General Danjuma, A Thunderous Applause Or Scathing Rebukes?
Written by Paul I. Adujie
New York, United States
Shall we offer General Theo Danjuma thunderous applause or scalding, scathing, scorching rebukes?
A unique set of circumstances were presented in Nigeria very recently. General Theo Danjuma of Nigeria announced a hundred million dollars surplus with which he intended to do public good, for Nigerians’ common good. And the reception which he received was uproarious, in the most negative sense of the that term, this, even though he may have expected thunderous applause and ovations for his “philanthropy”
Many questions have therefore arisen, the most crucial, among them are whether Nigerians and the entire world should applaud General Danjuma or should he be bathed and drenched in scalding and scorching criticisms? Criticism predicated on the inappropriate means employed by Danjuma and others like him, in gaining wealth and opulence in the first place.
But are the means peculiar, unique and limited to General Danjuma? Have the rest of Nigerians who employed and continue to employ similar identical means come forward with surpluses and plans for public good?
There are quite likely 1000 Nigerians as rich as Theo Danjuma, and this is not because these Nigerians were making candles, matches or ice creams or engage in any beneficial productivity for our society, our nation, NO.
Danjuma, quite unlike the 999 other Nigerians similarly situated, Danjuma has come forward with remorse, contrition, Mea Culpa and confession with a pledge to make amends and give back... and we are excoriating him?
When will we spare a thought about the 999 other Nigerians who are remorseless, unapologetic... and are as we are speaking, still seeking to get richer at our national expense and do so with impunity still. When are those now shrill-shouting Danjuma down, going to arrest and stoned to death, the other 999 Nigerians who have offered no contrition or contribution or give backs because the got rich inappropriately or even illegally?
Danjuma dirties our street with litters without getting caught in the act or getting his just reward by way of punishment or penalty. He returns to our community to confess and wants now to contribute and participate in cleaning up... we abuse him... this, even though there were others just like Danjuma who dirties, littered our communities and continues to pollute with impunity and unapologetic and without remorse or contrition or contribution or give back and we as a community are currently doing zilch and nadir about the rest of the looters 999 of them
Why are we so hard on Danjuma, the one who came forward? We the most religious people on earth? same us? Why are we subjecting the seemingly repentant Danjuma to suffocating and withering criticisms
I am as good as the next person who pretends to know Danjuma’s mind, motives, ulterior or unsavory. We ought to be prepared to recognize that there are Robin Hoods, Robber Barons elsewhere in the world, historically, outside of Nigeria. Abiola and Okotieboh properties depreciated in Lagos and elsewhere as their families fought over shares of inheritances, monies saved in secret overseas accounts are frequently forfeited abroad by Nigerians and other African political office holders upon death, with monies in bank accounts and or houses, flats and apartments abroad which becomes the resources and wealth of other nations soon enough, secrecy and all
A lady married to one of Nigeria former president received $40 million dollars in bogus consultancy fees, and this clearly siphoning and capital flight from Nigeria to the ensuring continuing underdevelopment. Questions to be asked of these characters, should include, the source of funding for the American University in Nigeria. What is their annual budget? And how, within such budget could they afford $40 million dollars as “consultancy fees” within a very short period of time? And what exactly is the nature of such consultancy services? What other similar consultancies have the entities and character performed or undertaken for institutions similar in the same categories as American University? What is their track record of performance and revenue generation and tax payments etc?
There is a pattern in all of these, nods and winks are offered to those who siphon money out of Nigeria, nay Africa, then, we have a deprived education sector, as other sectors, without resources or adequate funding. I recently attended a forum or public event, facilitated by The New York Times Reuters, so-called Education initiatives, where begging to fund education in Tanzania was essentially the issue, that is, begging for funding in the midst of abundance in the case of Nigeria for instance
I quite clearly recognize the importance of best business practices, and how crucial accountability and transparency is, for growth and development in Africa, and worldwide. However, in this particular instance of Danjuma action or pronouncements, in comparison with others like him in the Nigerian environment, who are not atoning or repentant, I do have a clear understanding of the clear distinction, between “What is, and what ought to be. And the difference between utopia versus reality as reconciled
There should be no confusing my position here with defending those who do not play by the rules in Nigeria. Those who act inappropriately and do so frequently and with impunity. I have no respect or admiration for those who pillage and plunder our collective national wealth of resources and patrimony
My stance here, should not be mistaken for any suggestion that Danjuma and others, should have neglected to pay taxes, play by the rules and adhered to best business practices from the beginning and in the first place. But Danjuma’s public announcements have taken us quite beyond that initial point. We are therefore well past the issues of questionable methodologies of oil block or oil well allocations to private citizens who are well connected to those at the helms of government, instead of, say, allocations based on competitive bidding contracts which allocates oil wells to entities with the wherewithal and resources for oil exploration and exploitation, with kind regard to maintaining a balance in ecosystem and clean safe and unpolluted and without degrading our environment.
