“And please quote me precisely here. I wish to assure His Excellency publicly that I would never disappoint him.”
But to counteract a phenomenon, we must first of all study and characterize that phenomenon. So far we have qualitatively identified the 80 per cent base and 20 per cent tip of corruption in Nigeria by applying Pareto’s Principle. Yet how do these two groupings inter-relate and interact?
Well once a while, when a promising or upwardly mobile suspected member of the 80 per cent base catches the fancy of the knighted 20 per cent tip of corruption, he or she, if found worthy, becomes “their man or woman.” He or she is appointed into a position of influence or secures a mind-boggling contract or is allowed to ‘win’ an election. By so doing, this base practitioner of corruption is thrown a life line to climb into the inner sanctum or upper chamber of the infrastructure of corruption. This appointment then heralds one of the few public occasions of ‘extended corrupt family reunion’ when the knighted 20 per cent tip meet and mingle with the base 80 per cent in a uniquely Nigerian celebration of corruption.
One such mythical occasion held a couple of years ago. On that day the setting could not have been more auspicious. The venue at the Banquet Hall of the State House complex was filled to capacity with significant overflow into the adjoining streets of those deemed unworthy to gain entrance into the complex.
Outside in the streets, there was drumming. There was traditional music. There was dancing. There were trumpet blasts and clashing cymbals. There were men and women. There were otherwise busy people and there were jobless people. Inside the complex there were the gentry and there were also a few suave political urchins. They were all gathered to witness the occasion of the swearing in of their sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, kinsmen, kinswomen, old class mates, ex-work mates as Ministers of the Federation.
Every- one wanted to be a part of the joyous occasion. Many from the hinterland had crossed mighty rivers and traversed tiny brooks to grace the occasion. Others had climbed over the hills and gone down the valleys to be there. Many came with presents and congratulatory cards, some as high as pubescent children, others as wide as security gates. While there was agitated commotion outside, most inside the banquet hall were seated and conversing animatedly while awaiting the arrival of His Excellency, to kick-off the occasion. The hot topic of discussion of course was the as yet undisclosed portfolios of the new appointees to His Excellency’s cabinet.
At the front row of seats to one side of the aisle sat the new appointees, behind them their immediate families and invited guests. On the other side of the aisle sat the movers and shakers of society, a good percentage of who were acclaimed knights of the corruption industry and leading lights of the elite 20 per cent cadre of corrupt activity in Nigeria.
All the ministerial appointees seated that day had scaled through screenings held at the senate a couple of weeks earlier but in a typical Nigerian sop to corruption, they were all screened without anybody in the senate knowing their designated cabinet portfolios. Their actual postings were closely held state secrets known only to one man, His Excellency and maybe his wife, the first lady. Deciphering these soon to be revealed secrets was the subject of the heated conversations in the ceremony hall alluded to earlier.
Since the conclusion of the senate screenings and prior to this D-day, leaked cabinet portfolio assignment lists were being circulated and discounted by His Excellency’s office with the same regularity as the ticking of London’s Big Ben. Intensive horse trading was going on as competing captains in the corruption industry tried to out-maneuver and out-flank their rivals in order to secure more favorable cabinet postings for themselves or their wards. Now was the moment of decision, to see who was going to get what.
While the seated nominees tried in vain to contain their excitement, their sponsors on the other side of the aisle were furiously working their phones trying to make last minute contacts with staff and family of His Excellency and even His Excellency himself in order to establish the character of the final cabinet posting.
Finally His Excellency walked in. Everyone rose to their feet. The national anthem was played. A top official presumably the Chief of Staff or Chief of Protocol gave an introductory speech reminding everyone why they were gathered. He briefly introduced the nominees who stood up and remained standing once they were called. Having completed his speech which those in the hall paid scant attention to, he asked His Excellency for permission to invite the nominees for the swearing in. And so they were called up one after the other. They stood before His Excellency and took their oaths of office still oblivious of their eventual postings.
Now the moment had arrived. The time for His Excellency’s much awaited speech. His Excellency did not disappoint his detractors. His speech outlined the giant strides his rogue regime had made over the years. He listed so many projects that had been started without mentioning any that had been completed. His speech was mainly futuristic and as always, short on specifics but long on propaganda. We will do this, we will do that he vowed repeatedly. He could not mention one thing he had actually done in his many years in power.
