By Paul I. Adujie
Tuesday, 25 September 2007
Nigeria is virgin business destination with abundant and boundless opportunities for Nigerian and foreign investors alike. This was the central theme and message of an all day conference and seminar on Monday.
Chief Nduka Obaigbena the ThisDay journalistic marvel and business guru, presented Nigeria to the world in New York on Monday and it was wildly successful and over-subscribed event. Nduka, as his Nigerian and American friends simply called him all day, accomplished what he set out to do.
President YarAdua our newly minted chief executive attended the conference-workshop’s grand finale. President YarAdua who is primarily in New York to attend the United Nations’ General Assembly annual gathering here in New York gave an impassioned speech, extempore, with full grasps of all issues Nigerian. He addressed all of Nigeria’s current challenges and prospects.
He repeated his vision of Nigeria, a developed and advanced nation where national prosperity is shared by all citizens. He used the occasion to invite Nigerians, Americans and others to invest in Nigeria. He repeated his administration desire to ensure that everyone adhere to set rules.
Nigeria Meets the World conference initiated, engineered and choreographed by Chief Nduka Obaigbena and his ThisDay Newspapers. The events were jointly sponsored by Oceanic Bank, Diamond Bank, UBA etc. There was a general session in which panelists detailed their positions on Nigerian issues and thereafter, the events were broken into several sessions in sections. My favorite and apparently, everybody’s favorite section session, was “Fighting Corruption” in which the indomitable Mallam Nuhu Ribadu of the EFCC, the unruffled Mr. Justice Emmanuel Ayoola of the ICPC presented papers to standing ovations and endless thunderous applauses. They were joined by the very eloquent Dr. Oby Ezekwesili of the World Bank, as well as, Senator Victor Ndoma of our National Assembly. Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, former Foreign Affairs Minister, for Director General of Nigeria Institute of International Affairs or NIIA was present with Justice Mohammed Uwais retired, formerly of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former Secretary General of the Commonwealth
On the matter of rules and President Yar’Adua’s administration continued insistence, adamant and repeated shrill-shouting of the importance of rule of law, due process and rule obedience, issues came to fore in some of the sections; and in particular, the “Fighting Corruption” seminar. There were notable and under stable criticism directed at Mr. Michael Andoakaa SAN, the attorney general of our federation for engaging in very public fights with heads of agencies of government, in particular, the EFCC.
The concerns expressed were particular strong, in view of the apparent appearance on the part of the attorney general’s public utterances and admonitions that tended to undermine, undercut and emasculate the EFCC. The attorney general’s comments had led some to wonder whether there were efforts, unexplained, to strangulate and stifle the EFFC’s vigorous pursuits of corrupt public officers, especially, ex-governors. The worry and complains of Nigerians were directed at the AG, as he seemed to have been sending conflicting messages regarding what Nigerians had assumed as a national resolve to tackle corruption and decimate or eliminate corruption from Nigeria. Nigerians at home and those of us in the Diaspora are insisting that there be no get-out-of-jail cards for corrupt ex-governor.
Ex-governors and some other former public officials have been engaging in desperate efforts to escape punishments and legal consequences of their looting and corruption, by obtaining frivolous and barely legal court orders. The former governor of Abia state, Mr. Orji Uzor Kalu was said to have obtained an exparte motion in order to truncate his schedule continued trial. Exparte motions and orders as such, are like orders to show cause, they are not necessarily definite or determinative, they are a precursor to further actions and more over, they are time sensitive embedded with expiration dates.
Hiding under these sorts of questionable or even spurious and frivolously issued exparte orders, while there is a subsisting federal court order, is what has led to the false cover and camouflage under which Mr. Kalu sought to escape punishment for 107 counts charge of corrupt enrichment. Mr. Kalu, has so far, “successfully” accused the EFFC of violating due process and the much touted rule of law!
The rule of law should not be used as a ruse, as a shield or as a cloak by those who are charged with heinous crimes against Nigerian people. It is just so painful to be watching from the sidelines, how corrupt ex-governors and other public officials are seeking to benefit from their impunity, twice. First, by looting unimpeded without regard to Nigerian laws which prohibits looting and corruption and second, by now seeking protection from our constitution and laws, for which they had not the slightest regard, in the first place!
In this regard, the current attorney general of the Nigerian federation, appears to be constituting himself to an obstacle, impediment and bane to fight against corruption in Nigeria.
Nigeria’s resolve to eradicate corruption should be unmistakable. There should be no succor or respite for those who plunder and pillage Nigeria of sorely needed resources for our national development. For our collective memory upgrade, the dearth of infrastructure in Nigeria is a consequence of corruption. A bad or impassable road is a result or outcome of budget diversion, money budgeted for good, new or repair of road are diverted to the personal use of corrupt officials. Hospitals are deprived of equipment? Ah yes! Money budgeted has been diverted. Epileptic power supply or no power supply at all, why? You guessed it, money budgeted has been diverted to some public official’s private use.
