The above topic is a historical allusion to the secondary school history classes of the olden days: The Scramble for and Partition of Africa. One remembers the Berlin Conference of 1884 – 85 in which Europe, with a lacerating knife of a pencil on a map of Africa, shared the territories of the continent among themselves and in a blind plunder invaded the territories, this time not to seek slaves but to extract, exploit and purloin the natural resources of the sleeping giant. In a depredatory calculation that history will never forget, Africa was fought over, greedily, by its politico-economic rapists whose conscience could not totally excuse itself from the rapacity that characterised the era.
This roguish nature of history is once again playing out, this time not in the entire continent but in its most populous unit, Nigeria. This time, it is not a depredation by foreigners but by the leaders of the same people who claim to be fellow countrymen and women. From politics to economy, finance to security, health to education, the scramble goes on. Every actor and gladiator seems on rampage. This is in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, which ordinarily should slow the agitations down. As we all know, we are not only a resilient people but unique in all ways.
Nigerians do not seem to actually be bothered by the things happening around them as they wake up to one day, one trouble; every new day with its own breaking news of how much has just been stolen by a new villain recently uncovered. First is the recent godfather/godson disputations in Benin with a revelation of how much the godfather stole while in office and despite his much avowed respectability as a strict comrade of the revolutionary left whose ubiquitous khaki is a testimony of Spartan discipline and hatred for material wealth, a conspiracy of opulence revealed in a ranch-like residence and stunning sprawl alleged to belong to the former chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is rather confounding. The scramble got to its crescendo as plots and counter-plots were hatched by the godfather preferring direct primary to the godson’s preference of indirect primary and the ultimate ouster of the godson from the “progressives” fold.
This was followed by the removal of the godfather from his vantage position of chairmanship of the progressive party. The speed with which angels and devils switch places in the Nigerian political heaven and hell makes one doubt if there is any permanent residence in either of the two places as far as Nigerian politicians are concerned. Before we could say Jack Robinson, the former devil that the godfather said we should avoid like leprosy in 2015 was sanctified and admitted to the fold of the “angels” in 2020. He did not only secure admission but also the ticket to lead other angels in the state. And, pronto! The godson that was a saint before now became a Mephistopheles who had to move to the political hell forbidden by the progressive “saints” of Nigeria. He probably deserves all the gutter analysis associated with him by the godfather now. In all, the masses are the toys and pawns whose wisdom is not worth an oyster in the reckoning of the energetic godfather. Whereas it was his own instruction in the days of reasoning that no room should be left for godfather politics in Edo State.
In Ondo State, there is a repeat of history in which the governor and his deputy always end up consumed by internal wrangling. Since the days of the Pa Adekunle Ajasin and Dr. Akin Omoboriowo political inferno, which consumed the state in both human and material casualties in 1983, Ondo State politics has always been highly volatile and the recent developments between the governor and his deputy seem to be another historical proof of stubbornness that some people prejudicially ascribe to people from the state.
The scramble continues but this time in the Federal Capital Territory from where we are being treated to another lexical invention and threatening aphorism: If you Malami me, I will Magu you, which literally means “if you expose my secrets, I will not hide your rot.” In the past few days, the anti-corruption campaign of the country has witnessed massive allegations of corrupt practices levied by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, against the anti-corruption czar, Mr. Ibrahim Magu. From this, the public has been regaled with mouth-gaping sums that the anti-corruption chief has been alleged to have diverted to private accounts and stupendous splendour in which he carried out the campaign against corruption.
The village bard revealed that Mr. Magu got this sleazy opulence from re-looted loot, which his agency’s tough approach to corruption had recovered. While Mr. Magu denies all the allegations, the probe committee set up by Mr. President is already looking into the case. However, with the reflex of a good boxer, we saw counter-punches from some members of the civil society who are sympathetic to Mr. Magu and who immediately rose to the occasion. They have made damning allegations against the Attorney-General of the Federation and painted him as a corrupt public official who bought a mansion as a wedding gift for his son and has amassed wealth beyond his wildest dreams. The AGF has denied this but everything looks like the scramble for Nigeria; it is a case of fowls consuming the intestines of one another.