He then made the normal noises about having zero tolerance for corruption and warning that any among the nominees found to be corrupt would be sacked and prosecuted. It would no longer be business as usual he vowed and I mean it he said as if trying to convince even himself of his seriousness this time. A few knights of corruption present in the hall yawned and muttered under their breadths “Get on with it man, we have heard all of this before. Announce the postings.” On and on His Excellency’s speech went without any mention of the cabinet postings.
Meanwhile even as he spoke, his Chief of Staff quietly issued out a press statement to the media outlets present, listing the much awaited cabinet postings. This was immediately flashed on live TV as a breaking news item even while His Excellency was still talking. As soon as His Excellency finished giving his speech, he received a warm though disappointed applause from the audience oblivious of the cabinet postings announced on live TV. The national anthem was played and His Excellency rose and left the hall as noisily as he came with his embarrassing retinue of fawning aides.
And there was bedlam. The media rushed to one re-appointee, a veritable and venerable knight of corruption who it had been strongly rumored would secure the lucrative Public Works Ministry. “Congratulations Sir”, they chorused. “It has just been announced on air that you have been appointed as the Minister of Internal Peace and Harmony”. “Myself”? This was the shocked response of the reappointed Minister. “There must be a mix up somewhere, but I was assured that …..” he cut-off his speech as he recollected himself. “Em, eh, no comments… I will speak to you later” he spurted as he stormed out of the venue in search of His Excellency for an explanation.
Immediately the countenance of his kinsmen and friends changed as they digested the implications of the tragedy of their man being assigned to the dry Ministry of Internal Peace and Harmony. The drumming by their accompanying musicians ceased abruptly and all without exception wore long faces as if in a funeral.
Meanwhile another appointee, a first time Minister, was beside himself with joy. All the political and media gurus present were unanimous that his was the shock appointment of the day. Against all personal and media expectations, he had just learnt that he had been appointed as the Minister of Exploratory Works. His mentor who had assured him of a wonderful surprise had not failed him.
His mind did a mental recollection of how far and how quickly he had risen in the industry (of corruption). He remembered how he had kept very little to himself and channeled all the proceeds of his brazen corrupt practices to his mentor and other backers in his last very minor posting as a mere board member in a dry government parastatal.
His wife had called him a very foolish man who fails to make hay while the sun shines but he had assured her that he was a strategic thinker, a very patient man. Apparently his lavish returns had not gone unnoticed in high places.
Today was his vindication. At such a young age, for he was barely above 40 years, he had become a full Minister of Exploratory Works in an oil rich nation.
He quietly vowed to himself, that going forward he had only three constituencies to satisfy. The first beneficiary would definitely be His Excellency, the man who appointed him against all odds and expectations. Yes, he would get the lion share of future dividends of corruption.
The second beneficiary would be his mentor who had put his name forward, yes that old lion of corruption, of whom it was rumored that he once mentored even His Excellency himself many years ago and who had delivered on his promise today. The third beneficiary would be his very self. Others would make do with scraps.
Yes he had arrived he thought to himself. He had become a full-fledged capo régime in the corruption industry. His strategic bent seized him as he allowed himself to think of the emerging possibilities. His zone of the country had never produced the President. Yes who knows, if he plays his cards well, he could even make a go for the Presidency after the Incumbent’s tenure. What an achievement this would be for you old boy he flattered himself only to be shocked into reality by the Reporter’s nagging question. “We are on live T.V. Sir; I was asking you about your reaction to your appointment as the Minister of Exploratory Works and your agenda for your Ministry”.
The young Minister’s response was immediate. “Oh I am sorry. I did not quite get you. I want to first of all thank His Excellency for deeming me worthy of this appointment” He switched swiftly into the coded language of the corruption industry with a message within a message. “And please quote me precisely here. I wish to assure His Excellency publicly that I would never disappoint him. Those who know me know my track record that I never fail in any assignment given to me. I will take some time to study my Ministry and establish what is on the ground; get clearance from His Excellency before I begin to implement my vision for moving my Ministry and the nation forward. Thank you. “
The young minister moved on pumping the hands and pressing the flesh of the adoring crowd that had gathered around him. His accompanying drummers and dancers raised the decibel of their performance to even higher levels as they set out for a huge reception party.
To be continued
Engr. A. C. Konwea, P.E. firstname.lastname@example.org; Managing Consultant, Strategic Research Consortium Limited, Asaba, Nigeria.
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