Dele Momodu: How they catch monkeys in Nigeria

by Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, if you missed last week’s Pendulum you’ve missed something atavistic.  Titled ‘How They Catch Monkeys in Brazil’, the article generated so much controversy all through the week. It was certainly a prelude to the unfolding tragic saga of the most outlandish bribery scandal in Nigeria. What made it so scandalous is the fact that for the first time in the long history of corruption in high places, a bribe-giver audaciously came out to squeal, and confess, like a true Catholic, that he did it, and let the heavens fall if it must. It is a rarity to witness in any part of the world but this is Nigeria where anything can happen to corroborate Murphy’s Law of possibilities. This was a classic case of “confess your sins and let the devil be ashamed.”

Femi Otedola was the snitch who came out clean and regaled the world with his action-packed spectacle of how Honourable Farouk Lawan demanded and got a part-payment of a bribe request in the wee hours of the morning.  As the Yoruba’s say ‘oru o mo eni owo’ (Darkness know no honourable person – emphasis here on ‘honourable’!)  It is yet to be ascertained how Mr Otedola succeeded in luring his prey, Honourable Farouk Lawan to his house, like a victim of somnambulism. All we know for now is that Femi accused Farouk of demanding a bribe of $3million dollars sometime in April, and after some hard negotiations, Farouk walked into the labyrinth of the trap set for him by the billionaire and the Nigerian State Security Service and brought unprecedented ignominy on a most brilliant career.

At a time there were still doubts in the minds of his fans like me, who fancifully imagined Femi was telling tales by moonlight, Farouk himself came out to shock us out of our day-dream when he admitted that he actually collected the bribe money. If his admission was astonishing, the reason he adduced for accepting the money was dreadfully puerile. Farouk told his captive audience that he had to collect the money as evidence of the pressure on him, and the certification of tempting offers, from corrupt oil marketers.

Something was certainly and terribly wrong with that story. You went to a man’s house twice to collect money from one of the biggest fishes under investigation and you did not see anything wrong, or even bizarre, about such a misadventure. Your member on the investigation panel also embarked on his own journey of the Magi possibly following the dollar signs in the stars that led him to Otedola’s house to collect his own instalment. There was definitely a lacuna somewhere because the figures did not add up, and it was either Farouk was telling half-truths or indeed no truth at all.

If we were to take his so-called alibi with a grain of salt and accept the insult to our collective sensibilities with our usual traditional shrug, he would still have to explain why he did not head straight to the nearest Police station to expose the face of someone who clearly set out to rubbish his hard-built integrity that won him the sobriquet of Mr Integrity. What was more intriguing, for two long months, Farouk kept us in denial of the biggest news item of the year. What was even stranger, the name of Femi Otedola’s oil company, Zenon had suddenly and mysteriously disappeared from the top list of artful dodgers. It became too difficult to buy Mr Integrity’s image of an incorruptible investigator for a premium.

On Femi Otedola’s part, there are still many nagging questions begging for serious answers. Why did he choose to play for broke?  Why is a suave and savvy businessman suddenly singing like a canary and potentially damaging his business interests?  Does he truly have nothing to hide? Perhaps indeed Femi had nothing to hide.  If so, was there a higher interest he was trying to protect than his own that made it imperative for him to go for Farouk’s jugular so mercilessly? Why did Femi bypass all the anti-fraud and anti-corruption agencies that litter the streets of Abuja and go straight to a security agency saddled with the task of high-level espionage and at this moment, how to tackle international terrorism?

On whose order did Femi succeed in getting the prompt cooperation of the overstretched SSS? Who supplied the marked $620,000 bait that hooked Farouk’s throat? Why did Femi and his SSS collaborators agree to risk as much as that amount when they could have sprang their surprise on Farouk after sprinkling the first instalment on the man with immaculate reputation? How would they prove how much Farouk & Partner truly collected when they were not instantly arrested with it? Now that Farouk is claiming different things at different times on different occasions, and his partner-in-crisis is even deny how much he collected, is it not certain that the key evidence has been lost and the plot has already been bungled? Is it possible that the President can ultimately claim not to be a part of this charade when the whole probe was pointing ostensibly to a campaign to rubbish his administration for abject incompetence and atrocious corruption? Could it not be true that the fuel subsidy scam reached an all-time high because of prodigious spending on President Jonathan’s Fresh Air campaign last year that out-spent Obama’s campaign? And on a sobering note, how come all corruption cases investigated under this ruling party always hit brick-walls or come to a frustrating cul de sac?
The story at the very least is a best seller for its turns and twists. It has all the stunts of a James Bond movie with the hi-tech gadgets of any modern Spy-catcher. Those who have read or heard about the thriller have actually been salivating for more. They don’t want it to end. And it is by popular demand that I agreed to write a quick sequel to How They Catch Monkeys in Brazil and elucidate on why it is so difficult to catch Nigerian monkeys and how they always manage to escape on the few occasions they are ever caught. I would have to play the Nigerian James Hadley Chase and craft a story about what makes our monkeys so wonderfully unique.

Among the cogent questions to be addressed and answered is if our monkeys are less gluttonous than the Brazilian breed? Is it that they have narrower paws and longer fingers? The answer is actually revealing and exciting. The Nigerian monkey is bigger, brainier and smarter. The Brazilian monkey is smaller, stupid and sluggish. How on earth can a monkey want to steal some nuts in a bottle that’s tied to a tree and go through the rigmarole of dipping its paw into the bottle? That can only happen in Brazil. In Nigeria, the monkey won’t waste such valuable time struggling with the bottle but would rather steal the bottle itself and own both the bottle and the nuts. That’s the nature of the Nigerian game.

The bigger the monkey is in Nigeria the more difficult it is to catch. The Nigerian monkey has something that the Brazilian specie lacks, incredible generosity. The Nigerian monkey is so benevolent that it would even invite the owner of the nut to join him for dinner. That is why you see discredited and disgraced politicians not just on party rostrums but on national stage as Congressmen, Ministers and the like. Every weapon of the enemy fashioned against him shall never prosper. In fact, his enemies shall be scattered like the sands of the sea. If the owner is not careful, he would trade places with the monkey and the hunter shall become the hunted.

The Nigerian monkey is not all about size though.  That is why you will see middle level civil servants and their senior colleagues using their homes as the Federal Reserve and keeping our collective wealth in all manner of strange places including, under mattresses, in water tanks, septic tanks and now we must add to the list, traditional caps!

Even when seemingly caught the Nigerian monkey is like a cat with proverbial nine lives.  He lives to fight again.  Our recent history is replete with such veritable examples.  Alamiesiyigha, Dariye, Fayose, Odili, Lucky Igbinedion.  Even Ibori, the most recent of the PDP stalwarts caught in the snare of British justice, only became a target after offending the godfathers and is certain to return home soon to a resounding reception live on prime television. It would be a sweet revenge to all those who conspired to get him jailed in a foreign land something they couldn’t do in their timidity at home.

That is the foundation of the tragic tale of Hon. Farouk Lawan who did not understand how monkeys survive in the Nigerian jungle without getting caught. Perhaps he’s never read the superlative work of George Orwell titled ‘Animal Farm’. He would have known that: “All animals are equal but some are more equal than others.  He was also not conversant with African proverbs or he would have realised that “A child who does not want his mother to sleep will not sleep a wink himself.”

Unfortunately for Farouk he took the costliest snap of his life and is about to pay dearly for it.


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