Simon Kolawole Live!: Email: email@example.com
How will this drama end? That is the question playing on my mind as I continue to watch the different episodes of the $620,000 (or is it $3 million) bribe row in the House of Representatives. Zenon boss, Femi Otedola, said the chairman of the fuel subsidy probe committee, Lawan Farouk, collected bribes worth $620,000 in steaming cash from him to delete Zenon from the list of marketers indicted over the subsidy affair. Otedola said he informed the security agencies, played along and had everything captured on audio and video. The audios are being released in batches. We await the video that will give it the proper outlook of a soap opera, tagged “Chop My Money” by some ever-creative Nigerians. That is one side of the story.
The other side of the story, as told by Lawan, is that indeed, he collected Otedola’s dollars, but that he too was playing along in order to expose how marketers tried to influence the report of his committee. He said he promptly handed the money to the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Economic Crimes, Jagaba Adams Jagaba, for safekeeping as “Exhibit A”. Jagaba has denied receiving the exhibit. Up till today, we don’t know where the money is. We understand it is marked money, so not just any dollar bill would do. The money was allegedly marked by the security agencies when Otedola informed them of the development.
Wait a minute. There is a third side. There is this suspicion that Otedola did not act alone, that he was fronting the interest of those who wanted to rubbish the probe. According to this thinking, the plan, ab initio, was to discredit the report of the committee. So the plan was carefully hatched so that after the whole show, the report would come to nought. Lawan only fell into a trap that would end up tarnishing the probe report, according to this line of reasoning. Already, one of the indicted marketers has headed to the court asking that the report be nullified “in the light” of the on-going revelations questioning “the credibility of the report”.
What do I believe? Well, I believe Lawan collected the money. But that’s not even in question. Although he initially denied collecting the bribe and described the video as a “caricature”, he finally admitted receiving it as “exhibit”. So that is settled. I believe the “bribe” paved the way for the swift “vindication” of Zenon championed by Lawan on the floor of the House. As a layman, I would argue that if I gave you $620,000 to delete my company’s name from the list and you promptly did so, you have fulfilled your obligation. I therefore declare that I believe Lawan vigorously saw to the removal of Zenon’s name because of the $620,000 bonanza.
However, Lawan, through his lawyers, is arguing that Zenon’s name was removed because it was proved beyond doubt by Otedola that the company had nothing to do with the petrol subsidy. Zenon, after all, deals only in diesel and that is one product that had been freed from control pricing many years ago. So Zenon could not have participated in petrol issues, logically speaking. If we are to believe Lawan’s lawyers, that means Zenon was not guilty of anything and Otedola had no reason to bribe anybody. It also means collecting the $620,000 booty was unnecessary since there was no case against Zenon in any form. I would therefore conclude that Lawan’s excuse is, at best, tenuous.
A vital question which we should ask, however, is: who initiated the bribery? Was it that Otedola called Lawan and said, “Bros, we need to see o!”? Or was it Lawan that said, “Bros, we need to see o!”? This is key in the whole scandal even as it has become my-word-against-your-word. If it was Otedola that made the overture, then it fits perfectly into the theory that the whole saga was orchestrated to rubbish the probe. If it was Lawan that initiated it, then it fits perfectly, too, into our opinion of the National Assembly as a place where there is no genuine oversight going on. It would seem all these probes are designed for the purpose of extortion.
Whatever the case may be, Otedola has murdered sleep. The Nigerian elite class has a way of protecting itself; it never exposes itself to public “ridicule”. It’s a close-knit family, no matter the ethnic, religious and partisan differences. Issues of this nature are usually treated as a “family affair”. As the mafia mantra states, injury to one member of the family is injury to all. House members are seething with fury. They will get back at him. For as long as Otedola continues to do business with the state, they will be waiting for him somewhere someday. Already, we can see the hostility of the House members towards him. But that is none of my business.
The real issue for the rest of us—the victims of the large-scale, shameless corruption in Nigeria—is: for how long are the elites going to hold us hostage? The issue, to me, is not who demanded bribe or who gave it. It is about the unending plundering of our resources and the unending cover-up. It happens almost every day. This is not the first nor will it be the last scandal in the corridors of power. We, the people, are the losers ultimately. These guys know where they meet, pop champagne and play golf. They will soon sort themselves out—leaving the rest of us high and dry… always.
And FourOther Things...
So how much did we spend on fuel subsidy last year? N1 trillion? N1.2 trillion? N1.7 trillion? Or N2.1 trillion? The figure keeps going up. I hope we have finally arrived at N2.19 trillion. Now, if we add that to what we have been paying as subsidy in the last five years, we would be discussing something in the region of N5 trillion!!! While some of us are busy writing analyses on subsidy and doing activism, some smart guys are actually smiling to the bank every day and buying private jets. This world is not fair at all… (lol).
After last Sunday’s attack on a church in Garissa, a Kenyan border town, which left 14 persons dead, the head of the Supreme Council of Kenyan Muslims, Adan Wachu, declared an all-out war against the terrorists. “It’s not going to be allowed to have a sectarian division in this country—whoever wants to do that will of course fail,” he said categorically. I find this to be very courageous, especially as he would automatically become a target of the terrorists. But Wachu, in my opinion, is genuinely interested in confronting militancy without equivocation. He made his stand public. That’s leadership.
Goodluck to Comrade
Sometime in 2005, I asked Comrade Adams Oshiomhole: would you run for Edo governorship in 2007? He threw the question back at me: what do you think? I can’t remember my response now, but I think I mumbled something like the PDP would try to stop him by unfair means. Truly, PDP tried to stop him but the judiciary restored his mandate. As he goes for re-election next week, I have the same fear—that the PDP would try to stop him by unfair means. If indeed 3,500 soldiers would be deployed in Edo for the election, that is a scary indication that some mischief is afoot. Goodluck, Comrade!
Robin Hood van Persie
Fans of Arsenal have been pouring verbal acid on their striker, Robin van Persie, over his decision not to renew his contract. They are angry that even though they kept faith with the injury-plagued player in his trying times over the years, he has decided to jump ship just. He is now likely to go to Man City. I don’t think Arsenal fans should be angry—money rules this world, especially as Arsenal can still get a fee of around £20 million from City and declare profit again at the end of the year. Arsenal has benefitted nearly £100 million worth of loot from City in the last three years. They have no reason to complain…