One of the lowest points of the Jonathan presidency was his boast to the international community that the measure of Nigeria’s well-being under his shepherding was to be seen in the ability of the emergency billionaires he created to overcrowd any foreign airport with private jets. He had hit Nairobi with a harem of such emergency billionaires to intimidate our Kenyan kinsmen with the number of Nigerian private jets on display.
We do not need to get into the messy details of how Nigeria creates billionaires. I believe Sanusi Lamido Sanusi recently captured it in very evocative terms. Once you are in the good graces of the Nigerian presidency, you sit down in your house, make phone calls, and collect billions in illicit rent. Or you send text messages to the CBN Governor and collect billions in rent. In certain cases, where bullion vans are not available, you are even welcome to send wheel barrows and keke Napep to the Central Bank, NNPC, NPA or other reservoirs of presidential slush funds to cart away billions in raw cash.
That is the straightforward and uncomplicated way in which we create billionaires in Nigeria. This system was long in place before Goodluck Jonathan but he took it to stratospheric heights. He is the first to also theorize it on an international platform as a macroeconomic indicator of national well-being. Whatever may be the warts of the Buhari administration – and the warts are overwhelming and mounting by the day – the emergency billionaires have been the hardest by the mopping up of slush funds from the system and the attendant process of degoatification embarked upon. Suddenly, emergency Lekki residents are moving back to Surulere; mansions are up for sale in Maitama.
The poster figures of this degoatification have been Kola Aluko, Jide Omokore, Emeka Offor, Tompolo, and Asari Dokubo. These guys now know what it means to come from nowhere to become emergency billionaires via corruption enabled by the presidency only to become ex-billionaires. I am particularly interested in the cases of Emeka Offor and Jide Omokore. Sahara Reporters has regaled us for months on end with exposes over these two men’s reversal of fortunes. Because they are both criminal beneficiaries of Nigerian corruption, there is a human interest dimension to their situation that should ordinarily evoke empathy but I am not sorry for these guys.
That human interest dimension lies in the reaction of their respective kinsmen in Igbo land and Okun land to their plight. Folks from Emeka Offor’s hometown have been rejoicing in his misfortune. They come openly to Sahara Reporters to rejoice. As the story usually goes in Nigeria, it is said that when he was “swimming in wealth”, he did not “use his wealth to know his people”. Jide Omokore’s case is similar. He is from my home town, Isanlu, in Kogi state. His kinsmen all over Okun land have also been rejoicing because “he helped nobody with his wealth.”
The reaction in Igbo land and Okun land to the degoatification of these two former billionaires goes to the heart of the work we need to do beyond degoatification. Here are two shady and criminal profiteers of rent distribution by Nigeria’s criminal presidency and what their people are really lamenting is not the fact that they are criminals. They are merely guilty of “not knowing their people” with the proceeds of crime and corruption. Had these two ex-billionaires “known their people” with their wealth, odds are there would be thousands all over Igbo land and Okun land screaming “LIVE our son alone”.
We have an urgent task to work on the value system in which degoatification is happening. I have zeroed in on Emeka Offor and Jide Omokore as examples of a pervasive national sickness that does not spare any ethnicity, faith, or political party. If you like, you are welcome to traffic in the usual Nigerian perfidy of trying to absolve one ethnicity, one faith, or one political party. If you prefer to play the ostrich rather than confront a gangrene which faces every ethnic nationality in Nigeria, that is your funeral.
As for me, I have a personal stake in stamping out this malaise of frowning on crime in Okun land only because the criminal “did not know his people” with the proceeds of crime. I do not want young Okun people to grow up with such a warped moral compass. I do not want them to believe that a criminal like Jide Omokore would have been a hero only if he had “known his people” with his wealth. There is a generation of impressionable Okun youth out there. We owe them an alternative model.
There is more to what lies after degoatification. On a broad national basis, we are so completely focused on individuals and where their identity falls in relation to degoatification that nobody remembers that there is an institutional battle to be fought in order for degoatification to take its course as a straightforward matter of law and institutions of state irrespective of who is in office.
Because we are more interested in having an equal number of Christians and Muslims; an equal number of Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo; and an equal number of APC and PDP criminals on the degoatification slammer for the moment, nobody is focusing on the long-term consequences of the lack of investment in institutional frameworks and ethos.
Had we started and focused on the battle for institutionalization, it would have been impossible for President Buhari to do what he is now doing: degoatifying Otuoke and environs with his left hand, regoatifying Daura and environs with his right hand. As billions vanish from the bank accounts of Asari Dokubo, Tompolo, Offor, Omokore, FFK, and assorted Jonathan billionaires, Abba Kyari and his fellow cabalists from the Daura axis have been making a killing and raking in their own billions. No amount of investigative journalism and exposes by Sahara Reporters on the criminal enterprises of the cabalists around him has cut any ice with President Buhari. There are no institutional frameworks to prevent him from creating his own goats.
What this translates to is that the next non-northern and non-Muslim President of Nigeria will have to embark on his own massive process of degoatifying Abba Kyari, Mamman Daura, Dambazau, Buratai, and co. with the resultant colouration of an ethno-religious witch hunt.
Instead of these repeated cycles of degoatification along these lines, instead of the constant if you Otuoke my billionaires, I will Daura your billionaires, methinks it’s time for us to put our heads together nationally to struggle for institutional enhancements that would make it difficult for a sitting president to either create his own goats or pretend that he does not know that he is surrounded by goats. Degoatification is not as important as what comes after it.