When a Billionaire Goes to Jail

By Bunmi Makinwa

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Former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu

Billionaires do go to jail but only rarely. In any country, a billionaire who pays for his crime with a jail term makes headline news. In Nigeria on December 4, 2019, wealthy, former Abia State Governor Orji Uzor Kalu was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. He wiped away tears, he asked or begged security officers not to be placed in handcuffs as he was being led out of court. “Please don’t handcuff me. I will follow you.”

Kalu, a senator and Chief Whip of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) political party, will most likely appeal the judgment. It took 12 years to prosecute the case to this point. For now, he sits in jail for committing fraud of over 7 billion naira of funds meant for Abia State which he ruled from 1999 to 2007. He will forfeit huge personal assets to the government.

In the public space, he has acquired an ignominious title of criminal, fraud and corrupt person.

In less than five years of APC’s rule by President Muhammadu Buhari, three other former state governors have been sentenced to prison, also for defrauding their states. They are: Jolly Nyame of Taraba State – 12 years; Joshua Dariye of Plateau State10 years; and Bala Ngilari of Adamawa State, whose conviction of 4 years imprisonment was later upturned by the Court of Appeal.

The rate of imprisonment of such all-powerful former governors is unprecedented.

The prosecution of cases of “grand corruption”, as it was labeled by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, appears to have sharp teeth. They bite deep and bloody. The injuries are being spread around in a way that makes people shudder, even if they are “insiders” – members of the APC and strong, well-connected political persons. The expectation that “Once you have joined APC, all your sins are forgiven” as famously stated in January 2019 by APC National Chairman Adams Oshiomole may be far from reality.

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A Federal High Court, Lagos sentenced former Abia State Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu to 12 years in prison

Kalu’s case is a model of a person who did all the “right” things to wash himself clear of his sins. He had abandoned his political party that took him to governorship position, and joined APC; he campaigned vigorously, visibly for APC and presidential candidate Buhari in 2019 elections; he fought his way through electoral and legal hurdles to become a senator in 2019, a usual guarantor of immunity from sanctions for crimes perpetrated as governor; and he purchased his way to Katsina the home state of Buhari to have himself turbaned as a Moslem leader, showing total disdain for his Christian roots and life-long religion. Yet, he ended up paying for his sins.

It may be too early to draw conclusions. But some questions are appropriate.

Is the government in its second term in office showing its new hands – no friends, no foes, and anyone who falls into the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) net can be convicted and will serve jail term and suffer punishment?

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Shehu Malami said on December 19, 2019, that 22 ex-governors are under probe or on trial. This is in addition to many high-level officials and political heavyweights who are being investigated or facing criminal charges. Are the graft fighting arms of government, especially the EFCC, more proficient and more certain of their abilities to get convictions in courts hence they are emboldened? Will more billionaires go to jail?

The legal defence squad of billionaires who face criminal charges in Nigeria has demonstrated over the years its ability to stall the legal process, frustrate and ultimately overcome the prosecution in most situations. The Administration of Criminal Justice Act, a recent law, is credited by some legal analysts as having equipped prosecution with more capability to limit the technical manoeuvering that draws out cases sometimes for decades, defeating and making nonsense of trials. Will the use of the Act strengthen the administration of justice and encourage upright judges to determine cases within a reasonable time?

Are various arms of government, especially the executive and judiciary listening more attentively to the cries of the general public who are daily being scammed by their elected leaders?

And by confiscating the gains of crimes through forfeitures of large assets, is the judiciary waking up to the reality that political criminals even when convicted live a sumptuous, obscenely wealthy lifestyle after jail? That the fruits of a crime stay with the criminals rather than return to the people whose life is diminished by corruption?

We should also not forget to ask: Do we as a society contribute to creating many fraudulent and criminal billionaires? A system that makes it imperative to have many millions and even billions of Naira to run for election in any political position has created political commerce from which “investors” must recoup their capital and ensure quick returns whilst in office.

When billionaires go to jail, there is often dancing in the streets. The real joy, however, lies in people reaping fruits of democracy through a vast, noticeable improvement in the lives of ordinary people. A change of ways by governors and political leaders towards a life of service and commitment to reducing poverty in the land is a worthwhile goal.

Then, fewer billionaires will end up in jail.

Bunmi Makinwa is CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.

Buhari and Sowore – The Road to Change

By Bunmi Makinwa

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Image via Daily News Gh

One is lean, slow, deliberate and often distant as he stares into space. The other is compact, quick, agitated and often preoccupied with his mobile phones. I am describing, respectively, my impressions of President Muhammadu Buhari and Mr Omoyele Sowore from watching them both up close physically.

They are two different people, as different as two people can be, including in their age and life experience. Yet, they are two very similar persons. In so many ways that this article will explain, their trajectories have been different, but their ways have been very similar.

