Afolabi Gambari

One major daily newspaper played a fast one on
readers the other day. Emblazoned on its cover page was the kicker: “Budget
padding”. The headline ran: “NASS members are armed robbers, rogues–Obasanjo”.
The rider also ran: “…says ‘I’ve been vindicated’”. Surely, the news piece had
attracted not a few eyes and could also have coursed through the nation’s
borders and far beyond that such a group of eminent Nigerians could be so
described by a no less eminent person as evil personages. I had also been
attracted and, in no time, started to salivate for the main report.

Shockingly, however, the report said a somewhat different
thing and laid less emphasis on what the headline on the cover page portrayed.

The opening paragraph stated: “Former president
Olusegun Obasanjo has said that the recent revelations regarding padding of the
2016 budget by the National Assembly has vindicated his earlier position that
the lawmakers are corrupt.”

Further in the report, another paragraph stated:
“When asked whether he was worried about the issue of corruption in the
National Assembly, Obasanjo said: “Well, if you said that I have said it in the
past and if there are people who didn’t believe what I said in the past then,
you can now see that what has come out confirms what I said in the past. Then
what I said in the past is what I will say now.”

The next paragraph said: “On whether he would call
for investigation into the padding of the budget by the lawmakers in the
National Assembly, Obasanjo said: “It is not question of investigation. We
should get men and women of integrity in the place and the president should be
very vigilant. Whatever should not pass, should not pass.”

End of story.

Nowhere in the news story were “armed robbers” and “rogues”
mentioned by Obasanjo. At best, the words were only inferred. Of course, that
still did not exonerate the National Assembly members from filth that the
assemblage has become. But inferring that they were armed robbers and rogues,
even when evidence abound that they actually were, amounted to a gross
dereliction of duty by the newspaper. It was not a surprise that it was the
only newspaper on sale that day which carried the inviting headline. When it is
therefore placed side by side a sturdy revelation that the newspaper has been
grinding to a halt due to lack of adequate financing and planning that results
to staff’s huge wage indebtedness, the sensational headline can be understood.
But should it be forgiven?

Only a few Nigerians would not have heard or read
about former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes and other related
offences Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu. He was a household name while
the Obasanjo Presidency lasted from 1999 to 2007 and had been nicknamed variously
by the local media as “Anti-graft Czar”, fittingly, as the fear of Ribadu was
the beginning of wisdom among financial crimes offenders. He stepped on toes,
as should have been expected, and it was not long after the end of Obasanjo’s
reign that he met his waterloo, as it were, at the hands of his victims who
merely waited for a change of power before taking their pound of flesh. He was
even demoted from his Police rank and then humiliated. Not surprising, he was
hounded into obscurity thereafter by the unforgiving victims. Some said he
“relocated” to Afghanistan to “cool off.”

Perhaps for lack of what to do, Ribadu soon
resurfaced and forayed to opposition politics. It was likely due to the
popularity he still enjoyed among majority of Nigerians that the Action
Congress of Nigeria (ACN) picked him as its presidential flag bearer in the
2011 general election. He had a mathematical chance of becoming Nigeria’s
president, though he lost to the Peoples Democratic Party’s candidate Goodluck
Jonathan at the polls in the end. For whatever reasons, he left the ACN in a
storm soon after and vowed “never to return” while accusing the party
leadership of “not meaning well for Nigeria.” He ventured to the ruling PDP,
apparently after being assured of a juicier package. It soon emerged that the
“juice” dangled was nothing more than the governorship of Adamawa State in the
2015 polls. Ribadu might have miscalculated, though, without realising it. But
he was rudely awaken at the PDP governorship primaries in the state, shoved
aside and then saw his governor ambition blowing in the air. He went into
obscurity again, only to re-emerge recently, announcing his return to the
ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) which had metamorphosed from the ACN. He
says he has found the APC a platform on which he can further “serve my people”,
notwithstanding that he had earlier severally vowed to remain in the PDP “come
rain and shine”. Whatever could have made Ribadu so unstable in his young
political career? Well, the answer had better be left to time. But his latest
turnaround, unclear as it is, may yet be a blessing to the APC, considering
this statement by one chieftain of the ruling party who craved anonymity the
order day: “Nuhu’s return is very good for our great party. He is a game changer.
We are still expecting more big fishes to join us and we see what happens
next.”

Ribadu? Game changer?

If all the foregoing isn’t indicative of what these
times are in Nigeria, nothing else, perhaps, can serve as indicator.

Yet, the signs are not abating. Consider the
following, coming from Kwara State, as reported variously, drawing from the
“immense goodwill” that the North Central state enjoys in the media.

According a report among others in many newspapers
in one day, “Governor Abdulfatah  Ahmed
of Kwara State has assured workers of prompt payment of salaries.” Before anyone
could ponder on the implication of the assurance especially in foreign climes
where such assurance is not needed, let alone should be uttered by an officer
as high as governor of a state, Ahmed rubbed it in as a well-meaning man. Hear
him: “This assurance derives from the growth in our internally generally
revenue.”

Days after the “assurance”, teaching and
non-teaching staff of the Kwara State College of Education embarked on an
“indefinite strike” over what they called “months of unpaid wages”. One of the
institution’s administrative staff put matters beyond doubt when he declared:
“We are sick and tired of just sitting down here languishing over months of no
salary payment, only to read in the newspapers of our state governor saying he
has paid our salaries up to date.”

Could this be “Governance by deceit, the Governor
Abdulfatah Ahmed way”? Or could it be just the signal of these wicked times?
But what a bad signal this is!  

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