister of a country, not the least, in Africa. But spot the difference. Today, the same woman goes to her office in just one car and a driver. All the chaos is gone. In fact, the only ceremony to underscore her present status, was when she assumed office on March 1, 2021.

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What was it like? On that day, a welcome party was organised, comprising no more than a dozen men and women, probably only staffers of the organisation, who lined the corridor leading to the entrance of the building, clapped, shook hands and led the way. End! No speech, no food, no drinks, no party. The ceremony did not even last up to 10 minutes.

Pan to Number 10 Donning Street, home of the United Kingdom Prime Minister. On Friday, July 5, 2024, Rishi Sunak, stood at the foyer of the building to give a farewell speech after 19 months in office as PM. After a short speech which lasted for less than 10 minutes, he stepped into a waiting Audi sedan, and drove away.

Enter Kier Starmer, his successor, few minutes after. He even came in a smaller car alongside his wife into the welcoming cheers from a large crowd that gathered at the same venue, went about shaking hands and exchanging kisses. No airs, no chaos, no security forces with whips in hands brandishing all manner of firearms to scare away citizens.

That session ended and with his own speech, equally short and pointed, he moved into his residence and that was it. From now on, all that would come from him are policies of how to make UK better and leave the country better than he met it. He would never give approval to any contract, let alone sign one. It will be the duty of the bureaucracy to prepare all his budgetary items, which would be geared towards this end. Nobody would hear him making budgetary provisions of billions of British Pounds for feeding in that residence or billions more for either the purchase of more vehicles or the changing of tyres of the ones already acquired.

In fact, if he needed an extra pillow for his bed, he would have to buy it from his own pockets. If he needed to repair the air conditioner, he simply alerts the maintenance team that are probably inhouse.

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Now, does anyone think that even without any single person wielding a gun without an open show of the paraphernalia of security presence in that arena, the British PM is more vulnerable to attack than an African President on a day like this? Certainly no! Any fly that posses a threat at that event would be dead before it could even get close to achieving the aim.

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Do not forget that the UK is home to the most impressive, exotic and expensive automobiles in the world. Rolls Royce, reputed as one of the world’s most prominent vehicles only fit for the royals is a British product. So is Range Rover, Jagua, among others. So, the PM, could as well order hundreds of the latest and most luxurious of these cars, have them fitted with state-of-the-art contraptions to deliver maximum comfort only fit for royals.

But why are they not doing so? Simple answer! Restraints! Both official and personal fetters, ensures that such a route would never be travelled. On the official side, the workload and the proclivity for government office as problem-solving arena as opposed to a place for maximum enjoyment, strips them of any impetus towards such a life of ease and pleasure. Besides, it is completely impossible, for such a demand to be met, assuming a PM with such mindset finds his way into office. Official checks and balances would make sure of that.

From where would he start to make such a requisition? Would it come from watertight chain of bureaucracy where every official is put in check? Certainly impossible. Even a mere mention of that or a shadow of it could cost him his job. So, no official limousine, no long official convoy. Even an official plane is not there. Why? The PM is just like any other British citizen and sees himself as so.

On the individual level, it is all about values, about honour. How would a British man of high office feel with the insinuations, side glances and snide comments given to politicians and people in high places in Nigeria, let alone being labelled a thief? He would probably lock himself in a room and put a bullet in his scull rather than live with the shame. Yes, it is an ample incentive for suicide.

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There, values and honour far outweigh any form of vainglory. Thus, because the essence of such opulence and individual display of it, would be lost, or be swallowed in belly of high value, nobody would travel that road. In other words, instead of attracting admiration the result of such open display, would conduce public disdain, ridicule and rejection. It is an environment, where the littlest veneer of mistrust would not only individual rating in the society, but also consequently destroy political fortunes.

Unfortunately, those values as found in Britain and other western nations, are intrinsic. They are confined within the territories of those countries. They are never carried beyond the shores of the land. Elsewhere, particularly in Africa, those individual and official restraints are not encouraged among leaders. Rather, the same British officials, loathing of the slightest act of malfeasance in his country will do everything and use every means to encourage African leaders to steal, as long as the proceeds would end up in their country in the form of buying expensive goods and properties or simply salting away raw cash.

