Forgetting Abdulmumin Jibrin?

I was part of a group that met the lone fighter on October 3. It was a mission arranged by a social media community to establish the fact of his conflict with colleagues at the House of Representatives, which has resulted in his suspension for 180 days. The meeting was a re-introduction to revelations the lawmaker has already made, and an opportunity for us to ask him questions surrounding his new-found activism, mostly upsetting. It was a convergence of people who, ordinarily, wouldn’t have been under one roof because of wildly differing political inclinations.

Jibrin began with a familiar description of the Nigerian lower legislative chamber, attributing the disdain for lawmakers to their double-standards. He said that such disdain was inevitable since they are wont to grilling government officials in the day and accepting bribes from the same characters at night. This came at the time a video of Hon. Herman Hembe, a lawmaker called out for his corruption on the floor of the national assembly, reappeared and going viral. As the Chairman of House Committee on Capital Markets, the lawmaker was confronted by his victim, Ms. Arunma Oteh, of how he swindled her agency, Securities and Exchange Commission. It was a humiliating clip, and horrifying that the same character got re-elected and even had the audacity to rebel against corruption allegations against the House.

Said Jibrin, “What happened at the House of Reps wasn’t padding. What happened was a budget fraud.” And then came a clarification, that the National Assembly indeed has the Power of Appropriation, and that what he meant by his accusations of frauds by his colleagues was that that power was abused. He disclosed that projects were inserted in the budget by a clique led by the Speaker, with neither consultation nor feasibility studies. The clique created projects and gave their own cost estimates suo moto. How Legislators got to fix the costs of projects in the national budget over dinner or lunch really beats me. That is what they did. As to why his colleagues at the House of Representatives are unwilling to join his force against budget fraud, Jibrin answered that it’s because the Speaker has sworn to protect their allowances. And that, allowances, was my high-point of the meeting, the horrifying revelation that each member of the House receives N10 million monthly. I won’t even bother about the mathematics of this unfair use of public funds.

Though Jibrin was subjected to tough questions by participants, I thought it was a miscalculation for us to throw out the bathwater with the baby. My position is made even easier with his stance he’s not without blame and that the call for probity shouldn’t be centred around him. And true, somebody telling you his colleagues are abusing public trust and misusing resources of the nation isn’t asking you to make him a hero, he’s telling you to save your nation from those colleagues—and he’s not exonerated from the mess. I think that whether we like Abdulmumin Jibrin or not is immaterial. Our concern should be the veracity of his revelations and how to forestall recurrence of a gang of bandits creating projects for the nation and deciding their costs over a meal.

He only alerted the nation to a systemic flaw in an institution and how we are being serially scammed and taken for granted. It’s an insider’s revelation. Expected from a thinking nation is an alliance to facilitate conviction of all responsible, even him too, if found guilty. I don’t see how this is difficult to understand, why we have to be a drama queen over an unambiguous issue. Jibrin is a whistleblower. A “whistleblower” is only an insider who has information the people don’t. It doesn’t mean innocent participant. The word for that is “saint”, and saint is not a synonym of whistleblower.

To me, the worst twist since the House of Representatives corruption scandal began was APC’s letter to the whistleblowing lawmaker, asking him to stop revealing that abuse of public trust. That was evidence of one thing, that the governing party sees corruption as misuse of public funds or power by anyone other than those that represent its interests. Perhaps this is why the same APC-led government trying former government officials – and recording “successes” on the pages of newspapers – condones corruption by its people at CBN, FIRS and now the House of Reps.

Our politicians may have shown the public they are different, but the truth is they are all united in protection of their corrupt practices and roles in permitting them. Nothing was done about Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s revelations of corrupt practices in the Jonathan-led government, just the way nothing is being done about Jibrin’s now. Whether Jibrin too is guilty is a distraction. My interest is whether his revelations are true, and that if true the transgressors be punished. Of corollary interest to me is why these allegations are being “forgotten” by a change-advocating government and political party. But it is secondary to the veracity of Abdulmumin Jibrin’s claims and action of same. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda on Twitter

Dasukigate: Beyond the Last Abuja Yam Festival

 As the hunt for those who took part in the festival of thievery organized by President Goodluck Jonathan between 2011 and 2015 continues, what haunts the mind of many observers is the perception that everybody who was loyal to the past government and had either offered a service or asked to “perform” one – even if a mere expression of moral solidarity with the government – benefitted from its gifts of Yam sent through the embattled former National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki. Statistically, that’s a scary number!

