National African Association Needed to Reverse Theft of Public Wealth and the Impending Death of Africa
By Charles Kwalonue Sunwabe, Jr.
As it has always been, it is never an easy task to provide answers to the above questions, because Africans are often tempted to excavate the history and unfathomable legacy of colonialism in an attempt to provide well thought out and balanced analysis of our continent's mounting problems. Of course, it is obvious to us all that colonialism and its surrogate [i.e. neo-colonialism] exploited our people en masse and dehumanized Africa. To put it bluntly, colonialism and the imposition of Western and Eastern dictatorships on the sovereign people of Africa during the abominable Cold War period constitute the commission of serious crimes against humanity - crimes that should be punishable under the international law. But, I hasten to state that JUSTICE for colonial CRIMES is not going to become an African reality anytime soon [maybe, it will not happen at all], hence the urgent need to focus our attention on the post colonial causes of Africa's maladies, given its rapid descend into chaos. It is here that we should indict our morally bankrupt leaderships that have governed African affairs for well over sixty years. I'm rather hopeful that you would forgive me, and grant me once again the unique opportunity to analyze Africa's problems via the pervasive African elite killer disease that is astronomically known as CORRUPTION - "RAMPANT CORRUPTION" as Liberians have been literally calling it since the 1980s. To be concise, I'll examine Nigeria because this gigantic African nation evinces the commonality of our moral illness.
For all we know, Nigeria is one of Africa's blessed countries. It can boast of having some of the continent's best brains in disciplines such as African and English literatures, History, Medical Science, Internet Technology; LAW, Politics, etc. The country is also vastly endowed with natural wealth including but not limited to natural gas and oil deposits, among others. The gigantic African nation, the Federal Republic of Nigeria, has the continent's single largest conglomeration of black people in the world and can boost of ethnic diversity uncommon to many African countries. In countless African countries, there is an established presence of migrants from Nigeria that have lived and adopted those countries as their very own. In recent years, it (Nigeria) has begun to play the role as the so-called LEADER of BLACK AFRICA - a role that history as well as its geographical size and location has placed upon its people.
In the 1990s alone, Nigeria played the role of regional and continental stabilizer, sending its sons and daughters to keep peace in tiny West African countries, involving Liberia (1990), Sierra Leone (1992), and Guinea Bissau (1995). Nigeria's 1990s pragmatic roles in regional conflict resolution brought fame to Nigerians and Africans in general; and for once, it seemed that Africa was well on its way to assuming responsibility for its own destiny. Obviously, a nation-state such as Nigeria ought to be serving as an exemplary leader for West Africa, if not all of Africa. But this is not the story. Nigeria, like, the rest of Africa, suffers from the self-annihilating African disease known as corruption. The country has been so mismanaged, thoroughly looted and plunged into alarming foreign debts burden that the general population continue to wallow in stark poverty, hopelessness, anguish and melee. Yet, in countless Nigerian cities reside a tiny population of ELITES and their associates [Army Officers and some "crooked" business tycoons] who have enriched themselves through fraudulent economic and business practices, coupled with gross malfeasance and ‘daylight' thievery. These rapacious ELITES and their counterparts once lived in impregnable fortresses that shielded them from the results of their well thought out schemes: squalors, armed robbers, unemployed and uneducated Nigerian youths, etc. But in today's Nigeria, even the impregnable fences are no longer impervious to thieves and armed robbers as some of the ELITES too have come under violent attacks. Indeed, Nigeria's IMMORAL ELITES are just coming to term with the saying that "a hungry man is indeed an angry man".
Nigeria's problems are not the absence of, or the paucity of available resources. Rather, bad leadership, rampant corruption, massive consumerism and military dictatorship account for the country's woes. When its oil deposits were discovered in the early 1970s, the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT and its ASSOCIATES [i.e. fraudulent businessmen, spurious foreign investors, etc.] went on massive spending sprees that included prodigal projects [i.e. highways, MODERN SOCCER STADIUMS, imports of luxurious western goods and commodities [i.e. Mercedes Benz, Western made coat suits, Western foods, etc]. At the LOCAL GOVERNMENT LEVEL, governors and their families traveled to EUROPEAN NATIOS [i.e. ITALY, FRANCE, BELGIUM and ENGLAND] to purchase clothes and other luxurious items. Of course, there is nothing wrong, per se, with the noble idea of taking one's family to EUROPE for VACATION and spending some money on a few items, particularly, when the individual spending the money has earned it the hard way - honestly. But in the case of Nigeria, most of the money spent on material antics in the late 70s, 80s and 90s came directly from the national treasury - money that belonged to the Nigeria and not a selected few, notably the MAFIA ELITES and their ASSOCIATES, the MILITARY VAMPIRES. As Ikenna Anokwute puts it, "The [Nigerian] military has perfected the use of intimidation and disinformation to keep a passive population calm. In the process, a timid population became quiet and in some cases conspiratorial and accommodating of dictators for too long. The result is what you see today: a bunch of idiots who terrorize the nation, intimidate opponents and harasses dissidents. It is the equivalent of gangs taking over a whole town. Imagine John Gotti or Al Capone as President of the United States. Well, welcome to the reign of thieves and vagabonds, welcome to our Nigeria today, a gangster's paradise" (Africa In Chaos 1998 p.149).
