When the late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti released the song, VIP – Vagabond In Power in the late 70’s, Nigerians paid little heed to the lyrics, but danced their feet out to this politically-laced music. By the time they realised that Fela was something of a prophet, it was rather too late for them to arrest situations whereby their rulers were in fact vagabonds, thieves, looters and convicted felons. That is not to mention political prostitutes and opportunists whose main intent into going into politics or positions of authority was to steal the country blind, giving very little concern to the plight of the people of this oil-rich country.
Over the decades - and these are many decades - opportunities to progress, develop and turn Nigeria into one of the world’s most developed countries were, and are still being, frittered away and lost by clueless, insensitive, greedy, selfish, insidious, invidious, conscienceless and murderous rulers, one after the other, federal, state and local governments. The massive corruption in the country is notorious all over the world, and Nigerians who have excelled in all areas of human endeavour and in all countries of the worlds, have to bear the stigma of corruption with them everywhere they go or work or live or try to do legitimate business.
Yet, the looting of the treasury by those put in charge of the welfare of their own people continues unabated. And what is more, they are actively aided and abetted by civil servants, business moguls, bankers, religious and ethnic leaders, not to mention the multinational companies operating in the country, all because of the oil. Worse, the loot is often carted off into foreign countries like the USA, the UK, South Africa and even some other African countries that do not care to ask too many questions. Switzerland is no longer fashionable.
Nigerians elect, or rather select their leaders/rulers without asking questions of prospective leaders either. Since the so-called democratic dispensation started in 1999, an evil array of charlatans, political prostitutes, dubious characters have come and entered into the political fray and the results have been chaos, corruption, murder, assassinations, intrigues and further mud-dragging of the name, Nigeria. Nobody seems to care.
Politicians are quick to use any means necessary to get to power and even amongst themselves, political expediency, mediocrity and opportunism often overcome merit, honesty and sincerity of purpose. The polity became a free-for-all with all sorts of men, and women for that matter, of questionable and dubious characters, rogues, knaves and ragamuffins crawling out of the woodwork and becoming powerful and rich leaders and rulers almost overnight. Yet the Nigerian people stand and look and every four years re-elect the same idiots, and even elect new idiots to govern them.
So came one James Onanefe Ibori into the political scene of Nigeria and within eight years had a massive presence in the leadership of this country. A grand opportunist as defined in my last article, and a convicted felon, as it turned out, he ruled his oil-rich state of Delta for eight years even after he was exposed as having been convicted twice in the UK while he was working as an ordinary cashier in a DIY store in London. He even wanted to rule Nigeria and was a power behind the government of late President Yar ‘Adua, as the main financier of the flawed election that brought Yar ‘Adua into power. Alarmed was raised early during his first term that he was a convicted felon, but the powers that be in the Obasanjo administration contrived to squash the accusations and the man was there for eight years, looting and ruining.
Nemesis eventually caught up with him two years ago, and the rest of what has now happened is history and need not be repeated here for the sake of space and brevity.
My main thrust here is what have Nigerians done to deserve these kinds of leaders? Mr Ibori is just one of probably not more than 500 corrupt and evil rulers and ex-rulers who are like malignant tumours to Nigerians (I am not adding civil servants and minor politicians, of course). They are there to stifle any sign of progress and betterment for the people. They are selfish, greedy, corrupt and arrogant to boot. They are parasites. And they are murderous too. If you ask them, they will tell you they are patriotic Nigerians, even more than anybody else; but how can a patriot defraud his/her country?
For what it may be, that Nigerian “patriot” Ibori will be the first Nigerian leader to admit to stealing, even if it was done in a British court. Of course, no Nigerian leader (and indeed, African leader) has ever admitted to corruptly enriching themselves, and the reason is not far-fetched: they are rarely brought to court and prosecuted successfully.
Yet, we see them stealing every day. Yes, we see them, people might wonder how we see them putting their fingers in the pie and these are my answers: they buy expensive properties overseas; we see the quality of the contracts (supplies and services) they award at inflated prices; we see their children living the high life; we see their political beneficiaries living lives that are not commensurate to the salaries they are paid and the work they do; and sometimes, on occasions they even openly boast of stealing.
