Iyinoluwa Aboyeji: Something positive from the Okonjo-Iweala kidnap (YNaija FrontPage)

by Iyinoluwa Aboyeji


There is no question. The dramatic kidnap and subsequent release of the Minister of Finance’s mother deserves a Nollywood movie of its own.

According to the most promising of many other theories being espoused, the $1 billion supplementary budget allocation was the ransom for Professor Okonjo’s release. There are a lot of reasons to believe this theory might have some factual basis. The night before Professor Okonjo’s release, the $1 billion supplementary budget for settling outstanding fuel subsidy claims was passed by the National Assembly despite open opposition to it by several members. Besides, the Delta State Governor’s story about kidnappers miraculously skipping several security barriers to drop the victim off on the main road near her house sounds a bit rich especially given the heightened state of security around the house after the kidnapping. Without a doubt the drop off the Governor imagines happened, would be impossible to accomplish without the intervention or knowledge of some “higher powers”.  For those of us not given to thoughtless belief in the supernatural, we always wondered if the two events were at all related. We now know for a fact that they were, although it remains unclear how exactly.

What is sad is that if this theory were true, this billion-dollar heist could possibly end up being the largest kidnap ransom in the history of the world and the setting of a dangerous precedent. As much as it might seem like the stuff of action films and fictional banana islands, it is now, quite literally Nigeria’s reality. Now every crook in the country know there could be much more at stake if you can capture a public servant or their loved ones. Kidnappers and their sponsors can ask for some paltry millions of naira or a chunk of the treasury. There are no guesses as to which opportunity the thugs among us are more likely to pursue.

However, there is a silver lining in all of this.

Something I found incredibly interesting was how easily and quickly Nigerians were able to connect the dots with respect to how both events might be related. Within seconds of both announcements becoming public, many Nigerians were drawing the lines between the release of Professor Okonjo, the passage of the supplementary budget and the ransom offering of $1 billion the kidnappers initially made. Especially for a country where even the most obvious cause and effect relationships are freely attributed to the ‘almighty’ (including “winning” rigged elections), it was a pleasant surprise to see such a logical breakdown of a series of seemingly unrelated events from many of my countrymen. It gave me hope that while the backroom deals won’t necessarily stop right now, the thick shrouds that shield its nefarious actors are getting thinner and more transparent to the trained Nigerian eye. Our people maltreated in darkness may have finally found some form of light.

The politicians may continue to rob us but at least they won’t be robbing us blind.

Now I can only imagine what is possible when in the absence of a truly free press, increasing access to information can enable the average Nigerian independently connect the dots on the backroom deals of the high and mighty, whether they like it or not.

Knowledge is power and our people’s growing desire to know rather than just believe might end up being Nigeria’s saving grace.

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  1. Obviously,some ransome must have been paid. But suggesting the ransom was the $1 billion is stretching it. Besides, if the govt wanted to pay a ransom to that tune, it wouldn't have passed it through the NASS. They have other ways of doing it. The trillions stolen in the name of subsidy last year were not appropriated by the National Assembly. The only logical connection between the supplementary budget and the kidnap is that the kidnappers may have demanded for payment of their subsidy arrears as a condition for the old woman's release. And if that were to be the case, it confirms NOI's assertion that her mother was kidnapped by disgruntled marketers. As per people's growing access to information, we may want to deny it, but that's one of the strong points of this administration,despite its several failings. Other governments never allowed us to know, so we wallowed in ignorance and thought they were better.

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