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The Circus Is Open

President Muhammadu Buhari has opened his circus. Before him, Olusegun Obasanjo did using Nuhu Ribadu and his EFCC.

Whenever the doors of the circus are opened, one thing happens. The audience takes their seats, buy some pop corn or ice cream and get ready to be entertained by puppets and puppet masters. Some enter with elephants, some lions, some moneys or other animals that had become ornaments. Within these, there are also magicians, who, like Professor Peller, make reality out of hallucinatory illusions. In all, the audience is entertained. They also lose their money spent as tickets to the circus, and more spent on pop corn and ice creams. When they are done, the magicians and puppet masters go to the bank smiling, and the audience goes home emptier than they left. Soon, they understand that laughter is just a momentary cure for hopelessness.

That is where we are now. President Muhammadu Buhari has opened his circus. Before him, Olusegun Obasanjo did using Nuhu Ribadu and his EFCC. At the height of his hot chase for governors, and other officials of state whom the administration had accused of stealing public funds, Ribadu declared that almost all 36 state governors have their hands in the mud. He also promised to bring them to book soon after they leave office. What Ribadu achieved, despite the pontifications of the administration against corruption was the arraignment of a few governors before some courts. That’s the much he achieved. No serious charges. No diligent prosecution. Then, it was alleged that only those who “did not play ball” got into the bad books of the regime. Of course, Joshua Dariye of Plateau State had to shut out EFCC and his chasers when he disclosed details of the ‘sharing’ of the ecological fund of the state. After the disclosure, which indicted the Obasanjo/Atiku Support group of being beneficiary of the sharing, and another close ally of the president, who got a note from the President directing Dariye on what percentage of the Plateau state ecological fund should be given to the ally for burial purposes (the man lost his dad then), the matter died and never resurrected till date.

Ribadu also forgot what he told journalists, especially Abuja Bureau Chiefs, during his maiden press briefing to announce his entrance into the 2011 Presidential race, about his fight against corruption and the new realities he had gleaned having travelled more widely and gotten better education in the United states and the UK; and about his broadened horizon and his decision to work with ‘progressives’ to become Nigeria’s president. On account of that, Ribadu stood on a podium, and before the world absolved some of those he had tagged the worst of the criminals. Deals sealed. Allegations dropped. Case closed. Saints were canonized by Ribadu’s pronouncements. He knew better after the presidential election that year. He had been used, and dumped.

Then, we had as much noise, dance, applause, laughter, jokes etc as we are having today over the chase after ex-governor Sule Lamido and his sons, Ikedi Ohakim, Steve Oronsanye, Murtala Nyako, Bukola Saraki (Senate president) and lately Diezani Alison-Madueke former petroleum minister. The entertainment will not end so long as the circus doors remain open. Do we need to forget that EFCC used to have, on its website, a list of ‘politically exposed persons’ still standing trial for various alleged offences? That list is no more. But while it was hosted on the site, we were regularly entertained by it. So far, EFCC has been unable to prove any case against any ex-governor or politically exposed person. Those who have had to serve punishments were those who agreed to plea bargain. In other words, all we have is a circus to entertain us to what Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, as he then was, would call ‘name and shame’.

Now, to entertain us further, a certain Kelvin Mackenzie, a columnist for The Sun on London, jokes about an alleged missing $20m which he converts to the equivalent of £13 billion, as what was probably missing from Nigeria. He wrote: “Ms Diezani Alison-Madueke, Nigeria’s former oil minister, has just been nicked in London over allegations that £13billion (yes, £13billion) has gone walkabout from her country’s coffers”. This opened the circus doors that even seemingly educated folks believe that it is not possible for a governor who administers – without question- state budgets running into trillions, to misappropriate N70billion or spend N78.3m on the upgrade of a personal website, or spend over N150m to sink two boreholes; neither is it possible for a political party owner to transit from a drug runner to steal a state polytechnic and convert same to personal use; but argue that it is possible for an individual to ‘steal’ £13 billion (about N4.5trillion, annual budget of a country), and walk with same into a bank in London for safe keeping.

If not entertainment, why would anyone want to make a fool of the London financial system, and unsalvageable idiots of British authorities? We mean such amount was stolen and lodged in a London bank and David Cameron and his band of cheerleaders danced around and kept quiet until Buhari said some money was missing? Haba! Next base, please.

£13 billion may buy Hyde Park. But it will certainly buy some capitals on the African shore. So, why not buy a capital city rather than seek only a park? That is where we goof and show our love for the sort of knowledge that mimics art. Art should mimic life. In our system however, it is the other way. That is why it is easier to believe that a man who died ten years ago was found making love to a woman in a city far from his, or that a 40ft container fell off a crane and dropped on a pregnant woman who merely shoved it aside and moved on, as portrayed by Nollywood home movies, than to believe that the sun rises in the east.

In the PwC report of the forensic financial audit of the NNPC, PwC reported a dialogue with Sanusi wherein he said that the allegation of unremitted $20b was valid as at the time the allegation was raised. That Sanusi, who is now the Emir of Kano, was also reported, by PwC, as saying he never accused anyone of stealing $20m. He also said that it was possible that between the time he raised the allegation of non-remittance of the amount and the time PwC was talking with him, the records would have been corrected. Sadly, most people did not believe the PwC report because it did not list names of ‘suspects’, already perceived, as having ‘stolen’ $20m. Now, Mackenzie makes a joke of us, and we are not only entertained, but ‘celebrating’. I have read some say ‘it is true because it was reported in a foreign media’.


– ACHILLEUS-CHUD UCHEGBU                        e-mail: achilleus.uchegbu@theunion.com.ng

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