At a Media and the State class which held at the University of Ibadan during the week, I told my audience which comprised Political Science students, that the governance structure in Nigeria had been so compromised by our collective corruption that no public institution is immune from integrity issues. If the students expected that I had come to dress the rostrum with platitudes, they were sorely disappointed. Every word that proceeded from my mouth was laced with distressing sound bites. Having been recommended for the talk by my media and state pedigree, the audience ostensibly expected that my media and state government constituencies would be spared. They were disappointed. There is an unholy dalliance between the Nigerian media and the state, so much that the media is a major act in the theatre of our national integrity deficit, starring as maggots which are the hub of the rot, I said.
Responding to a student who saw my revelations as dispiriting, as she had always wanted to be a journalist upon graduation, with a special bias for investigative journalism, unearthing rubble in the polity, she received further distressing quip: “The systemic gang-up against you will first seek to compromise you; if that fails, will lacerate you and if both fail, will incinerate you, so that none of your flesh will be left to testify to your rebellion against a system that is sworn to a life in the sewage,” I said.
By then, the engine of the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun’s alleged forgery of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) discharge certificate was just beginning to rev. On the surface, the tale sounded like a chip off the distressing news that had become second nature of the Nigerian person and institutions. If a Minister of Finance, the Nigerian version of the Chancellor of Exchequer, who should be a societal moral compass, had elected to sup inside our common rubble, then we can call this country a day, I thought.
The indices were troubling enough. Minister Adeosun, so said the report, had not only jumped national service, equivalent of evading Vietnam Draft in America, she had procured an Oluwole certificate that is the provenance of countrymen with flies perched on their soul. The report threw the nation into national outrage. Why is the best of us always the worst of us? How can the sentry at the gate of our national purse ooze out such pervasive odour that threatens to suffocate our collective noses? Patriots were so disgusted that they are of the opinion that the moment the allegation is confirmed, then Adeosun should be roasted on the gauze.
Like everyone who suffered the momentary suffocation, I erected a personal crucifix in readiness for Adeosun to be hanged. Vinegar and crown of thorns were on the ready, waiting for the convict to mount the throne of judgment. Two things however held me up. One is the corrupt and corrupting Nigerian governance structure that drips of maggots. You sometimes duly apply for documents, permits, licence, passports et al in Nigeria and you are not sure what you will get. I have read how people get to the embassy, only to be told that they have an Oluwole passport, duly issued birth and marriage certificates that crumble at the rigor of scrutiny. Most times, even the agencies cannot explain what went wrong because all the MDAs have thriving touting industries that are sustained by official patronages.
Second is the mantra of the Muhammadu Buhari government which we all know to be true but which we question its application: the theory of the mighty hand of corruption that will always fight back those who dare to peer the torch into its dark tunnel. Granted, explanation from the NYSC on the Adeosun certificate issue, at this juncture, is very hazy and one must be careful in reaching conclusions for or against, but can we for a moment look into the narrative from some persons apparently loyal to the minister, to wit that some principalities and powers, angered by her audacity to seek purity in the polity, are in a gang-up to mess her up?
Why I am particularly circumspect at throwing the stone at Adeosun is that, having once worked closely with Nigerian men of power, I am aware that they are the real manifestation of that biblical saying that the heart of man is desperately wicked and, I dare add, the habitation of venomous reptiles like scorpions, rattlesnakes and other dangerous mambas. When men of power are in a duel for ego, cash and reinforcement of their power base, everything that is foul is fair. They spin scary, frightening and damaging narratives whose logic is difficult to fault. They make public issues so complexly dangerous to decipher, so much that if one allows oneself to be imprisoned by their narrative that looks so glib and so straightforward, by the time another unfolding narrative swims ashore, one would look so foolish and used like a laundered piece of clothing.
Since oil was discovered in Nigeria in the late 1960s, successive governments have always used the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as a launch-pad of monumental corruption. There is no official corruption at the Federal level that does not have a linkage to the unimaginable sleaze that is resident in this monolithic oil dinosaur. Beginning with the revelation of a missing N2.7 million from the corporation while Buhari was minister in 1978, there has been no let in the massive corruption in the corporation. In January, 2012, an online newspaper got an exclusive report of a famous audit and advisory consultancy firm, KPMG’s forensic report on the NNPC. A joint committee investigating the management of funds set aside for petroleum subsidy had handed the then Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala a seven-day ultimatum to produce the report. The KPMG had stumbled on details of how the oil hydra, in cahoots with the central government, had been swindling the states for several billions of naira. According to the 41-page report, between 2007 and 2009 alone, the NNPC over-deducted funds in subsidy claims to the tune of N28.5bn. With this and further revelations of the cesspool of slush in the NNPC, Okonjo-Iweala had her mother kidnapped. Recently, she authored a book entitled Fighting corruption is dangerous.
