- Post 19 September 2011
- Last Updated on 19 September 2011
- By Moses Ebe Ochonu
The Wikileaks releases constitute a dossier of elite wrongdoing and foibles. We have read the cables about the usual suspects from the criminal enterprise we used to ignorantly call Obasanjo’s government: Obasanjo, Atiku, Soludo, El-Rufai, Okonjo-Iweala, and Nuhu Ribadu. We have also read the cables that the same characters fed to American embassy staffers. We have equally read the cables supplied by “outsiders” like Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and Obasanjo’s lawyer, Afe Babalola.
Mostly, these cables merely confirm what we already know to be the criminal modus operandi of the Obasanjo gang.
We knew long ago that Obasanjo was a hypocritical rogue given to empty public pronouncements about the evils of corruption. We knew also that those rhetorical flourishes about zero tolerance for corruption were for foreign consumption. Now, thanks to Wikileaks, we can quote Nuhu Ribadu in our text and cite him in our footnotes when we remind Nigerians of these pieces of our recent history. Now, unlike the pre-Wikileaks era, we have a documentary baseline of reference.
The sources for our chronicles on Obasanjo’s legendary thievery will now include Afe Babalola, the former president’s lawyer, whom Wikileaks cables report to have confirmed that the former president and his aides were mired to their necks in sleaze. Babalola, we now know from his testimony at the US embassy, did a fair amount of damage control to contain the fallouts from many corruption scandals that directly involved the former president.
We can also now cite an insider’s account from Atiku, via Wikileaks, about how Obasanjo ordered by executive fiat the withdrawal of N2.8 Billion from NNPC’s accounts and instructed its former managing director, Funsho Kupolokun, to disguise this curious withdrawal as “overhead.” It’s not that we didn’t already have ample documentary evidence of Obasanjo’s larceny, or that his war of attrition with Atiku in 2005-2006 didn’t already give us a trove of such evidence.
It is always good though to go to battle against the revisionism of our corrupt oppressors armed with more documentary evidence than one needs. It is even more comforting to have the benefit not just of strategically released evidence of opponents’ filthy deals but to also have the transmitted words of principal actors, spoken and recorded in strict confidence in moments of unguardedness and candor. So, every little bit of extra evidential corpus helps in the dueling struggle to control the historical narrative of our recent past.
Speaking of Atiku, we always knew that the former vice President was, like his former principal in the presidency, corruption personified. We also knew that his entire political appeal, like Ibrahim Babagida’s, rests on the democratization of largesse, illicit largesse. In the case of Atiku, we knew from the scorched earth newspaper war between him and Obasanjo over who was more corrupt that the former vice president and his minions trafficked influence, political and bureaucratic, for filthy gain. Now, thanks to materials supplied by Nasir El-Rufai during his visit to the embassy, we have additional recorded testimony indicting Atiku and solidifying the public case against him.
With these revelations, it will now be near impossible for these national villains to reverse history’s judgment with sophistry and compromised revisionism. We the historians of Nigeria’s high crimes will be waiting for them with our multiple sources, archives, and recorded testimony. Heck, we may even ambush them with these reminders of their contribution to the national collapse, preemptively striking at moments of national forgetfulness to remind Nigerians of those who may now pretend to be saviors after having conspired to steal their future. It just became easier to remind deceivers and 419 politicians like El-Rufai of their crimes and defang them when they make the usual noises about reform, change, and waste.
A few weeks ago, I published an essay on the duplicity and corrupt ways of El-Rufai. I dug deep into my mental archive and simply reminded Nigerians of El-Rufai’s fingerprints, some of them self-confessed, on our most recent national political and financial crimes. Every piece of information I advanced to support my thesis is already archived in the public arena. Some of it consists of boastful, contradictory statements from El-Rufai’s own stable of lies and self-serving myths. Since that publication, more informational indictments of El-Rufai on corruption and duplicity have surfaced. We now know this: contrary to El-Rufai’s recent testimony before the national assembly, not only did he bungle the NITEL management contract with Pentascope, with that company skimming off billions of naira from NITEL and the Nigerian people, his tenure at BPE was tardy and wasteful. It was so bad that the United Nations report on privatization in Nigeria indicted his tenure as a period of massive irregularities and fraud in the privatization of public enterprises.
With Wikileaks, El-Rufai’s revisionist history just got harder. We now know from our friends at the US embassy that, as FCT minister, El-Rufai helped his friend, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s brother secure no-bid consultancy contracts from government ministries. El-Rufai’s initial denial of this Wikileaks revelation as “beer parlor” rumors triggered the release of a damning pool of evidence that point to corruption, cronyism, and nepotism in El-Rufai’s management of the FCT. We now know from documents and stories published on Saharareporters and other Nigeria-themed websites and listservs that El-Rufai did more than pave Ngozi’s brother’s path to no-bid contracts. We know that a petition written by his own permanent secretary, which died at the El-Rufai-friendly presidency of Obasanjo, pointed to multiple acts of corruption directly linked to El-Rufai, his families, and friends. Two audits of his ministry and of AGIS, the FCT land registry, uncovered sleaze of scandalous proportions.