In taking a stand against the establishment, Sowore has lived a life of protests. He was a relentless advocate for civil and political rights as a student union leader at the University of Lagos. Later on, he founded Sahara Reporters, one of the early online alternative media that champions agitation against all governments of Nigeria since 2006.

Buhari as a professional military officer might be perceived as conformist and obedient to military tradition. A closer look, however, reveals something different. His most visible form of protest has been that within and outside his military career, he has demonstrated a non-conformist mien. He has been described as austere, withdrawn and often aloof. In his political roles in military uniform, he has not been given to the physical and social excesses that characterized several of his contemporaries who assumed political roles.

Just as Buhari has held several political appointments and worked within the political structures, Sowore has been around and within politics, including engaging institutions of government to criticize them, and sometimes to collaborate with them as sources of his investigations. Buhari and Sowore came to the same conclusion. Neither was happy with the government and the regular politicians.

Both men sooner than later, in their typical day, are apt to show their angry demeanours in social and political discourse. President Buhari and Omoyele Sowore in many ways have led lives that reflected their dissatisfaction, even anger, about Nigeria’s political leadership and parties.

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Buhari as a military officer has been one of the leaders of several coups d’etat against military and civilian governments. For example, in December 1983, he was one of the military leaders that overthrew President Shehu Shagari. Buhari and his deputy Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon ruled Nigeria for some two years, a regime that was characterized by their “War Against Indiscipline”. They jailed many people,
punished many others and made draconian laws. Buhari has not led a quiet life of conforming to the established order.

Similarly, Sowore has never been short of negative words to describe what goes on in Nigeria. His lifelong pursuit of activism against the government has been loud. He has been intolerant of corruption, misrule, abuse of office and exploitative social norms.

President Buhari, after his military career, found his voice within a new political party, the All Nigeria People’s Party, and later in the Congress for Progressive Change. He ran three times unsuccessfully to become president. He won only at his fourth election campaign using the All Progressives Congress party platform. He has fulfilled his desire to rule Nigeria.

Sowore, who had established a powerful, successful media platform, Sahara Reporters, to destabilize the political space, also found a political party, the African Action Congress, in 2018. The party lost resoundingly at Sowore’s first attempt to use the electoral system to become president.

When President Buhari lost his earlier elections, he did not keep quiet. He spat fire. His frustration with the electoral process was heard loudly. For example, Buhari claimed that the 2011 elections were rigged. He angrily stated that “if what happened in 2011 should again happen in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon would all be soaked in blood”.

Sowore after his electoral loss did not keep quiet. Moreover, he concluded that open agitation to upend the system was perhaps more effective. He spoke angrily too.
In their characteristic ways, neither of the two men accepted their losses nor did they settle down to parley with the winners. They did not go quietly into the night.
Sowore, reacting against the electoral process of 2015, called out other instruments of persuasion. He brandished a new slogan of “Revolution Now” and led street campaigns.

Unfortunately, for seeking new avenues to change the political discourse, he became the enemy that must be stopped by the forces of law and order.

It is written and said by many people that Sowore was the nemesis of President Jonathan’s government and that Sahara Reporters was a most potent media that charted the way for the end of Jonathan’s government and the entry of President Buhari into office in 2015.

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Sowore, especially through Sahara Reporters, has campaigned in the public arena consistently against the ills of every government from 2006 to date. Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Musa Yar’Adua, and Goodluck Jonathan were not spared, nor were their ministers, appointees and other political associates.

Some of these leaders have had their wives painted in undignified portraits in the online media, especially for corrupt activities.

How did Sowore who acted in support of, advocated for Buhari, and his political party’s “change” agenda, become the “enemy” of Buhari and his government?

Buhari was fed up with poor governance, he campaigned in support of a new order and fought hard to get into power. Both Buhari and Sowore swear that Nigeria must change.

Sowore’s impatience with slow or lack of change leads him to seek possible pressure points to accelerate change. What differentiates the two in the new sphere is that whilst Buhari is bound by the fences of government house and its dictates, Sowore chooses to try the paths not taken, using mostly words.

Nigeria is ripe for change. The road to change is already littered with promises not kept, accidents caused deliberately by agents of the status quo, and obstacles that hinder progress for the largest segment of the population. Sooner than later it may become a stark reality to decide which path can truly lead to change – within the existing order, or its overturn to give way to drastic shifts. Patience may have an expiration date.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.

Presidential Election Gives Nigerians No Choice

By Bunmi Makinwa

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President M. Buhari (Getty Images/P. Ekpei)

If President Muhammadu Buhari figuratively rode on a horseback to assume office in 2015, as at today, he barely rides a three-legged donkey. A wobbling government has frittered away the goodwill of the expectant millions who brought him to office.