More recent conflagration from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is a dent on public appraisal of government officials in Nigeria. Allegations of massive stealing, occultism and sexual abuse levelled by the former acting managing director, Ms. Joi Nunieh, against Minister for Niger Delta Affairs Godswill Akpabio are too mind-boggling to afford a patriotic Nigerian sufficient calmness of mind to enjoy a beautiful night’s sleep. And one wonders if there is so much money like this in this country in the midst of hunger and deprivation that befall the masses on a daily basis! The exchange between the principal actors sounds like Fela’s hit song:
You be thief
I no be thief
You dey steal
I no dey steal
You dey rob
I no dey rob
You be robber
I no be robber
You be armu robber
I no be armu robber
Argument, argument, argu…
And the scramble continues.
The minister sacked Nunieh. Her canary songs of corruption in NDDC have earned her a directive for an arrest with her house besieged by scores of gun-wielding police officers who, in a commando style, remind one of the Navy Seals feat of the defeat of Osama Bin Laden. Suddenly, Governor Wike, like the Big Boss in olden days Chinese films, appeared and rescued Ms. Nunieh from the police rampage. And on Monday, July 20, 2020, the acting managing director of the NDDC, Keme Pondei, collapsed during the House committee panel probing the affairs of the commission.
‘Wicked’ members of the public are already saying it was a feigned illness. I wonder when we are going to be considerate with our public officials, as people do not seem to believe them when they faint in court or are brought before a judge in ambulances or on stretchers to give account of their stewardship. One wonders if the questions by the honourables were laced with lethal poisons that could make a grown-up man slump inside the comfort of the air-conditioned chambers. Anyway, a searchlight suddenly beamed into dark recesses where proceeds of fraud are kept can benumb any suspected conscience.
But, Nigeria itself is culpable. Haba! The country has been too much of a lustful prostitute that flirts with any passer-by in public office to rape and abuse. Everyone scrambles for whatever loot comes his way and one wonders if there is anyone in public office that is not affected by this malaise.
Back home in Lagos, a short while ago, the Lagos State House of Assembly displayed its own card of indiscretion when allegations were made against the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, of pilfering from the public coffers. The famous online Sahara Reporters, whose weighty allegations cannot be waved aside, was the first to paint the Speaker with a tar brush of corruption. Soon we heard that some honourable members were instrumental to the exposure of the dirt in the legislative chambers.
The ruling party has not taken kindly to this exposure as the members in parliament promptly passed a vote of confidence on Mr. Speaker, as if the parliament is now a crime investigation body. It does not seem that any anti-corruption agency of the federal government was interested in this case as the amounts involved, though heavy in the ears of Lagosians, were too small compared probably to what plays out in ‘wealthier’ cases like the NDDC and others.
Again, on point of security, while the country continues to be insecure and the call for the sack of the service chiefs by all rages on, the Presidency remains adamant on their retention, suggesting that, without these personalities, the country would collapse. Lest I forget, what do you make of the controversy surrounding the suspension of the Nigeria Social Investment Trust Fund management, and the accompanying accusations and counter-accusations? I can continue to replicate the instances all over the sectors of the country but for space constraints.
The truth is that the scramble will heighten as we inch towards 2023, the terminal date of the current administration, and the need to acquire as much as possible by the operators, both for future sustenance and as tool to wrest power. The mentality in public office is that of someone suddenly favoured by the benevolent spirits of the ancestors. Thanksgiving made in churches and mosques are not typical of someone who really wants to serve but rather to be served.
The public till is like the soup jar placed unguarded at the public square. Whoever is able to reach it should take more than the proverbial touch with the fingertips. Drink so much until you fall into stupor. After all, the members in parliament who will question you were once accused to be more interested in personal benefits.
The scramble continues…