However, since the outbreak of Dasukigate last autumn, things appear no longer the same in Nigeria. Many a word or phrase has since lost its connotative as well as denotative meaning. Put differently, not a few entries in our vocabulary have been willfully corrupted, so irreparably disfigured, by men’s iniquities to now mean something never intended originally.
By way of public service, this column will today attempt to chronicle and situate some of such aberrations with a view to aiding the uninitiated master the new language of public conversation in today’s Nigeria. By the way, Dasukigate itself roughly means exposition of sleaze lavishly democratized or on industrial scale.
Goodluck alert: Once associated with monthly bank disbursement of N10, 000 to PDP supporters under the dubious SURE-P, “Goodluck alert” (named after Goodluck Jonathan) has also become synonymous with Dasukigate. Its own unique innovation is the indelible trail. Almost all the big fishes caught in the net have admitted receiving “Goodluck alert” (bank transfer) in the sums traced to them. Just like card-reader deployed in the last general elections which substantially banished “ghost voters”, the unique feature of “Goodluck alert” is that it is undeniable, unlike the receipt of “Ghana-Must-Go” (cash). Confronted with the banking dots that are easily connectable, our big men suddenly found themselves in a situation where they can’t deny. Had it been GMG, many would perhaps have instinctively sworn on their mothers’ grave they had, in fact, never seen a single Naira note in their lives! Example is Bode George who initially went ballistic by calling the messengers unprintable names when the report first surfaced, threatening to sue them out of existence. But when bank details followed, BG tactically modified his statement to say that, em, em, actually, it was only $30,000 he received, not N100m.
Cancer: Until now, cancer was a nocturnal word often mentioned in hushed tone. But not after Dasukigate exploded. Faced with possible trial over alleged stealing, yesterday’s strongmen and strong-women of power and influence have suddenly become afflicted by all manners of health conditions. Given its pervasiveness, you would think the nation is now suddenly under a severe contagion of plagues. For instance, long before the sordid details of the monumental $2.1bn scam began to seep out like pus, Sambo Dasuki had bluntly refused to cooperate with security agents, insisting he be allowed to travel abroad to treat “cancer”. Since he was silent on the nature, mischief-makers are, in hindsight, now left wondering if it has to do with constipation or sheer gluttony.
Medical check/appointment: A milder variant of the foregoing is the glamorization of foreign medical check-up/appointment. In his own last-ditch attempt to evade being arraigned for allegedly collecting a princely N2.1bn from the $2.1bn arms loot, media mogul and AIT’s owner, Raymond Dokpesi, also begged he be allowed to travel abroad to keep a “pre-scheduled medical appointment”. He did not disclose whether flu or toothache.
Before Dokpesi was Kingsley Kuku. Hours before EFCC formally declared him wanted over alleged diversion of tens of billions of naira of the Amnesty money, pictures of Kuku’s lying on a stretcher at a location described as an American Hospital surfaced in the media. He claimed to be convalescing after a “knee surgery”. Curiously, his campaign posters for the Ondo governorship polls in 2016 are already in circulation.
Political arthritis: When the acting chair of PDP’s BOT, Haliru Bello, finally showed up to answer charges of receiving N300m alongside his son, for instance, he did so spectacularly in wheel-chair, claiming ill-health. But while the proceedings lasted, the same mischief-makers, I reliably gathered, never for once removed their unblinking eyes from Bello’s otherwise well-groomed face, obviously looking for the slightest sign or hint of a smile or even a mere chuckle to prove this nagging suspicion that the case of infirmity was all made up. And before the court finally rose that day, his son (evidently a youthful lad), on the other hand, fought tooth and nail to avoid being sent to Kuje Prisons claiming he suffers arthritis, a debilitating condition thought to befall only senior citizens. The Judge simply ignored him.
Sharing: Another word thoroughly abused today. Until now, it featured only in the expression of charity or any other godly term. You shared love or Holy Communion, for instance. But from the various confessional statements of partakers of the loot, “sharing” is more or less now the euphemism for stealing or being its conduit or accessory, to make light of an otherwise grave felony. Note, no one has admitted to “sitting on” anything thus far. So, when a suspect says “I share so so to XYZ”, he, at worst, still wishes to be treated with respect for not breaking the first unwritten commandment of sleaze: thou shall not eat alone.
Men’s world: Given the gender of all those already fingered in the big league, it is perhaps only fair to conclude that men are more greedy or have more propensity to steal big. If any female benefitted at all, it must have been at the retail or crumb end. But the bigger puzzle is why our otherwise cantankerous feminists are not yet crowing about this on the roof-top by now.
Physical verification: This is perhaps the most ingenious tactic adopted so far by EFCC to either smoke or root out ghosts wherever they be hiding as far as the inquest into the $2.1bn is concerned. When birds learn to fly non-stop, writes Chinua Achebe, the hunter also learns to shoot without missing. All manners of names – both human and corporate – featured in the long list allegedly submitted by Dasuki and co as beneficiaries. To strip the proverbial masquerade completely bare, EFCC’s master-stroke was to place advert in the newspapers inviting such individuals/companies for interaction in Abuja in segments. Of course, that enables it to weed out the fake ones.
