Tuesday, February 16, 2016

SO, IS EVERY CHIEF A THIEF? (1) and (2) By Simon Imobo-Tswam

“If you steal, do not steal too much at a time: you may be arrested. Steal little by little.” – Mobutu Sese Seko to Ministers/party Delegates, 1971.
I begin this piece with a question: Is every chief a thief? I ask this because in the biggest bazaar of corruption in our history, of which Dasuki-gate is but a rehearsal, every one of note being mentioned in negative light is a chief.
If you do not understand what I am saying, just look at the roll-call: Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Chief Olisa Metuh, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, Chief Olu Falae, Chief Jim Nwobodo, Chief Bode George, Chief Tony Anenih, Chief Rasseed Ladoja, Chief Musliu Obanikoro, Chief Peter Odili, Chief Amadu Ali etc.
And there is mention of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as well as Dr. Iyorchia Ayu. They may not be titled chiefs, but to the extent that are a Ph.D is an academic chief, we can talk of the duo as Chief Okonjo-Iweala and Chief Ayu. And if we factor in the fact that Okonjo-Iweala was the Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister of the Economy (a Prime Minister, sort of), we can up-grade her to a High Chief. Ditto for Ayu. As former Senate President and Minister many times over, he too is a High Chief. And for those who are obsessed with gender equity, they are not disappointed: for besides Chief Okonjo-Iweala, there is Chief Diezani Alison-Madueke and Chief Stella Oduah.
I do not know if an “Alhaji” can also be considered a chief of sorts since, but if yes, then, we have them aplenty. Many Alhajis feature in this notorious bazaar. There is Alh. Tanko Yakassai. He forgot that he collected money from Dasuki, and then he remembered it. It is either forgetfulness or amnesia. One is a bad habit; the other is a sickness. There is also Alh. Mohammed Haliru. An ex-Customs boss, he appears wedded to the custom of collecting customs! There is Alh. Adamu Muazu. And, yes, there is Alh. Attahiru Bafarawa, the prayer-warrior, prayer-consultant and prayer-specialist all combined into one!
However, even if an Alhaji is not ordinarily qualified to be a chief, to the degree that an Alhaji is a chieftain of a party, in this case the PDP, he is a chief. Matter-of-factly, both chief and chieftain are in the same neighbourhood. After all, a chief can be the short form of chieftain. And so we have these Alhaji-Chiefs: Chief Bashir Yuguda. Chief Mahmud Shinkafi. Chief Shuaibu Salisu. Chief Bello Sarkin Yaki etc.
And in running the bazaar, the chiefs were very fair, very equitable and very balanced: no zone was marginalized. In the South-South, Chief Odili led the locust army; with High Chief Dokpesi providing adequate cover. In the South-East, there was Chief Jim Nwobodo, with his evergreen handsomeness. (I cannot help but remember that in 1984, he grossed over 200 years as jail-term for corrupt enrichment from a military tribunal during Gen. Muhammadu Buhari first coming. Will history repeat itself?).
Well, let us move on.  In the North-Central, there was Dr. Amadu Ali. He was chaperoned by Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, From the North-East, there was Amb.Yuguda himself. And was ably supported by AbdullahiYerima. In the South-West, there was the SDP leader, Chief Olu Falae: ex-banker, ex-SGF, ex-Finance Minister, ex-Presidential candidate! (Although the Dasuki largesse was for the SDP, the party did not know about it until January 2016 after the Dasuki testimony!) The Ondo chief was serenaded by the (in)famous Lagos-Boy, Chief Bode George, Chief Obanikoro, Gov. (Chief ) Ayo Fayose among others.
Nigeria’s North-West is the biggest in terms of electoral demographics, and that is, not surprisingly, where the bulk of the bazaar funds went. Chief Muhammed Haliru made a big impression, but the prize really goes to Chief Bafarawa, who, besides allegedly collecting money from Yuguda and Muazu, grossed another N4.7 billion for prayers and “spiritual” purposes.  One just wonders: If Bafarawa could take almost N5billion from President Jonathan for prayers, how much did he pay for his two election-victories in 1999 and 2003? And, by the way, since Witches and Wizards also endorsed President Jonathan, and he was paying for endorsements (Listen to Falae), was it Bafarawa’s schedule to pay the National Association of Nigerian Witches and Wizards?
And the professions were fairly represented too. The Imams, the Bishops, the Ogboni Fraternity, Witches,Marabouts, even the media, a usually neglected zone, was represented by the Chairman/Editor-in-Chief of THISDAY newspapers, Chief Nduka Obaigbena.