We are here addressing 500 million dollars steps beyond that infant stage. Money is declared as profit, “owner” of the money, offer a fraction, albeit, a tiny fraction, and others, similarly situated, are unwilling to offer identical tiny fractions of their loot from same identical source, why hang Danjuma for being a tad better than the rest of his constipated class Nigerians?
There is nothing here to suggest that there should be dancing in the streets by Nigerians in celebrating Danjuma as patron saint and angel, angel he is certainly not. But in comparison to other Nigerians in his class, he comes out of all of these smelling like fresh cut roses or basil!
There was this Nigerian cartoon which I saw last year, it portrayed a man, and an armed robber, the man being robbed of bags of money admonishes the robber for his robbery, and asks, how can you do this to a senator? The armed robbers now retorted, “in that case, give me what belongs to me, you senator, stole the peoples’ wealth” It is quite understandable therefore, that in this context, it can be successfully argued, that Danjuma is merely returning to us, what belonged to us, all along. But, the truth of the matter is that there many more like Danjuma, who are splendidly uninterested in returning to us, what belonged to us, or sharing or using part of it to “burnish or launder” their image, so what do we say to those others? What are we doing about those others, even as we subject Danjuma to these public damnations?
What all the above statements of criticisms directed at Danjuma omit and ignore, is the fact that in Nigeria, there are 500 or 1000 more persons as rich or richer than Danjuma and quite unlike Danjuma, they have impunity, continuing impunity, they offer no contrition, they are remorseless, and unrelenting in their pillage and plunder. Danjuma is a Robbin Hood or Robber Baron, but where are the others?
Give Danjuma a break already, especially when we consider him alongside the others, in comparative and analytical terms! So far, too many people seem merely satisfied to have an emotional reaction devoid of the cost benefit analysis of accepting the return of one hundred million dollars by Danjuma to the people of Nigeria, compared with rejecting the amount, in the face of the high rate of unemployment and abject poverty in our homeland.
What we should be debating here, in my view therefore, is how the $100 million dollars largess should be utilized for the maximum benefits of Nigeria's poor or might be better invested and managed for public good, adding value to Nigeria’s wealth and happiness and without opprobrium and penalty to Danjuma.
In this regard, there are examples to be had as to how other nations deal with matter such as these. Recently, President Obama of the United States of America, eschewed penalties and punishments in waivers for Americans who operated bank accounts outside the United States. There were about 55, 000 Americans engaged in offshore banking through the Swiss Banking System. President Obama eschewed punishments and penalties, when those engaged in these activities, came forward to disclose their offshore accounts and outstanding tax liabilities and obligations etc, during a moratorium and amnesty period.
Nigerians and Nigeria, can similarly, allow, Danjuma release the $100 million dollars, perhaps other millionaires, billionaires, Nigerians who got rich through similar-identical process, will get jealous of the admiration-adulation Danjuma gets for doing Nigerians the "favor" of returning the $100 million dollars... and then, this might just spur competition between the billionaires and millionaires to do public good for our common good? Who knows? Conversely, Nigerians can engage in endless tirades directed at Danjuma, and in essence, kill his initiative, in the act of giving back or returning our wealth for our use.
First of all, we must ask ourselves whether there are currently efficient and effective instruments or machinery to compelling Danjuma and other millionaires-billionaires, to pay tax and dislodge monies in recompense for their sordid rules averse pasts. We must also as pointedly state, when, for instance, we plan to hold others to account for their imperfect or greedy pasts. Are there immediate plans to compel good behavior from our rule averse decadent millionaires billionaires? Are we arresting or doing something about those other Nigerians and non-Nigerians who identically-similarly got rich inappropriately, unethically, at the expense of Nigerians and Nigeria, if not, why are we so emotional about Danjuma who is returning some money? Danjuma who is arguably atoning for his sins? His past?