In keeping with its mastery of coups, the Nigerian military, in 1975, toppled the regime of General Yakubu Gowon, alleging gross financial mismanagement, plunder and governmental improprieties. Then, Nigerians and some caring Africans thought that the army would end the CORRUPTION and restore financial probity to the battered country. As a matter of fact, the army promised to do just that. Lamentably, however, Nigerians were treated to the usual African grandiosity - a commission of inquiry established by the army to investigate and punish culprits of financial CRIMES. The commission subsequently found 10 out of 12 accused State Governors guilty of public theft, corruption and misuse of public funds that amounted to well over 16 million Nairas. Please do not ask me about what happened to the guilty personalities! After all, aren't we talking about Nigeria and Africa? In Africa, as you may already know, commissions of inquiry are established for mere publicity. In the case of Nigeria, the 16 million Nairas that was said to have been stolen by the 10 governors, was a minute amount compared to the billions that were believed to have been squandered by haughty Nigerian Government officials in the late 1970s.
As Larry Diamond of the Hoover Institute noted in 1989, "Nigeria's oil boom in the 1970s, was a frantic grab of the well placed for easy wealth and hideous displays of affluence amidst appalling poverty" (Africa Betrayed 1991 p.250). Let me hasten to remind you that in the late 1970s, Nigeria did benefit immensely from favorably international oil prices that resulted in U.S. 29 billion dollar annually. Again, incessant thievery presided over by indomitable MILITARY ELITES, coupled with improvident spending gorged the nation's oil revenues. As George Ayittey observes,
"In the late 1970s, favorable market conditions yielded oil revenues at a level of 29 billion a year. From 1979 through 1983, scandals involving billions of dollars dominated the headlines. These included: the illicit auction of much of the 2,500 million annual allocation of imports license; the arrest of several top officials of the Federal Capital Development Authority in Abuja over an alleged $20 million fraud; and the revelation by a Federal Minister that Nigeria was losing $50 million a month to GHOST [emphasis mine] workers and other forms of payroll fraud" (Africa Betrayed, 1991, p.250).
At this critical juncture, commonsense impels me to name some of Nigeria's CORRUPT officials - juggernauts who continue to occupy GOVERNMENT PLACES in manner similar to an unbearable occupation force. Let me also point out here that this newsmagazine is predominantly Liberian oriented with an eye on Africa, and I'm fully aware that charges of generalization are plentiful on this website as well as others. Therefore, the naming of some corrupt Nigerian ELITES is highly appropriate for this article. So, here we go! We'll start with Alhaji Umaru Dikko, the former Minister of Transportation in the [Alhaji Shehu] Shagari Government, who is said to have fleeced the Nigerian people of one billion dollar within a period of just three years. Nigerian officials once machinated to arrest and bring the gangster to Nigeria to stand trial. Unfortunately, a diplomatic role with Britain spared the political leech. Then there was Maitama Yusu, a former Minister of Commerce and Industry in the same Shagari regime, who was arrested and charged with corruption in 1986, while trying to enter Nigeria illegally.
In 1994, Nigeria recalled one of its envoys to the UN for what turned out to be a case of massive corruption, self-aggrandizement and defrauding of the country's UN mission. The Shehu Shagari government, arguably the most corrupt regime in the history of Nigeria, is said to have itself amassed billions of Niaras for the ‘exclusive' benefit of a few ‘greedy' officials. For example, on the 20th of January 1984, the New York Times quoted Western Diplomatic sources to have said that the regime had stacked away vast fortunes in overseas bank accounts, luxurious mansions, and precious assets, not to mention solid gold bathtubs. What a pity! Some Western sources even went on to argue that funds illegally exported out of Nigeria by Shagari BANDITARY ELITES amounted to 5, or even 7 billion dollars. An investigation initiated by the Nigerian Government in 1986 revealed that during the oil boom of 1978, immoral Nigerian politicians were transferring 25 million dollars to their foreign bank accounts on a daily basis. As one irate Nigerian told the BBC's Focus on Africa in December 1989, "You need to know that 6 Nigerians are billionaires; 6,000 are multimillionaires; 55,000 are millionaires; 22 million Nigerians earn less than 10 Nairas a day; and around a million Nigerians earn less than 5 Nairas a day. You also need to know that Nigeria is a country that has petroleum but has a [regular] scarcity of gasoline. You also need to know that over 70 percent of Nigerian land is arable, but less than 5 percent is cultivated. You also need to know that we Nigerians have the potential for revolution" (BBC Focus on Africa Dec 1989; p .66). You see, when a nation is thoroughly looted as in the manner described above, everything, such as development, economic growth, educational advancement, etc., cease to exist, or is permanently abandoned. No wonder that contemporary Africa is now famous for education deprivation, famine, prostitution, and worse of all, devastating POVERTY. Indeed, the theft of public wealth has, and obviously, continues to kill our continent with no end apparently in sight.