In October 2007, I wrote an article warning that Ibori will be an embarrassment to the government of Nigeria under late Yar ‘Adua (The Banana Skins Called Ibori, Etteh and Odili, http://www.nigeriansinamerica.com/articles/2155/1/The-Banana-Skins-... ) if Yar'Adua's government do not do anything about him. And I also predicted that if there's one corrupt ex-governor that Nemesis (and Nigerians) will catch up with, it was going to be Mr James Ibori. There we now have it. That was me in October 2007.
One thing for sure, he would not have pleaded guilty in a Nigerian court and the case would have been dragging on and on, that is even if he ever was brought to face a court in Nigeria. I now wonder at the feeble, risible and pathetic attempts by the EFCC and the Nigerian authorities to arrest and prosecute Ibori. Here is our foremost anti-graft agency that could not get one single conviction out of a 138 count charge of money laundering and corruption they slammed on James Ibori. The TRUTH WILL ALWAYS PREVAIL.
At the time, I was convinced Ibori will not escape justice, whether in Nigeria or elsewhere. It was bound to happen, and mark my words, compatriots, a lot of ex-governors, especially, that are still running loose, strutting and waving their ill-gotten wealth in the faces of their own people are still going to get their comeuppance. It is not clairvoyance; it is a matter of the philosophy of sinners not going unpunished. Odili, Orji Kalu, Igbinedion, Nnamani, Fayose, Alao-Akala, Yerima, Olagunsoye, Agagu, Haruna, Saraki, Nyame, and other kleptomaniacs too numerous to mention from the states in all parts of the country, not to talk of incumbent governors.
People are saying what a shame? The fall of Ibori! But the fact is, Ibori has never risen before. He was a man of straw, who built a false identity, reputation for himself, like so many of his ilk ruling Nigeria and turning this country into a country of shame, poverty and hopelessness. Ibori was never, and will never be a great man. His name (and so many of his ilk) will never be spoken with kindness, reverence and respect. His name in the history of Nigeria will forever be associated with vile corruption. He can come back out of prison anytime, be met by drums and dancing, and still be treated like a hero, but he remains a convict like one Olabode George and Alamieyeseigha.
And more importantly, their people, and God, will never forgive them for the hardship, hopelessness, poverty, deaths and diseases they continue to visit on their own people. However before we start celebrating, let us remember that this thief is but one in a cabal of thieves still ruling Nigeria.
We must not underplay the import of the trial and future sentencing of Ibori. Here is a man who had a previous conviction and who, by the constitution of the country, should never have been allowed to become the governor of Delta State, but was foisted on Deltans (and actually all Nigerians) by the PDP hierarchy, Obasanjo and co-travellers, and who then proceeded to steal to his heart's content under the comatose and glazed looks of the Deltan people and the law enforcement agents.
Exerting his political influence, Ibori had his 138-count case dismissed in a Nigerian court of law but now pleaded guilty in a British court of law. There are many lessons to be learnt: One, our judicial and law enforcement systems are totally incapable of addressing and combating corruption in Nigeria, for the simple reason that both are corrupt too. Two, it is proof that we can and we must utilise Western courts at every opportunity to bring the likes of Ibori to trial. Tipping off the Metropolitan Police and UK Border Agency when these thieves are coming into the UK, for example, or the US or any part of Europe will net a few more on money laundry charges since they almost always travel into these countries with suitcases full of cash. Ibori may spend four years, he may spend two years but at least, rather than go absolutely scot free as the Nigerian system would have allowed him, the British justice will ensure that he will at least pay some penalty for his high crimes against his people.
I am a happy Nigerian if only for that reason!
Another lesson learnt is that the Truth will always prevail. Sinners will always come a cropper, no matter the length of time. This is a warning to others of Ibori’s corrupt cabal. Yes, I am talking of other past and present rulers (I deign to call them leaders, because they do not lead). Ibori can perhaps count himself lucky he did not lose his life in the process; the way things are going in this country, some of his co-travellers in the kingdom of kleptomania risk literally losing their heads.
This is a warning to our rulers. More of them are going to face the music, and the music will not be sweet.