Thursday, September 28, 2006

Rumble In Aso Rock

Like most of my countrymen, I have watched with increasing alarm the downright spiteful attitude our Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar has taken towards our beloved, internationally respected, highly decorated war hero and President, the man we fondly call Baba, Olusegun Obasanjo. Atiku has shown utter disrespect to the man who brought him into government. When the issue of constitutional amendment came up, Atiku not only went against his principal, he resorted to threats against those who sought to exercise their right to freedom of speech and to vote according to their conscience. When he tried to hold a potentially violent demonstration and the Police duly broke it up, he repaired to the premises of one of his co-conspirators against the people where he told blatant lies about Baba. He said Baba did not want to leave, and in fact, had hatched his plans several months in advance. All that meant was that Baba is a visionary, for he saw that his people would demand that he carry on. At the Public Hearings on Constitutional Amendment, we, the people, duly and resoundingly asked for Baba to carry on as our leader for as long as he saw fit. One stupid man waving a piece of paper he called an injunction could not stand in our way. We wanted Baba, and made our wishes clear. When Atiku saw that his bid to stop Baba at that point had failed, he resorted to all manner of lies and untruths. He claimed he had been harassed by agents of Baba. He pointed to changes in his personal staff as an example of the said harassment. Please, Mr. Vice President, Baba only acted out of concern for your safety. Then Atiku somehow managed to convince the AIT (a previously respectable news network) to assist him in his plans to subvert the will of the people. It was so bad that AIT refused many appeals from the National Assembly to take their cameras out of the chambers to allow the Honourable members conduct their business in peace.

Now, with Baba having exposed Atiku for the greedy, morally bankrupt and corrupt individual that he truly is, one would have expected a man with a shred of honor left in his black heart to simply admit his guilt and resign his high office…

I can’t go any further. My ribs are aching badly. I think I need an x-ray.

The mud wrestling match between Baba and Turaki so far has been of truly epic proportions, so much so that I've been waiting to see Vince McMahon pop his head round a curtain and say, 'That's a wrap, good job guys.' Woody Allen couldn’t have scripted a better comedy than this, and Charlie Chaplin (rest his dear soul) couldn’t have performed in a better one. I can hardly wait to see the Dailies each morning. Baba has opened up a barrel of toxic worms, and he forgot to wear his bio-hazard suit. Because, if this is his best shot, then it is a colossal embarrassment from a so-called tough guy. A two-day old baby could hit harder than this. Now, before anyone out there calls me an Atiku man or some similar bull, let me make myself perfectly clear: I am nothing of the sort. I simply call it like I see it and, personally, I believe Atiku is most definitely NOT clean. But, if this is how Baba planned on taking him down, he's got another think coming.

When I heard of an EFCC report of the Veep, I expected to see all the sordid details of his deals at the BPE revealed. I expected to read how he managed to sell Nigeria's crown jewels to himself and a few greedy friends. I expected the full details of the scam that was the 8th All Africa Games. I expected to read about crude oil lifting, fuel importing, millions of dollars gone missing, etc. Instead, what do I and millions of other Nigerians get? A limp, soggy, and quite frankly, pathetic noodle of an EFCC report that was probably dictated by Baba to Nuhu Ribadu in council.

A six year old reciting by rote couldn’t convict Atiku of anything based on this particular EFCC report. If Baba and Nuhu Ribadu are saying that all they have to hang their case on is a single disbursement of 125 million dollars from the PTDF, and they expect Atiku to be barred from contesting the 2007 polls on that ground, and have in fact tried to see to it that he is through what I can only call a Cockroach Panel made up of Baba’s loyal supporters, then they should please make public the name and phone number(s) of their igbo supplier.

Atiku must have laughed his head off when he read their report, and he has since swatted away the allegations with contemptuous ease. He has gone further to turn up the heat on Baba and his friends by raising, once again, the issue of the EFCC report on the 53 Billion Naira fraud at the NPA under Bode George.

It is public knowledge that Baba sat firmly on the report (not once but twice) to protect his good friend and party colleague. For the same man to come out and say the investigation of Atiku stems from his “zero tolerance” policy for corruption simply beggars belief. Sounds like the very picture of Zero Tolerance.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Robin Hood Complex

Virtually every adult is familiar with the old tale of Robin Hood and his band of merry men. He has been celebrated by Hollywood, with such greats as Errol Flynn, Kevin Costner, Cary Elwes and, more recently, Asari Dokubo, taking on the role of the man in green tights.

