There is something unmistakably instructive, you might say, about the optics of five men — Sambo Dasuki, Aminu Babakusa, Shuaibu Salisu, Bashir Yuguda, Attahiru Bafarawa — standing trial in an Abuja High Court this morning for corruptly enriching themselves with filthy lucre while serving under the morally bankrupt President Goodluck Jonathan government. Both their names and their attires instantly tell the onlooker they’re from the northern part of Nigeria. Besides, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the institution spearheading their prosecution, is headed by Ibrahim Magi, himself a northerner.
Not to be forgotten, Magi’s ultimate boss who is doing his best to ensure that all stolen money belonging to Nigeria is returned and that those found to have stolen such money in the first place are justly punished, is none other than the President of the Republic, Muhammadu Buhari. A northerner also he is.
As far as the eyes can see, and as deep as the mind can fathom, Buhari cannot be doing all that to titillate his personal whim, nor do I for a moment consider him to be treating the public to a meretricious trial balloon spectacle in a bid to regain some of that lost substantive popularity he once commanded following his election last March. The man means business. I should be a blithering idiot to think this is not the case.
For that reason alone, those who have been cynical about his true intentions — and they have every God-given right to be — may want to start reconsidering their attitude now. However, this is only a part of what is required of the rest of us. Nigerians should also not forget that those who allegedly stole their country’s funds are not exclusively from one region of the country as the court spectacle tends to advertise, but are in fact spread across the south as well. We may soon come to know this when the lid is finally pried off their names. When that times comes, it is hoped that there will be no false hue and cry of any sort, that there will be no complaints of ethnic victimization that have the potential to send the wrong message and unfairly taint this government’s efforts to recover most of the targeted loot.
Assuredly, the court process may grind slowly and justice may even on occasion be perverted, especially where men lacking integrity and honor are involved as judges, but we should all find the current process reassuring enough so far.
Most recently, Buhari earned the censure of this column for his incessant overseas travels. I noted that not every concern should take him out of the country. If there is one major problem that justifies a trip by him to a foreign Western leader at all, it is that aimed at recovering the country’s stolen money. One such trip Buhari made to the United States in July. At a meeting with President Barrack Obama in the Oval Office, Buhari reportedly said about $150 billion was stolen from Nigeria via illegal oil deals by officials of the Jonathan government, and he requested Obama to lend a helping hand in the recovery of the stolen money. Reportedly, Obama acceded kindly to Buhari’s request. I’m sure as Buhari came to his feet, shared a parting handshake with Obama and left, his American opposite number must have shaken his head pitifully like a shaggy dog’s tail, wondering what manner of leaders would be so mindless as to plunder their country’s treasury and render its people almost destitute.
Well, we haven’t heard much about that since. No doubt most of that money is stashed away in American and British banks. Today, we’re told that Nigeria’s debts to foreign countries and financial institutions around the world stand at about $60 billion. I do not doubt Buhari’s reported disclosure to Obama for a minute, but assuming if all that was stolen from Nigeria is conservatively put at $100 billion, that is still more than enough to settle Nigeria’s debts and get its ailing economy chugging along on an even keel.
In the herculean task of combating corruption in Nigeria and setting things aright, Obama and other Western leaders owe Nigeria a debt too. They only need to see what Buhari is doing now to come to the realization that his beleaguered country needs urgent help. They should leverage their influence and cause the repatriation process to move expeditiously. They should also start to publish the names of all of those who have stolen our wealth. This could deter future thieves.
Magi deserves plaudits for the energetic job he is doing. Just days ago, he vowed his commission would “recover all public funds stolen in the guise of arms procurement in Nigeria.” He should have our unstinting support and prayers. But he will also need to cast his net wider and beyond Dasuki’s $2 billion, to the vast sums stolen by those who had plundered the country’s oil resources.
What these Nigerian thieves had done to their nation is enough to line them up and shoot them as happened to Oyenusi, the villain whose crime, in comparison with what today’s pen robbers are doing to do their country, pales into insignificance. Onitsha once gathered its thieves and set them alight. J.J. Rawlings tied up the soldiers and politicians who had financially bled Ghana almost comatose and shot them all. I’m clearly certain that is not what the West wants in this day and age.