I have always been in love with Guinness Book of Records right from my days at UI because of its uncanny ability to discover and publish all sorts of record-breaking attainments, including weird ones. I stopped reading it sometimes ago because it was becoming very expensive for my lean purse (and that was what I easily afforded as a student!) and because my time has been overcrowded by several other matters. But I believed that it still retained its iconic positioning.
However, I have started having my doubts when I checked it of late and did not see any mention of the various earth-shaking attainments of Sani Abacha. Late Abacha is the only one, dead or alive who emerged as the presidential candidate of 5 political parties for the same election; the first person whose death was celebrated by his own people; the first certified “lootist” who was exonerated by the anti-corruption president of his own country and the only exonerated ‘lootist’ whose loot is being shared by the same government which had declared him corruption free. One man from my village said that he knew what to say quite alright but that whenever he wanted to say something, something else would “enter his mouth”. In effect, I digressed!
Four weeks ago, it was reported that the federal government, under its famed Social Investment Programme, had shared $103.6 Abacha loot and IDA funds to 621000 poor and vulnerable Nigerians from 29 states. This is to alleviate their plight and probably include the recipients among the 100m, whom President Buhari planned to lift out of poverty. The beneficiaries were taken from the National Social Register prepared by the National Safety-net Coordinating Office. At least, we have a record of some Nigerians we are so sure of (unlike our population which is a guestimate)! Uwais who made the disclosure said the N5000 monthly alawee was ‘positively changing the fortunes’ of the beneficiaries.
The first strange aspect of this story is that the loot-sharing was decided by our external traducers. They criminally allowed our criminals to hide proceeds of criminal entrepreneurship in their vaults. This makes them accessories after the fact or vicariously liable! (I no be loya). Years later, they decided to return such loots but rather than do so with apologies and interest, they tell us how to run our affairs! Of course, this is a self-inflicted national embarrassment.
Many years ago, one of our award-wining journalists, Frank Olize, went to town in search of the common man. I think it was a time when politicians did everything for the common man (including rigging, arson and murder!). His search proved abortive, not necessarily because there were no common men, but because he could not discover them. So, I decided to fill the gap by undertaking a similar search about 30 years after his failed effort. I used a different method to search for the poor, a different species of marginalised Nigerians. Frank moved around the country and did face to face interviews aired on NTA (when NTA was in its glory). My own was an online search, through 6 WhatsApp platforms with 969 members from across the country.
The question was direct: have you seen any recipient of the “Abacha loot” and to which they were to respond yes or no. Unfortunately, all the responses were a resounding NO, with some of them emphasising it as NOOOO! I also asked my colleagues in the Idu (King’s) Cabinet of Igbo-Ukwu and the answer was also no! So, my study validated the earlier research by the ebullient Frank that even though many Nigerians are poor, it is very difficult to find the poor man, especially those who received the Abacha loot.
The first strange aspect of this story is that the loot-sharing was decided by our external traducers. They criminally allowed our criminals to hide proceeds of criminal entrepreneurship in their vaults. This makes them accessories after the fact or vicariously liable
Even though I have my doubts about the integrity of the process, I believe that Mrs Uwais & the SIP office, under the now diminished VP, would have shared some money and that they would have SURELY shared it to human beings (though everything is possible in this era of ghost-workers!). However, I wanted to see just one of the beneficiaries to ask a very simple and practical question: how N5000 monthly alawee positively impacted on his or her life. But since I didn’t discover any of them, I am asking no one in particular: how could N5000 monthly move somebody from under the bridge to any type of accommodation; (even if thatched roof); buy food for one month( even if it is garri& groundnut or beans and agege bread), provide water (even if it is sachet water),and Medicare( even if it is the one ‘mixed’ by the know-all semi-illiterate village patent medicine dealer) for a month.
In effect, I wonder how N5000 monthly can positively affect somebody’s life in an environment where the stock of social and physical infrastructure is abysmally deficient. In any case, by the 2018 World bank definition, those who live on less than $1.9 daily (N20,000 monthly) are classified as living in extreme poverty. If N20,000 indicates extreme poverty, then what kind of term would describe someone living on N5000? Extreme Poverty +++?
As I continue my search for just one of the beneficiaries, I look forward to an empirical research on the effectiveness of sharing Abacha loot as a poverty alleviating strategy, how to improve its transparency and inclusiveness and how to manage the challenges of implementational and political feasibilities; the key issues faced in Latin America where this sharing model started. But the fact remains that I did not receive the Abacha loot; none of my friends and relatives received it and all my acquaintances have not seen anybody who received this amoebic loot. To those who conceived the sharing, those in the kitchen cabinet who cooked the sharing model, those who did the actual sharing and even the lucky ones who received the loot., I just want to remind them that “There is God ooo”!
Other matters: When the rich goes to school
About 100 years ago, my late father, Ezeamaluchi WO Muo went to school. Nobody heard about it, apart from his parents who were flabbergasted that he had to miniaturise his surname from Muoemenam to Muo, so as to make the pronunciation easier for the white missionary. About 55 years ago when I registered for Elementary one at St Anthony’s Primary School, Osumenyi, not much was heard about it. In 1992, When my first child registered at school in Kaduna, it was also not newsworthy. But when El-Rufai’s son, Abubakar, who at this age looked as combustible as his father, got registered into an elite public primary school, (the Capital School) it became a front-page news! It became a hat-trick achievement for a governor to send his child to a school, which he is overseeing, and which the children of those he is governing beg to attend.
I even learnt that the school had just been recently refurbished by the KDSG! But the news-value of the rich going to school did not end with Abubakar. When the governor of Cross Rivers State, Ayade, became a student of law Calabar (probably he is preparing for post-gubernatorial profession), it also made headlines. This is not because of the course he went to read or the university itself, but because he went with a 20-jeep convoy and probably with the usual security details! In this process of going to school, intimidated his fellow students and lecturers, distracted the entire school, caused unprecedented noise pollution in the environment and went about his private business under the cloak of officialdom.
Anyway, I wish to remind him of what happened to another Governor-Student, Orji Uzor Kanu, whose degree was voided by Abia State University for 1001 genuine and/or fake reasons and with the obvious connivance of the Abia State Government under his estranged godson (Ik Muo: Kalu’s certificate, Alamieseghas’s pardon and Nigerian Magic BusinessDay, 19/3/13). And suddenly, media space was flooded with pictures of Yakubu Dogara attending a course at Oxford. I thought that having impacted monumentally on education, he would have attended any of our Universities to reap the benefits of his legislative investments in that sector.
Thus, while some quietly slip in and out of school, other move with a 20-jeep convoy, others do so at Oxford while others cause a front-page news. Indeed, all men are equal.