Any caring person reading the tales of looting and self-enrichment in Nigeria and Africa at large would be terribly upset and for justifiable reasons, because, there can be no denying that corruption has left Africa in complete ruins! But again, justifiable indignations are not always welcomed in some African circles. In some instances, when an intrepid African attacks the hoodlums who occupy our state BUREAUS today, that person is instantly singled out and excoriated for being "divisive". This was precisely what I got from former Taylor loyalist, Mr. Milton Teahjay, following my denunciation of the pariah regime in run-down Monrovia and its immediate surrogates at the Philadelphia Liberian Youth Conference. The phrase that best captures this anti-democratic tendency is simply this: "Attacking the messenger and not THE message". But those who continue to excoriate and lambaste African "free thinkers" or patriots need to take a serious look around the continent and see what is presently happening to it - a continent that's bleeding internally, infested with the HIV/AIDS virus and lost in perpetual indebtedness to others, particularly, the West. As for the few conscientious Africans that are residing on the continent and beyond, let me say this: "Be encouraged because you are definitively making a difference".
Many of the miscreants that you see today occupying Africa's presidential palaces will surely be brought to justice for their crimes of PUBLIC theft. Let not their meretricious smile deceive you! Beware that some of your attackers [i.e. allaboutliberia.com, Minister Goodrich, etc] are nothing but minions of nefarious autocrats like Charles Taylor, Robert Mugabe, Gnassingbe Eyadema and Blasé Campaore, to name just a few. The motifs of their unscrupulous rein are not difficult to discern: terror and character assassination. In our present African nexus of EVIL, these attackers are neophytes that are eager to please the Taylors, Campaores, Mugabes, Gnassingbes, etc. Sadly enough, the corrupt and predatory instincts of these cohorts of dictators and the historic nugatory contributions they have made to the national politics extend well beyond the physical boundaries of individual African states. Even so, we need not be deterred. Instead, we shall herein objurgate, harangue, and denounce them with relentless obloquy.
Now that I have taken a little bit off my chest, I'd like to return to the issue of CORRUPTION in Africa via the NIGERIAN example. For now, I'd like to fixate on the roles of some of Nigeria's past Presidents in an effort to expose the lamentable lethal politics that [they] have instituted in Nigerian, given the abominable results and the tragic CORRUPTION of the Nigerian economic and political systems. I'll begin with the man who once referred to himself as the EVIL GENIUS of Nigeria, General Ibrahim B. Babangida. In 1991, the Babangida regime failed to account for about $10 billion in oil revenues that were occasioned by the Gulf War. In an August 1991 article, William Keeling, a maverick correspondent with the Financial Times' Nigeria bureau, exposed the Babangida regime's culpability in the disappearance of US 10 billon dollars and got deported with less than 24-hours notice (Africa Betrayed p. 253).
Of course, in an Africa dominated by buffoons, the culprits of crimes are seldom punished. Yet, those who are vehemently opposed to theft and have the audacity to expose venal criminals are greeted with invectives, innuendoes and death threats. But the threats and denunciations can no longer deter the voices of hope in modern-day Africa. And so, upon Keeling's unwarranted departure, neither his newspaper nor his courage departed with him. In fact, the Financial Times had this to say about the Nigerian loot: "For all the promises of probity, the military elite [has been] as corrupt as any regime that preceded it, taking kickbacks on contracts and diverting government funds" (Financial Times, May 22, 1992; p.60). Well, this was just a glimpse of General Babangida and I'd like to point out here that time will not permit me to detail all of the General's corruption schemes as I must hasten to look at one more General - the current Nigerian redeemer in the person of General Olusegun Obasanjo. This General is anything but a new face in the volatile Nigerian political theatre. He is a former military dictator whom many credit with one of the most peaceful transfers of power to a civilian government in Nigerian politics. When he vacated the Nigerian Presidential Palace in 1979, he set up a commercial firm and went into the poultry business. He also became one of the UN's permanent persons residing in Africa. Then in 1999, he was elected to the Nigerian Presidency in an election that was allegedly financed by former military dictators, like, Babangida, who feared that they would be prosecuted if a Nigerian political outsider were elected to the nation's highest office.