This is what a reckless, ill-conceived denial of Wikileaks revelations can do. It can unleash a torrent of indicting documents and awaken formerly hibernating pieces of information. Since these latest revelations and documents came to light, we have understandably not been treated to another entertaining stanza of El-Rufai’s “beer parlor” denial. We dey wait! Still on crude, impulsive denials, I found two curiously ridiculous items in the denial of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. In her reaction to the wikileaks cable about her brother’s no-bid consultancy contracts, she claimed that she had no brother named JonJon. Is she for real? Was it not obvious from the quotation marks around JonJon in the said cable that it is a nickname for her brother, whose real name we now know to be Chi Chi Okonjo? She also claimed that the Wikileaks revelations are the handiworks of her enemies who are bent on ruining her reputation and by extension Jonathan’s. If I got a kobo every time I hear that clichéd response from Nigerian officials who get caught with their hand in the proverbial cookie jar, I would be luxuriating in serious mammon today. The same exact semantics, same diction, same tired, reflex-induced response! They never disappoint with these stock responses.
The same set of enemies recently tried to dissuade Okonjo-Iweala from joining Jonathan’s government, she claimed. The minister’s claim is an assault on chronological logic. The cables, we should remind Madam Minister, were generated several years ago, when Jonathan was nowhere near the presidency and when the said enemies had no idea that she would be serving in Jonathan’s government. Unless the enemies have a sense for the future and could see that she would join Jonathan’s government and decided to strike ahead of the event, her clichéd invocation of enemies who want to ruin her and Jonathan’s reputation is at best distracting, at worst silly.
Back to El-Rufai. Things just got more complicated for the former Obasanjo-allied “reformer.” In the heat of Atiku’s fight with Obasanjo in 2006, El-Rufai became the voice of the most fanatical wing of the Obasanjo lynch mob bent on “finishing” Atiku off politically. El-Rufai was the most vocal member of this special army. It was tasked, we now know from El-Rufai’s own confessions before the US ambassador, with accomplishing Obasanjo’s vindictive assault on Atiku and his presidential ambition. In exasperation, Atiku’s men took shots at El-Rufai, going after the perceived engine of Obasanjo’s anti-Atiku machine. They accused El-Rufai of crass opportunism and betrayal, charging that Atiku gave El-Rufai a job at the BPE, which in turn gave him his first start in government. They accused El-Rufai of deftly maneuvering himself into Obasanjo’s inner caucus, abandoning and betraying his benefactor, Atiku, and, worst, ingratiating himself with his new benefactor, Obasanjo, by leading the anti-Atiku conspiracy.
Predictably, El-Rufai fired back at Atiku, flatly denying that Atiku brought him into government or gave him the job at BPE. I was one of those swayed a little by El-Rufai’s forceful denial of indebtedness to Atiku, and by his rejection of the charges of betrayal and dishonorable opportunism. Today, many thanks to Wikileaks, we know that El-Rufai, while refuting those charges publicly, was privately confessing to them before the US ambassador. We know from his own cabled embassy testimony that El-Rufai confided in the ambassador that Atiku brought him into the government as director-general of the BPE, that in fact Atiku gave him his start as a government bureaucrat.
Duplicity. Crass opportunism. Betrayal. Dishonor. Deception. 419. Take your pick. It describes the two-faced political persona of our former reformer, El-Rufai. Wikileaks has just confirmed what I have believed for a long time—that El-Rufai is, by a mile, one of the most dangerous and duplicitous politicians in Nigeria’s recent history.
Let’s move on to Jonah Jang, the embattled governor of Plateau State. From Wikileaks, we gleaned with a note of tragic irony that Jang was feting the US ambassador and regaling her with fantastical tales of alien mercenaries and other diversions even as his state smoldered in the cauldron of ethno-religious hate. We know from the cables that, in the heat of the crisis in 2007, Jang was more interested in establishing a narrative of causality favorable to him than in crafting a robust response to the conflict.
Other officials who made surprisingly candid if seemingly cameo appearances in the cables are CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, and the respected Dr. Junaid Mohammed. Lamido is something of an unlikely embassy informant, given his independent, cerebral, and honorable disposition. Which is why some of his unsolicited personal judgments about certain government figures were rather startling. For instance, some of the things he told the US ambassador about his former classmate and former Minister of Finance, Mansur Mukhtar, are things he would not tell any Nigerian!
Prominent among those who have not made their Wikileaks debuts as informants is David Mark. We will see in the coming weeks if he, too, bared his insecurities and well known sins to US embassy officials even as he cultivated a public image of a can-do statesman. Personally, given that he is my “brother” in the Nigerian sense of the word, I eagerly await his Wikileaks testimony. I want to know many things about this son of Idoma, whose slice and dice politics and investments in the rotten status quo have made him a principal villain of our unfolding national tragedy. Did he confess to the US ambassador what everyone in Benue Zone C knew but which he denied all the way to a compromised appellate court: that Alhaji Usman Abubakar (alias Young Alhaji)
Of the ANPP was the winner of the 2007 senatorial election in the zone?
I want to read the Wikileaks testimony of other political actors. There are informational territories and evidentiary archives still waiting to be excavated. I cannot believe that other politicians yet to be named in the cables did not sing to Madam or Mister ambassador. As a connoisseur of information and an advocate of disclosure, I want to see the full extent of this library of cabled embassy testimonies. It is the greatest threat yet to our politicians turned revionist historians, who will seek, if allowed, to falsify the record and narrative of what they did and said five hours ago!