And just when I was thinking that chiefs and the pejorative connotation of thieves is a civilian thing, the military top-brass made a powerful, even if shameful, advent. There is Col. Sambo Dasuki himself. With a whole Gate (Dasuki-Gate) forever named after him, he stands kampe as the Grand Father Christmas. As a scion of the Sultanate, Northern Nigeria’s paramount traditional stool and even an heir, Dasuki is a chief in his own right.  Then, there is the former Chief of Air Staff, AVM Adeola Amosu. If the chief of Air staff is not a chief, I do not know who again is a chief. But that is not all: a chief must have followers. And so there is AVM JB Adigun, Chief of Accounts and Budget, NAF. There is also another chief: the former Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika. And there is the whole former Chief of Air Staff and former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh. Did you see that? A Chief of Air Staff and Chief of Defence Staff who is a Chief Air Marshall! That is a Chief in three places! So he is not just a chief or a high chief – Alex Badeh is a Triple High Chief! And if you see him, he looks like a chief: big, full, large…overflowing in his uniform.
And because this is a democracy, the chiefs were democratic in running the bazaar. This is why we are reading and hearing of academics, ambassadors, statesmen, doctors, publishers, bureaucrats, technocrats, ex-servicemen, service men etc. In other words, we have academic chiefs, bureaucratic chiefs, technocratic chiefs, political chiefs, military chiefs who ministered as chiefs, high-priests and chief-priests in Dasuki’s temple of trans-national corruption.
But I am worried. We have chiefs all over the place; some of them looking respectable and doing respectable things i.e. as far as eyes can see. So it cannot be true that every chief is a thief. I do not want to believe that. Nonetheless, the worry lingers. Today, when Chief A appears on TV, someone says: “That chief is a thief.” And when another chief is shown on another channel, again, someone exclaims: “And that chief too: he is a thief.”
So how can we know which chief is not a thief or associated with thieving? How can we tell that this clean chief today is not a potential thief or that his name will not be in tomorrow’s newspaper? Is it until Dasuki sings or stops singing? Is it until the probe is over? Can we tell the character of a chief by his dressing or smile or carriage or voice? It is confusing. When I asked this in a café, a Peace Ambassador told me that: “Every chief is not a thief, but every chief is corrupt.”
More confusion. But ex-President Jonathan said: “Stealing is not corruption.” So it means these chiefs in issue were not stealing. But if they were not stealing, they are not thieves. So why are they in trouble now? He added that they were looting! I try to get the drift. A looter is not a thief – he is a looter. But what is looting? It is to raid. It is like a Pandora Box i.e. if you consider the synonyms. And these are its synonyms: despoil, vandalize, wreck, shatter, demolish, damage, knock down, pull down, flatten, ruin, desecrate, destroy….  
So, well, yes: a looter is not exactly a thief: he is a senior or super-thief, a mega-thief. He is a damager, a destroyer, a vandal…, in fact, a weapon of mass destruction. This is because when one man loots N15billion, N30billion or even N5billion, it means roads go undone, hospitals become mere consulting rooms, hoodlums take over the streets, teachers are not paid, grasses take over schools, projects are abandoned half-way….
I insist that it is worrisome. How and Why? Let me explain. Every chief is a community leader. Many people look up to him: his clan, his friends, his supporters, his associates, his business partners, and even his community of chiefs: for there are chiefs and there are chiefs. And we can add to the list even his detractors who might seek to dethrone him.
On a wider level, both his nation and generation look up to him too. This is why his generation may confer a knighthood on him and his nation too may bestow this award or that National Honour on him: OON, CON, CFR, GCON ….
And talking about National Honours and Generals AVMs, as well as military chiefs, President Muhammadu Buhari comes to my mind. As a double Commander-in-Chief, he is a double chief. And being a two-star general, that makes him a double chief. If we combine double and double, Buhari emerges as a Quatro chief! He is also general: that makes him a chief. But this Chief is a very powerful argument that not every chief is a thief. And this is why in 1984, he threw many of these knighted, but thieving chiefs into Kirikiri prisons, with their National Honours and gleaming medals: OON, CON, OFR, CFR, GCON….Today, history seems to be repeating itself.

By Simon Imobo-Tswam
“If you steal, do not steal too much at a time: you may be arrested. Steal little by little.”
– Mobutu Sese Seko to Ministers/Party Delegates, 1971.
I must apologize for taking so long to write this second part. I took time to go and launch my book: IMPRESSIONS & EXPRESSIONS. That was last Saturday, 13th February. Well, I ended the Part 1 of this piece by saying Buhari is not a friend of chiefs, and the first time he was here as C-in-C, he gave the chiefs long jail-terms; and, funny enough, they carried their National Honours and Medals along! Today, we go on.
