- Category: DANIEL ELOMBAH
- Published on Saturday, 04 August 2012 21:49
- Written by Daniel Elombah
Mohammed Babangida, the eldest son of former president Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida last week confirmed that preparation is in top gear in his plan to become the governor of Niger State in 2015. Mohammed Abacha, son of another former dictator is also working assiduously to emerge the governor of Kano state. Mahmud Tukur,
son of Bamanga Tukur, the current Peoples Democratic Party, PDP national chairman has been arraigned at the Lagos High Court in Ikeja by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission . Mahmud Tukur and his Eternal Oil And Gas Plc were docked for fraudulently obtaining the sum of N2billion from the Petroleum support Fund for a purported importation of 80.3million litres of Premium Motor Spirit.
Mamman Nasir Alli - son of the former national chairman of the party, Ahmadu Ali and his company, Nasaman Oil Services are also to face charges bordering on obtaining N4.5billion from the Federal Government of Nigeria under false pretence. The sum is alleged to have been fraudulently obtained as subsidy payments from the Petroleum Support Fund.
This is how members of the Government and the party in power shares the spoils, allowing the relatives of senior leaders to cash in on one of the biggest economic sector in the country: as rogue operators who abuses their power, even as their family members accumulate a substantial fortune.
In Nigeria, relatives of current and former senior officials have amassed vast wealth, often playing central roles in businesses closely entwined with the state, including those involved in finance, energy, domestic security, telecommunications and entertainment. Many of these so-called princelings also serve as middlemen to a host of global companies and wealthy tycoons eager to do business in Nigeria; ask Gbenga Obasanjo about his exploits with our Ajaokuta Steel.
Whenever there is something profitable that emerges in the economy, they’ll be at the front of the queue. They’ve gotten into private investments, state-owned enterprises, mineral oil — you name it. They will then use the looted funds to dabble into politics, there to amass more wealth.
They are everywhere, as long as the industry is profitable. The Politicians and the business allies have cornered our common patrimony. Culprits include: Wale Tinubu, Oando CEO and nephew of former Governor Bola Tinubu. Sayyu Dantata: a chip off the old block of the Dantata family; Femi Otedola: son of former Lagos State governor, Sir. Michael Otedola. Femi Otedola is the billionaire owner of multi-billion naira indigenous oil giant Zenon.
A company owned by Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, daughter of former President Olusegun Obasanjo has also been reported to be among the beneficiaries of the Federal Government’s recent secret allocations of prize oil blocs.
The process of awarding the oil blocks to Iyabo actually started during Obasanjo’s administration but a disagreement between Shell and DPR over the area to farm-out couldn’t be reached until recently when the Malabu oil block deal was sealed between the Federal Government and the multinationals.
The government resorts to secret allocation of choice oil blocks to companies belonging to cronies, family members and associates.
Much of the income earned by families of these senior leaders may be entirely legal. But it is all but impossible to distinguish between legitimate and ill-gotten gains because there is no public disclosure of the wealth of officials and their relatives. Conflict-of-interest laws are weak or non-existent. And the business dealings of the political elite are heavily censored. Nigeria officials and their relatives rarely discuss such a delicate issue publicly.
The spoils system, for all the efforts to keep a lid on it, poses a fundamental challenge to the legitimacy of the Peoples Democratic Party. There is the risk that national policies may be subverted by leaders and former leaders, like Babangida, Obasanjo, Danjuma among others, many of whom exert influence long after their retirement, acting to protect their own interests.
Foreign investors are aware that the easiest way to choice business deals is to partner with siblings of those in power. There are so many ways to partner with the families of those in power, just make them part of your deal.
Families of high-ranking past and current officials are now deeply embedded in the economic fabric of the nation. Over the past two decades, business and politics have become so tightly intertwined that the PDP has effectively institutionalized an entire ecosystem of crony capitalism. Nigerians are not fully aware of what is happening, if they know, it would be a tsunami.
President Jonathan lack the guts to move against these looters as powerful vested interests are now strong enough to block reforms that could benefit the larger populace. This is one of the most difficult challenges Nigeria faces. Whenever they want to implement reform, their children might say, ‘Dad, what about my business?’
There are also growing concerns that a culture of nepotism and privilege nurtured at the top of the system has flowed downward, permeating bureaucracies at every level of government in Nigeria. After a while you realize there are actually a lot of princelings out there, you’ve got the children of current officials, the children of previous officials, the children of party officials, Senators, Reps, military officers, police officials. We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of people out there — all trying to use their connections to make money.
Nigeria tycoons have also been quietly welcomed into the families of senior leaders, often through secret partnerships in which the sons, daughters, spouses and close relatives act as middlemen or co-investors in real estate projects or other deals that need government approval or backing.
Moreover, Nigeria’s leading political families, often through intermediaries; hold secret shares in dozens of companies, oil corporations, telecom, the media and banks. Lately, the progeny of the political elite have retooled the spoils system for a new era, moving into high-finance ventures, oil and gas, even multi-nationals where the potential returns dwarf the benefits from serving as a middleman to government contracts or holding an executive post.
Today, the princelings are taking up where their father left off? They have partitioned our common patrimony among themselves. Who will rescue us from these rapacious dandies and their princelings?
Worries about the appearance of impropriety and growing public disgust with official corruption, should spur the Nigeria government to re-enact its ethical codes and tighten financial disclosure rules.
Government should require all officials to report the jobs, whereabouts and investments of their spouses and children, as well as their own incomes. The disclosure reports should not remain secret like our president’s declaration of his assets which has so far been entombed in the vaults of the Code of Conduct Bureau; proposals to make Jonathan’s asset public have been shelved repeatedly by the federal government-controlled Bureau.
Or else….one day, one day…the masses will rise, and reclaim their common patrimony! As the state’s business has become increasingly intertwined with a class of families, the so-called Nobility, the potential exists for a backlash against increasingly entrenched elite.