However, his main opponent, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, does not have a donkey to ride on. His questionable past and close embrace of proven and perceived corrupt political actors and ruinous leaders do not make him attractive. Despite the weakness of Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) party, Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party or PDP is not the shining star.

Yet one of the two is most likely to emerge as president come the election of February 16, in a few days.

The PDP governed Nigeria from 1999 to 2015. Its three successive presidents, and with control over most of the states, reinforced a faulty political system where massive looting of government coffers became the norm. Provision of services and improvement of peoples’ well-being receded and disappeared in most of the 36 states and at the federal government level.  Politics was the quickest gateway to wealth, riches and power.

Under PDP rule, when political leaders have taken their large share of the official budget, the little that was left could not maintain Nigeria’s elaborate political and administrative systems. Infrastructures became dilapidated. Salaries remained little and unpaid in many states. Social tension heightened.

Nigeria’s political system is problematic too. The “investment” needed to win votes or buy oneself an elected position has kept rising. The demand presses elected persons, in turn, to hustle to recover their wealth, equip themselves and their acolytes for future political positions. Many elected officials aggressively privatize official funds to their pockets for use as future powerful political kingmakers.

Amongst the citizenry, high and low, a culture of primitive self-preservation and material aggrandizement developed. Reliance on system and order gave way to brazen self-reliance, hopelessness in hard work, and spiritual solutions to routine life issues.

People scramble for “money by all means”, especially through political favours, in a situation where material well-being is a primary determinant of people’s self-worth. Absent the government, all basic needs are met by each person according to whatever access is possible to any resources, state or privately-owned.

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Nigeria Votes (guardian.ng)

On February 16, 2019, Nigeria will pick either Atiku or Buhari to rule the country for another four years. It is not because there are no qualified, capable and exemplary candidates among the more than 40 other presidential aspirants. It is mainly because the political system is cast in stone, and only the candidates of a few major political parties can have the resources and means to meet the demands stipulated by the constitution, political tradition, and corrupt processes that produce candidates for political offices.

Several of the other aspirants have qualifications, experience and drive that will make any country proud of its possible leaders.

The political system is dominated by political parties that can afford enormous resources to set up structures, reach out to a sprawling, federated country of 36 states and one federal territory, use mass and social media that communicate with some 180 million population, and provide reliable security for themselves and supporters.

Candidates for elections must dole out monies to members of their own parties and voters who have given up on what elected leaders do when they are in office. Rather, party officials and voters want immediate gratification – whatever materials, food and money that they can get from candidates during the election campaign. Elections are costly, not only for the official organizers but also for candidates who must deploy huge amounts of money for every step of the election process, from seeking the nomination of political parties to seeking votes of the electorate.

For the coming election, Nigeria faces yet again the sad choice of having to choose between two leading politicians neither of whom can take the country to its level of development and realization of its potentials.

The gargantuan victory of President Buhari in 2015 over then-incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan gave Buhari a powerful entry. But his three-pronged campaign on corruption, a stronger economy, and security with special focus on ending Boko Haram insurgency are nowhere near being successfully prosecuted.

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Atiku (image via News24; File, AFP)

At the same time, Atiku will only be Atiku – focusing on further enriching himself, his cronies and beloved others.

Those who strongly support Atiku claim that he is different from Buhari and will perform better given the weaknesses of the current government. They say that Atiku will make the expected noise to discourage the rampage by herdsmen and organised attacks on certain people and religious groups. He will choose his lieutenants from various parts of the country. He will enable the South-eastern part of the country mainly the Igbo ethnic group to contest strongly for the presidency. He will make public money spread around through his customary largesse. He will unite the country that appears to be fragmenting. Yet, the claimants have only weak arguments to explain how the expectations will be met.

The strongest criticism of Atiku is that the popular demand to combat and at least reduce corruption will suffer greatly if he becomes president. But his supporters maintain that if corruption is the price to pay to have a more united country, a stronger economy and less structured federalism, it is time to let corruption continue under Atiku’s rule. It is a sad bargain to accept.

Whether 76-year old Buhari or 72-year old Atiku wins in the soon to be held election for the next president, Nigeria loses because neither of the two persons has the disposition, experience, appropriate mindset, nor determination to make Nigeria a better place for its people. The current political system presents only the rich and mighty, not the best that the country can offer.

Asked about February 16 election for the president, someone retorted: “Some people will vote for Atiku. Some will vote for Buhari. One of the two will win despite a large number of frustrated people who will spread their votes among the numerous other candidates. The status quo will remain because Atiku and Buhari are from PDP and APC which are two sides of the same coin.”

To buttress his point, the person explained that Atiku was in PDP before he joined APC, and then returned to PDP a few months ago to buy the political platform to aim for the presidency. The leadership of both parties boasts of the same persons who have led Nigeria’s politics for the past 30 plus inglorious years.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.

More Fake News Here.

By Bunmi Makinwa

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Can one avoid fake news? It is highly unlikely.

