The world is expecting me to respond today to the letter you wrote me, so I will go straight to the point. Your letter to me, sir, was a little strange because I can’t see what you intend to achieve. But, as my Esan friend recently told me, there is a saying in your place that “when a bird suddenly begins dancing on top of the tree, then there is music under the ground”. As the Iyasele of Esanland, you must be well familiar with that adage. But even with the music playing from Aso Rock, you should not have allowed yourself to write that kind of letter. The letter greatly diminished you, sir, and you must have already realised that from the kind of comments about you all over the social media since your letter was released. If the responses in the social media do not mean anything to you, surely, they will to your children and grandchildren.
That is the stuff Nigerians have come to expect from Ahmed Gulak, Doyin Okupe and Reuben Abati, and, honestly, I would not have responded if any of these three had appended his signature to that letter. But since it is you that wrote it, I will reply you, and that is why I am doing this today.
I also want you to know that, in writing this today, I am doing it on behalf of millions of Nigerians who have no voice. I have taken it as a responsibility because, in so doing, I would be serving the larger interests of the Nigerian state. And that’s all that matters to me.
For starters, this type of letter is not within the remit of your job as chairman of the PDP board of trustees. You are neither Jonathan’s spokesperson nor, technically speaking, a member of his government. You are not the spokesman of the NNPC; you are not the spokesman of the Ministry of Petroleum; you are not the spokesman of the ministry of finance. At best you are just an onlooker like any of us. Besides, the chairman of the board of trustees should be calm and measured but, in that letter, you are anything but calm and measured. Several times in the past, you had invited me to your home to discuss national issues. Even though I have never agreed with your views and even a few of the positions you wanted me to take, I have always respected you nonetheless. You have always addressed me as “my son”. And the joke in LEADERSHIP among the directors when discussing any story affecting you is that “nobody should upset the chairman’s father please”. Just before you were crowned the chairman of the PDP board of trustees, you invited me to your home. We discussed Nigeria intensively and extensively. Even though we didn’t agree on any issue at all, I cherished the fact that you invited me to your home for discussion.
In your letter, you said NNPC had satisfactorily explained how the said $10.8 billion (N1.7 trillion) was expended. Satisfactorily to whom? Satisfactorily to you and your other “son”, President Jonathan? Sir, do you and President Jonathan think Nigerians are fools? I respect you a lot sir – both for your age and our relationship – but I love Nigeria more than I respect you. Sir, to say that the NNPC officials have satisfactorily explained how they expended a whopping N1.7 trillion on behalf of Nigerians is the greatest insult to Nigerians. By the way, is the NNPC supposed to spend money that has not been appropriated for it? Is it their father’s money (pardon my French)? Does the NNPC have a first charge over the disbursement of government funds? You have been around government for too long to know this, but probably because you have been too used to the wrong way of running government, the wrong things have become normal to you. Sir, NNPC spending directly from the revenue it earns for the country without appropriation is theft, pure and simple, and should be punished if the Jonathan government had been a serious one. And if the president is aware of it and does nothing, then, he should be impeached at once to save the country from economic ruination. All monies made by the NNPC via the sales of the nation’s resources must be remitted to the nation’s coffers. And, sir, we are talking about N1.7 trillion here, which if well deployed into any sector could change that sector forever.
Again, sir, why, at over 80 years, do you want to endorse a lie? You are the one that should be teaching us not to lie. I feel sad that someone who addresses me as “my son” would want me to lie. No, sir, I won’t. I was not brought up that way. NNPC has not satisfactorily explained anything as you want people to believe. And it is not NNPC that Nigerians are waiting to hear from. They want to hear from the minister of petroleum or, better still, the president himself, since, as we all know, an expenditure of N1.7 trillion is absolutely beyond the authority of all NNPC staffers put together.
But, sir, why do you want to lie to yourself about the Jonathan government? This is a government that “expended” N2.6 trillion on fuel subsidy in a year that only N245 billion was appropriated for same. Has that one also been satisfactorily explained? What about the N32 billion police pension fund scam that Jonathan is pretending about? The N5 billion Teidi pension scam? The industrial-scale theft of crude oil worth about $2 billion monthly? What about the N53 billion NCC spectrum sale racket or the 24 million barrels of oil worth $1.6 billion stolen through signature forgery, according to Minister Aganga? Nobody even talks about bullet-proof Stella Oduah anymore. Sir, you seriously want us to keep quiet in the face of all these? Is this the type of country you want to leave behind for your grandchildren? As chairman, PDP board of trustees, you have a disproportionate responsibility among others to call President Jonathan to order and not to endorse thefts at the level we see today. But, like most people are now saying in the social media in response to your letter to me, if you too have not “satisfactorily” explained how you expended N300 billion on roads when you were minister of works with nothing commensurate to show for it, it will be asking too much to expect you to assess the situation rationally. Even if we agree with you that only N175 billion was released to you as minister, was there anything on ground to show that you received that kind of money?
