The Paradox in Akpabio’s Anti-Corruption Crusade

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THIS REPUBLIC By Shaka Momodu, Email: shaka.momodu@thisdaylive.com, SMS Only: 0811 266 1654

The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio has found his mojo once again, and he is flexing it. Strangely, he is now waging a war on corruption and he is speaking out loudly and acting forcefully like a man driven by conviction. Oh Nigeria, my country! Your nightmare in the hands of strange characters has lasted too long. Who will save you? When will you rise from the ashes like the phoenix and reclaim your honour and dignity from these people? Or are you going to slide this way, before our very our eyes into obscurity?

Akpabio is now championing the war on corruption? His spell as governor of Akwa Ibom State, under the moniker of “Uncommon Transformation”, was driven by the underlining crude philosophy of “what money cannot buy, more money can buy it”. Akpabio is not a man of ideas, neither is he one to embrace the niceties of democratic norms because respect for due process and the rule of law – the core values of democracy – are not part of his forte. He’s just a believer in the power of cash and whatever cash cannot buy, more cash can buy it. And he had a lot of it to play with when he was in the saddle as governor of his oil-rich state. His achievements as governor are dented by that barbaric and corrupt philosophy of throwing more money at what money cannot buy. At the end of his eight years in office, he won and the people lost.

Akpabio, after defecting from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) threatened to declare full scale war on his state to win it for his new party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), that promised Eldorado in 2015 but has brought pain and anguish on Nigerians – with the chilling exploits of one of history’s greatest monsters. Here were his threatening allusions: “When they asked Hitler’s minister for information how was the war in Poland? He said Warsaw saw war and war saw Warsaw. I will say that in the…. ….but in 2019 Warsaw shall see war and war shall see Warsaw. The return will be victory.”

That he chose to use the exploits of Hitler’s Nazis to boast about what he would do to his own people was malignant and mean, to say the least. Please note that he didn’t cite Lee Kuan Yewwho transformed Singapore from a Third World country to First World, nor did he want to associate himself with the idealism and phenomenal achievements of Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia. Neither did he seek to be like the perfectionist, excellence-obsessed, dynamic and energetic Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai – whose successful leadership, unwavering dedication and positive focus and vision have turned the arid desert of Dubai to the paradise yonder that it is today.

Instead he threatened to unleash bestiality on his small state on a scale similar to what Hitler did to Poland. But it demonstrated his impetuous arrogance and his lack of respect for the principle of one man, one vote. He believed in obtaining his peoples’ votes by inducement and crude force and was prepared to steal votes, maim, kill and destroy to win the elections. Well, the 2019 elections have come and gone. Despite the shenanigans of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), those who believed his boast, encouraged and enabled him to wage war against his people, have since been taught a bitter lesson that the power of the people is more powerful than the people in power.

Akpabio loves power and no doubt knows how to use it to achieve his own objectives. He ran his state like an emperor and spent lavishly on anything and anyone that caught his fancy and lived ostentatiously. His moniker strapline “Uncommon Transformation” only succeeded in transforming his life, that of his family and a few cronies while the vast majority of Akwa Ibom people wallowed in abject and endemic poverty in the midst of oil riches. It’s just unbelievable. Yet he is praised as one of the few governors who did well. It underscores our low benchmark for measuring success and failure in this country. Holding public office has become the easiest ticket to extreme wealth, while the ordinary people are living poorer.

The massive oil revenues he received during his tenure hardly reflected what he left on the ground. His stint in the Senate was hardly memorable on achievements, also. I can’t recall any bill he promoted or resolution he sponsored that was altruistic in content and futuristic in outlook. As Senate Minority Leader then, whenever his name was mentioned, what came to mind was his super wealth NOT achieved on account of creativity, innovativeness, nor industry, but through ill-gotten means, or simply by holding public office.

Akpabio was under investigation as confirmed some time ago by the Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, for massive fraud, corruption and money laundering when he jumped ship and joined the ruling APC. Afterwards, as has been the case with this APC-led government, his case file immediately began to crawl until it finally crawled to a halt altogether. Nigerians should wake from their slumber and demand from Magu what has happened to Akpabio’s file. In the face of his new passion to fight corruption, the people deserve to know what this man did with their money for eight years.

Now, he is basking in the remarkable turn of fortune after his humiliating loss during the election; and from being a suspect in a criminal investigation, he was appointed Minister of Niger Delta Affairs. How and why he made the cabinet has remained a matter of conjectures. And those conjectures have grown into mysteries. For a government that once declared that anybody with a whiff of corruption would not be given an appointment, Akpabio’s appointment as many others has defied all rational explanations. Wasting no time, he has started to walk about with the aura of a power-drunk celebrity, cheered on by the rank and file of his mob supporters who call him leader.

