I am not a fan of Gen. Buhari. if you have never taken the time to familiarize yourself with my writings, you might even be arguably blameless, if you have concluded that I hate the saint of Daura. But I don’t: it is our governance systems that I have found to be abhorrent and abominable. I love Buhari by far more than his worshippers would ever decode: he is the systemic error that has destroyed the evil system, that had assured that the Nigerian state grew strong, even as the Nigerian nation was cruelly asphyxiated.
When Buhari declared Abacha a saint, the howls of derision and shouts of protest in the echo chambers of the Nigerian press and blogospheres were deafening. I heard and read at the time, but whilst I was deeply offended by the remark, I could never dismiss the statement as a lie. There was something deeply Freudian about the statement, and I have had time to ruminate and cogitate, on the profound words of Muhammadu Buhari. Time has resolved the conundrum for me.
I have never passed a maths exam. I freely confess to an innovative scheme that ended with me passing mathematics, and failing English language, whilst my neighbor in the exams, who had failed English language perennially, whilst acing maths, had an A in English language, and an F9 in maths. But I have always been blessed with a mind that sees patterns and would mull whatever appears inconsistent, until they either fit into the established patterns, or are established in a class of their own. Abacha as a saint, was one of those inconsistent patterns. Buhari had left me in a quandary until the Atanije General; Malami, helped me to connect the dot, and our judiciary confirmed it.
“Nigerians are fantastically corrupt”. These words have been attributed to the former British Prime Minister, David Cameron. I have never found the grace to take umbrage with Mr. Cameron for his pronouncement of collective guilt on many Nigerians that have never stolen, and who have no intention of ever doing so, after all, the veracity of his generalized and sweeping statement, is not in doubt. But my understanding of British politics and English culture, had left me somewhat flummoxed at the tactlessness of his words. I am unhappy to report that I have come to the knowledge of the absolute truth of his words.
At the appropriate time, I will share the tales of my involvement with the Nigerian criminal justice system, but earlier in the week, I did share the tale of the female visa applicant and her Oluwole travel agent, who bagged long prison terms for the crimes committed when she attended the British High Commission with documents that she knew had been forged by her accomplice. I was reading Kemi Adeosun’s sagas in the day’s newspapers, as the upright judge read her judgment. The incongruity of the case in the light of Kemi’s forged NYSC exemption certificate left me reeling, but even that also makes sense now.
These issues happened at different times, and I had carried them around in my head for these years, trying to make them align and fit into some pattern, that would allow me to make sense of them. The Nigerian Supreme Court has finally helped me to find the rest from my agitations. The court’s judgment in Orji Uzor Kalu’s case, speaks volumes, about the state of justice in this country.
Abacha died over two decades ago. He was succeeded in office by the man he had desired to retire, cousin and friend to the one he had succeeded in office, if you rightly discount the clown called Sonekan and his interim contraption. He was killed in the systemic clean up operation that also claimed Abiola’s life. His henchmen were hounded out of power and sidelined, and his Svengali, Al-Mustapha ended up at Kirikiri, as did his son Mohammed. The son, though charged with complicity in one of the murders ordered by his father, was freed ahead of the others in a judicial arrangement that only Obasanjo and the Nigerian Supreme Court can ever explain. He gave up some of the father’s loot and was free to go and sin no more.
Buhari was Abacha’s man at the PTF, and Buhari, after having been in the Nigerian corridors of power for several decades, and in various high offices including the presidency twice, definitely knew what he was saying, when he declared Abacha free of corruption. But what about the Abacha loots that had been returned to Nigeria over the years, and the latest one that Malami correctly labeled as assets? These were not stolen, they are the legitimate earnings of the late man, and have merely been branded as stolen because of the bad belle of people like Babangida and the vindictive Obasanjo.
Fantastically corrupt! The word to focus on is not “corrupt”. Fantastically corrupt! Cameron said. Let’s focus on the adjective that birthed the adverb. When something is described as being done fantastically, what is being said, is that it is being done “in a strange or exotic way” according to Google. Cameron wasn’t talking about our being corrupt, he sees that every day in his own country, and he is not blind to the undeniable corruption of the Americans either. What he was incredulous about, and to which he was referring, is the exotic, strange, and unique nature of our brand of corruption.
Cameron sees the intelligence and security reports. He knows that each and every one of our rulers are petty thieves and recalcitrant crooks. Britain is the chief destination for our stolen commonwealth, and without the complicity of the western banking systems in the criminal looting of our collective wealth, the stealing would have been unsustainable. Cameron knows the thieves that we hail as leaders, he sees the impunity unknown to his own culture and simply spoke because he was mesmerized. Cameron was not speaking to our corruption: he was engaged by the irrationality of our abnormal normalcies.
Buhari knows things that we cannot even begin to imagine. He knows that Abacha has stolen nothing compared to any of the ones that came before him, or the ones that followed. Buhari is aware that the Abacha “assets” earlier repatriated were simply looted. Buhari is aware that none of the persons “forming” saint in Nigeria are saints. Buhari was being completely honest in coming to Abacha’s defense, and Malami merely reflected his principal’s sentiments, when he correctly referred to the monies as Abacha’s asset.
I witnessed the upright judge convict and subsequently sentenced a young man of 26 years of age to prison for a total of 17 years, for defrauding another Nigerian of 6M Naira. The EFCC was correct to have prosecuted the fraudulent young man, the judge was just as completely correct, both in law and equity to have convicted and sentenced him to prison too, and justice was definitely served as well. Or was it?
There is something deeply nauseating about a judicial system that has birthed the immunization of the rulers from the just consequences of their wickedness, but unerringly criminalizes and punishes every infraction by the ruled. In delivering its judgment on Kalu’s appeal, the weight of the inequitable laws of the Nigerian state, has throttled the very life out of the ebbing spirit of justice. We are fantastically corrupt, because we have become the gangster’s paradise. Our laws do not bind the powerful, and justice is incompatible with our laws.
First published 9 May, 2020.