And so history seems to be repeating itself. It is as if anytime the chiefs mess things up with their unbridled thieving, or every time our nation-wide community chiefs gorge themselves on our commonwealth to the point of suicide, Providence sends the ascetic general to come do some house-cleaning. And because Buhari is also a chief, but one of a different kind, any time the chiefs see him, they scamper. As in 1984 when the Umaru Dikkos, the Joseph Wayas, the Uba Ahmeds and the Adisa Akinloyes ran away, today too the Mainas, the Adokes, the Kukus, the Alison-Maduekes, and the Sambos…have taken off. But where Buhari became burdened with Umaru-cargo then because of his reliance on non-state actors, today he is tempered by the demands constitutional correctness: he is, therefore, banking on Interpol, an international actor.  
In 1984, he came with gun-powder; this time, he has come with Broom-power. While gun-powder maybe explosive, fast and furious, broom-power is slow, but steady and thorough.
It is now sweeping the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA). From there, it is moving gradually, but steadily to the ministries, beginning with Defence. It will proceed thence to ATM machines like the NNPC, Petty-Cash points like SURE-P and cash-cows like Customs, NPA, FIRS etc. Already, 26 DGs of Federal agencies, commissions and departments, some of them chiefs in their own rights, have been shoved aside.  Put another way, since some of these Dasuki-gate chiefs are versatile and rapaciously avaricious, it is very possible that many of them will also have mention in SURE-P-gate, NNPC-gate, NNDC-gate, Customs-gate, Immigration-gate, FIRS-gate, Maina/Pension-gate ….
Everywhere one turns now, there is a gate of some kind or a potential gate waiting to open and assault our already over-tortured imagination with its ugly skeletons. And mind you, these are not the type of gates that keep criminals out; these are the types of gates constructed by thieves, sorry, chiefs, who love themselves immeasurably far above their neighbours, their oaths of office, their country, their generation and their God!
This means there are many more chiefs waiting to be unveiled or unmasked, to be exposed for whom they really are. We may then discover that they may be knights, but there is no “K” in their “knights.” Meaning: They are people of the night: I am not saying they are thieves, although like thieves, the chiefs like operating in the night.
In the end, only the courts can authoritatively say whether or not a chief is also a thief. You can call that Combined Honours! But these are chiefs, so even when they are convicted, we cannot call them common thieves or petty criminals. We must, therefore, show some respect by calling them: executive thieves, posh criminals, stylish shysters, expensive crooks, classy hypocrites….
And likewise, the “hoods” in their knighthoods may be closer to the “hood” in hoodlums. This makes them modern-day Robinhoods! (And by the way, Robinhood, the legendary English criminal, was not convicted too! In other words, many of these our chiefs in resplendent attires and bombastic dictions may not be real Knights – despite their GCON, GCFR, OON, CON, CFR… – , but people of the night who are closer to hoodlums than knighthoods.
The worry is that they are so everywhere.  My landlord is a chief! The chairman of the Security Committee in our estate is a chief! The school my daughter attends is owned by a chief! And the school is located near a massive estate said to be the property of a chief! There is a filling station adjoining it: it as owned by a chief! Everywhere I turn, I am assaulted by the sight of a chief! And crime statistics are on the rise. So is there any connection between chiefs and thieves?
Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu, while he lived, used to say the only thing distinguishing a Chief from a Thief is the C. Does this mean the “C” in “chief,” most times, stands for “Criminal?” In Tiv language, the “T” in “Thief” can mean “Tchough Kwagh!” Meaning: The Thief who is no ordinary criminal, but a con-artist!
Although every financial scandal under the Jonathan government staggers the imagination, given that they always run into billions, even trillions, the Dasuki-gate, with its emerging details, is especially numbing. Dasuki allegedly collected money in the name of Boko Haram, and then commenced pumping it, wholesale and full-scale, into President Goodluck Jonathan’s Re-election “Logistics.” If his office were not clearly advertised as that of the NSA, one might think he was PDP’s Director of Contacts-cum-Mobilization-cum-Logistics. And after Contacting and Mobilizing PDP chieftains, whatever “Change” that was left therefrom, Dasuki reportedly committed same into the building his personal estates and hotels in commanding locations across the country. And it seems whatever “Change” that remained of the “Change,” he went shopping with it in Dubai or any place that caught his fancy!