Akpabio contaminates our values, and with him, you get a sense of menace and danger lurking on the horizon. This is the strange paradox here in Nigeria that people that had or still have their hands in the cookie jar are the ones claiming to be leading the anti-corruption crusade. Sometime ago, his big brother in Lagos, a mercantile political godfather who has appropriated the state since 1999 and has countless corruption allegations hanging over his head, had the temerity to sit in the front row during an anti-corruption summit organised by the EFCC. You see, these hypocrites are always comparing notes and the minister has just demonstrated that he is a fast learner.

How else does one explain Akpabio’s new passion to clean the Augean stable at Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) – a supposed intervention agency that has largely failed to achieve the objective behind its establishment? Well Nigeria is no doubt a fool’s paradise, a huge crime scene, where thieves vie for public office and good people sit back and cheer them on; where corrupt profiteers deliver sermons on good governance and are publicly honoured by the intellectual class as great public administrators.

Otherwise, how does one explain that as the Senate was clearing the new management and board of the NDDC nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari, Akpabio, in a bizarre twist, quickly tried to undercut that process by inaugurating an interim management board for the same NDDC? Please note that there was already an interim management in place before Akpabio’s appointment as Minister of Niger Delta Affairs. He sacked that interim management board and quickly inaugurated his own interim nonsense to undercut the incoming management appointed by the president. I am mystified by this developing story. It’s a scandal. Can someone make me understand what is going on?

Now that the Senate has finished the confirmation of Buhari’s board, what next for them? Which board should we recognise and deal with, the president’s appointed board or the emperor Akpabio’s interim nonsense? Is the president’s board going to sit idly by while Akpabio’s interim nonsense carries on? Why the rushed inauguration of his own interim board when a new one appointed by his boss was undergoing confirmation in the Senate? Something suspicious is going on here. There appears to be some desperate power play on the part of the minister to forcibly take over control of the NDDC.

It is not because he believes the intervention agency has largely failed. The minister is not serious about fighting corruption; his antecedents and persona speak volumes. Rather, Akpabio’s obsession is to take over effective control of the agency and proceed to use it as an avenue to dispense favours to his cronies. He wants to rebuild his badly diminished political clout. He and his political base would be the ultimate beneficiaries of his fake war on corruption. The NDDC is essentially a contract-awarding agency, all in the multi-billion naira range. It is therefore easily understandable why Akpabio wants to effectively bring it under his control. Who knows what crooked stories he might have whispered into the ears of the powers that be before making his audacious power grab?

Only a pretender will claim that there is no corruption in the NDDC. Truth be told, the agency is reeking of corruption. It has been badly run; massive corruption by way of contract inflation, poor execution, outright looting of the money meant to provide succour to the people of the Niger Delta region who bear the brunt of environmental degradation as a result of oil exploration are rife. I want the NDDC probed and thoroughly so. All those who have undermined the objectives of its creation MUST be brought to book. All the contractors who have collected money and failed to show up at site or failed to execute contracts to specifications must be held to account alongside their enablers.

But I can’t for the life of me understand how Akpabio will accomplish this task altruistically when he is still facing allegations of corruption himself. More so, considering the circumstances, he cannot be the one to lead the charge to clean up the mess in NDDC. His hands are soiled in the mess that Nigeria has become. I shudder at his vain attempt to play to the gallery, I pity those who allow themselves to be fooled by the man’s sudden piety and sanctimonious posturing. I am NEVER going to fall for it. I read some fellas are threatening fire and brimstone if he is sacked.

Really? Since when? You know there is a saying in the land of my fathers that when you have been in slavery for too long, and you are suddenly free, you begin to crave slavery. That’s why I pity Akpabio’s supporters. They have been living in the dark and want to continue to live in darkness because light hurts them.

No matter how one looks at it, it is an unpleasant development. The new board appointed by the president should be given the clear mandate to clean the Augean stable at NDDC and take the agency back to its original mandate after all they were not part of those who ran NDDC aground. The alternative is to set up an independent inquiry into all receivables by the agency, all contracts awarded/executed or purportedly executed since inception. Carrying out a forensic audit should not by any means preclude the president’s appointed board from resuming and carrying on with its mandate. Akpabio’s interim nonsense should be consigned to the dustbin where it belongs.

And if indeed there was a presidential approval for the inauguration of Akpabio’s interim nonsense, then the government may have shot itself in the foot and something is sure wrong with those at the centre of power for allowing this to happen in the first place.

Again, if the minister’s brazen attempt to undercut the presidential appointments is allowed to stand, it will further demonstrate how dysfunctional this government is. Add to this the endless litany of unforced errors and the optics doesn’t look good. Those defending him and his voodoo interim board are supporting a dangerous precedent in the running of the affairs of this country. I am not persuaded by whatever is the nobility of his defence for his coup