Anyone who uses social media, also called social networking services, will receive fake news. The more frequently one uses social media, the more fake news one receives. The challenge is to identify and ultimately avoid spreading fake news as the personal and social impact can be damaging. In fact, it may also have legal implications.

The growth of technology, media technology in particular, in combination with the ease of creating one’s information through cheap mobile telephony, has democratised “news” both for good and bad uses.

An active user of social media receives information many times each day from friends, families, casual acquaintances, and unknown people. It has become easier than ever to generate and spread information. It can be about anything. In several formats, including text, video, photo and voice, anyone can use just a smart telephone to express views, ideas, wishes and news that can reach numerous people across the world in rapid time.

Such shared information may be fake news which contains misinformation and inaccuracies. The information may be designed purposefully to deceive or mislead the receiver. Or it may be used to inform, or promote a viewpoint, sale, generate interest in an issue, or perhaps to entertain. Most people re-post information quickly and hardly spend time to verify its authenticity.

Fake news varies in appearances and implications. As Nigeria’s 2019 elections for president, governors and other offices draw nearer, fake news will increase in frequency and sophistication.

The relevance of newspapers, radio and television notwithstanding, social network services are very effective means of communication. Their impact on political discourse and communication is significant in Nigeria.

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(image via pulse.ng)

According to available statistics, Nigeria’s active users of social media increased from only 52 million in 2013 to about 90 million users in 2017. With a huge population of young people, the country will most likely surpass its hitherto growth rate of about three percent for active users. Especially if the costs of mobile telephony decreases and the economy picks up in the near future, more young people will use the Internet with social media as primary means of communication. The mobile telephony subscription in the country rose from 1.6 million in 2002, to 87.4 million in 2010, and it is now at about 154 million.

Some fake news can be sighted from a mile off. Especially by astute communication and media professionals. A casual observation will show if the name of the purported media organization is wrongly portrayed, or if there are wrong spellings, unusual language or style of presentation. In some cases the hyperlink used as source of the news or information does not exist. Or the statements made are simply doubtful.

Yet, fake news can be cleverly done. It is possible to use modern innovations to modify photos, voices, images and scenes, and combine them to look credible. In such cases, it is difficult to spot the manipulations. More advanced analysis or technology is required.

Recently, Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka spoke of a fake website that had his identity all over it. He succeeded to trace the originator but the person has not taken the website down.

Many wealthy people, celebrities, well-known persons, leading brands and organisations have fake information about them and attributed to them on the social media. Facebook, Twitters, websites and blogs, WhatsApp and Instagram are popular in Nigeria, and they contain a lot of fake news despite deliberate efforts by the platforms to identify and eliminate fake news and their creators.

Whilst there is general agreement that fake news should be discouraged and stopped, there is little common position on how it can be done. Current libel laws may be already adequate. Others ask for special policies and laws to counter fake news, whilst some countries place special taxes on use of social media. There have been several instances where national authorities closed down access to the Internet.

Just as one does in daily lives, one must apply common sense to determine what is fair, right or wrong. There are no better ways than to question claims and appearances.

For ease of doing things, you may want to consider the following ten points for social media messaging (text, voice, video, cartoon, photo and other materials). I call them my intuitive 10 laws of social media scams. They are particularly relevant in Nigeria as the political space heats up with ongoing campaigns.

  1. All freebies on social media are scam. If the freebies are actually free, everyone and too many people have already taken whatever was available before I get to know.
  2. If it sounds like fantastic news, a truly phenomenal happening, I hesitate. If it sounds untrue, it most probably is untrue.
  3. Who said it? The same liar. He/she lied about things in the past. Forget it.
  4. Oh, this story is credited to a well-known person, a public figure etc. If it is really true then I should find it on websites of the relevant major media, including newspapers, radio and TV. Is it there?
  5. This does not sound like the same person I knew as a public figure. He or she would never do it, or say such a thing.
  6. Does this quoted person have the qualification or experience to speak with authority on the issue? Can I find his background information or depth of knowledge through a regular Internet search?
  7. Alright, this item quotes a reputable major news organization. Let us check it on the website or in the information area of the news media.
  8. The fact that it is written does not make it true. Anybody can write anything about anybody at any place at any time for any reasons. Where else can I check the truth of it? Who should know?
  9. Allegations of corruption and abuse of office stated about every top politician is likely to be true. But proof is hard to come by. Choose which ones to accept and act upon. Avoid the ones that may lead to a libel case.
  10. Buhari does not hate Atiku. And Atiku does not hate Buhari. They are friends, and will remain friends after the elections. Please, do not send me these hate stories.

Bunmi Makinwa is the Chief Executive Officer of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.

Ekitis and Fayemi: Moral Values and Integrity of Choice

By Bunmi Makinwa

There are new lessons and confirmation of old ones that have emerged from the July 2018 gubernatorial election in Ekiti State.

