The Dexterous Gangsterism of Our Economic Hitmen


Iboro Otu weighs in on the alleged scam perpetrated by an aide of Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State

Something rather interesting happened two weeks ago in my state. A certain personality and politician cum Special Assistant to the Governor of Akwa Ibom State got involved in a contract scam where he allegedly left several state contractors =N=500 million out of pocket after a contract-for-a-fee entanglement. The whole exploit reads like a mafia crime novel. He allegedly used the fleeced money to buy cars for himself and his girlfriends, but that’s not the interesting part of the story as these kinds of unabashed organized-crime style abuse of power happen very often when dealing with Akwa Ibom state government from time imo-river. What got me interested was that the said politician cum Special Adviser’s name was ‘White BumBum’. One couldn’t make this up. After a while I thought, “wait a minute, who gives =N=500 million, to a guy named ‘White BumBum’, representing the state government, money meant as a birthday gift, for the wife of the Commissioner of Works?” If that doesn’t script like a Quentin Tarantino-type organized crime syndicate deal meant to go wrong, then I don’t know what does! This is one of the dodgiest deals I’ve ever heard! But it isn’t new, it only went wrong because value wasn’t delivered at both ends probably! Earning a mention in some reputable blogs gave the news credibility. Further investigation actually revealed the guy is completely fair, in complexion I mean, as his dealings and the rest of the story is as dark as it gets.

Akwa Ibom politicians have really funny nicknames though, jokes apart; we have a sitting senator who is popularly known as ‘the crocodi(l)e’, we have a ‘hippopotamus’, a ‘carving knife’, a ‘mountain lion’, all sorts of wild animals in vernacular, no kidding. There are those who bear names of ISIS war zones too; itched on their official complimentary cards like a badge of honor; the territory is as derogatory as it sounds. I think it kind of fits the purpose when reputational bid to seem larger than life also ends up being unnerving. To be fair, the Italians started it, Frankie ‘Two Shots’, Frank ‘The Dasher’, Frank ‘Cut Fingers’; but c’mon, that was the mafia era. African Americans joined in later, but majority of them bore names of luxury brands. That all changed with time too. These days Americans are happier with stuff sounding like fruits instead; like Apple, Blackberry, Raspberry Pi, etc; they have grown up. We too. We have all grown to understand that names somehow project what they represent but be that as it may, our politicians still have the right of way so who am I to say…

Names are as old and as useful as the era they represent, they stand as beacon stones and boundary lines of time. Some act as reminders of troubling pasts and others a point of turnaround. Nigeria is at this point; a point where we either have to step into a glorious future, or. With a new future, is a demand for transformational baptismal identity but what good is a nickname if the attitude remains same?

The dexterous gangsterism in the economic hit job; where a Special Assistant to a Governor – of which he has hundreds of by the way – runs part of a contract-awarding government ministry from his home and is able to fleece up to =N=500m from state domiciled contractors calls for serious concern. No contractor lets go of a penny to anyone without a proven track record, are you kidding me? How long has this been going on and how many of the hundreds of SA’s run similar crime rings? Transparency and accountability is seriously lacking at all levels of governance in Nigeria, local to federal.

We still are grappling ill-preparedly with the first wave of COVID-19, a second wave, I heard, is coming. Our economy doesn’t look like it’s getting up soon. The educational sector hasn’t kick-started yet, neither has the health sector found its balance. Foreign exchange rate and inflation are working hand in hand in dealing blows on the Naira. In the midst of all these, hundreds of billions are unaccounted for at the EFCC, NDDC can’t account for 183 billion in its 2019 budget alone, only God knows what’s happening elsewhere. It can’t continue like this.

A big show of shame is right now playing on the big screens between the Minister of Niger-Delta, NDDC IMC and the senate committee on NDDC, as I type, an NDDC TV-series is playing out with allegations and counter allegations. The president has read a riot act to all his people in the executive branch but does that stop covert arrests and silencing? The smoke and mirrors are in place only to get us distracted while our supposed gatekeepers make away with loots; preparing and stocking up for 2023. The sheer number of high level misconduct and thievery is nauseating. Old political blocks and interests are securing their vaults, standing guard, protecting their own. Where does that leave us?