Indeed, because leadership evolution in Africa is still tied to the apron-string of these western nations, those who want to copy western styles are not allowed to do so. Because directly or indirectly, African leaders secure, hold and enjoy power at the pleasure of these controlling forces abroad, the recruitment process is careful and deliberate to ensure that government offices from top to bottom are populated by economic brigands – mindless thieves without mercy for the common till.

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This is what the west look forward to – simple application of different dynamics, in pursuance of the ubiquitous term – national interest – a dangerous phenomenon that is as ruthlessly delivered as it is destructive to the recipients.

Ask yourself what happened to all African leaders, who tried to live like a British PM. First, they were dubbed rebels and marked as dangerous. Is it a coincidence that the likes of Zaire’s Patrice Lumumba, Nigeria’s Murtala Mohammed, Burkina Faso’s Thomas Sankara, and most recently Tanzania’s John Magafuli, virtually all met some sort of unpleasant, and in some cases, brutal ends? The case of the sudden death, through “COVID-19 complications,” of the late Tanzanian President, reputed to have rejected foreign loans and foreign pressures that he believed could further fetter his country, controversial as it is, remains quite revealing.

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The rest and many more of these leaders, were brutally mowed down in their primes to stop their ideologies from taking firm roots, in sequence of events, with the overt and covert imprimaturs of western plots. Of course, their places were supplanted by individuals with diametrically-opposing ideals, such as dominate the continent today.

So, because, one way or the other, they have the dominant role in the recruitment process, they choose very well by ensuring that only those with the mindset of extravagance, unquenchable greed, insatiable knack for egocentrism, narcissism make to the leadership podium, as opposed to what is acceptable in their countries. Frugally-minded leaders with sound national agendas are never allowed close to power.

Why? The enduring argument is that the west needs bad leaders in Africa and elsewhere to thrive. Indeed, it is stressed that the day leadership in Africa finds expression in prudence, moderation and uprightness, a heavy hammer-blow would be delivered to the heart of Europe and America. Not only would it end the mindless feasting and pillaging of the rich natural resources of the continent, but it would also end the tendency of African being a dumping ground for luxury goods from the west.

So, while Members of Parliament (MPs) in Britain would ride in trains and buses to work and legislators in the US resort to car-pooling to save cost, their Nigerian counterparts, would apply proceeds of loans obtained from their countries to buy SUVs. While the Governor of New York would drive to work in one car, the governor of Zamfara, one of the poorest states in Nigeria will do so in a convoy of 10 cars.

While the PM of The Netherlands rides bicycle to work, his Nigerian counterpart, goes to the mosque, church or his private home in a convoy of 120 SUVs, all fuelled at the expenses of the common purse. But also picture the difference in the societies created therefrom. Again, they are as sharp and contrasting as night and day.

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The result clearly show in the development of public infrastructure. So, while those in power in Nigeria use public money to purchase SUVs to navigate roads ridden with craters, muds and ditches, the roads in western countries, in contrast, provide a completely different picture. There, public funds are used to pave their roads into classy, durable and enjoyable structures for the public, but here, only few enjoy the SUVs cruise while the rest have to survive on what is left. Even at that even the SUVs offer little succour in the end. Many of them had even imprisoned their owners either in stretches of immovable traffic or impassable spots on the same roads.

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Now, the abiding question is why this difference. Again, simple answer. The sight of an SUV, does not create the same imagery in the west as in Africa. In Nigeria, it connotes arrival and announces wealth and influence. It is the sign of the Nigerian big man. In the UK however, it is rather a burden. Anybody on a regular salary could equally walk into a car shop and get it either on rent or hire-purchase on easy terms. But that also means higher taxes in all ramifications. So why travel the route in the face of alternatives.

It is this dynamics that remain at play. Recognising the influence of pride, egoism, self-conceitedness in the African leadership structure, the west knows that promoting these tendencies is the most potent weapon to preserve their leechlike relationship with Africa. So, not only do they pump in more SUVs, they ensure that only leaders that will buy more and more of them would get to office or survive in them.