But let’s go back to the N1.7 trillion heist, sir. Should we accept the NNPC’s lame explanation as “fact” when the so-called statement did not mention the name of a single company that benefited from the so-called “subsidy” on which it claimed to have squandered $8.49 billion? Or, why should anyone take NNPC seriously over the alleged expenses of $1.2 billion on pipeline management when the whole job has been outsourced to Global West Vessel Services Ltd, Tompolo’s company, for N15 billion? What’s the job of the PPMC anyway? How can you, sir, as BOT chairman and my adopted father, receive as gospel the writing off of $750 million as acceptable explanation for “products/crude losses”? Is that what your party has turned Nigeria to? The problem with you and President Jonathan, sir, is that either you do not understand the rules of good governance or you think Nigerians are unintelligent fools. No, you are wrong, sir! You would be surprised at the details the average Nigerian in the street now knows.
As chairman of the PDP board of trustees, sir, why don’t you spend your time constructively, asking President Jonathan, for instance, why he had to spend a whopping N400 billion on the amnesty programme, sending Nigerians abroad to learn crafts and other skills without establishing one single school or vocational centre in the Niger Delta? Sir, we are talking about the whole of N400 billion here. Do you know how many vocational centres and schools that would have established, that would have continued to train and re-train people from the Niger Delta? That is what you want Nigerians to keep quiet about? No, sir, I do not respect you to that extent. Or, let’s even go further: what has happened to the N300 billion that President Umaru Yar’Adua kept for the Niger Delta before he went into a coma from which he never came around? Only Jonathan can answer that.
You also veered off the point on a few occasions. You said, “it is also a fact that, last year, the well-regarded international magazine, Forbes, named minister of agriculture, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, African person of the year…”. What has that got to do with stealing N1.7 trillion belonging to the people? You might also need to know, sir, that LEADERSHIP doesn’t need Forbes to recognise talents in public service. The Board of Editors of the newspaper (of which I am not a member) had selected Adesina as the LEADERSHIP Public Officer of the Year 2013 in November, before Forbes’ announcement in December. But that’s clearly beside the point.
You obliquely insinuated that I serve sectional interests. Sir, if you who recently said anyone from the south-south that is against Jonathan should have his head examined would call me sectional, then, that should count as the greatest insult anyone has ever hauled on me. But I forgive you, sir. You call me sectional? Where were you and most of the people claiming to be close to Jonathan today when a few of us stood up against the Yar’Adua cabal that did not want then vice president Jonathan to become president according to the dictates of the constitution? Sir, I cannot remember you saying anything in those uncertain times, as you were clearly with the Yar’Adua group. Yes, sir, you could always be counted upon to support any government in power; if armed robbers took over Aso Rock tomorrow, they would count on your support. And you would not disappoint them.
President Jonathan himself knows that I was one of the very few who stood by the constitution. In fact, I was against the so-called doctrine of necessity that made Jonathan acting president because it was unconstitutional. I insisted that Jonathan at that time should be declared president straightaway because that is what the constitution provides when a president becomes incapacitated. You were clearly missing at that time. So, sir, you are not allowed to call me, or anyone else for that matter, sectional. You cannot call me sectional. I was against President Obasanjo’s misrule as much as I was against Umaru Yar’Adua’s misrule, even though one was a southerner and the other a northerner. If today I am against Jonathan, whose misrule is worse than Obasanjo’s and Yar’Adua’s put together (unfortunately), nobody should call me sectional. No, sir, I am a proud Nigerian who would never say the kind of sectional things you often say.
In another paragraph, you said, “And yet I must let you know that it is the height of brinkmanship to seek to inflame passions over a ‘missing’ amount of money, which has been proven by the relevant agency not to be missing at all.” Who decides whether money is missing at the NNPC? The NNPC? The minister of finance? The minister of petroleum? The PDP BOT chairman? Or an independent audit? There is no greater act of brinkmanship than dabbling into a matter clearly outside your brief. I admit that the current state of your party, the PDP, could leave traumatic side-effects on its stalwarts, especially on the office of the BOT. But I frankly don’t understand how I should become the target of your misfortune because I expressed an opinion on a matter of very serious public interest.
You also went berserk on the CBN governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. That is very unbecoming of the office of the PDP BOT chairman. By the way, the $10.8 billion I spoke about was not Sanusi’s figure. It is Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s figure; she has consistently said that corruption is killing the country and “we are not helpless about it”. The same Okonjo-Iweala raised the alarm less than a week ago in Davos, Switzerland, that the Nigerian economy was under threat because, on Jonathan’s watch, the excess crude account had been depleted from $8.65 billion to $2.5 billion within a year. Our foreign reserves have also been depleted.
You described the CBN governor as mistake-prone. But he still insists that $12 billion is missing. It was Okonjo-Iweala’s figure that was $10.8 billion. But we may just have to be patient for a few more months before we hear the real story of the stolen $49.8 billion. Sanusi will complete his term in June and would be free to tell the real story of the $49.8 billion. For now, I will counsel the Iyasele to stop gloating and explain in whose hands the $10.8 billion is, since he has now turned himself into Jonathan’s spokesperson.
Sir, as the BOT chairman, you are not allowed to be an attack dog. You are not allowed to go berserk as you did on Sanusi. It reduced your stature. You are not even allowed to write that kind of letter to me as Chief Tony Anenih, the Iyasele of Esanland, and a father figure to many of us. You call me your son, and, for that reason, we will not allow you to dance naked in the market square. We will insist we tie you with a wrapper to hide your nakedness. Sir, don’t write that kind of letter again!
Mr. Nda-Isaiah is publisher of Leadership Newspapers. The article was first published in his column, Last Word, on January 27. We have his permission to republish.
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