So that is it? It is not a lie or a fabu, as they would put in the local slang to dismiss stories told in the beer parlour sweetened by drops of alcohol or the ones manufactured and circulated from the local barber’s saloon which is a veritable grapevine for gossips oozing out the equivalent of Donald Trump’s ‘alternative facts.’
The story of the raid, by men of the EFCC, into Andrew Yakubu’s cottage bank in Sabo Tasha a slum settlement in Kaduna made news because of the spectacular recovery of a whopping 9.8 million U.S. dollars believed to be looted money and kept safely away in two safes. The initial reaction was to call it a lie, it did not happen. But the keeper of the house, Bitrus Yakubu, regarded as his younger brother and the safe keeper did not mince words. He said the money and the safes belonged to his brother, the former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). The man himself was said to have admitted ownership of the money and said it was a gift from some generous persons.
In fact, the house also belongs to Andrew. Like all big men with houses dotted all over the country, Andrew Yakubu might not have been living there. It is probable that he built that house in the almost inaccessible slum in Kaduna for the safe keep of the money.
Just as some few Nigerians still prone to shock were recovering from this particular shock, there was another bolt from the blues. From the loot recovery machinery of the government, came a bigger shock. The Federal Government, according to Information Minister Lai Mohammed, had recovered about 151 million dollars and eight billion naira from three different bank accounts. One of the recoveries was from a man who had 15 million U.S. dollars and seven billion naira in his account. Though the minister did not give details, he assured the nation that the Attorney General of the Federation was in custody of the details of the loot and those people involved. While we are still waiting for details, it is safe to make some tentative deductions.
One, this monumental recovery from Andrew Yakubu’s private bank in Kaduna and the three others from commercial banks in unidentified locations, without a doubt, have given fillip to the fight against corruption. After some self-inflicted lull in the fight during which government gave the impression that it did not quite believe in its own mission and objectives, this manna from heaven or wherever it came from, has proved to be affective face-saving device for the Buahri administration whose image is getting more bruised by the day.
For the EFCC and its embattled Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, it is time perhaps to click some glasses of wine in celebration. This life line couldn’t have happened at a better time. Whatever may be his failings, whatever may be his human frailties, nobody has accused him of gross incompetence. I am not privy to the political intrigues at play in getting this gentle man confirmed as chairman, but for now, in these times and in the current Buhari administration struggling to live up to its initial billing, Magu, with his fangs dangerously bared, has proved beyond any reasonable doubt that he is the man for the job. In other words, this is not the time to shove him aside.
These shocking discoveries of mini private banks whose vaults include deep freezers and water tanks, not to say anything about soak away pits, can help to put a shine on the Buhari administration at these difficult times. His new anti-corruption technology, the whistle blower, an equivalent of a weapon of mass destruction is still being tested for efficacy, reliability and confidentiality. But so far, in only two months, it is also safe to say that its potentials are not in doubt. Its efficacy will improve with time and with practice, if and only if it does not fall victim of the self same corruption it is intended to fight. In due course, it may morph into the equivalent of Gorge Orwell’s Big Brother.
Since the coming into office of the Buhari administration in May 2015, the search for whatever was amiss with Nigeria naturally and inevitably dwelled on the mismanagement of the economy by the erstwhile administration of President Jonathan Goodluck. It beamed its searchlight on the monumental corruption that had become second nature to the administration.
The truth is that officials of the Federal Government and its counterparts in the states had enthroned corruption and made it look unofficially like a directive principle of state policy. In that era, honesty was not the best policy, principle did not count for anything and integrity was like an old woman’s fireside tale. It did not count, it was like a tale told by an idiot in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. A few voices of dissent, however, sounded alarm about the dire consequences of the frivolity that had become a national pastime, but they were laughed to scorn.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former minister of Finance and the unofficial prime minster of the economic management team, sounded a note of warning. Save now while we can, she admonished. But her admonition fell on unhearing ears. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, was governor of Central Bank. He blew the whistle about some 20 billion dollars not accounted for. He warned that the economy was heading for collapse if the president did not summon courage to halt the drift. He was regarded as an alarmist. He lost his job at the CBN but was rewarded with another job, presiding over the emirate of Kano as its most revered and most vocal emir in recent history. Even Professor Charles Soludo, with his unmistakeable baritone voice did not sound convincing enough when he issued a warning about mismanaged resources running into trillions of naira. Professor Soludo is not a flippant economist but if his prognosis and pronouncements are deemed to be politically incorrect, officialdom treats him as an irritant. The Jonathan administration dismissed his intervention with a wave of the hand.
I have had occasion to caution the Buhari administration against the temptation of dwelling too much on what happened in the past. Many of us acknowledge that Nigeria was afflicted with self-imposed economic and security problems among others. Precisely that was the reason Buhari’s APC was given the nod in 2015. I have not decided to break my own self-imposed rule by dwelling on the past. The narrative should be now and the future and how to repair the damage.
But there is so much uneducated talks and analysis today creating the impression that there was no yesterday; that because there was some kind of life more abundant, it was going to continue like that even if Jonathan, with all his failings and easy recourse to ethnic and religious cleavages to cling to power, that even if Jonathan had continued, all would have continued to go well, life would have been a bed of roses.
This kind of lazy analysis draws one, even if against one’s wish, to look a little at yesterday and the paralytic indulgence of yesterday which was gravely harmful to polity and our general wellbeing. All of these have become academic and counter-factual arguments. But we should not forget that while Jonathan was there he did little to fix the Niger Delta conundrum. Ogoni clean-up, which enjoys abundant international goodwill, filtered through his fingers. He could not summon enough political will and deploy abundant resources at his disposal to trigger the clean-up. It had to take President Buhari to do it just like it took President Shehu Yar’Adua to come to terms with the militants.
But in the face of these glairing failures, the Niger Delta militants did not hold Jonathan accountable. They did not blow up the pipelines and truncate development programmes. The Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs under the watch of a son of the soil as minister, failed dismally to do anything to alleviate the sufferings of the people.
All these failings have reignited the debate, though totally unnecessary in my view, about the cause of the current recession. It is for the Buhari administration to bone up and fix the country. Instead of wishing him dead as some uncultured people do, we should pray for his sound health so he can return and rededicate himself to the yeoman task of cleaning up the Augean stable.
What Andrew Yakubu, the happy recipient of the generous gift of nearly five billion naira, has taught Nigerians are many and they have the potential of redirecting our moral course as a people and as a nation. The first lesson to learn is that there is no point acquiring the wealth, legally or illegally, that you and your family cannot spend in your life time. Apparently confused with this horrendous wealth which is unearned, he simply locked it up. His people, his kinsmen, instead of feeling a sense of entitlement to rise up and defend him as some other irresponsible people do elsewhere, they all rose in unison to condemn him for soiling their name. If all other Nigerians behave decently as Yakubu’s kinsmen have done, they would have contributed greatly towards eradicating corruption in the country.