They are aware of how these leaders act like little children lured with new toys and how they are fascinated with little things. They could not have forgotten how the forebears of these people sold off their children into slavery with mundane gifts like whiskeys, gunpowder and mirrors. It is not surprising that they are doing exactly the same today just to buy SUVs and other fancy products from Britain and other countries around the world.

So, do not be taken aback by the length Nigerian officials could go. When the white man gave their fathers those mirrors, they used them as symbol of wealth. People flocked their homes simply to use the mirrors to see their faces. For that privilege alone, they were able to take other people’s wives and marry many for themselves from the numerous women making themselves available just to be called wives of men who had mirrors.

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Today, the raison d’etre is not different. In recent days, the controversy across the nation is about the Samoa Agreement and the implication of Nigeria and African countries signing it. Stop asking why they did. The alluring smell of money is such a binding factor. For $150billion loan, they could willingly sign off anything after perceiving that irresistible smell. For that money, they are willing to allow half of their citizens being corralled into slavery to go and work in foreign factories as before or sign off their entire continent into colonialism once again.

When they do, never ask why. The reason is staring everyone in the face. Just like their ancestors received mirrors, and to demonstrate the I better pass my neighbour mentality, sold out their children to slavery, their sons might all but be willing to repeat the same just to be the toast of the society. They will do it. All for what? Today’s mirrors – SUVs!

My name is Sunny Igboanugo, I’m The Tiny Voice!

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Can Tinubu release Kanu without appeasing Buhari?

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By Sunny Igboanugo

On Sunday, June 23, 2024, about 50 members of the House of Representatives wrote a passionate letter to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, with one request – the release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the Leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB).

“Your Excellency, we are concerned members of the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with a strong belief and trust that the Renewed Hope agenda and the various positive reforms would be seen and felt by all.

“It is against this backdrop that we, the undersigned, hereby beseech Your Excellency to direct the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Prince Lateef Fagbemi SAN, to invoke his powers of nolle prosequi under the provisions of Section 174(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and Section 107(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, and cause the release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu from detention and discontinue his trial.

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“We collectively believe this is long overdue and would be instrumental in opening the door for much-needed conversations surrounding peace reformation and inclusivity, as well as addressing the issues that led to the agitations, especially at this time when Nigeria is going through several constitutional reforms,” they wrote.

Quite significant as it might seem, assuming it is not another political move in itself to hoodwink unsuspecting Nigerians, my take is that the lawmakers are in the wrong place. Instead of Tinubu, their destination should be Daura, in Katsina State. They should be talking to Muhammadu Buhari, the President’s predecessor. He is the one that has a problem with Kanu, not Tinubu.

Since the last appearance of the IPOB leader in court, there has been this report that he has opted for out of court settlement, which some people see as capitulation and begging. I don’t know to what extent this could be valid. But assuming, but not conceding that this were so, then even Kanu and his team, have also missed the road. It means that they have no knowledge of where the rain started beating them and where it will eventually stop. Certainly, it will neither be in Lagos or Abuja. Destination is Daura, Katsina State.

Indeed, if there is any way to pull Kanu out of his current abode in the gulag of the Department of State Services (DSS), take him to Daura, and make him lie prostrate and clean Buhari’s feet with his tears in utter supplication for mercy in a manner that could create a thaw in the former Military General’s frosty and stony heart, that should be the clincher. Anything else would be akin to misfiring. Tons of letters to Tinubu and, or, any other manner of rapprochement move to or with Abuja, will not work.

That is my current reading of the situation. There is no way Tinubu would order the release of Kanu without offending Buhari. It is only when he is ready to damn the consequences of being at a crossroads with Buhari that he could take such audacious step. Trying to spring the IPOB boss out of his current situation without first appeasing Buhari, would be akin to knocking their heads together.

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The current moves by the lawmakers, which, surprisingly, but perhaps understandably, does not have anyone from the South West among them, from the list of 44 names I saw, can not be more potent than similar ones embarked by South East leaders, including Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the pan-Ndigbo socio-cultural organisation and the apex decision-making body of the Igbo people.

If Tinubu, was ready to rebuff the highest authority in Igboland, which could be interpreted as a big snub on the entire ethnic group that is the third leg of the Nigerian tripod, what is a group of 50 people? But he has evidently shown that he is ready to commit that political hara-kiri for obvious reasons.