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Ekiti State

The first time that I witnessed an election up close was in 1983 in Ibadan. No, I was not an observer or a politician. I was “inside” the political campaigns, sitting next to gubernatorial candidates of political parties. I saw political thugs of candidates in cars and trucks that drove recklessly on town roads. I observed thugs using dangerous weapons to attack other thugs and supporters of political opponents of their leaders. I saw men lying in their pool of blood and barely breathing whilst policemen watched them dying. I was a terrified, fairly new reporter covering the campaigns.

At the then capital of Oyo State, I also witnessed heavily armed policemen who guarded the offices of the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) whilst vote counting went on inside. Only the returning officers of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) that constituted the federal government were allowed inside. The NPN agents were fully protected by the frightfully armed policemen. The officials of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) the opposition party that governed Oyo State were prevented from entering FEDECO premises to witness or observe the vote counting.

As results were announced on radio stations, the city was locked down by security forces. The winning candidates circulated freely. The candidates of the opposition party were locked up in their homes or detained in police stations. According to the security forces, the security actions were necessary to “maintain law and order”.

When a political party constitutes the federal government in Nigeria, it has control of the security forces, and with it the power to manage and decide outcomes of elections is almost unlimited. The federal government uses this power when the stakes are high.

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Voting in Nigeria (via Techpoint)

In 2014 in Ekiti State, candidate Peter Fayose defeated sitting Governor Fayemi with a near 100 per cent vote count in the gubernatorial election. Fayose had the backing of the strong Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that formed the federal government. The party hence was in charge of the security forces and they backed candidate Fayose. During the election the state was locked down by security forces.

In the recent July 2018 elections in Ekiti State, sitting Governor Fayose’s hand-picked PDP candidate, Mr. Olusola Eleka, deputy governor, was defeated by former Governor Fayemi. The latter had the backing of the strong All Peoples Congress (APC) party that forms the federal government. The state was locked down by security forces.

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Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi

 Lesson one – the party at the centre with control of security forces can use the so-called “maintain law and order” in ways that are open to various interpretations . The security actions that were taken by the federal government during elections in Oyo State in 1983 do recur in several elections. They were similar to the security actions taken in Ekiti State in 2014, and again in Ekiti State in 2018.

Lesson two – money has become absolutely crucial to win elections among Ekiti people. And the amounts needed to influence voters and buy results of party primaries and elections has increased significantly. The use of money is more public than ever. The Ekitis were general perceived as tough, stubborn and fiercely loyal in their political beliefs. They would hold a position, support a candidate and protect their beliefs with their lives, if necessary. The Ekitis have changed. Money has become the dominant factor for the voters. They guard their stomachs with their lives. Governor Fayose used “stomach infrastructure” as official governing policy. His opponents adopted it for the elections. At every stage of the recent electioneering process, within their means, for all parties, including APC and PDP, money was the currency of engagement.

Lesson three – the more money is spent by candidates to win their elections, the more money the candidates have to recover once elected. In addition, the successful candidates have to look after their party, members and their personal future interest. What do people expect from their governments, governors, elected politicians? Having spent huge amounts of money to buy party delegates during primaries, and also to buy voters during elections, there must be a lot of holes to plug once in office.

Lesson four – Nigeria has become more homogeneous in expectations from political leaders, especially during elections. Ekiti people are no longer an exception. “What we get NOW from the candidates for political offices is the only benefit to us. Once they assume office, we get nothing”, say the voters. For various reasons, including poverty, loss of confidence in the political leadership, pressing needs and sharp “marketing” by politicians, people have given up on higher standards of politics as service to the people.

Lesson five – election results are almost invariably contested. Only in rare instances do candidates accept their losses and cheer the winners. Campaigns and elections are desperate, win-or-die times for politicians to attain power and wealth. The reports of observer groups on Ekiti elections vary. Whilst some say that it was reasonably free and fair, others say that it was unfairly conducted and over-militarised. Both APC and PDP are accused of carrying out activities that could undermine the proper conduct of voting and determination of results. Several cases are in court to ascertain whether party primaries and state-wide elections were done properly.

Can the in-coming government of Fayemi recover some of the lost moral values of Ekitis? Can he rally his people to bring back the personal integrity of Ekitis on choice of political leaders? Can he rekindle the high ground that he took when he lost gallantly to Fayose in 2014? Can he raise the “bar of excellence” as he stated while conceding defeat? Or faced with the realities of desperate politics of acquisition wealth and power, will he fall further into the “stomach infrastructure” miasma?