Money-lender: Indisputably, this golden distinction belongs exclusively to Chief Tony Anenih, the discredited and now expired godfather. In his own confessional statement, the old cop has mustered all known tricks in the book in an effort to fool the nation, but unfortunately ending up making mockery of only himself. In his desperation, he unwittingly gives himself away as CEO of an unregistered money-lending outfit whose clientele had surprisingly included the president of Africa’s largest economy (according to Ngozi Okonji-Iweala’s rebasing). For the N260m traced to Anenih, he cleverly argued it was only a reimbursement of what he had lent then President Jonathan and accepted to help “share” to identified beneficiaries.
With the self-punitive ardour of an old-school “esusu” (thrift) collector, the Iyasele of Uromiland then volunteered to draw a long, long list of people he “shared” to, meticulously capturing the last kobo in a torn ledger. But, oddly, his own convoluted calculations eventually amounted to N263m – N3m in excess of what they ungratefully accused him of receiving! To say nothing of other miscellaneous expenses he graciously incurred on Jonathan’s behalf put conservatively at N180m which, sadly, he was unable to cash before GEJ’s troubled tenancy ended at Aso Rock. Ever so generous, Anenih says he had since, to borrow (again!) his own words, written that off as “bad debt”.
To sell this apocryphal tale, the old godfather has dusted up an equally old tool: unleashing a horde of running dogs in the media who, in turn, would masquerade as “news sources” or simply pose as “commentators” on OpEd pages. (I’m reliably informed they are on the next list of accessories to be unveiled by EFCC.)
Not wanting to leave anything to chance in the desperation to whip up pity still, the hyperactive publicists of this same ruthless godfather who would take no prisoner when he still had his little finger on the trigger, added another story that their paymaster just underwent a major heart surgery abroad.
All said, no law forbids Anenih from lending money to sitting presidents or ruling party for that matter. Just as no one can deny him pity for whatever affliction he may suffer. But the truth remains: the money he received and “shared” was proceeds of crime. As a retired policeman, he should know that the least now expected of him is to refund to the Federal Government, followed with a profuse apology to the Nigerian people.
Refund: Apparently mindful of the negative emotions the term “plea bargain” now invokes in public mind, EFCC itself has brought in some creativity. Considering that two broad categories have now crystalized from the motley crowd that feasted on Dasuki’s industrial ATM (bare-faced thieves on the one hand and the receivers of stolen goods on the other), the anti-graft agency offers soft-landing for the latter set, obviously conceding they may have acted in ignorance. This will spare it the pains of protracted litigation. Beneficiaries of this special window include Jafaru Isa who reportedly coughed out N100m out of N170m traced to him, with an undertaking to offset the balance in due course.
Government property: As now amply demonstrated, the term “public property” no longer refers only to piece of real estate and some other (im)movable public assets; but also things like ordinary sheet of paper containing a confessional statement, all of which a layman would otherwise dismiss as negligible. But no more. Otherwise, any violator now faces dire consequences like being made to wear handcuffs as ornament at his/her next court appearance. If in doubt, consult Olisa Metuh.
Open letter-writing: Trust the ingenuity of Nigerians, those unwilling to honour EFCC invitation for fear of cold cell or warrior mosquitoes at Kuje Prison have found a way around it. Instead, they make what, for want of a better phrase, can now be simply put as “epistolary appearance”. It is never an ordinary missive, though. The most flowery of language is deployed to make a powerful case against persecution. Pioneers of this tactic include Nduka Obaigbena, THISDAY publisher, who has become quite prolific in writing open letters to EFCC from exile in US(?) to defend and rationalize receipt of N670m. He is yet to carry out series of threat to appear in Nigeria to defend himself. Beside him is the “resurgent” militant Government(!) Tompolo who pens his own from the dark creeks of Niger Delta, painstakingly citing 35 billion reasons why he will not appear before court to answer charges of N34b traced to him.
“Ilalobo” – Evidently Edo’s own modest contribution to the bourgeoning culture of sleaze. It means “fingers-licking”, to graphically illustrate the very cosmography of stealing public funds to those who may still be confused. Of course, as an erstwhile fiery social critic invited to the corridors of power, once you begin to either “lick” or “eat” something there, you don’t “talk” (criticize the authorities) anymore, as a mark of good table-manner. Though, the word has not yet acquired national resonance, it is now quite popular in the lingua franca of the good old Midwest region (present-day Edo and parts of Delta State). And with the aggressive push by the homeboy, Igodomigodo (Patrick Obahiagbon) himself, be rest assured it is a matter of time for its usage to spread across the country.
*Odion, a Fellow of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, FNGE, is immediate past Commissioner of Information in Edo State