The lawmakers might do well to find out from the ex-President how much Nigeria must have shelled out from the commonwealth to conduct such a high-octane operation that successfully brought Kanu back from Kenya. They might be surprised that the dent the operation made in the national till, might have contributed to the parlous situation of the entire economy Nigeria is presently contending with. I won’t doubt it if I heard that he practically opened the vault of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to achieve the feat.

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Better still, if Buhari is too far to reach, Asari Dokubo, could be another option. He has been high on gloating in recent days, and has made a video to emphasise how he has fulfilled his promise of putting Kanu away. Remember how he told the world last year after his symbolic visit to Tinubu in Abuja, that he signed a military contract with Buhari. Obviously, the capture of Kanu, must have been part of the deal. An idea of how much he was paid for the job, could be another way of ascertaining what the Kenya operation cost Buhari and his government.

Surely, with his current mood, where he is mocking the IPOB boss – for begging and reducing himself to a mere puppy, and especially regarding his propensity for flippancy, he might just be too willing to spill the beans. After all, was he not the one recently listing his assets including choice houses across the globe and some of the most exotic automobiles from the factories of western nations to prove how stupendously rich he is? Certainly, that military deal done in darkness, could have contributed substantially as a veritable source for the acquisition of such assets.

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But that is just one entity. On Tuesday, July 29, 2021, Abubakar Malami, former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF-MoJ), had in a joint media interaction with the leadership of the DSS, announced that the arrest and return of Kanu, from the East African country, was through what he described as “international collaborative effort.”

That statement could also help anyone to add up the cost. Add top officials of the Kenyan government, add to the middle and lower officials, add to the security and others in the international chain including the informants and those who tricked Kanu into Kenya, before the Nigerian boys that all worked to ensure the operation was successful this time. That would give anyone the idea of what must have gone into the operation.

Recall that Buhari, had attempted a similar operation as Military Head of State, when he tried to bring back the late Umaru Dikko in a crate from the UK. It was a mission that failed at the last second. He must have put extra effort and extra funding to ensure that the Kanu mission, was not only top notch, but a full success this time around.

Just imagine how ecstatic he would have been the day he saw Kanu in handcuffs and the alluring feeling of waking up every morning from the Villa in those days to realise that he was still cooling his heels in the dark dungeon of the DSS. It is obvious that even today in Daura, one of the first things he would do each morning would be to run a check through the channels to ascertain that the situation has not changed. Imagine the kick he would be getting from Igbo leaders falling over themselves on bended knees to beg him to free Kanu – something that was denied him some 50 years ago with Dikko.

In the first place, Dikko, did not do half of what the IPOB leader did. Not even a quarter. Dikko did not declare him dead. Dikko did not call him Jubril of Sudan. Kanu did all that. Yet, he went after the ex-NPN big wig. What he was denied decades ago by the eagle eyes of the British security is handed to him on a platter and someone wants him to throw it away. How possible.

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It would even have been more manageable were it another person. Any other broad-minded leader, would have let Kanu’s obvious slight, slide, especially when they are at best, what the Igbo call, cannons fired with the mouth, which have no real effect or poses any threat to anyone, particularly when they are only part of political disputations. Agitators all over the world use heavy words to draw attention to themselves and that is what Kanu seems guilty of.

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But it is not Buhari to ignore such and certainly not in this situation. He takes it to heart. To him it is a personal fight – a personal war. Don’t forget that Kanu is an Igbo man – a dot in the circle – the 97-5 per cent – the group of Nigerians Buhari never wanted to have anything to do with – who probably needed not have existed on the surface of the earth were he to have the chance.

I have always argued that Tinubu’s sudden antagonistic attitude towards Ndigbo was influenced by Buhari. Apart from being naturally open and receptive to all, Tinubu, as Governor of Lagos State, actually threw his doors open for the Igbo people, both in Lagos and elsewhere, surrounding himself with his Igbo friends, all which disappeared since his Buhari contact in the All Progressives Congress (APC) political marriage.

