ACHILLEUS-CHUD UCHEGBU e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
How do you stop someone from spending his money foolishly especially when he is convinced that the money so spent would open doors to greater wealth?
Recently, Aisha Buhari, made a ‘revelation’. She said that some people paid as much as $50,000 to book an appointment to ‘see’ President Goodluck Jonathan, while he was there. Could this be the revelation of the century? May be; May be not. She followed it up with an instruction that no one should pay a dime to see her or her husband, the President.
From my little corner, I would fervently pray, hope and seriously wish that Aisha has the wherewithal to stop those milling around her now from demanding and accepting cash or other material gifts, so as to be granted access to her.
But mind you, in her comment, Aisha did not say there was a standing Federal Government Order of the Goodluck Jonathan administration mandating whoever that wants to have an audience with the President, or his wife, to make certain payments. I bet there is no such order, either in body language, in spoken form or in written form.
Therefore, it is not a known federal government order for such payments to be made. But knowing Nigerians, every step close to the men and women in power, is opportunity to dig gold at the expense of the desperate. Most of us, who have had the opportunity of seeking audience with men and women in power, either at federal, state or local government levels, have different stories to tell about the demand on one to part with some cash in order to have access.
Even journalists are subjected to such demands. This comes from the feeling that a meeting with any man or woman in power is an opportunity to cart away some hard cash. So, the man at the gate makes a demand to be ‘seen’ first before you are allowed to be ‘seen’ by his boss. This is a practice that permeates every segment of our society.
It even happens at the gates of restaurants and eateries. I have seen business cards marketing non-existent offices. For instance, there have been business cards marketing someone as the wife of the chief security officer to the president. That card bore email and contact telephone numbers.
There has been one also marketing a certain Alhaji as the son-in-law to the executive governor of a particular state. There has been a signboard, shown, marketing someone’s office as ‘Office of the Former Deputy Governor’. Those cards are meant to pursue a certain kind of ‘business’ which proximity to men and women in power purports to bring. Visit the homes of certain people and you would be surprised at the sort of use to which they put photographs they had opportunity to snap with the president or a governor.
This is not limited to politicians. Clerics also indulge. Such photographs are harnessed. They are enlarged and strategically displayed. The aim is simply to let every visitor leave with some belief that the man or woman is connected. This creates room for business – the business of extortion. People leave you with the impression that they are closely linked with the president or the governor and are in a position to get things done.
Unfortunately, those who are easily convinced are the desperate – those who are desperate to see the president in the belief that seeing him leaves them richer. There are people hanging around Abuja and willing to pay any amount just to have someone link them up with the President, his deputy or even the President of the Senate. It is a thriving ‘profession’ in Abuja. As it is, some security personnel lobby heavily to be posted to the Villa or Government Houses. This they do in the understanding that manning the gate translates to determining who comes in.
Most times, those who don’t ‘settle’ don’t get access even when they are on appointment. That in itself means name-dropping for cash benefits. Will the president and his wife be aware that such ‘trading’ goes on around them? The issue is; how many of those who paid to see the president would let him know that they actually paid a certain sum to be granted access to him? I bet none would do that.
So, it is simply part of the culture of the fraudulent use of position for personal benefits. For instance, I was recently contacted by a close friend who told me that Buhari had rewarded one of his campaign support groups, Buhari Vanguard, with an expanse of land in the Wasa District of Abuja. I was told that the land is being sold only to members of the group in compensation and that it costs N700,000 per 1000sq meter. I was also told that members are required to pay only N350,000 to be listed and secure the land. The balance, I was also told, would be paid over time.
In the mind of the person marketing this to me, it was an indication of Buhari’s good intensions to assist poor people and make them own lands in Abuja too. I guess some persons may have fallen for this and lost money in Buhari’s name. If they did, I expect them to someday soon accuse Buhari of defrauding them using the ‘Buhari Vanguard’. The enthusiastic marketer did not see any link between his project and fraud because this was coming barely ten weeks after Buhari was inaugurated as President.
So I asked: how possible is it for a Buhari who has not even settled into office, to cede such land when he does not even have ministers yet? My question got an interesting response: “But the man behind this just came back from Abuja and told us that he met with Buhari and he approved the land for his supporters”.
The unsuspecting will fall for this. Again, it was simply name-dropping. Like I said earlier, I pray and wish that Aisha has the wherewithal to put an end to this culture. But be certain, Aisha has publicly declared that no one should pay to have access to her or her husband, but she must be ready to stand at the gates to clear visitors. She must also be ready to stand with intending visitors when they meet with ‘aides’ at some locations in the city.
Those who are standing beside her now, and taking good photographs, know what to do with them. They won’t tell her. And again, no one who pays to have access to her, and her husband, will tell her they did so. But she must know that this is a growing culture of fraud that finds expression among those who are desperate. How do you stop someone from spending his money foolishly especially when he is convinced that the money so spent would open doors to greater wealth?