Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
BABA IYABO AND THE FORTY THIEVES
Farouk Martins, Omo Aresa
December 15, 2005
Baba Iyabo, excuse me I mean, Ali Baba surely made enemies out of the forty thieves. If it was not for them, he would still be a modest farmer at Ota – siddon dey look. He would still be the philosopher farmer with constructive criticism that got him jailed and almost cost him his life. But for the forty thieves, he would still be in prison. He has since claimed - there is no sacred cow. Even more daring is his statement that if he got concrete evidence and refused to probe one of the forty thieves – no be him papa born am. Kai!
So it may not be far fetched to expect so much from him but we expect too much. He can not possibly take on the whole forty thieves and all their cohorts at the same time. Baba Iyabo has been blamed for everything that moves or stagnant under the sun. This is the price you pay when you retain the lion share of the oil receipts at the Federal level. If each Local and State Government relies on its own products and services, would there be no blame for the Federal Government or Baba Iyabo? I doubt it, may be less.
As for everything that moves, it is all tokunbos from okada, cars, trucks to air planes. Most of them are not well maintained. Nigeria has no maintenance mentality and we pay dearly with our lives on a daily basis on our roads, water and air space. Unfortunately, our poor innocent children through no fault of theirs also paid with their lives. You never know who is next. We also blame Baba Iyabo for all the used “goods” and substandard materials shipped from overseas and dumped on our shore as landfill.
Where are local and individual responsibilities? In return Baba Iyabo blames corruption. For everything? The maintenance industry is yet to be exploited in Nigeria. It is a lucrative venture that has very few patrons. The responsibility lies with each and every one of us. To be more specific, it starts from home. During my visits to many villages all over Nigeria, I was impressed with how clean the home surroundings were. People made use of that long broom very early in the morning before leaving home. There is enough blame to go round because we all depend on the oil money to do everything for us while the forty thieves circulate it only among themselves.
The forty thieves and their cohorts have now seized on the Third Term Agenda of Baba’s praise singers who would like to remain in the corridor of power for ever. Shamefully, the Student body, NANS has joined the praise singers. The forty thieves are recruiting left, right, front and center with the hope that only they can stop Baba Iyabo. While some may join the forty thieves because of 2007, the whole mess created may overshadow the anti corruption war. Eventually, I do expect Baba to resist any temptation to stay beyond his term unless he wants to mar his beloved reputation or pander to Neocolonialists.
No matter what we think about Baba Iyabo, fair minded people would tell you that he has never been a greedy man. He is arrogant we may say, because he always say he is the first Nigerian to do this and the first African to do that. That has more to do with his humble beginning than anything else. We have to remember that he was the Minister of Works under Gowon, a place most of the forty thieves made a killing. Not Obasanjo. He was a head of State after Murtala Muhammed and all they could come up with is that he diverted some of Operation Feed the Nation equipments to himself? He also stole some of the money the forty thieves gave to finance his campaign because he was broke?
He watched his subordinates spend money he could have stolen if he wanted and then he declared that who ever invested in him might as well consider their investment lost. Whose money was it anyway? They should have known that this man is a stubborn Nigerian who thinks he is more Nigerian than anyone else. Indeed, he wears it on his shoulder. He is ready to crucify a Yoruba man to prove his point. That is why he got a few votes during the 1999 election. It was even suggested that one of his wives did not vote for him in his village.
During the 1999 election, there were two Yoruba candidates because Abiola had been denied the mandate given to him across Nigeria in a free and fair election. The forty thieves decided to back Baba Iyabo. Most of the Progressives wanted Falaye, or as some would like to put it, the Yoruba candidate. Who in Nigeria did not know the backers of Obasanjo during that election?
Mr. Nigeria knew all along what he wanted to do. Why anyone would think that he would suddenly change and dance to their music is beyond me. A man who is ready to ignore his own people would dare anyone, sorry, almost anyone. Those who did not vote with the Progressive then became highly disappointed. But who could they have voted for? Falaye, a man they considered a Yoruba candidate?
Obasanjo first warning to the forty thieves was to appoint non-sponsored people from the North Central. The immediate cry was that it must not be done at the expense of the North, as if they represented the interest of the North. Middle Belt was not part of the North? What followed were the cries of marginalization from every part of the Country. Even more disturbing to those who rejected Falaye was that Obasanjo would appoint anything, not to talk about anyone from the West. He was elected to punish them for voting against him, not reward any one of them. The Yoruba wondered about what it was Obasanjo did for them to generate so much noise as if they were not part of Nigeria condemned to perpetual opposition before and after Independence.
Even Danjuma has his good use. How else could Obansanjo have retired all those military politicians without him? If Falaye or Bola Ige were the President, neither could have gotten away with that master stroke against power brokers. These forty thieves and their cohort who represent no part of the Country but their individual pockets are out to derail the war on corruption. Some of us still cry that Baba Iyabo must eradicate all the forty thieves and their cohorts. Who has ever succeeded for this length of time without being overthrown?
What we are witnessing these days is the real Obasanjo as we all knew him. A man dedicated to a cause which some of us may not agree with. Indeed, I have my own personal grudge against Baba Iyabo. I think he has been selective in his pursuit of justice. Does that word SELECTIVE ring a bell? I am talking about reading his own meaning to the judgment of the Supreme Court by denying Lagos State its share of money. I’m afraid he may not relinquish Ikoyi to the land owners since eminent domain no longer applies. I have to praise the guts of the Chief Justice Uwais who condemned this Government for selectively obeying Supreme Court judgments in a democracy.