When President Obasanjo took office in 1999, he promised everything from economic reforms to the eradication of corruption and the promotion of justice. He set up a special commission to investigate human rights abuses meted out to ordinary Nigerians by the military. But critics say that his government has not done enough. His testimony before the SPECIAL COMMISSION was a shame to say the least. Regionally, his politics is one of obsession with duplicity and gimmicks- a strange version of modern politics that bolsters regional menace like Charles NOTORIOUS Taylor of Liberia. His biggest failures are in the departments of domestic politics and international affairs. Domestically, he has failed to curtail corruption by not punishing ministers of his government that continue to loot the country's resources. His army is as notorious as ever before - committing crimes in some Nigerian villages and towns. New problems have also emerged, notably, the imposition of ISLAMIC SHARIA LAWS in some northern States in Nigeria. Although the Nigerian CONSTITUTION that is the SUPREME LAW of the land forbids the imposition of religious law anywhere in the country, President Obasanjo has been very quiescent about Nigeria's religious problems. Some Nigerians say that he's constrained by the fact that his financial and popular backing comes from the northern Hausa Fulani ethnic group.
Internationally, President Obasanjo has been traveling apparently to seek debt relief for his country and to end the recently imposed United Nations sanctions on the criminal regime in Liberia. In total, the President has been out of Nigeria at least 80 times since he assumed office barely four years ago. But as he admits, foreign trips are just not amounting to anything. President Obasanjo said: "In three years I went round the world and did not get anything…I went round the countries in Europe, twice over, I went to Japan, to America, to Canada and got good words…but no action at all." As the US based Nigerian Professor Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe puts it, "So by May 2003, the Obasanjo regime would have spent US$22 million of scarce national resources on four years of travel in pursuit of an illusory but calamitous enterprise of ‘gazing across the seas' for Western ‘goodies' to salvage an economy that his leadership (twice: 1976-1979,1999-expected May 2003) as well as others have virtually destroyed in the past 40 years" (www.usafricaonline.com/ekweekwe.nepad.html). Do African leaders still need these trips? Well, you do the mathematics and let me know how much money they're continuing to waste recklessly - money that could be used otherwise to bring much-needed development to their respective countries, not to mention rapidly improving the hopeless lives of their severely impoverished peoples!
Finally, my fellow Africans, I am not writing to incite hatred of any kind. Sincerely, it's never my intent. As always, I want to inspire POSITIVE anger within you - anger that‘ll cause you to rise up to challenge and help remove the buffoons from state power. You see, corruption has always had devastating political, economic, and social implications African nation-states. For example, in a recent BBC Focus on Africa article titled, "Nigeria's Dirty Business", Sam Olukoya states that "human excrement has become a precious commodity in Kano, Nigeria". Also, Isa Idi, a trader involved with the hazardous trade in human waste had this to say about his newly found employment: "We smell it, but we must try to bear it". And why are some people buying human wastes in modern Nigeria in the first place? Farmer Husaini Audu provides us with this sad answer: "Human waste is very good for farming. I say this because people apply it on their farms and we see the result" (BBC FOCUS on Africa January 4, 2001). Where are the private fertilizer factories that were supposed to be set up by those that have looted Nigeria for the past 40 years or so? Well, they are in the Swiss, American, and British banks. The thieves of Africa do not keep their ill-gotten money in their own countries, you know. In fact, the ill-gotten money is invested in the West and East. But the thieving regimes of Africa have the audacity to shout NEO-COLONIALISM whenever they are caught red-handed. Again, why would someone who hates NEO-COLONIALISM invests his or her money in NEO-COLONIAL institutions?
The late Ivorian bandit in Chief, President Houphouet Boigny gave us this answer in 1983: "I do have assets abroad. But they are not assets belonging to Cote d'Ivoire. What sensible man does not keep his assets in Switzerland, the whole world's bank? I would be crazy to sacrifice my children's future in this crazy country without thinking of their future" (La Croix, [Paris], Mar 13, 1990). In the process of looting and upright thievery going on in contemporary Africa, countries there are slowly dying. That's why we need to wake up [and right now] and remove those thieves from power through organized means. However, whatever methods we [Africans] chose to employ in our struggle to liberate ourselves from the BLACK COLONIAL masters of today, I'd like to say emphatically that NON-VIOLENCE is yet the best course of action to take. In this regard, I strongly feel that the time is now ripe for the formation of a NATIONAL AFRICAN ASSOCIATION that would, among its work, document all the known assets of our failed leaders that are supposedly stacked away in western financial institutions. And then, we must present these findings to the international community for the peaceful transfer of those stolen assets, including, cash, to our continent for its natural development. I'm thoroughly convinced that's the best way for us to go. May God bless Nigeria and enlighten Africa.