Even though he is a card-carrying member of the rapacious Nigerian elite, former Central Bank of Nigeria Governor and now Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, apparently unable to stomach the stench any longer, told the whole world in 2014 that $20 billion out of the $67 billion NNPC accruing from crude oil sale had developed wings. This revelation by someone who should know unsettled the toads of the oil corporation who filch Nigeria, in concert with some vermin at the central government. Pronto, as the Americans say, the Financial Reporting Council was woken from its limbo to investigate Sanusi’s tenure at the CBN. A Sword of Damocles was flung on his head. He was then suspended and harried out of the Nigerian money empire. This was also the lot of Oyo State nominee into the Umaru Yar’Adua government as minister, Remi Babalola. His recompense for attacking the finance base of the NNPC was his prompt removal from the finance ministry and posting to the ministerial Siberia of Special Duties. Even NEITI, Nigeria’s oil police, has revealed trillions of unremitted cash by the oil dinosaur. According to its Secretary, Waziri Adio, the figures for 2017 oscillated between $21.78 and $316.1 billion. Mum was the word from the dinosaur.
In November last year, frontline lawyer, Femi Falana, claimed that, since the return of democratic governance in Nigeria in 1999, over $20.2bn had, till date, remained unaccounted for in the NNPC. In same 2017, Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, had alleged that there was gross unaccountability and bypass of process in the NNPC led by its GMD, Maikanti Baru which itself indicted the president and the presidency. Buhari’s Chief of Staff is said to sit at the helm of this disgusting empire. It is even said that Nigeria does not know how much accrues to it from daily oil exploration due to official veiling of statistics. How Kachikwu has survived after uncovering the lid of this cesspit is still a wonder to the world.
Reports say that proceeds of the sleaze at the corporation are used to fight election battles, sponsor all manner of local and international briberies and are a major conduit for unimaginable malfeasances at national and international spheres, as well as on the social and political circles. Due to the humongous cash that is daily funneled out of the NNPC, it has bred powerful, merciless industry player kingpins in whose veins blood flow seldom. They arrange the de-robing of flippant allies who squeal, prepare the morgue for sudden “activist” officials who attempt to block the flow of crude funds they mint out of crude oil. They are said to be behind the interminable Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) which, it is clear to all that the moment it is passed, Nigerians can begin to feel the belated impact of Nigeria’s oil-producing status.
Even though I am not canvassing that this may be the gospel truth narrative, can we for a minute ponder on the possibility that Adeosun may be a victim of this deadly cabal at the zenith of Nigeria’s oil corporation? Could her June 27, 2018 outburst at the FAAC meeting where she said that the inexplicable non-remittance of money to the federation account by the NNPC was criminal, be reason why she is suddenly being harangued over an NYSC certificate? Isn’t it possible that if the minister had asked for her share of the slush fund and had kept silent, she would have lived happily ever after as a saint, beatified by this self-same cabal?
Aware that Nigerians are often held prisoners and easily captured by scandalous narratives, these power hegemons throw the bait at a media thirsty for ‘exclusives’ and we begin to swim in a one-way gospel tide. While asking that we should look into the details of this alleged scandal and punish Adeosun if she indeed is guilty, can we please look at this other story, the other narrative and not allow ourselves to be used by a Nigerian power apparatchik, which, in the words of Bob Marley, is capable of living and dying at the same time?
Already, I am told the Adeosun issue has become a subject of political chess-gaming between a governor and his ex-godfather, in the push for political relevance in the Southwest in 2019. Kudos needed to be given Premium Times, the particular press outfit which, against all odds, broke the story and momentarily did the mefia proud. The truth, however, is that power merchants, oil czars and Villa warlords are stoking its embers in their favour. Reason why we - bystanders - must be circumspect in throwing the stone.
To the new silk, Prof Bamgbose
Professor of Criminal Law, Criminology and Social Justice Administrator, Oluyemisi Adefunke Bamgbose entered the University of Ibadan’s own Guinness Book of Records as the first academic of the university to be conferred with the prestigious silk title of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) last week. In 2013 when I entered the university, I came into the ivory tower pregnant with negative narratives about higher education in Nigeria which border on the collapse of dignity and professionalism. Students and lecturers who make up the community are said to have turned learning upside down. The major narrative was about lecturers selling their honor for filthy lucre while trying to squeeze out money from students via selling handouts and the like. Most notorious was the narrative of lecturers who cared less about impartation of knowledge to their students, merely coming to classes to fulfill all righteousness. In this stead, they skip classes at the dictate of their whims, making acquisition of knowledge a very miserable and difficult exercise for students. I had not spent a session in the school by the time many of these narratives began to collapse in my estimation.
One of those who collapsed the narrative was Bamgbose. She taught me Criminal Law, Laws of Evidence and Criminology in 300, 400 and 500 Levels respectively. While teaching, Bamgbose demonstrates that she is not just a lecturer but a teacher, bringing into class her motherly disposition and firm grip of the art of impartation of knowledge. In those classes, almost all fixed for 8am, she was sure to be in school at least twenty minutes to the time and teaches with a fluid comprehension of the issues involved, through the rudiments of law.
More fundamentally is her introduction of a system of teaching which maximizes optics. Bamgbose makes her students dramatize the issues of law, a system she pioneered in the faculty. Thus, students make group presentations of the issues in a dramatic form, involving every student. Her argument, which has proven very relevant, is that studies have proven that when students watch the dramatization of issues, it removes them from mere theories and they are able to connect with the issues easily. From submissions, students comprehend the courses she teaches better.
Daughter of Chief Adedotun Adedeji Degun, former Western Region Permanent Secretary and pioneer Ogun State Head of Service, Bamgbose parades a pedigree of honour and humility which makes her attainment a family custom. Here is felicitating with the new silk, Professor Oluyemisi Adefunke Bamgbose.