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership. Formerly, he was Africa Regional Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

An Exchange with Honourable Gbajabiamila

By Bunmi Makinwa

Introduction: For those who may have missed the story. Pictures and videos of Honourable Olufemi Gbajabiamila, Majority Leader of the House of Representativesand his wife, have been circulating frequently in the social media for days. He wore a fancy suit, allegedly of Gucci brand, worth 1.2 million Naira ($3,300). His wife whose 50th birthday was being celebrated, wore an equally very fancy dress. The wife received her husband’s gift of a brand new Mercedes Benz G–Wagon jeep, allegedly bought for 75 million Naira ($208,333).

The pictures and videos have drawn a lot of attention, mostly negative. Mr. Gbajabiamila felt that it was unfair criticism. Reportedly, he wrote on the WhatsApp platform of his “class of 84” and listed from 1 to 15 items of his side of the issues. Below is a verbatim (unedited) text of his explanation, along with my response to each of them as a possible exchange between himself and this writer.

 

Femi Gbajabiamila and his wife Yemisi dressed in Gucci

The Exchange

Gbajabiamila: My dear “friends” I thank you for all your comments. I ordinarily was going to keep a dignified silence on this whole sordid matter and indeed I have. This is the first comment I am making in all of this. I honestly thought this was a platform of classmates and of lawyers. I thought the legal training was that there were 2 sides to every story and maybe sometimes even a 3rd. Many have said you’re only saying the truth but I don’t know how one gets to the truth by hearing only one side and not giving the benefit of doubt but passing a hurried judgment. I would have expected those who seek the truth to reach out even if privately like Frank did. 3 of our classmates were at this very small private gathering of family and friends namely Candido Johnson Mike Igbokwe and Folabi Martins. Now What are the issues?

Myself: Dear Hon. Gbajabiamila. I am an outsider, neither in your class of ’84 on which platform it was said that you had posted your message. Nor of the House of Representatives of which you are a Majority Leader. We are linked because I am a Nigerian who resides in Lagos, where your primary constituency is located. I had huge admiration for your party (APC). Now only a little hope is left. Above all, I am concerned that you are a political leader, my leader. I cannot keep quiet. Your classmates are Nigerians and you occupy a public position. They also could not keep quiet about your actions.

1. My wife of 26 years who I love to death turned 50 and I decided to do something special for her. Her 50th did not happen unexpectedly. I knew a couple of years God sparing her life she would turn 50 and I prepared for it. This is a woman who has been with me through thick and thin and stood as a pillar of support and who at one time was the breadwinner. Hell I may even have saved up for it or sold an old car to make up the numbers you guys do not know. I believe the cost of a vehicle pales into insignificance when you consider the sacrifices our wives make on the daily.

Myself: Your total, deep, absolute love for your wife is great. She deserves you, and to be loved by you. Everything that you do for her is unquestionable. When you bring your expressions of love and especially its materialistic interpretations to the public domain, then all comments, reactions and inferences are fair.

2. We are all educated and can look up the cost of the car. Not even half of the 100m in social media.

Myself:  The cost of a new Mercedes Benz G-Wagon ranges from 50 million Naira to 100 million Naira for special models, and gold-plated ones. Yours may be closer to the high-end ones because you wanted to show wealth and opulence. The high-end car and those highly expensive dresses exhibited by yourself and your wife were public confirmation that that you have a lot of money. It is the nature of many corrupt politicians and public officials to demonstrate ill-gotten wealth and lavish spending in Nigeria.

The G-Wagon Gbajabiamila bought for his wife



3. What I wear is non of y’alls business as I’m sure there will be people who’s attire or jewelry or shoes on this platform I may not like but will not deride them for it. 

Myself: What you wear and indeed what you do not wear is our business. Just like what you say, where you go, who you go with. You are elected by us and you are there to serve us. We know that you do not care about our expectations and we do not matter as long as your godfather(s) are satisfied. But do you have to throw it in our faces?

4. I had a tear to plan for this and I did.

Myself: You and your colleagues in the House of Representatives have had more years to plan to make the country better but look at where we are. The scandals and misdeeds of the House where you are Majority Leader are too many to be repeated. They are too well known in the public sphere.

5. We had a family gathering and few friends of about 30 in all in my house for thanks giving and prayers. It was a breakfast get together. My wife’s pastor prayed Gave a sermon, praise n worship and guests had breakfast. The whole affair was meant to

have ended by 6. Unfortunately some people came after work as it was a weekday.


Myself
: A private affair by someone of your status should be done as if the walls have ears, eyes and mouths. I repeat, you are a public personae. Everyone watches your every move. Do you get it?


6. I purchased my wife’s car from the US and unfortunately the car was delayed at the ports for 4 days. She was meant to get her gift at midnight of her birthday in the privacy of our home. 

