Is it now Sai Baba and the 40 thieves?


Dele Sobowale

Trust is a matter of bets about future actions based on experience. A track record of keeping promises is a good predictor.”

Rosabeth Kanter, Harvard Business Review, Sept-Oct 1992.

Increasingly, the Federal Government of Nigeria now resembles the modern version of ALI BABA AND THE FORTY THIEVES.

One of my late uncles who worked for ELDER DEMPSTAR LINES – one of the largest shipping companies in the pre-independence days – was in the habit of bringing me small pamphlets of story books from England.

He introduced me to Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Aesops Fables and Tales of the Arabian Nights – in which my favourite story was Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.

Those of us who utter the words ‘Open Sesame’, without knowing its origin, now can add to our knowledge.

It came from that story; it was the password of the rogues.

The story merely reminds us that anywhere there is great wealth, a gang of thieves will invariably emerge aiming to carve out more than their own fair share of the cake.

That explains why most Nigerians are prepared to do anything to get government appointment — including selling Mama. After all, “money makes everything legitimate; including bastards.” (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, p 163).

I have no evidence or even sufficient reason to doubt that President Buhari has not benefited directly from any corrupt practices under his administration.

In fact, while collecting materials for my book, IBRAHIM B. BABANGIDA 1985 – 1992: LETTING A THOUSAND FLOWERS BLOOM, I interviewed a retired General who did not hide his dislike for Buhari for several reasons he stated.

But, he made one point which was recorded for posterity about our President from 2015 regarding his honesty: “You can leave your money, bottles of hot drinks or packet of cigarettes with Buhari; go away for several months and find nothing would be missing (p 10)..”

If a man’s self-declared antagonist can say that, I am satisfied that Buhari is honest. But, there, my trust ends. It does not extend to any member of his family, friends, associates or subordinates. In fact, the closer the individual is to Buhari, the more he/she enters my list of “usual suspects”.

Mrs. Patience Jonathan provides my first evidence in this regard.

The wife of the former President is now facing charges by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in various courts for reasons having to do with her exposure politically from 2010 to 2015.

While prosecution does not imply guilt, it at least means that the anti-graft agency has what it regards as sufficient reason to go court.

Wives of Presidents who thrust themselves into the lime light, unlike Alhaji Shehu Shagari’s, risk getting smeared with dirt. Show me your friends and I will tell you who you are” was an adage drilled into our skulls as children.

I once found myself behind the counter at Denton Street, Police Station, Ebute Meta, Lagos at the age of nine. I was coming from Lagos Island on one of the regular errands I ran for my mother to 45 Denton Street.

Like all young lads, it was always an occasion to play street football with the boys living in the big compound.

The memorable day was not different except that before my arrival one of the boys had “lifted” ten shillings from a co-tenants pocket and was observed by another tenant replacing the trousers after the deed.

The witness did not at first know that a theft had occurred until the owner raised the alarm. Thereafter, a search was on for the boy – who had led other boys to a different playing ground and treated everyone to chicken wings and legs before returning to the usual playing ground.

I arrived just in time to join them when two policemen arrived with the tenant robbed. We were all herded to the station. Thus, I became an accused without even tasting chicken. Fortunately, it was still mostly true that “you can’t cheat a honest man.”

The chicken seller was also apprehended and made to identify her customers.

She pointed to all of them and said emphatically, in Yoruba, “the one in red shirt [me] was not one of them.”

Buhari might not realise it yet, but some of his appointees may already be roping him into the web of suspicion surrounding the inquiries into the EFCC and the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.

Tongues are wagging; people are wondering why a man with integrity can appoint so many suspected crooks at the top level of a government which parades itself as fighting anti-corruption war.

Let me provide a few examples from reports reaching us and facts available to us that indicate that Buhari might be surrounded by cut-throats and financial cannibals.

“The whole NDDC probe exercise is a waste of time. Why don’t they probe NNPC? It is clear now that few people in government owe Nigeria any obligation. They will continue to purloin its wealth and rape it over and over again” – Idowu Akinlotan, NATION, July 28, 2020, back page.