So as the APC shouted itself hoarse with its “Change mantra,” Dasuki, sitting pretty on $2.1billion, knew better! CHANGE may be an English word, but it had different meanings to John Oyegun and Dasuki. And so, it had to the array of chiefs in the Dasuki army: Dokpesi, Kuku, Amosu, Badeh, Obaigbena, Yuguda, Falae, Obanikoro, Muazu, Tompolo, Segun Osoba, Ayu, Metuh, Yarkin Bello, Bode George, Odili, Tom Ikimi, Nwobodo, Yerima  and, wait for it, Bafarawa & sons Ltd. You can also add: Haliru Mohammed & Sons etc, etc, etc, etc…! It is a long list indeed, and it is growing.
Bafarawa may not be a lion, but when it came to the Dasuki-Bazaar, he allegedly took the lion-share! Besides netting N100million from Yuguda and another N100 from Chairman Muazu, he is said to have grossed a hefty N4.6 billion for “Prayers and Spiritual purposes.” Since the Jonathan crowd was paying for endorsements (according Falae), and the Association of Nigerian Witches and Wizards endorsed Jonathan’s re-election bid, was settling the Witches/Wizards also part of Bafarawa’s brief? And since Bafarawa knows the efficacy of prayers in electoral victories, did he also pay for his election wins in 1999 and again in 2003? If Yes, how much? And if No, why did he collect billions from Jonathan for “prayers?” Was he really Jonathan’s helper or a buccaneer, preying on Jonathan and his vacuity?
And what about Chief Olu Falae, ex-banker, ex-Federal Permanent secretary,  ex-Secretary to the Government of the Federation, ex-Finance Minister and ex-double Presidential candidate? He collected money from Jonathan, on behalf of his party, the SDP, so the party would support Jonathan. But he kept mute and the party did not know about it until Dasuki started singing like a canary! How long has Falae been collecting money to endorse aspirants/candidates…for Senate, for governor, for president? Is the SDP a party or a shop? If it is a party, is it in the public space to secure political power or to secure lucrative endorsement deals? If it is a business, a limited liability company, how long has Falae been trading with the SDP? So much honour! So much transparency! And so much for integrity! If Falae became president in 1992 or 1999, is this the baggage he would bring to the Presidential Villa?
Even Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, the World Bank technocrat, could not resist the temptation of joining the merry-go-round of corruption. She  admittedly “loaned” Dasuki over $2billion! It defies logic or the international best practices she claimed to have brought from the World Bank! Is the Finance Ministry a Bank or a Finance House to loan people money out? How come some of us did not know about these “loans?” Was this how she was “loaning” out money at the World Bank? If it is a bank, which collateral did Dasuki give Okonjo-Iweala, the bank’s CEO? How many other chiefs did she “loan” public funds to? There is not even a letter that Dasuki wrote to her, requesting for the “loan!” And the money she illegally “loaned” to Dasuki was not even appropriated in the budget! But then, when you give out a loan, there is something called “commission.” And such other sweeteners like COT, banking charges, percentages etc.
Well, this $2.1billlion “loan” was not captured in the budget. This was the recovered Abacha loot! Meaning: There was money already appropriated for Dasuki’s office – close to N1Trillion. And this was outside the $1billion loan President obtained to “buy arms/prosecute” the Boko Haram war!
Plainly put, Dasuki creamed off his N1Trillion budget for the year; cleaned out the $1billion “Boko Haram loan,” and turned voraciously on the Abacha loot! Truly, only a Locust-Army could have achieved this rapacious feat so effortlessly – and all the while, mouthing patriotic slogans of “Transformation, Continuity and Consolidation!” And our Mrs. World Bank was, sadly, part of this army! Of course, she was neither the Commander nor the Quarter-Master nor even the Chief of Logistics of this despoiling army, but she was a Matron, a Coordinator, of sorts. So she was, besides being the Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister of the Economy, perhaps, also Minister of Corruption and the Coordinating of the Dasuki Bazaar!
An authentic African High Chief, Field Marshal Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga told his chiefs (ministers and party Delegates in 1971: “If you steal, do not steal too much at a time: you may be arrested. Steal little by little.” With the benefit of hindsight, President Jonathan did not so advise members of his entourage. May be he did not know or read about Mobutu, the promising Congolese nationalist, who left the French Army for Journalism: that is one benefit of scholarship – reading.
Although the chiefs started their looting schemes with millions, they graduated to billions of Dollars! Today, the bubble has burst, and the veneer of innocence has been washed away. To paraphrase a poet from another country and civilization, we can say: “Things have fallen apart; the centre can no longer hold; the pretense of innocence has been washed away; even as the Dasuki-tide threatens to drown many….”
To be concluded:

Imobo-Tswam, a public affairs analyst, writes from Abuja. He can be reached at: simonpita2008@yahoo.com

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