MyselfBy now you probably understand at least a little that every move you make is watched, seen and spoken about. A car for your wife is a good thing. Given the responsibility that the people have placed on you, do your show-off actions reflect how a true leader behaves? Yes, other “Honourable” Representatives and “Distinguished” Senators act often in this same manner and show excessive, extravagant lifestyles. The inept leaders make Nigeria a poor country despite abundance of resources. By African standards, the country lacks the most basic infrastructures, has the lowest social and economic indicators, and lowest quality of life for its citizens. Political leaders should be busy changing the situation and not engaging in”see-my-new-car” recklessness.

7.  I called Mr Folabi Martins the day before her birthday ( he happens to be the lawyer to Maersk the shipping co) and he made frantic efforts to call the md.

 

Myself: It shows that you could move mountains when it benefits you. Sadly, you do not change things for the improvement of your country and your peoples.

8. Man proposes Gid disposes and there was little I could do the car never came. 

MyselfI am shaking my head. The tendency to always blame God for abuses and misbehaviours is all too common.

9. It came as a surprise to me when the car was driven by the agents into my compound at 7.30 pm with a few guests and my family members still present. There was little I could do. 

Myself: I am shaking my head even more. It reminds me of the police. More efforts are made to serve VIPs and escort politicians than to protect lives and properties of Nigerians. Everything was done to get your car into your compound. How about making maximum efforts to ensure that your constituents have electricity, for example. How many mountains have you moved to reduce deaths on the roads and to canvass for employment for young people?

10. How the above facts can draw such vitriol from this platform shocks me to the marrow but then like they say it is what it is.

MyselfYou still do not get it. People are angry. They are mad at you, and all signs of wealth and waste of resources confirm all the negative impressions of Nigerians about you and the political class. All “big men” are seen as thieves. People will take whatever they can get from you but they will join hands with others to hound you.

Your classmates are mostly “big men” and they are afraid too. What ordinary people think of “big men” because of your type of flaunting wealth is very very scary.

11. My “brother” who commented above that I crave publicity or wanted this on social media I’m sorry we may be classmates but you do not know me.

Myself: Everyone knows you, Honourable Gbajabiamila. You have been in the House since 2003. You occupied various important posts and positions. How are you not part of the problems of Nigeria today? People observe your peers and their actions, both at the House and Senate, and they see you too. You as the Majority Leader have confirmed by your recent act that Nigerians are right in who they say that you are.

12. Guys I have paid my dues in this country. I did not gift a car to a girlfriend like many do. I gave it to my WIFE!!


Myself
Gentleman, the hundreds of thousands of pensioners who do not receive pensions at all or who get paid once in a long while have paid their dues. The hundreds of thousands of civil servants who get paid once in seven months, or who get half pay for a year have paid their dues. The multitude of young people who studied hard and finished well in their colleges and universities but have no jobs or get paid monthly wages that do not support them for even a week have paid their dues. The police, military and security officers who live in wretched barracks where toilets and shower rooms are so dirty you can smell them from 100 metres away; and whose salaries cannot pay for their children to attend any decent primary or secondary schools – they have paid their dues. Honourable Gbajabiamila, the language of this explanation is despicable, irresponsible and insensitive.

13. Now assuming this was a public display which it most certainly wasn’t does it warrant the things I am reading on this platform the extent of venom and crucifixtion from you guys ? Or is there something else here?

Myself: I refer to everything I have stated above.

14. I must say a big thank you to Frank and to Afolabi who has called me severally and stood in support. I also thank you Mike Igbokwe for the staunch support you put up on anothe platform of yours. 

Myself: Your friends were either being polite or they were fake, or they were loyal for whatever reasons.

15. I am surprised that no one here is discerning to see that this is a political hatchet job but I will continue to focus on my work. Enough said God bless our class of 84

MyselfIn other societies a person of your political status would listen, reflect and apologise profusely for the error of judgment. He would vow not to make such a grave error ever any more. He might even resign his position. But alas, Nigeria of such a time is hardly in the horizon yet. The rumour was that you were positioned to occupy a higher post when this eighth House started in 2016. But a sharper hatchet job by opponents cut you off. From what we have seen to date, we cannot celebrate their gain, nor can we regret your loss. God bless you.

 

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership. Formerly, he was Africa Regional Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

 

Ibori: Ten Answers to The One Question

by Bunmi Makinwa

Image result for james ibori

Ibori raises his hand to acknowledge supporters after leaving Asaba High Court in Nigeria’s Delta State (BBC)

It is loud and quiet at the same time. The conversations on James Onanefe Ibori. On the streets and in homes. In minds and thoughtful reflections, people ponder and wonder – why would a self-identifying criminal emerge as a hero, a star that appears to shine like no other in Nigeria?

What makes a known thief to stand out as a beloved child, hugged and embraced by a teeming crowd of supporters? Loved by people from the communities that he robbed so dastardly?

Ibori is a name so very well known in Nigeria and perhaps in the United Kingdom where he and his wife, Theresa Ibori, were arrested for theft in 1990 and fined £300. In 1991, he was convicted of handling a stolen credit card, and fined £100, still in the UK.

