Found but not lost

Found but not lost

Nigerians are incredibly gullible! They believe anything they read in a newspaper; they believe anything their government tells them; and they believe anything their Pastor, Imam or Ifa Priest (make that last one dibia or marabout depending on geography!) tells them! I may ignore for today’s conversation the propensity to believe our religious intermediaries since faith is supposed to be the “substance of things hoped for…the evidence of things not seen” but what of the unquestioning swallowing of any information from journalists and government? Unlike Almighty God, both of these institutions and the individuals comprised therein are nowhere near divinity, omniscience or perfection, and if any group of people anywhere in the world should know that, shouldn’t it be Nigerians?

In fact the attitude that should be dictated by any Nigerian in relation to both the media and our government is to disbelieve anything they tell you, until they present irrefutable evidence of their assertions along with very strong corroboration! This is especially so in the post-2015 Nigeria-recall how powerful politicians and the media collaborated to re-write Nigerian history in the run-up to the 2015 elections in order to remake the old General Muhammadu Buhari into a new electable democrat, pan-Nigerian statesman and nationalist devoid of ethnic, religious or regional prejudices and bigotry; a poor man who couldn’t afford to pay for his party nomination form; and a super-administrator who was poised to transform Nigeria immediately he was elected! In virtually all of these portrayals, the truth was somewhere along the other polar extreme, but that didn’t matter; the majority of voters (perhaps even after allowing for the two million Kano voters that appear to have cost the state Resident Electoral Commissioner his life!) believed the propaganda, and the purpose was served. Unfortunately truth (or in this case, lies!) always catches up with you, no matter your illusions and delusions, and many are wiser after the fact.

Where politicians and the media stopped in 2015, the government through its information management channels and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Department of State Security (DSS) appear to have taken over! In the same way politicians manipulated Nigerians’ genuine desire for change in 2015 and sold them illusions and delusions, the regime and its information, security and anti-corruption organs have exploited our people’s anger at corruption for partisan, distractive and even entertainment purposes! What amuses and amazes me is why Nigerians, including very educated and supposedly enlightened people, continue to believe such propaganda!

We have learnt that Nigeria was about to recover $200billion from “looted” funds “stashed” in Dubai-I wonder whatever happened to those billions of dollars; at some point over GBP13billion was recovered or was it about to be recovered from former oil minister, Dieziani Allison-Maduekwe; someone deliberately planted lies that huge amounts of money were buried inside soak away pits by a former air force chief-it turned out the pictures were fake news and the story was later denied; we actually started floating figures of phantom looted funds before the 2015 elections-former Central Bank Governor, now Emir of Kano started the trend with allegations that $47.5billion, then $12billion and finally $20billion was missing from the country’s coffers; his predecessor at the Central Bank later released his own estimate of N30 Trillion missing! The DSS late one night invaded the homes of senior judges in Abuja and other parts of the country and then complemented the theatrics with stupendous allegations of corruption against several judges. Now we are told that corrupt “looters” are burying their “loot” in forests, cemeteries and jungles!

Since the Senate rejected the nomination of Ibrahim Magu as EFCC Chairman (for the second time!) a new phenomenon has however emerged-the Commission has now been discovering large sums of money in different public and private locations. The unique attribute is that these large sums of money do not have recognizable or identifiable owners! First it was N49 million in cash that was discovered by EFCC at Kaduna Airport on March 14, 2017. According to EFCC, the discovery was based on an “intelligence report” but curiously this intelligence did not include the name of the traveler who was trying to transport the funds. One EFCC official claimed the fellow “disappeared into thin air”! Tell that to the marines or well you can tell it to Nigerians! I recall encountering at least one highly educated CEO who actually believed the tale! Some newspaper reports indicated that some legislators suggested the incident was staged by the Commission itself! The next incident was even more curious-the EFCC claimed on April 7, 2017 that it discovered N448,850,000.00 (almost half a billion Naira) “hidden in two shops” in a shopping plaza (LEGICO apparently which is connected to security agencies!) in Victoria Island, Lagos! The owner of the shops and the funds remain a mystery but the EFCC was somehow in a position to assert to reporters that the funds were “awaiting conversion into foreign currency”. A rational person would say “if you believe that, you’ll believe anything” but apparently not many Nigerians who lapped it in, celebrating the power of “whistle blowing”!

The Pulitzer Prize must however go to the latest report that EFCC has again discovered various sums of money in different currencies-$43,449,947, GBP27,800 and N23,218,000.00 totaling about N13.3billion in Naira value, in an apartment 7a or 7b in a luxury apartment Osborne Towers located at 16 Osborne Road, Ikoyi, Lagos. Over the past few days, ownership of the building, apartment and/or funds have been ascribed to former PDP national chairman and former Bauchi State Governor Adamu Muazu; former NNPC top shot Esther Nnamdi-Ogbue; one daughter of leading politician Anthony Anenih; and Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike has also claimed the funds belong to his State Government, implying that former Governor and now Minister for Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi is the owner of the apartment. Wike suggests the funds were part of funds he alleges Amaechi converted from the state! The latest story is that the apartment was a “safe house” operated by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the funds were for some covert operations of the agency.

I will resist the temptation to say “tales by moonlight” but at the very least something seems fishy here! If the Nigerian government does not provide a full, transparent and verifiable account of the ownership of the apartment and the funds therein, any credibility left in its anti-corruption rhetoric will be finally shattered and irretrievably so!

 

Opeyemi Agbaje

 

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