Lately, Switzerland took its normally disgraceful international reputation to an irritating level with its self-gloating claim to have completed total refund of whatever the late Nigerian Head of State, General Sani Abacha, might have laundered in Switzerland. It is shameful that a nation (Switzerland that is), which ordinarily should be sanctioned within financial services throughout the world, parades itself in Nigeria as assisting in the anti-corruption war.
There is no doubt that in that delusion Switzerland would expect to be appreciated by Nigerians, especially the media. That should never be by serious media in view of the underlying unenviable factors. If Switzerland did not assist in repatriating looted funds, what option did the country have? Switzerland’s reputation as a sanctuary for missing funds is endorsed by the disturbing silence of powerful nations like the United States, Britain, France, Germany and even Russia all looking the other way.
It is curious that, till now, Switzerland has never been sanctioned at relevant international fora, otherwise why do the western nations and Russia condemn or posture to condemn corruption around the world, specifically, the developing world, and yet fail to sanction the world’s sole sanctuary for looted funds from all over the world? That at best is double standard and, at the worst, downright hypocrisy. Could any developing country operate financial crime-prone regulations like Switzerland’s without incurring the wrath of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and even the United Nations?
Coming back to Switzerland’s highly-deplorable role in financial crime in Nigeria, the fact remains that General Sani Abacha died in 1998 – some 20 years ago – and should not be the whipping boy of publicity-seeking Switzerland. Is Switzerland doing Nigeria any favour as it (Switzerland) postures? Switzerland should be ashamed and Swiss nationals all over the world should feel disgraced by their country’s financial crime reputation. What is so superb about Switzerland that all other nations in the western world are looking on helpless?
If Switzerland was doing Nigeria any favour, why should it have taken 20 years to return Abacha’s money? In fact, it was an affront on Nigeria’s sovereignty for Switzerland to be stipulating humiliating conditions for repatriating laundered money purportedly to ensure proper utilisation.
Whose money is always laundered in Switzerland? Money owned by foreign countries, which country, therefore, is best placed to determine proper utilization of repatriated funds? The beneficiary foreign country. Was it improper utilisation of such money in different parts of the world (but particularly in developing countries) that prompted Switzerland to provide sanctuary for stolen funds in the first place?
What is more, whatever criticisms General Abacha might have attracted, Switzerland had been notorious throughout the world as a sanctuary for stolen funds from any part of the world long before General Abacha commenced his public career. If, therefore, sanctuary for money laundering had not been available in Switzerland, perhaps Abacha might not have been numbered among patrons of Swiss banks and would have had nowhere to hide the money.
By the way, what glory is Switzerland seeking in Nigeria at the expense of General Abacha and Nigeria’s sovereignty? Certainly, since the death of General Abacha, the same Swiss banks had taken money stolen by new public office holders and deposited in Switzerland. It is, therefore, not as if Switzerland has purged itself of the notoriety of baiting financial criminals in Nigeria and other parts of the world. How many are such Nigerians in public and private sectors (specifically bank executives)? In short, foreign sanctuaries for stolen funds still constitute economic saboteurs to Nigeria.
With recent revelations of looted billions of dollars from public funds, certainly the huge amount is lying in safe deposits of some banks in Switzerland whose policy is to pretend repatriation of negligible amount while replenishing their sanctuary with fresh and bigger stolen funds. Certainly, neither was General Abacha the only one in his administration who deposited funds in Swiss banks nor has Switzerland scrapped its bait of sanctuary for stolen funds from all over the world.
On these matters, there should be advice if not rebuke for Nigerian media, to be wary of providing cheap and undeserved publicity for foreign exploiters of our economy. Those who provide sanctuary for Nigeria’s stolen funds should not be, even if inadvertently, helped to launder their image as Nigeria’s benefactors in the repatriation of looted funds.
Afenifere, cat or mouse?
Obafemi Awolowo, one of Nigeria’s first set of nationalists, once said that if invited or requested by a Nigerian Head of State, such gesture should be honoured, no matter even irreconcilable differences. Awolowo was establishing a rationale for his meeting with the then President Shehu Shagari, against the stand of his (Awolowo’s) inexperienced young and hawkish supporters.
Awolowo’s admonition could be the only seeming justification for the dignity conferred on former President Olusegun Obasanjo by Egbe Afenifere hierarchy who granted his request for meeting those he (Obasanjo) had always lumped together as some sort of political anathema. Otherwise, there could be no basis for the two sides to collaborate, especially in view of media speculations that, in requesting for the meeting, Obasanjo intended to enlist the support of Afenifere for his 2019 anti-Muhammadu Buhari campaign be highlighted. Afenifere has slumped into a mere cultural group without the capability to deliver South-West votes as a bloc. Second, Afenifere is not the political voice of South-Westerners. While not in any way perfect, South- Westerners had always been too independent-minded for home delivery, unless for a cause well-merited. Hence, for the 1999 presidential election, South-Westerners ensured the defeat of candidate Olusegun Obasanjo in his local government ward.
There was also the gamble of Afenifere in delusionally assuming the voice of South-West politics for the
2015 presidential election in which the organisation called on South-West electors to vote for ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, who, the group claimed, would restructure Nigeria. Afenifere colossally failed in that venture and became derelict, as South-West voters opted for candidate Muhammadu Buhari.
On top of that, for current desired collaboration, it would be totally wrong of Afenifere to allow Obasanjo to drag South-Westerners into his anti-North politics. The man opposes Buhari and derides former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar. In any case, if Afenifere needs to be reminded, when did Obasanjo reincarnate into a Yoruba man? According to late Abraham Adesanya, the effective Afenifere leader, when the organisation approached Obasanjo as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and confronted him with political demands, Obasanjo’s contemptuous response was that he was not a Yoruba president. But then, for the 2003 elections in which he sought a second term, Obasanjo lobbied Alliance for Democracy and his erstwhile vomit, the same Afenifere, both responded not only ensuring support for Obasanjo but also by not fielding a presidential candidate.
In fact, it became impossible for Alliance for Democracy to field a candidate following the circumstantial murder of leading AD aspirant Chief Bola Ige. Worse still, what was the reward for AD and Afenifere for supporting Obasanjo in the 2003 presidential election? Obasanjo rigged out all AD state governors except Bola Tinubu of Lagos State. Of course, AD was seriously warned in advance against collaborating with Obasanjo at any stage of his tenure. The party’s massive defeat in the 2003 elections at the behest of Obasanjo was well-deserved.
It is, by the way, within Obasanjo’s right to be anti-Buhari, even anti-North. But Afenifere, learning from past experiences, should allow Obasanjo to do his fighting alone.
Afenifere’s communiqué after meeting with Obasanjo was completely silent on Obasanjo’s mission. The implication was very consoling.
In this strange encounter between Afenifere and Obasanjo, one is the cat and the other the mouse. Time will prove the distinction.