by Femi Owolabi
Unconfirmed sources reported that Atiku had given N1b each to the ACN branches across the states of the federation. Yes, that is N36b! I was an ACN member. Money and other souvenirs were shared at our ward.
In Nigeria, money, or gbemu – as it is being philosophized in the case of political mobilization, is the principal thing upon which partisanship thrives. When you call for a political participation at the grassroots, the first question you are asked is, ‘What is the gbemustic arrangee?’ In plain English, they are asking you, ‘chairman, how much will you arrange for me if I come for this political something?’ The gbemustic arrangee is the first in the scheme of the political systematization. So, most times, as a candidate eyeing a political seat, the game is neither about your competence nor achievements, it is simply about how much gbemu you have, to share! Political rhetoric, ideologies, manifestoes or whatever is not sellable here. He who has the gbemu has the votes. And when you brag about the idea-loaded manifesto of yours and your party, they will tell you that, ‘Olowo’n soro, talika lou’n ni idea,’ Oga billionaire is talking money, this hungry politician is talking ideas. That is why the camel will walk through the hole of a needle before an ordinary Nigerian with good intentions will aspire to a political office and Nigerians would take him/her seriously.
That is why nobody is yet to take Sam Nda-Isaiah seriously since he announced his intention to run for presidency under the platform of the APC. In 2007, it did not take Atiku Abubakar a drop of sweat, after decamping to the ACN, to get the presidential slot of the party. Unconfirmed sources reported that Atiku had given N1b each to the ACN branches across the states of the federation. Yes, that is N36b! I was an ACN member. Money and other souvenirs were shared at our ward. My mind runs back to Nda-Isaiah; where will the humble publisher get N36b to mobilize us? Whatever Nda-Isaiah is saying now, as long as his words are not gbemustically wheeled, only expresses his vacuousness.
I wasn’t shocked, sometime last week when I read somewhere on Twitter; how Dino Melaye’s anti-corruption crusaders accused their principal of failing to gbemustically demobilize them. These are people who one thinks should have believed in Melaye’s anti-corruption crusade and had come out willingly to join him in the protest against corruption. Where would they have expected Melaye to get the money? He was a former House member. And that is enough job to make one a millionaire?!
My sister was dismayed on hearing that Ekiti gubernatorial candidates in the PDP picked their interest form for N10m. What is form? She asked. Is it not just a paper? And how much is a rim of paper? I had a good laugh at her series of questions. This, however, is one thing that should motivate elected officers to steal. In a conversational summit with Ekiti State’s Governor Fayemi last month, he revealed to us that his salary is N549,000. Going by this salary, it should take about two years for the PDP governor to realize the N10m. But, is the case indeed so, juxtaposing their asset-worth before elected as governor and after they had left office?
In his 2012 SNG Public Lecture, the poet and scholar, Niyi Osundare, on the premise of the Ekiti socio-cultural ideology, shares a story.
“Let me share with you a story I heard from my father, a story which illustrates the astonishing difference between the moral order of those days and the degenerate laxity of the so-called postcolonial era.
“As this story goes, a young man in another part of town was beginning to give everyone around him a cause to worry. Already well into his thirties, he had no job; he hated farming, the major occupation at that time because it was hard and dirty. He was apprenticed to one or two trades, but he never waited long enough to complete his training in any of them. The extended family then called him and asked what exactly he would like to do for a living. He said the business of buying and selling was his prime choice, the one he dreamt about all the time, the one that would bring him the fortune and freedom he needed. And he insisted on doing this in some big and faraway town where his need to make profits would not be compromised by family obligations. His family taxed its members, raked together a tidy sum for him and sent him off with all their good wishes.”
“About six months later, it was Christmas time, and this young man returned to town, looking conspicuously prosperous. People wondered which shone the loudest: the gold chain around his neck or the gold strap of his exotic wrist watch. On Christmas day, he floated a feast whose lavish extravagance beggared a royal banquet. About five goats and countless chickens collided in his giant cooking pot, while all the palmwine tappers in town knew where to direct their kegs that day. The great feast was about to start when the guests sent for my father to join them. The first messenger came; my father refused to go; then the second. The third reported with the sardonic warning that whoever failed to get to the feast when the fireplace was still hot would only have himself to blame if all he met were half-picked bones and the loud belches of the punctual guests.”
“At this point, my father felt the need to clarify a few issues, and said something to this effect: Let me explain myself now before outsiders begin to explain it for me or read hostile meanings into my absence at our brother’s feast. He is our brother, and I have nothing against him. I know the way to our brother’s house, and I have been there many times before without being persuaded to come. And it is not that I woke up today of all days and could not find my appetite. But the question for our brother is: ibi se ti reo ree? (where did he get the money from?). Is this not the same young man for whom we had to collect all our toro, kobo (all our little pennies) some six months ago? How could he have made the profit that could fund the feast whose extravagance the whole town is talking about? No one who has made money the hard, honest way squanders it the way our brother is doing. So, without any envy or ill wish, I ask our brother again, ibi se to reo ree?.”
