by Pius Adesanmi
Those who are confounded or surprised that the stash of cash found in Ikoyi – we have at least, hopefully, gone beyond the point of denying that cash was found – is now gradually snaking its way from the realms of crime and corruption to the less seedy atmosphere of a legitimate stash owned by the National Intelligence Agency have not been paying attention to the history of the Nigerian presidency.
Once that cover of legitimacy and purpose is given to the stash, a certain mission is accomplished and I will return to that mission presently. All that is left is a little bit more of national whining – NIA was a bit careless in handling her money, EFCC, as usual, was not up to par, and the Lagos State Government tori Olorun! You don’t know who owns properties and flats within the properties. No records? No taxes? Even Oba Ado, who ruled Lagos from 1630 – 1669 as the first Oba of Lagos, kept better records. But, thank God sha, the money is legit. No crime was really committed. Just incompetence by NIA, EFCC, Lagos State Government, etc.
Those who are surprised that things appear to be moving along these lines ignore the long history of the Nigerian state – embodied by the Presidency – in serving as the foster parent of high crimes committed by Nigerians who operate above the state, above the constitution, above all mechanisms and apparatuses of the Nigerian state- Generals, powerful political dynasties, powerful economic dynasties, old money, etc. Once in a while, some new money is allowed into this hallowed circle of the owners of Nigeria. Some very powerful prosperity Pentecostal mega-Pastors are also members of the club.
There is no high stakes, global-level crime in Nigeria that occurs beyond the orbit of this powerful confederacy of illicit interests. Yet, they must not be touched for they are sacred cows. A Nigerian president serves at their pleasure, holds the Presidency in trust for them.
It is in this sense that the Nigerian state has repeatedly had to serve as a foster parent of high stakes crimes for much of our post-colonial history, providing cover, providing rationalisation, providing a coherent narrative for such crimes, and, where necessary, providing prosecutable fall guys who face heavily mediatized trials.
Forget the Ikoyi billions for a while and come down memory lane with me. Nothing much. Just recent memory.
In 2004, Nigeria recorded another first in her long history of high-stakes criminality when two mega oil tankers, MT African Pride and MT Jimoh, vanished into thin air after having been arrested for oil bunkering by the Nigerian authorities. Yes, two oil tankers, containing millions of barrels of crude oil, just simply vanished in broad daylight from Nigerian custody.
The international embarrassment was great for Nigeria. How can two mega oil tankers just vanish? Eventually sha, they found MT Jimoh. Eventually, sha, some naval officers (fall guys) faced a court martial and were dismissed from the Navy.
Had my five-year-old daughter followed this story, even she would have understood that the crime we are talking about was way beyond the pay grade of the naval officers arrested and convicted by the Nigerian state. She would have understood that the Nigerian state – the Presidency – became the foster parent of that crime to protect very powerful people – the sacred cows in the confederacy of illicit interests. The Nigerian state provided a cover, a coherent narrative for an extensive crime. Some naval officers were arrested, tried, and jailed.
End. Of. Story.
Siemens and Halliburton are other examples of high stakes crimes in the foster care of the Nigerian presidency. All the individuals involved are Generals and old money – members plenipotentiary of the confederacy of illicit interests in charge of Nigeria, hence their crimes must be owned and given cover by the Nigerian Presidency.
Malabu, the latest entrant into the firmament of high stakes crimes, boasts Don Fortunato as protagonist, just as Siemens and Halliburton boasted Obasanjo, Abdulsalam Abubakar, and other Generals as protagonists.
There were threats of trials and rumbles of prosecution for Siemens and Halliburton but only the unweary did not know that the Nigerian Presidency was on its way to adopting the two crimes into its foster care. There are threats of trials and rumbles of prosecution for Malabu but Don Fortunato is also a member of the family – the confederacy of illicit interests. In time, Malabu will disappear into the archives of crimes owned by the Nigerian state to protect individuals.
A jet was caught ferrying illicit cash to South Africa. The narrative involved a jet owned or leased by Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, de facto Pastor-General of the Federation and spiritual leader of the Nigerian President at the time. The Nigerian state moved in to own that crime as its foster parent.
Even more intriguing and less known to the public was the high-level involvement of the Nigerian state in protecting Pastor T.B. Joshua by literally owning and foster parenting his crime.
Pastor T.B. Joshua violated extant building codes in Lagos state, his building collapsed, making him criminally responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people, especially South Africans. The South African state went into shock. It was the largest loss of South African lives outside of South Africa in their history.
Anger gave way to a determination by the South African state to go after T.B. Joshua. First, the South African media wanted to send investigation teams to Lagos. Suddenly and somehow, South African journalists couldn’t obtain visas to Nigeria. Abuja had given the message to its mission in South Africa: we don’t want SA journalists to come and disturb Pastor.
Then came high-media public visits by President Jonathan and Governor Raji Fashola to T.B. Joshua. Nigerians saw condolence visits on TV but that was not what was going on. What was going on was a clear message to the South Africans: we got this one. We got the Pastor’s back. He is one of ours. Back off!
Till date, T.B. Joshua has never answered for his crime. The Government of Lagos state made some noise about building codes and there were rumours and rumbles of trial and prosecution before that episode settled into the archives of crimes owned by the Nigerian state as a foster parent.
Enter the Ikoyi billions and the same pattern is emerging. I am writing this piece so that President Buhari will not be deceived by his supporters and praise singers that any Nigerian is prepared to buy the silly story that the Ikoyi billions belong to NIA. I would not even insult my five-year-old daughter with such a stupid narrative. This is a familiar pattern by which yet another high-stakes crime will be owned and normalised by the Nigerian state.
It would be a shame if President Buhari allows this to happen on his watch. It would be yet another nail in the coffin of his mortally wounded anti-corruption war, another tear in the tattered rags of change. My own suspicion is that the Ikoyi funds are owned by individuals and interests spanning PDP and APC, Christians and Muslims, and a multiplicity of ethnicities.
For when members of the confederacy of illicit interests who own Nigeria commit crimes at this level, they go by a scrupulous respect for Federal character as we witnessed in the spread of Dasuki’s largesse.
Among them, there is no APC, no PDP, no Christians, no Muslims, no Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo. Only a national cake on the table. What you find at the top is Otunba Jibiti and Mazi Efulefu having a handshake in a ceremony presided over by Alhaji Barawo Banza. It is only among their mostly diseducated followers that you find such divisions.
The only reason that the identities of the owners of the Ikoyi billions cannot be revealed and an institution of the Nigerian state – NIA – must be given marching orders to own the crime is that there is unity of purpose in the confederacy of illicit interests. They are always wiser than their followers.
The long search continues for the President who will discontinue the role of the Nigerian Presidency as a foster parent of crimes.
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
Pius Adesanmi, a professor of English, is Director of the Institute of African Studies, Carleton University, Canada