However, pointing accusing hand at Obasanjo in the war against corruption for selecting the forty thieves is disappointing, to say the least. How can we sincerely clean up Nigeria when we refuse to credit those who have made some impact, no matter how little we think? I become weary when people start saying – I support him but not the way he is being selective. They have also picked on my man, Nuhu Ribadu about some mistress he has somewhere. I do not care. That is a clever distraction.
Again as I repeated many times before, Nigeria is not the place to espouse the notion that only those with clean hands should seek equity. Everyone is welcomed to seek equity as in justice – efulefu, devils, angels, vagabonds, 419ers, pastors, alhajis, police, soldiers, boma boys, prostitutes, etc reveal those you know. There is a place for you in heaven with as many wives or husbands as you desire, if you can only tell us your partners in crime against Nigeria. A frivolous allegation will fall on its face. Most Nigerians can read between the lines. We were not fooled when they tried to rope in Tam West or Solarin.
When Mrs. Oby Ezekwelisi, a formidable lady and presidential material first sounded the alarm that Governors were diverting local government allocations, she was challenged to a fist fight as if they did not know what she was talking about. Baba Iyabo kept quiet.
As Alamco was impeached and arrested, for some reasons, I was sad. It was not because I supported Alamco but because it had to get to that stage. This is a man who was released on bail with certain conditions after allegation of violating British law. He has since used looted hard currency in millions to dig himself further into trouble. Yet he has supporters in high places including intellectuals! Who did they blame? Ali Baba, eh, Baba Iyabo.
Why? These are folks who rightly think they have been marginalized in Nigeria but lost the fact that nobody should throw water into a basket. Granted that Nigerian Government has not done enough in the South-south, how can anyone feel the impact of whatever is done if all the money is taken out of the Country by the same people we trust to develop our backyards? Therefore, it is not unreasonable to postulate that if the money was channeled into development, there would be less anger and a little more to show and tell.
It will be hard for fair minded people to justify the military invasion of Odi, Zaki Biam, Warri or police action in Enugu and Yenagoa. Obasanjo also ordered “Shoot to Kill” against the Odua Peoples Congress in Lagos. Nigerians please do not be fooled; the people who are pushing Obasanjo and claiming these could not have happened during the time of Babagida or Abacha are now looking for strange bed fellows to discredit him. The irony fell on General Malu the invader who became the invaded.
I will not deny Obasanjo’s military instinct; that is his background. But for a long time his reason for inaction against Ethnic violence in his first term was blamed on repressed anger during past military period. Actually, Abacha gave birth to OPC. We have to be mindful of this military tendency and keep constructive pressure on him, not blame him for everything under the sun. Yes, uneasy lays the head that wears the crown. We detest Abacha who became immunized to critics, with the rational that no matter what, damned!
The Igbo have reasons for their anger against Obasanjo after they have been left out of favor since the war. They lost a great deal of business and properties all over Nigeria and were rejected even by their own considered kin, the Egbema and Ndoki in Delta states. Moreover, they voted for Obasanjo in1999 for reasons some Yoruba thought were selfish. However, Baba Iyabo, Mr. Nigeria was proud of his Igbo associates. He made a point to visit the relatives of Nzeogwu, one of the leaders of the first Nigerian coup to the dismay of some Nigerians. It brought back memories that he might have been part of the plot against the Nigerian elites that were murdered in cold blood.
What started as a noble cause turned into hate because it was bloody against those even Obasanjo admired - Ahmadu Bello, Ademulegun, Akintola, Ironsi, Fajuyi, Banjo, Issac Boro etc who paid with their lives. There was no love lost between Obasanjo and Ojukwu; and Soyinka who saw hell and came back – all for the sake of the principle of self determination. Before the first coup, Obasanjo was out of the Country and could not have dislocated the power sharing between the Igbo and Hausa/Fulani from which Akintola sought Yoruba’s share. The Hausa and the Fulani fight all the time but it is not reported. They also know how to make with any other Ethnic group.
The cold blooded massacre of poor civilians in revenge did not bring back any loved ones and remained the root of Igbo distrust of any Nigerian President who is not of Igbo extraction. Hard as it is, we have to forgive one another, may be not forget, if we want to move on. Anger can destroy self if not positively directed. Baba Iyabo has appointed Igbo as any other Nigerians to positions some considered “reserved”. Yet he has not made many more friends among Igbo. If there is any lesson to be learned about banking on Ethnic leader, learn that she/he can be chosen by outsiders.
We have to understand that when people form opinion against Baba Iyabo, it goes beyond the surface. It is deep rooted. That could be the reason some people see this war against corruption as selective. Others would like to make it Ethnic, yet Obasanjo feels well grounded among all Ethnic groups. He knows Yoruba are Yoruba’s greatest critics.
The third term agenda, contrary to what others would want us believe did not originate from Baba Iyabo. It came from praise singers who can not imagine themselves out of power. The strange bed fellows have now seized the opportunity to use it to unite themselves in spite of their wide disagreement on issues. The only advantage for Obasanjo and may be the reason he has not been denying it vigorously lately, may have to do with the fear of being a lame duck.
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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.