Sadly, some of the people who participated in that brazen sharing of our N1 trillion security vote and other extra-budgetary “allocations” proposed for our country’scounterterrorism have ended their allegiance to the GEJ-led administration a few days to, and after, the presidential election. They’ve built a new nest in the new ruling party.

This week, I saw a list of firms that had dealings with the Office of the National Security Adviser during the infamous festival, and it’s easy to tell that, if fairly investigated, the scandal may consume a sizable population of our political elite across all the political parties in the country, including the APC.

I know this son of a National Security Adviser who’s notorious in Abuja for drag racing in an exotic Italian sports car that even his father couldn’t have afforded if Nigeria were an institutionally strong place. A boy much younger than me could only afford that if, one, he experienced the “Mark Zuckerberg luck factor” or he’s a sports personality who’s secured endorsement deals with Automobili Lamborghini. No, he’s not Dasuki’s son. This is why we must shift the date backward to see the evils of all the wolves who defected to the APC when the music of that Abuja Yam Festival stopped. 

The reason for the financial recklessness isn’t because GEJ was weak; it was because our institutions are weak, because it would’ve been impossible for even the president to have such amount of money withdrawn for dubious purposes with the complicity of the Minister of Finance and the CBN Governor, if our institutions were strong and designed to resist frauds and graft.

 Buhari, like GEJ, is just a personality who, like all of us reading this, will only exist on the pages of newspapers 100 years from now. He’s not an institution, not immortal, and neither is his leadership meant to be forever. He’s a man who also thrives on personal reasons, emotions and sentiments. He’s not infallible, that is. 

My point is, our advocacy for a new Nigeria shouldn’t be a call for a nation built on a personality cult. For Nigeria to be rescued, what’s needed is civic vigilance of both patriotic individuals and the Civil Society Organizations to “dictate” to the President what’s required and desired for a viable nation. These are strong institutions.  

If our institutions were strong, President Buhari himself wouldn’t have considered it wise to frown at the judgment of the judiciary in the cases of Dasuki and Kanu. It’s not a personality cult that builds a sane nation, it’s the wisdom of its leaders to give up their illegitimate rights and selfish interests for all institutions to uphold the values on which they are built. 

Aside from our dysfunctional institutions, the other culprit in the ruin of this nation is compliant society. Our people, instead of frowning at obvious acts of corruption, celebrate the existence of the evidently corrupt. And those who have escaped media trial are praised by their community as heroes of unjust and bigoted system. 

The last time I was in Minna, a relative asked, “You should be thinking of building your own place.” And even though she was only being candidly concerned, it’s not her ignorance of my ability that made her say so. It was her endorsement of the path of dishonour on which many before me had made fortunes. We both knew one “successful” neighbour who, occupying the middle-management cadre in the federal civil service, have acquired houses in Utako, Gwarinpa, and Katampe, alongside the four in Minna. He was a role model in this material society. He won’t be judged, because it’s already established that the pathway to financial glory is presentation of a fat proposal on the desk of a compliant principal or friend. I won’t be shocked to see that he’s a director on the board of one of the firms publicized as recipients of the presidential Yam delivered by Dasuki. 

All this is so because it’s already a tradition for the heads of a ministry, department or agency to ally and rush to Corporate Affairs Commission to register a company and bid for the very contracts advertised by their office. At the end, they invite the nosy juniors who are likely raise brows about the dubious procedures, for shares of the blood money. Because “gofment money na our money; if you no steal am, another pesin go steal. If you no gree take am, another pesin go take am!” May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda on Twitter