Sanusi, Ribadu and the Nigerian Amnesia

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I was hanging out with a friend, a very informed businessman and one of the last species of optimists who still postulate theories that Nigeria is not exactly messed up, when, as every grumbling citizen would do, I asked for his views on the suspension of the CBN Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. His response was sharp and apt: “What would Nigerians do even if that report of missing $20 billion is discovered to be exactly so?”

At first I thought he was merely being petty over a national tragedy, but on honest consideration, I realised he was just being blunt. That, perhaps, was the first time he ever gave me an answer like a typical “true Nigerian”. His optimism disrobed, and all he could utter was a question whose answer is known to every comrade from Bayelsa to Borno: nothing! And, as though he had heard my unexpressed response, he revived my memories on the the state of corruption in the oil industry exposed in Mallam Nuhu Ribadu’s report as Chairman, Petroleum Revenue Task Force.

That Nigerians even exhibited shock at the Sanusi Report hurt me as well. The stench of corruption here is strong enough to asphyxiate even a foreigner who only learns of our legends on CNN. If concrete evidences are what we’re waiting for to occupy this government, didn’t we get the documents of Stella Oduah’s looting? What did we do? Didn’t we follow Abdulrasheed Maina’s pension fund scam? What did we do? Long before that, we watched the theatrics of fuel subsidy thieves and how impunity became their badge of honour. What did we do? Corruption is now a state-approved crime against the Nigerian masses, so much so that even our purported angels are being lost. Hon. Faruk Lawan might still be “Mr Integrity” if not for the cameras that captured his complicity, in his “pursuit” of subsidy thieves. But did we continue from where we lost him?

Our mistake as patriots is expecting the people who blew the whistles that called our attention to mismanagement of funds to continue in their risky quests to rescue the stolen resources. We are already about to forget about Sanusi Report the same way we allowed Ribadu, who exuded audacity in indicting even the President, to be politically ostracised by the enemies of our country. There wouldn’t have been a Sanusi Report, in fact the suspended CBN Governor would have become an enemy for remaining quiet in a warped system, if we had adopted the Ribadu Report as the Constitution of our agitation for change before he spoke out. For Ribadu Report gave us all we needed to be angry: the wasting, on extra-budgetary purposes, of our money to illegally acquire and pay for things that benefit only the Vagabonds in Power. We lost billions.

And if we’re really not a bunch of forgetful activists, we must remember all exposed in Ribadu report: $1billion in signature bonuses, discrepancies in payment by the NNPC, and debts from oil companies unaccounted for by NNPC and Department of Petroleum Resources; N700.5million in loans to Sao Tome & Principe on instruction from the presidency; N2.23billion chopper for the president and a purported sponsorship of the World Cup; payment of N2.421billion to a foreign company, Royal Swaziland Sugar Company; underwritten N521million expenses incurred by the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources (N250million the agency told the committee it spent on court cases involving the ministry). The Ribadu report also exposed that the NNPC was being used as illegal lender to presidential committees, ministries and parastatals. For instance the corporation claimed it incurred about N20billion on the Presidential Implementation Committee on Maritime Safety and Security, based on instruction from the presidency … The list is endless, and traumatising.

If Sanusi had an illusion that, beyond our cyber-venting, Nigerians who could not budge on the scale of frauds exposed by the former EFCC chairman, would really take to the street to stand by him in his rebellion against a system for which he had been a poster-boy before the cookie crumbled, now that would have been tragic in capital letters. In many quarters, Sanusi’s stance during the fuel subsidy removal protests, especially his reckless remark that “Those speaking now on the internet and Facebook and Twitter and newspapers are not workers but middle-class elite who use PMS in their smart cars…”, is a reason to not pity him. We were in the street in January, 2012 to convince the government that its predecessors have built a socially disastrous system in which living without subsidy is a harsher hell, and he insulted our sensibility with elitist excuse that the masses are not affected by the removal, refusing to understand that the masses mostly depend on generator sets for electricity, refusing to understand that a rise in the price of fuel is a rise in the cost of transportation, and this means a rise in the cost of every everything: an inevitable inflation. I applaud the audacity of the suspended CBN Governor, even though I know his “whistle-blowing” was a futile exercise in a nation where rights to demonstrate grievances are seen as forms of activism, reserved for a few.

The Nigerian is an amnesiac person who loves political dramas for the fun of it. We have formed a dangerous system in which we leave the struggles for the redemption of the country for the people in government, hence our heroes are just the people who rebel against an incumbent government they’re no longer in good terms with. While it’s advisable to not dismiss the revelations of rebels who expose the wrongs of a government they once served, let’s not fail to remind them of their complicity in the creation and fostering of experienced difficulties. We’ll soon be consumed by our “listen to the message, not the messenger” principle, with which expired devils are made saints for vilifying their successors or on falling out with their accomplices. The messenger matters. It’s morally insulting to join an oppressed people in speaking out against a trend you didn’t try to stop while you were still relevant!
Not that it’s not wise to accept the “wikileaks” and rebellions of expired devils, but are we setting a desired precedent to check the reigning oppressors? This is the tradition that gave Obasanjo, Architect of the Miseries of Modern Nigeria, a platform to become a political hero having blown up an opportunity to become one when he was relevant.

Let’s build a society where a reigning devil will be sure that he’ll never, even if s/he attempts to polarize the people, be welcome anytime s/he’s no longer relevant in the establishment. We all know that Nigeria is being looted, every day, every minute, but we’re wingless canaries, singing a familiar tune, transfixed . Even Satan will be venerated as a misunderstood angel if he has a chance to TALK to these Nigerians in a “the message, not the messenger!” advocacy. May God save us from us.

By Gimba Kakanda
@gimbakakanda on Twitter

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