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Friday, 26 May 2023 09:07

[OPINION] The Akpabio Syndrome, Yet Again - Akin Osuntokun

In the light of the individual and collective experience of Nigerians in the past several weeks, it is probably a shared experience that I have not been sleeping well in as many weeks. This is likely the case if the prevalent mood of despair and despondency that followed the parody of recently concluded general elections is any indication.

For me, there are a number of extra contending factors for this sleeplessness. Beyond the DNA inheritance of chronic insomnia, one factor is the heartbreak over how my beloved Barclays premiership football club side, Arsenal, has transformed from being a class A euphoria drug to a deflating downer. In the past decade, if I’m in a low mood, there is a good chance it has something to do with how well

Roger Federer and Arsenal are faring in their respective tournaments. When they do well, they serve as potent psychological therapy for diffusing the fog of ennui cast permanently over the darkling plains of politics and governance in Nigeria.
Now it gets worse. As the appointed hour of May 29th draws near, many have been praying along that this foretold dreadful cup of iniquity passeth Nigeria over. Even if our countervailing dreams of a Nigerian political renewal have become recessive, providence can still intervene to use the improbable instrument of the judiciary to accomplish God’s purpose for Nigeria.

There is hardly anything left unsaid in the rumination over the misnomer of the (s)election of Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu as president of Nigeria. As we used to banter in those days of rebellious innocence, “nuff said”. We have to come to terms with the reality of the traumatising transition from Major General Muhammadu Buhari to Tinubu as the new normal of Nigerian politics.

Yet, regardless of the latter’s credentials, (which reads like a Mario Puzo mafia syndicate prototype), the truth is that no other successor Nigerian president has the latitude to surpass Buhari in his demonstrable capacity to render Nigeria a graveyard of national aspirations.
The logic of this conclusion is obvious enough.There is simply no room to spare for any successor to replay the Buhari ‘bull in the china shop’ one man wrecking crew. Nigeria has already crumbled, what is left is the near impossible task of putting the broken pieces back together. Presently, the economic numero uno among these broken pieces is the big elephant in the room aka the oil subsidy racket. In the near term, it is damned if you do away with the subsidy and damned if you don’t.

And in a rather befitting epitaph to the mockery of fighting corruption in Nigeria, the duo of the former Governor of Zamfara state, Abdulaziz Yari and the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami, proved the corruption depravity of the Buhari dispensation in an unforgettable manner. The two cooked together a book launching ceremony, in which the former made a public display of a N250m returns of corruption proceeds to the latter. In broad daylight, Yari launched a book purportedly authored by Malami with the jaw dropping sum.

The pertinent background to the infamy of this wanton display of stolen resources is as follows.
The remote aspect dates back to the governorship of Yari over that micro embodiment of all that is evil about Nigeria, Zamfara state. At his departure from the state, ‘Premium Times reported that he was being investigated for N150 Billion embezzlement charge whilst official documents revealed that Yari was paid N350 million two days before he left office. Aside from the monthly pay out of about N11 million, the law also provided for a house in Abuja for the former governor’.
The immediate backdrop is that along with the former Accountant General of the federation, Ahmed Idris, Yari was the poster boy in the collosal theft of one hundred and ten billion (and still counting) from the Nigerian treasury. It was widely reported that “the former governor is being investigated for allegedly conspiring with the suspended AGF to siphon an estimated N84 Billion in public funds”. The economic and financial crimes commission, efcc, is the investigation and prosecution agency of this crime and it reports directly to Malami in the performance of this duty.

The same Malami then invites Governor Yari to serve as chief launcher at his book launching ceremony. Whereupon the former governor dipped into the pot of stolen money, (for which he is under prosecution), and forked out N250m to bestow on the Attorney General. Do you then need to be a Nuhu Ribadu to discern a linkage between the criminal theft of public resources and the hundreds of million donation by Yari? And all this in the glare of the national and international community and, in a country rated as the poverty capital of the world.

If you are literally drenched in naira and rearing to make show of it, why not buy as many copies as N250 million naira can buy and then distribute the books across educational institutions in the nation? What was exactly the participation of Malami, the chief law officer of the country, in this corruption on steroids instance?
What extrapolation are we to make from this outrage other than it was compensation for a favour Malami rendered in (all probability), shielding the fellow from being prosecuted as his just dessert
In competition with this show of shame as a trademark of the Buhari dispensation and which record is impossible to surpass is the penchant for ethno national chauvinism (of apartheid proportions) in appointments to the leadership of nearly all strategic and significant public institutions especially the military, security and para security agencies.