Nobody needed to be told that one of the criteria to be friends with Buhari is to hate the Igbo. It is one of the ways to make him happy. So, even as President, Tinubu knows that to turn around and embrace the Igbo, even if he desired it, was the surest means of losing Buhari’s friendship. In the 2023 presidential campaign, he almost ignored Ndigbo completely and only managed to visit few places. That obviously would have increased his place in Buhari’s heart to enable him break the door with impunity to ensure that the Presidency was his.

When he pledged to continue with Buhari’s legacies, keeping Ndigbo as far away as possible from the leadership of the APC and from government appointments, must certainly be part of it. In fact, something tells me that for as long as Ndigbo are never given a pride of place in Tinubu’s reckoning, Tinubu could go ahead and do as he wishes. Buhari would not be too perturbed with the President upping the ante in the manner he has since filled virtually every federal position with his Yoruba people.

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So, yes! The lawmakers are right in their assertion. There are more than a thousand ways of officially freeing Kanu, except for one glitch – the Buhari factor! Ordinarily a typical open-minded politician like Tinubu would have let all the supposed sins Kanu committed against Buhari ride were he the one involved.

For instance, the hollow ritual on June 12, 2024 in the name of Democracy Day, in Abuja, could have been given a strong impetus as a national event, if Tinubu had announced the release of Kanu. It would have shown that he was ready to shelve the vengeance mentality that saw the late military despot, Sani Abacha ignore all pleadings including the Catholic Pontiff, the Pope and other global leaders to keep the late Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola in detention, until providence intervened to solve the problem.

Such a gesture would have been more meaningful and more nationally rewarding than banal, insipid and totally empty speech that preceded the fanfare at the Eagle Square. It would have shown a certain semblance to Abiola’s robust politics and open mind, which would have done much good to his memory than unveiling a giant painting of himself on that occasion, which further took away the shine.

Most certainly, the report of the entire event would not have been eclipsed by his tripping and falling, which the Nigerian media and their foreign counterparts gleefully feasted on, because the Kanu story would have attracted more attention.

But certainly not with the Buhari factor dangling around like the sword of Damocles. An Igbo! Except Femi Fani-Kayode was lying in that revelation of his encounter with the former President, no one should be left in doubt about the obvious. The former Minister of Aviation, had explained that he had never seen the type of hatred and anger against a people as Buhari expressed against Ndigbo for “killing our leaders.”

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So, this account must not be lost on the lawmakers or anyone indeed, who might wish to dabble into the Kanu issue. Though the civil war has ended some 53 years ago, Buhari is still at it. Kanu and the numerous acts of malevolence of Buhari towards the Igbo, which were clearly evident in his eight years in power, were demonstrable examples. It is up to G-50 to contend with the situation. But I still maintain that going to Tinubu is the wrong route.

Indeed, if the passage of time of about six decades could not wipe off Buhari’s memory of the January 15, 1966 coup incident, if the wiping off of scores of Igbo military officers, if the blood of millions of Ndigbo killed in the several pogroms that followed or millions of others wiped out during the civil war proper are not enough to quench Buhari’s thirst for vengeance against Ndigbo, I wonder how far the G-50 could even go should they toe this line.

Yes! The lawmakers are equally right that there are many reasons the release of Kanu would impact positively on Tinubu and indeed Nigerian as a whole. They are right to believe, for one that it would address the current security crisis in the South East and clear the air about the nebulous atmosphere in the area. Today, every crime in the zone is linked to IPOB. Even the usual armed robbery and burglary seem not exist anymore. They are now grouped as IPOB. Nobody seems to be thinking outside the box as IPOB presents a ready answer. Of course, Kanu’s continued detention, remains a good cover for this to endure.

It is not that anyone is trying to dissuade the lawmakers. My take is to advert their minds to the other side of the argument. Who knows? They might just succeed in scraping the scales of Tinubu’s eyes. He might one day decide to take the bull by the horns. He might decide to address the South East question.

He might realise that inheriting Buhari’s enmity with the Igbo might not be the best way after all and make a detour. That will be the day he will tell himself that keeping Kanu in detention while the likes of Sunday Igboho, Yoruba nation agitator, accused of similar crime is breathing the air of freedom is bad for national health, as it bespeaks of nothing else but unfairness, if not outright hypocrisy.

