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Monday, 3 February 2014

Anenih: Between Opportunism And Common Sense

Last Friday, Chief Tony Anenih, Iyasele of Esanland and Board of Trustees   chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), further belittled himself when he tried to cover up for the Jonathan administration in an open letter he wrote to Sam Nda-Isaiah, chairman and publisher of LEADERSHIP Group.
Chief Anenih had written in response to Nda-Isaiah’s January 13 column entitled, ‘Is The President Aware That $ 10.8 billion Is Still Missing?’
Touching on a plethora of issues while defending the missing funds, Chief Anenih tried to outdo the finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the NNPC and the PDP all combined in trying to defend the indefensible. As a matter of fact, at a point it seemed as though Anenih was the chief custodian of the NNPC accounts.
Since there is little difference between private and public letters these days, especially when such letters are meant to ginger public discourse, it is only natural that yours sincerely puts the issue in the correct perpective.
First, it baffles me to see the vigour with which the Iyasele is defending the missing funds. I, and most members of the discerning public, believe that $10.8billion remains missing, for were it not for the alarm raised by the always bold Central Bank Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, no one would be talking about any missing billions, let alone explaining how it was spent.  The money will just disappear quietly. This has always been the pattern. Not one case of fraud has ever been exposed by the government and no officials punished; the public only gets to hear of missing billions and trillions when business goes sour.
It is, therefore, with great gusto that Nigerians lauded Sanusi’s courage to expose what clearly was a monumental heist of public funds. Nigerians are not fools and need not be told that it took the exposure for the NNPC to go running around, trying to cook up stories to justify the missing $10.8 billion? In any case, is this the last case of     missing billions and trillions? Didn’t Okonjo-Iweala last week reveal that billions of dollars have developed wings in our foreign reserve? Who is deceiving who?
Back to Chief Anenih. It is  worrying that while the minister of petroleum  Diezani Allison-Madueke has deemed it unnecessary to react to such ‘beer parlour gossips’ even when it came from Sanusi, it took a whole PDP BoT chairman to run to their help – a case of weeping more than the bereaved. Is this a signpost that, unknown to Nigerians, Anenih also does ‘audit’ NNPC accounts in addition to that of the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), another cash cow like NNPC, which for years has been his exclusive preserve.
Curiously, while ‘Mr Fix It’ has ignored calls on him to account for the over N300billion given him as works minister to ‘fix’ Nigeria’s death-trap roads during Obasanjo’s tenure – and till date he has kept mum,  this  time around, he is quick to throw his hat into the ring in defence of  Allison-Madueke’s opaque ministry. There must be something which has made Iyasele so keen to defend the petro dollar ministry. Assuming (just for the sake of it) that the account of the NPA is so squeaky clean (and I can’t think of any Nigerian who would bet his rags that it is), does it even warrant Anenih enough ground to play the devil’s advocate for the NNPC.
Let it be on record that the missing money, whether $49.8 billion or  $10.8billion, is the property of Nigerians. Yes. And it also needs to be on record that the wishy-washy explanation thrown at us by the NNPC is not acceptable going by the manner it came. It was several weeks into the saga – enough time for the smart alecs in the agency to cook the books.
As it is, against the very vexatious and regional tone that Anenih’s letter took, I am of the opinion that, with the volume of cash missing, the South-South from where both the chief and I come from would have been major beneficiaries if probity and prudence take their rightful place in our nation’s affairs. If work has stalled the East-West road over the years, one can just imagine how far these missing billions of dollars would have gone in fixing that very important road and the plethora of other abandoned projects across the region.
But again, if it took Edo State governor Comrade Adams  Oshiomhole to construct roads in Anenih’s place, including the one that leads to Anenih’s home, which he never did even as works minister, then it will be clear why Anenih is finding it difficult to understand why Nigerians like Nda-Isaiah are vexed at the continuous stench that keeps oozing  from the NNPC and President Jonathan’s seeming unconcern. No serious leader will condone the monumental mess at the NNPC.
How much does one need to steal in China to get hanged? Not more than a million dollars. So if billions get missing and it takes a courageous CBN governor to expose such, and  Mr President is more miffed at the disclosure and would prefer to do away with the patriotic whistleblower rather than plug the leakage in the system that allows un-remitted funds to stay long before being remitted, it only shows how unserious such a president is with the very task of governance.
Even from a position of weakness I now chose to argue that there was no missing funds except delay in remittance, perhaps the president needs the banks to tell him how much interest would accrue to the accounts of any individual or company which puts such billions in fixed deposit accounts, even for three months.
But for Chief Anenih, an octogenarian to whom Nigeria has given so much since the 1980s, it is lamentable that he sees nothing but politics when issues as these are brought to the front burner in our national discourse. It is only in Nigeria that elders like Anenih would continue to have a say in every government in power.
I have wondered what Chief Anenih would like to be remembered for by Nigerians. Is it that he was the best at godfatherism and ‘fixing’ things?  There is more to statesmanship than godfatherism, more so when Anenih can conveniently be said to be a riofaineant (a king without royal powers). If he has found it difficult to match the visible electioneering prowess of Adams Oshiomhole in his home state Edo having failed to pull wool over the eyes of Edo people, it certainly will not be the larger Nigeria that the Iyasele will take for a ride. We are wiser than that.
Elder statesmen do not rush to take up issues on the pages of newspapers, especially when it is not a good cause. Their conduct speaks for them. If Chief Anenih looks in the mirror, he will see why Nigerians will continue to ask for both the missing N300billion of not-so-long ago and the recent missing $10.8billion. It’s as simple as that.


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