Nigerians including myself, will be satisfied if General Theo. Danjuma should invest or use the $100 million dollars in Niger Delta where there are polluted rivers and streams and farmlands due to oil prospecting and exploration activities which have resulted to ruined farmlands and polluted rivers and streams, with consequent sufferings and hardships to Niger Delta locals, whose livelihood are deprived and denied, through unconscionable oil spillages and wanton environmental degradations, for decades
A majority of Nigerians and myself, will be satisfied, if Danjuma funds and build Low Cost Housing in the Niger Delta or award scholarships directed at Niger Delta citizens, and perhaps nationwide. After all, nations are only as developed, advanced and great relative to their investment in education and increase in her national knowledge base
In all of these therefore, the crucial point remains, which is that, Danjuma might not be a saint, but there are many incontrovertible Double-Devils in Nigeria, unrepentant devils, industrial strength devils. Why then, does it appear that those criticizing Danjuma so harshly, seemed to have lost sight of the environment in which Danjuma and the rest of us have been operating and still do? Why now, play holier than Holies? Why must a repentant Danjuma’s blood be the one with which some seek to exorcise Nigeria
Why the fixation on the guy with some contrition/remorse. The lopsided nature of our social-political structure has not changed. Rules regarding transparency and accountability enforcements or the lack thereof, is still same. Machinery and tools of enforcements are unchanged or nonexistent. We may add that, by the way, new oil blocks are about to be allocated, even as we debate these issues now.
The point is well taken about preferred emphasis on insisting on Best Business Practices, and the decent and morally outstanding idea, of not entrenching and or, encouraging a culture of Robber Barons and actors who frequently act impunity
Nigerians must judge Danjuma by a fair, reasonable and even, I dare say, an equitable standard. Let us see Danjuma as one of our debtors among hundreds of debtors. He is repentant and willing to atone for his debt, even if grudgingly and in bits and pieces. Comparatively, there are the others, who are equally or more indebted to us. But who are unwilling to atone or repent or return and repay us the debt they owe us, or return what the stole, looted, pillaged and plundered with impunity and immeasurable greed, how then do they stack up against the tearfully repentant Danjuma?
Instead of holding Danjuma‘s feet to the fires, and engaging in moral preachments, Nigerians ought to focus on how to invest the money which Danjuma plan to return. We know that $100 million dollars can build and equip state of the art hospital, in Katsina State of Nigeria, the home state of our President Umaru Musa YarAdua, a hospital which could be a replica of the Jeddah Hospital in Saudi Arabia, or any good hospital in the world, so that we can bring our president home, for treatment and recuperation, after all, having him abroad for almost a hundred days is poignant metaphorical indictment of the decadence in our health care system or medical infrastructure, and it is also a monument embarrassment to our prestige and national pride; our president the symbol of our nation! It is monumental embarrassment to have him in Saudi Arabia for another 100 days! Has anyone inquired how much President YarAdua's hospitalization is costing Nigerians?
Additionally, we Nigerians also know that $100 million dollars will fix Nigerian refineries or build new refinery and enhance regular petroleum supply throughout Nigeria, hence big relief and alleviation of sufferings and hardships in our homeland as a consequence of frequent petrol shortage or scarcities.
Furthermore, $100 million dollars can be donated to all medical schools in Nigeria for medical research and or, a good addition to the poor funding of the education sector in Nigeria, which is currently less than 5% of Nigeria’s annual budget and a far cry from the UNESCO recommended 30%, especially if Nigeria aspires to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals or MDGs
Our nation currently generate and transmit energy in inadequate megawatts, and as such, $100 million dollars could be devoted to energy research, so that in our life time. There will be steady supply of electricity in all the 774 Local Government Areas of Nigeria, all 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja with such additional investment in energy research and development, preferably, new energy in these modern times of solar, nuclear, wind, hydro electric and varieties of energy sources.
Pipe borne water in Abuja, clean water anyone? $100 million dollars well targeted, would help and go a long way, to ensuring the provision of clean water for domestic use in Nigeria. It is public knowledge that many avoidable and preventable diseases arises from drinking and use of unsafe water supplies in Nigeria
There are many other Nigerian individuals similarly situated sans oil blocks and donations
Foreign Oil Companies have command and control of all the oil blocks originally awarded to individuals. And how many of these oil companies are good, responsible corporate citizens? How many of them have foundations established for promoting Nigerians and Nigeria‘s public interests? How many of them sponsor Nigeria’s Olympics Committee efforts or International sports fiestas, just as most of those same companies do in America and Europe in their home countries?
All these entities and persons are merely parasitic opportunists., but, perhaps Danjuma is arguably an opportunist with a human face/heart/conscience or remorse? Is having a human-face, heart, conscience and or remorse not better than unrepentant impunity?