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Perhaps, someone might remind him that now Buhari is out of the way, the implication of a Bello Bodejo, leader of the Myetti Allah Kautal Kore, who was recently arrested and charged for terrorism, strolling the streets a free man, while Kanu is in the DSS gulag, would no longer be a Buhari issue but would be traced to him at the end of the day, especially if anything happens to him.

He might just realise that the gains of releasing the IPOB leader, would certainly be more than the pains of giving political offence to one man, for the simple reason that with that move, he would have allowed the people of the South East breathe some fresh air for once in a long time and they might not forget it in a hurry.

Maybe, by then he would realise the need to extricate himself and severe the bond that has put him at the centre of a war he did not create and from which he would hardly benefit anything positive. That may be the push for him to do the needful. But until then, efforts of the G-50 and those that might come after, will remain the same – wasted!

 

My name is Sunny Igboanugo, I’m The Tiny Voice!

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Tinubu’s Abuja Greek gift: Dancing Fuji on Achebe’s grave

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By Sunny Igboanugo

“For some time now I have watched events in Nigeria with alarm and dismay. I have watched particularly the chaos in my own state of Anambra where a small clique of renegades, openly boasting its connections in high places, seems determined to turn my homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom. I am appalled by the brazenness of this clique and the silence, if not connivance, of the Presidency.

“Forty-three years ago, at the first anniversary of Nigeria’s independence I was given the first Nigerian National Trophy for Literature. In 1979, I received two further honours – the Nigerian National Order of Merit and the Order of the Federal Republic – and in 1999 the first National Creativity Award. I accepted all these honours fully aware that Nigeria was not perfect; but I had a strong belief that we would outgrow our shortcomings under leaders committed to uniting our diverse peoples. Nigeria’s condition today under your watch is, however, too dangerous for silence. I must register my disappointment and protest by declining to accept the high honour awarded me in the 2004 Honours List.”

That was Chinua Achebe, Ugebelunenuoji (Eagle on Iroko) of Igboland, globally-acclaimed novelist and story-teller, scuffing at the award of Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR), honours award, given to him by the Federal Government in 2004. He practically three the award in the face of then President, Olusegun Obasanjo, in the derisive manner only he could do.

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May be the former President had taken the low-profile, nondescript, ordinary man, lifestyle of the author of Things Fall Apart, which he had maintained even after achieving the height of such global acclaim, the 1958 epic novel, had been translated into more than 50 languages across the world, for granted. May be he did not see, or was advised to ignore the subtle warnings in Achebe’s Anthill of the Savannahs, or The Trouble With Nigeria, where he directed a sharp dart at the heart of bad leadership.

Like it is wont of government circles, they must have thought to themselves that Achebe was on the shelf like many Nigerians, to be picked up at a price – just throw maize at him like a hungry hen and he will swallow – every Nigerian loves titles – every Nigeria loves belong with government – he will love it – CFR (Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic – the third highest honour in the land? Who is he that he will not fall for it – no – he will crumble on his knees to accept – then we will be home and dry – our impunity will continue! This must have been their thinking.

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But, they misfired! Achebe was no easy prey. Perhaps they did not read him enough to understand his mindset to things of the world. May be nobody showed them that BBC documentary, where, in spite of his global reckoning, he was still sharing kola nut and palmwine with the common folks in his Ogidi, Anambra State, country home, using the same cup the “wrinkled, dirty, old man” sitting beside him just drank with. They soon discovered – the hard way perhaps.

They must have been so shocked that a Nigerian could actually throw away such a prized gift – like a woman looking at a glittering diamond ring and turning her head in derision that for the remaining three years the government was in power and conducted the same ceremony, they never looked his way again.

Recall that the hand that would have been used to hang that “medal of honour” on his neck, was the same hand that was used to make the call or received the briefing about the abduction of Chris Ngige on July 10, 2003. Yes, it was believed that the same Federal Government, which wanted to honour Achebe, was behind Ngige’s infamous abduction on that day.

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Recall that not only was Ngige kidnapped, his office at Anambra Government House, Awka, was razed down completely. But the more grievous aspect was that the actors of this mayhem, were not unknown. They were familiar faces, but who could not be restrained because they supposedly got the backing from above. That was why, operatives from the police and other security agencies that were supposed to intervene, either stood by and watched, but in some cases became active participants.