“My father never attended that feast; and as the story goes, there were some members of the celebrant’s molebi (extended family) who never did. Christmas over, the pots and pans went back where they came; the revelers dispersed; our young man returned to his ‘station’. But about two weeks later, when the New Year was still very new and remnants of yuletide jollifications floated on the wings of the harmattan wind, an uncharacteristic hush fell on the town. The young man, that generous thrower of the Christmas party, was back in town. Only that this time he was securely handcuffed and sandwiched between two hefty policemen who had come to search his family house. The town was later told that the young man was charged with all kinds of crimes ranging from massive theft to embezzlement. He was already working hard for a one-way ticket to prison.”
“Ibi se ti reo ree? (Where did he get his money from?) that was the question people asked in those days when our society’s head stood confidently on its neck, and all manner of thieves and criminals never found their way to power from where they could choke us in their moral effluvia.”
In places like America, I am not sure if a Senator Obama in 2008 had the resources to dispense such largesse as former Vice Persident Atiku did in 2007 in Nigeria. Obama was, instead, trying to raise money through donations from his, mostly middleclass, supporters. And it was a transparent exercise. In Nigeria, grassroots supporters are only interested in milking the political aspirant. They know these rich aspirants had, in one way or the other gotten their money by looting the national treasury. So they need not ask, Atiku, ibi se ti reo ree? Their (supporters) ultimate agenda is to get their share of the gbemu. Their chances may be slim as soon as the man gets what he wants. It is the same crowd that you see at the APC rally that would also show up for the PDP rally. The enthusiasm, partisanship shown is dependent on the gbemustic arrangee!
Observing elections in 2011, there was a polling unit where the ACN agents would give N500 to any voter who thumbed for the party. Realizing this, the PDP in its almightiness raised the bar and offered N1,000 for whoever wants to stand by the umbrella. Some people who had earlier voted for ACN expressed their regret, and would want to clean the mark at the back of their thumb, re-join the queue and cast a fresh vote for the PDP. For N1,000. There were polling units where caterers stood by the ballot boxes, and handed over a packed-plate of rice with chicken to any voter who cast for the party that hired them.
Before his demise, the political philanthropist, Dr. Olushola Saraki Olooye of Kwara had always left open his GRA-house gates for all to come in and feast. It uncovers the mystery, that, since the days of Adamu Attah, it’s whoever Olooye endorsed that would win the gubernatorial election.
In an interview with ThisDay Newspaper, last year, the senator representing Ekiti Central Senatorial District explains how Nigerians put legislators under financial pressure. Says Ojudu: “A colleague of mine died about a month ago. A week before his death, we were together at a function in Lagos and he kept complaining about the financial pressure on him. He said to keep himself safe, he had to hire 12 policemen, each of them taking N100,000 per month with three meals. When he is at home, there will be about 200 people waiting for him for one assistance or the other. And I said, ‘look, take it easy. If you die, somebody else will jump into that seat.’ Do you know that he slumped and died barely four days after our discussion? The financial pressure is too much.
“You get invitation for things like house-roofing. You have to pay school and hospital bills for so many people. I always tell my colleagues that we should come together and fashion out a way to take care of our people collectively, to reduce the pressure on us. All the money you claim we receive is returned to the people. Last December, I had to borrow money to buy 200 bags of rice. We have to sit down with the executive and fashion out a way to reduce poverty in the country. We are doing most of the jobs the executive should be doing. Can you go to an American senator and ask for cash? He would be wondering if you are crazy. Here, people don’t have access to governors. People can come to my house any time of the day. All we do every day is go to the bank, collect cash and share to people.”
Hear the senator, “All we do every day is go to the bank, collect cash and share to people!”
The senator is then asked “How much is the take-home of a senator after all deductions?”
“It is about N1 million,” he says. And then you wonder, is it from this N1m that Ojudu’s late colleague paid ten policemen N100, 000 every month? Nevertheless, Senator should keep sharing this money because whenever he goes to Ekiti, nobody will querulously ask, Mr. Senator, ibi se ti reo ree?
2015 election is just a step away. Democratic coalitions, support groups fueled by gbemustic arrangee are springing out from every corner. The most recent I had seen is the Gooduck Initiative For Transformation, GIFT, 2015. Their key message? “Join Us To Convince President Jonathan To Run In 2015.” The acronym, GIFT!
This article was published with permission from Omojuwa.com
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.