Akande: Of politicians’ occupational hazard

It is not just that politicians are the most distrusted group of professionals in the world, being a politician in itself is a nightmare as it carries a stigma of being an unprincipled, corruptible double-dealer. And as if to justify this, their zero-sum struggle for power is often anchored on the belief that ‘the end justifies the means’ or as John Lylys puts it in his novel Euphus: The Anatomy of Wits, ‘All, is fair in love as in war’.

Ironically, we need politicians more than they need us. We owe our survival as organized society to their brinkmanship and skillful exploitation of our infirmities. In a world where it is the survival of the fittest, politicians are the only people who are capable of reconciling private affluence with public squalor. It is they alone that can make us dream dreams and convert such dreams to reality.

It is this paradoxical nature of politics that is responsible for the dearth of politician statesmen. Committed politicians dedicated to the service of humanity often face what many regard as ‘politician occupational hazards.’  Nearer home, Awolowo in an effort to create a more egalitarian society for his people and the rest of the country, was framed up and jailed for 10 years by those, who because they did not share his world view, accused him of trying ‘to topple her majesty’s government’ citing as evidence, entries in his diary to the effect that he dreamt he became the Prime Minister of Nigeria. Adekunle Ajasin, Bisi Onabanjo, Bola Ige and Prof. Ambrose Alli whose only earthly possession was an empty plot of land at death, were jailed for a total of 400 years for creatively raising funds from state contractors to prosecute free education, free health and setting up of universities in their different states. Bisi Akande, Ige’s deputy was jailed 44 years.

For standing up against his fellow politicians who wanted to loot the resources of Osun State, Governor Akande was rigged out of office as governor of Osun State in the fourth republic. Long after some of those who fraudulently took over power have been found to be men with feet of clay, Akande was described by Buhari, his former persecutor, as “a man of inflexible integrity”. 

If there is anyone who truly understands occupational hazards of committed politicians in Nigeria, Bisi Akande fits the bill. With Ambrose Alli going blind in Buhari’s gulag and his colleagues’ untimely deaths as a result of their inhuman treatment in detention, Pa Akande is in best position to raise an alarm about the danger of allowing fraudsters posing as anti-corruption crusaders take over power in the country.

It is from this context we must understand his last week’s timely warning about the danger that lies ahead with the prospect of take-over of power by those he described as “the new brand of vagabonds’, the drug barons, crude oil thieves,” who he claims “are among you; are richer than you; are calling you corrupt and hiding behind the cloak that they are not corrupt, but they are more corrupt and they will fight you.” For him the danger is real because “we are in a Nigeria now where everybody is struggling to be corrupt and the mind-set of everybody is corruption, and they don’t point the fingers to themselves; they are pointing it at you, politicians.”

Successive administrations in Nigeria according Chief Akande, have failed to defeat corruption due to the mind-set of Nigerians. According to him, “In a country where everybody is corrupt like Nigeria, The mind-set is corrupt. The man who wants prosperity by miracle is corrupt. You want to own a car, or house by miracle. Such a community can never be prosperous except of course “Nigerians have a change of mind-set and embrace the virtues of dedication and hard work”.

Akande has been around long enough to also understand Nigerian miracle seekers have short memories. He also knows how vulnerable we are as a people, especially with the advent of social media and some unprincipled main stream media who after changing all the rules of journalism, pretend to be driven by national interest.

Two events during the 2023 election exposed their hypocrisy. Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi were leading light of PDP, a party that raped the country for 16 years. Atiku Abubakar, as Obasanjo’s VP presided over the mismanaged privatization programme and was accordingly indicted by a National Assembly report. Peter Obi, who moved from PDP to Labour on the eve of the 2023 election was mentioned by the PANDORA Papers as one of the rich people in the world “who clandestinely set up businesses operated overseas, including in notorious tax and secrecy havens in ways that breached Nigerian laws” Curiously, the duo were presented as anti-corruption crusaders trying to save the nation from Bola Tinubu who had never held public office or engaged in federal government contract.

There was also the case of Godwin Emefiele who as sitting CBN governor, wanted to contest for the presidency of Nigeria on the platform of APC. He was ably promoted and supported by segment of the media. However as soon as his ambition was truncated by the judiciary, he donned the toga of an anti-corruption crusader. In October 2022, he embarked on a political redesign of N200, N100 and N1,000 bills. He ordered depositors to take their savings to the banks. He claimed his target were some presidential candidates and governors he accused of stashing funds to buy votes. His media promoters were less restrained. They made it clear the target was Bola Tinubu who they alleged shipped monies in bullion vans to his residence on the eve of Buhari’s 2019 contest against Atiku Abubakar.

It turned out that enough new notes were not printed. The result was that banks and bank staff were attacked by angry depositors who could not access their deposits when needed. A number of people died on the queues while trying to make withdrawal. Intervention by the Supreme Court declaring the old note legal tender was ignored by anti-corruption crusading Emefiele. Even as Nigerians groaned, he was egged on by the social media and his mainstream media sponsors.

Now out of office, the full report of the Special Investigator on Management of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), under anti-corruption crusading Emefiele, has revealed that the redesigned Naira is

 “illegal and should be withdrawn from circulation with immediate effect while Emefiele and his group should be made to face criminal charges for an aberration that led to the loss of lives of many Nigerians, the closure of businesses and joblessness.”

That “The sum of N1,727,500,000, according to the Obazee report “was also spent on questionable legal fees on 19 cases that are directly traceable to the Naira Redesign and reconfiguration agenda”;

That in the UK alone, the Special Investigator said his probe led him to 543.4 million pounds kept by Emefiele in fixed deposit accounts. The report claims Emefiele manipulated the Naira exchange rate and perpetrated fraud in the e-Naira project of the CBN.

The investigator also discovered a “fraudulent cash withdrawal of $6.23 million” – about N2.9 billion at the then official exchange rate of N461 to a dollar.

With the above revelations, Nigeria would have been doomed under Emefiele and his promoters. Having experienced first-hand, the betrayal of corrupt elements in borrowed anti-corruption cloak, I suspect Pa Akande is trying to remind us of the danger ahead if we allow ‘a brand of vagabonds, powerful drug barons, crude oil thieves who share the same worldview with Godwin Emefiele, the fake anti-corruption crusader, to take over power.