So, when the renowned novelist, talked about “openly boasting its connections in high places,” he not only knew the renegades he was referring to – the Uba political family in Anambra State – who were in in the thick of the disputations with Ngige – but was particularly pointing at the Villa, from whence their supposed authority flowed, and more particularly the President, who would have been the one to decorate him with the award.

Funny enough, in 2011, Jonathan tried again even when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had upped their ante and increased their tempo of impunity, not only in its anti-democratic behaviours without any checks, but in the plummeting economic governance, with members practically feasting on the commonwealth like in a bazaar.

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Was it then difficult to understand or agree with the Eagle on the Iroko, that: “The reasons for rejecting the offer when it was first made, have not been addressed, let alone solved. It is inappropriate to offer it again to me. I must therefore regretfully decline the offer again!” So, the plan which, was obviously to seduce him into the Villa with the aim of propping up the sagging image of the government, naturally fell flat on its face, simply because Achebe, knew the game before it started and could be decipher what was earned and what was induce.

Imagine what the same Achebe would have said today, with this Tinubu’s Greek Gift. Would he not have smelled the motive from afar and dismissed it for what it was – another ungodly attempt to drag gold into the gutters? Is the condition under which he rejected the previous awards not worse today? Pray! What credentials do Tinubu and people at the Villa, possess to succeed where Obasanjo and Jonathan failed?

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Economy? At the time of Obasanjo and Jonathan, a bag of rice was between N4,000 and N6,000 respectively. Virtually every family in Nigeria, could afford to eat rice, if not daily, at least on Sundays. Every Nigerian, civil servants inclusive, could drink tea with milk and bread daily. Not only was Nigeria as acclaimed as the investment destination of the world, but the debate in Nigeria, was even which, between it and South Africa, was the biggest economy in Africa?

Today, the same Nigeria is competing with the rest of the world on who is the poorest. Today Nigeria’s insignia to the world is about multi-dimensional poverty. Instead of investment destination, companies – multinational entity, whose history is as old as the country itself are leaving in droves to find business elsewhere, with the government in power not caring a hoot.

Nigeria is the only country in the world with the wacky stories you hear these days, which would have made Achebe’s churn with disgust. Is it not in Nigeria that you hear that a whole shipload of crude is set ablaze with the entire supposedly stolen content, instead of preserving them as evidence to prosecute those responsible in court? Is Nigeria not the only oil-producing country in the world, which only does not meet its quarter, but steals more than it officially produces?

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In which other country of the world outside Nigeria would gunmen, descend on a community and shoot for several hours, killing people and burning houses without let or hinderance? Where else does an ordinary citizen come out to boast of having a military deal with the President of his country and parade able-bodied young men as his foot-soldiers and still be sleeping in his house without question?

In which other part of the globe would a new government, obtain a loan to buy a N5billion yacht, 469 exotic Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) at the cost of N160,000 a unit to enable its lawmakers navigate unpaved roads and highways instead of fixing them? Where else would a President dip his hands into the proceeds of a foreign loan, to purchase N1.5billion vehicles for his wife in the midst of children going to bed on empty stomach?

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Yet, these examples, all which Nigerians have watched unfold before their eyes under the nose of Tinubu are not exhaustive. In fact, they are just like scratching the surface of the massive of the parlous situation in the country, which have birthed the massive discontent in the land.

Indeed, Achebe would have practically puked at the audacity of Tinubu offering to honour him with the name of a road with the quality of the 2023 presidential election that brought him to power. Such temerity! How does Tinubu think that he Achebe would have seen his government being encircled with such outlandish show of naked nepotism and still accept such insult of naming an Abuja road after him?

Besides, was it not even an afterthought coming days after the first gesture was offered to Wole Soyinka, the Nobel Laureate, who has suddenly become the darling of Tinubu and his APC government? Who told Tinubu that Achebe would mind not receiving the same gesture as his friend in the literary world?

The question, again, what was Tinubu thinking, toying with Achebe’s memory? Must he take such an inglorious and utterly dishonourable step to injure the soul of a man resting in peace, knowing that he had fought the good fight and deserves his rest? What insult!

My name is Sunny Igboanugo, I’m The Tiny Voice

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