A brilliant intellectual, Dele Farotimi, came on Arise TV the other week, he summarized the Nigerian situation in one hour with ‘Do not die in their war, choose your war to die in’, it was a brilliant piece. To secure Nigeria’s future, we need millions of Dele’s and lots more who are awake from the age of 18.

I had been opportune at some point to engage the political system in 2019, at the time I had thought that with consistency, logic could be argued and sustained. I was wrong. Our leaders, through practice and consistency, ironically, understand you can’t argue logic with the poor and hungry, hence, why they have weaponized both poverty and hunger. To turn Nigeria around, we futurists need to go beyond logic and philosophies; we also need counter weapons to immobilize hunger and poverty alongside the alternative ideal we proffer. This is why whenever a new ‘Save Nigeria’ group comes up, with all humility I ask them, ‘show me first how you intend to raise =N=100 billion naira and then show me the =N=1 billion you presently have to kickstart the N=100 billion fundraising for subsequent community support legwork’, as without this, it is a waste of time. Nigeria has long passed the point of assembling people to listen to ideas without having support measures to keep, disperse and reconvene them. The legendary pervasiveness of poverty and hunger makes it impossible for average Nigerians to turn up talk-less of making sense of the logic. A lot of participants in the Nigeria project do so from a point of selfish interest alone, this is the practical experience politics in Nigeria has taught me, unfortunately. When one begins to appreciate how politics and elections are structured and prioritized in Nigeria, that’s when one truly begins to understand the depth of our national challenges. Here again, unfortunately, many of our present crop of leaders are light years ahead of us in political manipulations, machinations and understanding. To catch up, we need to do more than talk, we need action. The catch-22 question then is; how does one raise the resources needed to mobilize action if one doesn’t raise the consciousness first? Could the diaspora hold the key?

Perhaps, but therein is another challenge; the doors to many diaspora abode and associations were fabricated by our numerous political leaders meaning the keys probably have numerous duplicates. Some say we don’t even need a lot of resources to spring a leadership revolution but that’s a topic for a different day, but have this in mind; our politicians, believe it or not, wield huge influence everywhere especially over mainstream media – and I’m not just talking about local media, I also mean mainstream international media. When you try to engage internationally, you again appreciate afresh, the power of government. These people, many having flushed themselves with looted funds, remote many mainstream international media agents and what perspective is deemed news. They have interests in every conceivable international law firm of repute, they hold stakes in global intelligence and investment circles, its like an endless circus of control.

I remember when we tried to hire the services of the biggest law firms around the world for our fundamental human right violation issue at the ICC after the last elections, they always had to check for conflict of interest, guess with who? Just last week, a world leading public relations firm indicated to us that there might be a potential conflict of interest if they worked with me – my firm is representing a presidential candidate in one of the many African elections this year – and guess with who? A Nigerian government parastatal and ministry is dolling out millions of pounds to hire world class PR services to launder its corruption ridden image internationally. For what purpose you may ask? Needless waste of scarce resources. I can’t believe it myself!

The higher you go, the colder it becomes, the more you’re humbled by the sheer size, reach of our many corrupt political elites, and how shamelessly and wantonly they waste our resources in consolidating their illegitimacy. On the back of our blood and suffering, they’ve acquired the access to sit and dine with the global high and mighty. The gains come too easy for them to let go.

In my humble opinion, for the soul of Nigeria to be resuscitated and sustained, a complete revolution, in every sense of the word, is eminently pertinent. Nigeria may never change otherwise, and the revolution must start from the inside. This isn’t an advise, it is a prophesy, that’s why I left it open-ended and in its own paragraph so you can quote me anywhere.

And so when the state government of Akwa Ibom rolled out a press release or whatever, distancing themselves from the actions of their Special Adviser, it only brought to mind the attitude of campus anti-cult organizations in UNIBEN those days, where most were run by heavily entrenched cultists themselves. Their slogan then was, ‘when they catch you, you’re on your own’. It doesn’t look any different. Like our local adage says, ‘seven days for the thief…’
Last week bore the 8th day for White BumBum, but every cat has nine lives…