Crime and insecurity in the land? Money budgeted for crime fighting and for protection of lives and properties in Nigeria, is in the private pockets and bank accounts of Tafa Balogun the disgraced inspector general of police. It is against this background that the average Nigerians are tired and truly frustrated with these preachment of the rule of law and due process that is elitist and never extended to the more than 100,000 prisoners and detainees in Nigerian prisons and detention centers, detainees and prisoners, who have not stolen billions of Naira. Prisoners and detainees, clearly, Nigerians in prisons and detentions who have not had their day in court, who have not benefited from due process and rule of law mantras!
Meanwhile, audacious criminals, the looters, the plunderers and pillagers ex-governors, public officials in Nigeria, are able to hire tons of lawyers and tens of Senior Advocates and generate tomes of spurious defenses based tenuously, fine principles and tenets of law, such as, the rule law and due process! Talk of notorious criminals wrapping themselves with our constitution when it is time to pay for their desecration of the same constitution!
There were a great many Americans among the attendees of Nigeria Meets the world. The was Larry Summers, formerly of Harvard, and formerly a member of the President Clinton administration. There was Mr. Paul Begalia of CNN and formerly of the Clinton White House. Ambassador Carrington, formerly US ambassador to Nigeria. Those were the prominent Democrats present. Not to be outdone, the Republicans was represented by Dr. Henry Kissinger who is not known or remember for even one favorable policy towards Nigeria or Africa. Kissinger’s US foreign policy did not have Africa on its radar, the US in his time completely ignored Africa and or, actively undermined Nigeria and Africa.
And yet, Nigerians, some Nigerians seem to adore Dr. Kissinger and hold him in awe, adoration and appear to be completely enamored by this beefy old man. At this event on Monday, he talked generalities about Nigeria resources and potentials, aka oil energy.
He alluded to contests resources all through history which lead to incidents and will lead to more such dire incidents (I thought of slavery and colonization for raw materials for the powering of industrialization of America and Europe) and invasion, occupation and re-colonization in the future for oil energy for the continued industrialization and progress of, you guessed it, America and Europe.
As Kissinger engaged in these generalized ambiguities, the secretary to our federal government, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe diplomatically and eloquently stated Nigeria’s position and outlook. Chief Nduka Obaigbena asked pointed questions, including the issue of a so-called Africom or US African Command on the Gulf of Guinea where the US is said to be increasingly active militarily. A member of the audience, Mr. Max Gbanite also asked questions in line with Nduka. In the audience with me was Eric Ula-Lisa Esquire, the Bishop, Mr. Ade Animashaun aka MyHotBriain Mr. Mbonu all, regular commentators on Nigerian public policy issues at www.nigeriavillagesquare.com I also met and interacted with a former ThisDay journalist, Mr. Segun Adeniyi, who is now, Special Adviser to Nigerian president on media. I urged him to market Nigeria aggressively and often. I take the view that President Obasanjo was not well served by his media handlers, as Obasanjo critics always were ahead of the game. They defined him and the issues. My hope is that President YarAdua’s handlers do not permit such scrambling, reactive and always being on the defensive, become a standard rule or mode of operation. I invited Mr. Segun Adeniyi to become an active participant with us at www.nigeriavillagesquare.com which he accepted, he told me he was braced for our critical appraisals which he takes inoffensively in good sportsmanlike manner, knowing full well, it for the soul of Nigeria.
Dr. Kissinger engaged once again in platitudes and generalities about Niger Delta and what Nigerian government ought to do about such internal matter about elections and democracy. He betrayed such ignorance, upon which Ambassador Kingibe exhibited and demonstrated his astute diplomatic skills. He promptly lectured Dr. Kissinger about where the Gulf of Guinea is on the world map and Kissinger scrambled and tried hard to wiggle out of the his major gaffe that he made as “the” dinner guest speaker. Ambassador Kingibe was gracious, diplomatic and polite even as he was pointedly precise about the ignorance and what Kissinger who does not know. Kissinger is a man, who does not shy away from his reputation as a very conceited intellectual-diplomat. There is something we can perhaps learn from Dr. Kissinger, he was born in Germany, came to America, he saw and conquered. He is now an authority on American foreign policy and diplomacy, an icon;
And yet, he conveniently extolled Germany in conspicuous mentions in his very short speech. This is a world where some Nigerians are too quick to deny their Nigerian origins.
Adolf Hitler is not an Hausa-Igbo-Yoruba man. Nazi is not a Kanuri-Ijaw or Esan word.
Nigerians must learn to take pride in Nigeria, advocate Nigeria’s worthy causes and take a cue from Mallam Nuhu Ribadu of the EFCC, who repeatedly and emphatically told the audience at the Fighting Corruption seminar, that he and the EFCC staff are so determined to serve and protect and preserve Nigeria’s national interests and that Nigeria is worth dying for. Nigerians, arise to serve Nigeria and protect Nigeria.