He returned to Nigeria afterwards and became a successful politician advising the presidency. At age 40 in 1999 he was elected as governor of Delta State, a post he held for two terms of eight years.

Always of a criminal mind, in 1999 Ibori changed his name in the UK to whitewash his tarnished trail. He fitted easily into the mostly corrupt-ridden system that is Nigeria’s political space. Delta State is one of the poorest of the 36 states of Nigeria yet one of the richest as it is naturally endowed with oil wealth, and therefore entitled to receive a large chunk of the regular federal allocation of funds every month.

Ibori as executive governor in a federated political structure had unlimited control of the state’s funds which he converted into his personal expense budget. As he wished, he used it for himself, the state, friends, well-wishers and patrons. He was lavish and generous. He was kind to his cohort and made them happy with official resources. He put up some visible official infrastructures and buildings in the state.

Above all, he made sure that if he lived for another 200 years, there would be no lack of funds to use for himself and to help whoever pleased him or whose support he needed.

Image result for james ibori

After he left office as governor, Ibori was set upon by the anti-corruption agency in Nigeria. Like many others, he ran circles around the Nigerian criminal justice system using his abundant wealth. He left Nigeria for Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where he had properties and business interests. There, the unrelenting UK government found him and extradited him to London for trial.

He was accused of stealing US$250 million from Nigeria’s public funds. Ibori pleaded guilty to ten counts of money laundering and conspiracy to defraud.

On Tuesday, April 17, 2012, Ibori was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment for his crimes. Among possessions confiscated were: two properties in the UK worth £2.2m and £311,000; a £3.2m mansion in South Africa; several vehicles – a fleet of armoured Range Rovers valued at £600,000, a £120,000 Bentley Continental and a Mercedes Benz valued at €407,000.

James Ibori was released from prison in December 2016 after serving over 4 years of the jail term.

As soon as he came out of jail, jubilant supporters paraded around Ibori in London, and welcomed him home to Nigeria in unprecedented show of support. They openly praised and identified with him, no matter what he did in the past and despite his lack of open remorse or change of ways.

The story of Ibori provides many answers to the riddle of corruption and its “octopustic” tentacles that wrap around a nation that keeps struggling with its expanding problems.

From comments, opinions, and discussions, here are ten answers to the historic drama of obvious popularity of ex-convict Ibori.

  1. Stealing of public funds may not count as actual stealing. An elected official must have “invested” a lot of funds to get to office. It is logical that he “recovers” his funds whilst in office, and makes much more to take care of the future and his retinue of hangers-on.
  2. A public official who manages public fund can use it for private purposes. Everyone does it. A state governor can do it more easily because he is hardly ever accountable to anyone.
  3. If, like Ibori, a public official re-distributes a small part of stolen wealth among the people, such “generosity” cleanses the official of any accusations of criminality. Most public officials hold on to their stolen wealth; only kind ones give anything back to their constituencies, friends and supporters.
  4. All politicians steal. Stealing is not corruption. When one has a God-given opportunity to have access to funds or wealth anywhere, he/she had better acquire enough of the wealth to last many lifetimes. (Do not laugh!)
  5. A convicted person from one’s ethnic group or community is still a part of the community. As “one of us”, we have a duty to defend him socially, politically… Other persons also steal anyways, and finally one of our own has the opportunity.
  6. Going to jail is immaterial if the criminal comes out of jail with sizeable wealth to give away. Far too many people will accept money and materials from anyone – prisoner, convict, robber or killer. A former prisoner who is wealthy is likely to be much more generous. He needs supporters. Get to him quickly.
  7. A rich criminal gets to keep so much of stolen money that he/she has the capacity to make others rich still. Politicians who are accused of official looting are financially capable sponsors of candidates for elective offices. It is a smart way for the criminal to purchase immunity from prosecution.
  8. By stealing abundantly, a criminal can comfortably finance his/her own political campaign to get elected to an exalted office. Once successful, immunity and public recognition is conferred on the person by law and society.
  9. In most cases, politics is not a call to service, but a game of power played with money. The more stolen funds are available, the easier it is to aim for selection and election to higher offices.
  10. There is so much poverty that anyone who can distribute money, food, materials to people gets immediate title to relevance. Poor people and needy populace do not link their despicable socio-economic conditions to official stealing and corruption from which they get served trickles of what was originally theirs. The source of wealth is least important as new norms support wealth possession no matter what the sources are.

The supporters and admirers of Ibori and his likes are everywhere. They are products of deeply corrupt political system, social norms gone awry, downgraded values and economic malaise.

Whilst arresting, prosecuting and jailing of corrupt officials is very important, it is equally critical to revisit the political systems, re-value norms, and transform drivers of need and greed.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership. Formerly, he was Africa Regional Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)