For those who are unaware, I'll give a brief synopsis of the story. Robin Hood was born Robin of Locksley, to a rich landowner in medieval England. Against his father's wishes, he ran off to war, and fought in one of the crusades where he was captured by the Turks, and spent some years in prison. On his escape, he returned to England to find his father had been murdered by the Sheriff of Nottingham, who was plotting with the King's brother to overthrow him. Robin wouldn't stand for treason, and turned to a life of crime. He began stealing from the rich friends of Nottingham, and distributing their ill-gotten wealth among the poor, oppressed masses. You could say he was the first English Communist. Of course, the authorities didn't find his actions amusing, and duly put a price on his head and tried mightily to capture him, but always failed. Ultimately, he triumphed over his enemies, and blah blah blah. Or he was betrayed by a woman and killed. The end of the story is rather murky.

Which brings me to Naija, and the spate of kidnappings of white men in the Niger Delta. The kidnappers claim to be acting out of righteous indignation over the blatant neglect of their communities by the government, and the rape of their land by the multinational oil companies. Since they can't get their hands on the perpetrators in Abuja, they resort to kidnapping expatriate oil workers, and making demands that the oil companies should leave their land and so on and so forth. Some people step in, negotiations are carried out, money changes hands, and the hostages are released.

Now, since the criminal act was carried out for the greater good- namely Justice for the people of the Niger Delta, we would have expected news crews to be invited to videotape the kidnappers returning to their villages as heroes and sharing the ransom money equally to each and every home. Or purchasing medicines and sharing them. Or paying a firm to carry out a clean-up of the environment.

We are still waiting.

Rather, what has occured is that more and more "militant groups" are springing up daily. Each trotting out the same hackneyed slogans. Then they go out, grab a white man, and wait for their share of the booty. For, make no mistake, this has turned into no more than a lucrative criminal venture. Had these people been acting out of truly altruistic motives, we'd have heard about it by now.

Asari Dokubo, who styled himself a freedom fighter, was no more than a political thug who assisted in the greatest rape of the people's mandate ever witnessed in this country, and was well paid for his efforts. None of those proceeds went anywhere outside his immediate family circle. He became a "freedom fighter" when the governor refused to take his side in a turf war. It was at that moment, we are expected to believe that his conscience awoke from its coma and began directing his affairs. Suddenly, his middle name became Mujaheed, and he and his army of thugs and layabouts quickly adopted some nice sounding slogans. When the Federal Government offered to pay him 250,000 Naira for every gun he surrendered, he rapidly turned in some 85 AK47s. By my admittedly horrible mathematics, that computes to about 21 million naira and some change. Not a kobo went to his community. When the government invited him to wine and dine in Abuja, he went gleefully, perhaps expecting to wash down his new friendship with Baba with some oil contracts. (He was already engaged in illegal bunkering by the way.) Baba wined him, dined him, then asked him to return. On his return, he was swiftly arrested. He now cries foul. Tell me, did Che Guevara ever agree to wine and dine with the government? Of course not. Any true freedom fighter knows in his gut that the government is only out to destroy him. A criminal kingpin, on the other hand, only sees the next big score.

DSP Alamieyeseigha (aka Alams), erstwhile governor of Baylesa State, famous for his immortal statement "What is 100,000 pounds to a whole governor?" (that's pounds sterling, not biafran pounds), went on a jamboree to Europe. While he was governor, his only exercise was the systematic looting of the public till, so much so that he had a million pounds (sterling) in cash in his house in London. Upon his arrest, he claimed he was being victimised for fighting for the rights of his people. For fighting for more derivation. What had he done with the vast sums already at his disposal? I once had cause to visit Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital, while Alams was guvnor. I found only one tarred road, which stopped immediately after government house. The billions of naira accruing to his state every month had done no more than pad his foreign accounts. Yet, after being arrested and charged with corruption, he's suddenly a "victim".

The numerous militants in the Niger Delta today have displayed guts, and daring. They're young, cocky, unemployed, and naturally, restless. They've seen a lucrative opportunity and are scrambling to get involved before the gravy train stops rolling.

But, modern-day Robin Hoods, they most certainly are not.

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I love my country, enjoy a cold beer once in a while, rabidly support Arsenal FC, but I don't get Diet Coke...