“How then on Friday, it emerged that the House will now also probe the mismanagement of N100 billion within one year at the North-East Development Commission, NEDC” – Sonala Olumhese, PUNCH, July 26, 2020.

For me a Sunday without reading Akinlotan and Olumhense is no Sunday. I can forgo food, but not those two – even when I don’t agree with them. Unless I am not at home, nobody touches the bundle of papers brought by the vendor before me. And, it is always a race to the back pages for my Sunday-to-Sunday delights. On Sunday, July 26, 2020, the two eminently delightful writers summarised the sense of despair surrounding Buhari’s increasingly lost battle against corruption.

The NDDC and the NEDC are situated on the eastern flank of the country.

The development commissions designed to lift their zones have been handed to their own people to manage in trust for the general welfare.

But, what is rapidly emerging is the fact that those appointed by Buhari regard the opportunity as their own chance to overtake Dangote on the rich list with nothing to show to justify the wealth. When Ghandi, 1869-1948, the father of modern India, wrote that among the things that will certainly ruin us are “Politics without principles/Wealth without work”, (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, p 245), he had a country like our present day Nigeria in mind.

Buhari and the All Progressives Congress, APC, are in the news for all the wrong reasons – some of which derive from the appointment of Adams Oshiomhole as the party Chairman.

I was surprised that Buhari and the rest of the top leaders of the APC failed to disassociate themselves from the call by Adams to political opponents to “join APC and your sins are forgiven.”

The cardinal sin which elected and appointed officials wanted forgiven was related to alleged corruption.

Many had cases to answer with the EFCC. So, they jumped, mostly from PDP to APC and, almost soon after, their case files were allegedly transferred from the EFCC to the Ministry of Justice – under Abubakar Malami.

Nothing, it was reported, has been heard about some of those cases since then. Uuum! ‘Nigerian students now beggars in UK, Dabiri-Erewa tells NDDC’. PUNCH, July 29, 2020, p 7.

The report went on to state that “the students had turned beggars following the non-payment of their tuition and allowances by the NDDC.” Yet, the Interim Management Committee, IMC, spent N81 billion.

One of the most famous among those who dumped the PDP for APC is Senator Godswill Akpabio – the transient warmer of the seat of Minister for Niger Delta. Let me point out the circumstances which led to Niger Delta students in the UK becoming almajiris abroad.

A letter was said to have been dispatched weeks ago to the Minister when the first hints of scandal became news.

The Minister was given a chance to defend himself against all allegations. Till today, reports say there had been no reply. If this is true,

I hope the Minister knows that silence means consent.

Tribute to Mrs. Ngozi Nkiruka Chukwuka at 60

Mrs. Ngozi Nkiruka Chukwuka, who turned 60 on July 28, 2020, retired from the Federal Civil Service, FCS, in October 2019 after 35 years of glorious service to her fatherland.

As a female and Igbo federal civil servant, she suffered discrimination in four ways – as a woman, as a southerner, Christian and as an Igbo woman. She might even have been victimised for coming from the “wrong state in the South-East – Imo. It is very difficult to know which form of discrimination worked most against a woman in her position. Had she been a male, northerner, Muslim, MSc holder public servant from Sokoyo or Katsina state, she would certainly have retired as a Permanent Secretary. She represents thousands of well educated and talented southern women who belong to her class of Nigerian civil servants who watch in despair as numskulls are promoted over them to higher offices. They have lost a lot; but Nigeria has lost a lot more.

Yet she persevered until she attained the rank of Deputy Director in the National Youth Service Corps.

She was born a few months before Nigeria became independent in 1960 with all the promises now unfulfilled. She holds an MSc in Industrial Sociology and Personnel Management. She has written an interesting book titled INNOCENT NIGERIANS; full of insights gained from 35 years in the cesspool which the Nigerian public service had become under Nigerian rulers. Yet, she retained her Christian virtues. We met face-to-face only once; we communicated often and we are on the same page on most issues. She will be a positive asset to any government for years to come.

You can read her book on our site.

Kindly join me in wishing a woman who gave her entire working life to Nigeria and was not corrupted by the system very many happy returns of July 28, 2020.


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