Again, it must be remembered that Nigerians and Nigeria must not be discussed in vacuum, but in comparison with historical happenstances in other nations similar to ours. After all, proceeds-profits or blood-money from slavery is the foundation of the bulk of western industrialization. Proceeds-profits from slavery was used to establish the now world famous Harvard University veritas my veritas
There are many other Nigerian individuals similarly situated sans oil blocks and donations
Foreign Oil Companies have command and control of all the oil blocks originally awarded to individuals such as Danjuma. I quite understand any argument ideally, justice should be blind to the idiosyncratic peculiarities of citizen Ibori and citizen IBB. In my law enforcement mode, I take the view that if you do the crime you do the time etc. I also know about the essence of justice and when a plea bargain might just serve the end of justice. But, here is plea bargain or deal, a Nolle Prosecui, a half-way house for Danjuma
This is therefore about half-decent or extremely indecent or half-loaf versus no-loaf gesture on the part of a repentant and an atoning Danjuma, who is, in my view, deserving of our circumspect reconsideration and not deserving of being ostracized. The situation which we have in our hands is rather not ideal or perfect, we are not yet in utopia. It is what it is, we have to work with what we have and make do.
This situation we have is, as if a guy owes you a hundred dollars for a year, he eventually offer a bit of it, say thirty dollars, and as your lawyer, I will advise you to take it. But, your argument in favor of rejecting the payments in bits, is hinged on the fact that you do not want the money broken up, because that would make nonsense of the huge money your lent in bulk, t is devalued over time etc... But would you rather that you are not paid at all, forever?
In all of these, Nigerians must bear in mind that there are plenty other debtors of ours, who are not willing to pay anything shows no contrition or remorse. Important question remain, and they are whether half-decent or totally indecent persons are preferable. And whether half-loaf or no loaf is better?
We must strive to focus on the big picture, instead of appearing to completely missed the thrusts of the competing arguments, as to what constitutes Nigerians’ and Nigeria’s best interests.
It is almost trite to note here, that we are all aware of the impact of corruption on Nigeria. We are all also aware of the roles of persons such as Danjuma and others, and their various roles in specific exactitude! This knowledge of our society, our nation and the role of individuals, including unsavory characters, is reason why, I have publicly stated in published opinions, in the past, that the magnitude and pervasive-permeating impact of corruption on Nigeria, is worse than the impact of terrorism on America and her western allies.
All things considered, the ideal or perfect situation would have been to have all those responsible for Nigeria's poor state of affairs, already arrested, tried and detained in maximum security prison, and I am not here saying arrested, tried and jailed persons, should be let go without consequences for their criminal, antisocial and inappropriate enrichment. Instead, my stand is that laws on the books are only as good as their enforcements and bite. Laws and rules which are not enforced, are dead laws and rules.
If Nigeria had enforced existing rules and laws, the pillaging and plundering will not occur, but if they did, there would have been swift moves to hold those who break the rules and the laws to account. In that regard, I would have liked to be the prosecutor, I would have ensured the convictions and lock up of those avaricious and unconscionably greedy persons who have deprived Nigerians and Nigeria development, advancement and greatness and I would have been willing to swallow the keys to their prisons!
But, it is not the case that Nigeria is currently making looters face justice. Therefore, when the time comes and others like Danjuma are being punished, I will revise my current stance. However, what we currently have, is not quite a situation in which many looters have been compelled to account and to face justice and if a plethora of others are not facing penalties and punishment, why hold the atoning, and repentant Danjuma to a separate, and even, quite unreasonable standard? Why is it not okay for therefore to assert that Danjuma is better, a scintilla better than all the others, at a minimum? In all of this, we must recognize the difference between what ought to be, and what is real and what is. As the aphorism goes, if wishes were horses, even beggars would have horses on which to ride, but, we know they do not.
Many of those who have pillaged and plundered Nigeria are doubly evil, as they routinely stash their loot overseas. These looters, Nigerians and non-Nigerians among them, individuals and corporations included, have always deprived Nigeria twice, through stealing and then, not investing the stolen wealth within Nigeria. Some human beings they have a lot, they still want more. Is there a chance, that Danjuma’s act or mere pronouncement, may actually register something in the radar of Babangida, Ibori,, Cecilia Ibru, or Akingbola etc. Greed, avarice, unconscionable accumulation of wealth, at the expense of long term public interest should be discouraged in every society. Encouraging citizens to put public and private wealth and resources for the benefit of all members of our society and nation must be emphasized.
General Danjuma is apparently doing inelegantly, and imperfectly, what others haven not done, and are still unwilling to do, the truth is, there are still many others, who are quite unwilling to broach at all, what Danjuma is being scolded for. Danjuma openly does albeit inelegantly what others in Nigeria are unwilling to do, Danjuma may have opened a Pandora’s box or a new window into the Nigerian human soul, and this may well be a paradigm shift in national attitude, at the very minimum or at the very least, Danjuma act or surprise announcement, has opened a national dialogue or conversations about the “morality” of wealth. An oxymoron, and mutually exclusive terms?