With N77 trillion debt (80% of which was incurred under Buhari) what would prove the difficulty in arriving at the conclusion that there is no space left for further ‘borrowing and sorrowing’ for any incoming President? Today, said Chief Afe Babalola “We are the worst debtors in the world. We owe trillions of dollars. We are borrowing more even when the current government has few days to go. And we learnt that our incoming President has gone to look for those who are coming to invest here. Nobody is coming to invest here when you can’t even pay the interest due on the huge debt that we owe”.
And I affirm that it is theoretically improbable and practically impossible to contemplate that any potential successor can worst Buhari’s records and still have a nation standing.

Where, however, there is room for the continuation of the Buhari anomie is the reputation of those ascending to the topmost hierarchy of Nigeria’s organs of government. We already have Tinubu in the executive organ. Now we await, in raging stupefication, the imposition of Senator Godswill Akpabio as the Senate president and the chairman of the national assembly. Spanning the last two decades, his public career has come to symbolise a study in the utility of public corruption and impunity for upward mobility in the ladder of political leadership in Nigeria.

The tragedy of contemporary Nigeria is the extent to which the perfidy of mindless corruption has been upstaged (by the impunity of
how much you can rub the nose of Nigeria in this mud) by the open tender of a pedigree of unspeakable stolen public resources as credentials for higher office. To prove the point is the pending coronation of Akpabio as the next Nigeria’s Senate president.
In his preceding successive occupations as Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator and Senator-elect, he has left behind tons of evidence on his exploitation of those offices as conduit pipes for unprecedented embezzlement.

As Governor of Akwa Ibom State, he has a pending case of “withdrawal of N18bn from the state’s coffers under the guise of special services, reception of very important guests and sundry items; acquisition of some assets through surrogates, including a multi-billion naira mansion at Plot 5, Ikogosi Spring Close, off Katsina-Ala Crescent, Maitama-Abuja; a multi-billion naira mansion at Plot 28 Colorado Close, Maitama, Abuja; 22 Probyn Road, Ikoyi, Lagos; Plot 23 Olusegun Aina Street, Parkview, Lagos and a multi-billion naira 25-storey building at Akin Adesola Street, Victoria Island, Lagos”.

As Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, he was the star culprit in the allegations of N40 billion fraud perpetrated in the NDDC, a ministry which was headed by Akpabio for three years. The Senate over which he will preside resolved in 2020 to probe the alleged N40 billion financial recklessness of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC. Less than two months ago, he was detained by EFCC for two hours after attempting to bribe agency chairman with $350,000.
The trillion naira question is: How does Akpabio proceed from this immediate background to become the President of the Nigerian Senate?
Akpabio is, of course, not the exception that proves the rule. Coincidentally, his two other co contestants are cut from the same wool. One of them is none other than Governor Abdulaziz Yari. Yes, the same Yari.

And then, there is Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, whose felony laurels include belonging to a class of dubious politicians who have succeeded in symbolically dragging the Supreme Court down the mud through the procurement of morality subversive judgements.
Recall that “the trial court found him guilty of corruption in December 2019 and was sentenced to 12 years in jail. But in one of a series of questionable judgements given by the Supreme Court, his jail time was nullified on technical grounds: that the judge who jailed him was ineligible to handle the trial having been elevated to the Court of Appeal’s bench as of the time he concluded the case”.
If ever there is poetic justice in the ambitions of political leaders in this electoral cycle, it is in the ruins of Kalu’s aspiration to become the Senate president. In subordinating the concession of the Nigerian presidency to the South East, to his personal ambition, no politician from amongst the Igbo did greater damage to this cause than kalu.

Stop Press!
As we were putting this column to bed, we were rudely reawakened by the hereunder:
“President Muhammadu Buhari has asked the Senate to approve the payment of judgement debts awarded by different courts against the federal government. The president said the judgement debts were awarded in different currencies which he summed up to $556,712,584,01; £98,526,013 and N226,280,801,801,64”.
Now, you see what we were saying?

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