On Saturday, in what looked like a bizarre mockery, the Governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, visited the Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission in his State. That he was not detained and quizzed over the corruption allegations hanging over him is an irony, that he even proceeded to lecture the commission about his ‘commitment to fight corruption’ is an irony the size of Dala Rock.
Of course, the Governor enjoys immunity but how that gives him the moral right to preach against corruption at an anti-corruption commission is something that boggles the mind. He made a statement that even President Buhari, in all fairness and all things considered, could not (should not) make. He spoke about how corruption is fighting back, how he will not save any corrupt official and how everyone must join hands to fight the evil monster.
Now, if that had come from any other governor, and we hadn’t heard it seven million times before, it would have been a thing to cheer. But this was coming from Ganduje, the inimitable star of the dollar-stuffing videos. The same governor we all saw being treated like a mutt, asked to sit or stand, to collect dollar kickbacks from contractors. There were several of these videos and in all of them, Mr Ganduje managed to disgrace himself and his office as the contractor played fetch with him. How he managed to escape justice, in the reign of an administration that came in with the promise of fighting corruption, is down to the bewildering happenstance that Nigeria is.
This, coming just days after former petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, received a lot of flak for remonstrating with Nigerian youths over taking fraudsters as role models while she has corruption allegations to answer.
That two persons of questionable standing deemed it fit to ‘preach against corruption and fraud’ when in all honesty they should be sitting in the corner of a jail cell, heads buried in shame between their knees, is symptomatic. The audacity of the act suggests, if anything, the total disdain they have for Nigerians.
By law, Ganduje and Diezani are both innocent, at least for now. After all, as the Hausas would say, only the thief who is caught is a thief. Mrs Madueke is yet to be arrested. Mr Ganduje is enjoying his immunity and the president’s nonchalant magnanimity.
When the Ganduje videos surfaced, the one person who could have done something about it, the president, dispensed his customary ‘shock’ and pretended he knew nothing about it. When the issue refused to go away, the president, rather offhandedly, said something to the effect that the allegations did not interest him and the videos ‘technically,’ could have been doctored. Of course, Ganduje would have been a fool not to have taken that line and run with it, and eventually, sadly even, that has become the official explanation for those videos.
These are all known facts. What is of interest in this instance is the audacity personalities like these, with questions to answer, have to preach to people whose commonwealth they have allegedly plundered.
In saner climes, if people like these are not prosecuted, they would at least resign, tend to their chicken farms and generally mind their business. Nigeria is not one of those places. And neither is this the first time something like this would happen.
In May 2017, at the Franschhoek Literary Festival in South Africa, where I was a guest, former President Olusegun Obasanjo sat before a packed hall, looked at the eager white faces before him and, with sagely demeanour, to elaborated Africa’s problems, the solutions and how rubbish other African leaders have been at handling these problems. It was a convincing performance for his audience. It was a shocking one for me and left my jaw hanging.
Of course, after speaking, he did not have time to entertain questions from the audience and was quickly whisked away from the hall. So a number of the guests turned to the only other Nigerian in the hall to seek validation, to commend me for having such a visionary from my country, to tell me how with men like him, Africa should be a paradise. The country Obasanjo ruled for a cumulative 11 years, three as Head of State and eight as an elected president, is certainly no Wakanda. That all the theories Obasanjo espoused that day were nowhere to be seen in that country he ruled for over a decade and how he managed to extricate himself from blame for the mess Nigeria is, and continues to be, remains inexplicable.
His years of misrule, excessive spending and massive corruption (consider only the money that changed hands in his failed third term bid) and the fact that every president since has largely been orchestrated into office by him, means he takes greater blame in these than anyone else. That all of them have failed—maybe we leave out Yar’adua on this since the man died before he could leave his mark—and that somehow, Obasanjo remains, arguably the best president Nigeria has had since 1999 is further indictment.
So what gives these persons the audacity to do what they do and then preach the opposite? To point fingers at everyone else but themselves? And what gives Nigerians the reticence to tolerate them?
Our cultures are built on respecting the elderly and trusting in their wisdom. A child cannot question the wisdom of his father, even if the father leads him through fire. Nigerian politicians know this very well and model themselves as father figures when seeking public offices. Nigerian masses are not in on the trick and quickly label these persons Baba Buhari! Baba Shege! Baba Jang! Or Mummy in the case of the Diezanis. I have even seen a woman older than Jonathan addressing him as Daddy.
Placing these people on this pedestal means that we accord them the deference we accord our parents. When they spank you, you take it and say thank you, as you would do to your parents.
But this reverence we grant, like our commonwealth, is being abused. It is why the average Nigerian is wary of making reasonable demands from their government or asking tough questions of their elected leaders. It is this underserved reverence for crooked officials that might just be our greatest undoing, like Ikemefuna in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, being led to his death.
After all, Ikemefuna called Okonkwo father.