Jan. 10, 2014
The fear of online bloggers has become the beginning of wisdom for Nigerian public officials. It used to be that the press was the fourth estate, the conscience of the people, established to make the powerful, uncomfortable. Like every thing Nigeria, the established press became part of the establishment and Nigeria sank deeper and deeper into the quagmire of corruption and a noxious air of impunity hung like a thick cloud over the whole country.
With tin gods at the Executive Branch, political jobbers who depend on kickbacks and crumbs from the Executive Branch as the legislature, and a judiciary that depends on the Executive Branch for its sustenance, Nigeria runs a government without checks and balances. To cap it all off, the 1999 constitution enshrined the impunity we are seeing today by giving Executive Branch officers blanket immunity from both criminal and tortuous liability while in Office.
Then arose an unofficial arm of Nigerian government and suddenly, the culture of impunity is getting its deserved push back. We are talking of no other than the likes of Sahara Reporters, Elombah.com, 24/7 Ureports and the rest of them. These are mighty midgets carrying a stinging power that is a million times their body weight and have shown no mercy at searching out and exposing the crevices of corruption.
President Jonathan has been stung so many times. The Finance Minister, CBN Governor, Aviation Minister, Governor Oshiomole, Governor Rotimi Amaechi, Governor Peter Obi – just name them. The list is endless.
With improvements in monitoring bank deposits, corrupt officers buy up dollar and store in boxes in their houses else they hide their money with fake names in unoccupied multi billion Naira land assets in Abuja and Lagos. With an inept IPC and EFCC, the bloggers became Nigeria’s last hope. With all the corrupt practices going on in Nigeria, the only regret is that we do not have enough of these guys. What the EFCC cannot do with a multibillion Naira budget, these brave little men are doing with mere pittance with basically an office space and a laptop computer.
Like everything Nigerian, these mighty warriors are getting a push back and they should. We need checks and balances even for the sting rays. Some misguided Senator tried to sponsor an anti-online news legislation and he could not stand the heat from the Nigerian public who see these outlets as the last hope for the common man and Nigeria. Indeed.
Charges of bias, ethnic agenda, moral lapses ring the air when the mighty midgets sting another deserving public official. The Igbo claim that Sahara Reporters are unfairly targeting Igbo public officials and setting them up for opprobrium. The Hausa-Fulanis think that the online chatrooms are heavily anti-Northerners because of the educational challenges in their region of the country. Mega chatrooms like NigerianWorldForum and Naijapolitics have become a cold war theatre between Igbos and Yorubas with ethnic partisans loading and reloading their verbal artilleries to score the most points. Those mega chatrooms invariably serve as an outlet for the online newsmagazines and bloggers who post snippets and trailers in the chat rooms and drive traffic to their websites. With the traffic going to their websites, they collect small money here and there to keep afloat.
Many claim that the online newsmagazines are run by blackmailers who start digging up dirt against officials who are not taking care of them. My response is – if the dirt is there, let’s dig it up. With the proliferation of online dirt diggers, no one can possibly “settle” all of them.
Against the charges of ethnic bias, I say that Nigeria will be a better country if the Igbo commit their effort to digging dirt around Yoruba and Hausa-Fulani public officials and the Yorubas dig up around Igbo public officials and the Hausas dig up around everybody but their people. As far as I am concerned, it does not matter who does the digging. If the dirt is there, let’s go after it. Charges of ethnic bias is totally inane and baseless. If ethnic bias is what motivates the dirt digging, then we need more, not less ethnic bias. The stench is suffocating. If digging dirt along ethnic lines is how Sowore survives, all it takes is a laptop computer with internet connection and everyone can and should get into the dirt digging business. To cry victim in this instance is silly. There is absolutely no barrier to dirt digging around any public official in Nigeria. The only barrier is the courage to stand up to these powerful men and women. It is not as if we need a government license to go to work. If the Igbo cannot stand Sowore dirt digging Igbo public officials, let them start digging around Yoruba public officials. I just cannot repeat myself enough. We need more dirt diggers from every tribe in Nigeria and they are welcome to ignore their tribe and go wherever that pleases them to dig.
Regarding Madam Aviation Minister, I lost interest in her multimillion Naira armored car case when Feni Intimate Relationship Kayode came into the picture. The way it is, if Femi says it is bad, it is a safe bet that it is good as far as NdeIgbo is concerned. So with that ringing endorsement from Femi, Madam Aviation Minister had my confidence until this new Master’s degree palaver.
First, kudos to Sahara Reporters for sniffing out the discrepancies in her educational history. Her prior public profile on Wikipedia and Aviation ministry website says she has a Masters degree. Her Official CV does not show one thereby calling her personal integrity to question. We have been there before. Sahara Reporters exposed Andy Uba and his fake doctorate. SR exposed Tinubu. Ngozi Okereke Onyiuke was not spared. These are public officials who got stung for padding their resume. Many Nigerian public officials are making claims to experiences and educational attainment they never had. Nigeria probably has the highest per capita number of public officials with PhDs.
Like everything crazy in Nigeria, these people are snapping up doctorate degrees like they grow on trees. If they can’t buy one online, because they might be caught, they “dash” stolen Nigerian money to University of Kazakaza in some unheard of country for honorary doctorates. Honorary doctorate from University of Kazakaza is of course more prestigious than that of Gombe State University but at least with Gombe, the money stays within Nigeria.
Either way, whether by fake Masters or fake Doctorates, we cannot continue to operate in a culture where we have zero confidence in any word that comes out of the mouth of our public officials. Once that personal integrity has been eroded, the person should step down. If the Nigerian Senate keeps approving appointees with questionable personal integrity, I am all for online bloggers digging up the dirt and taking care of that little business.
As it is, the personal integrity or lack thereof of Madam Aviation Minister has become a distraction and a political liability to the President. She can best serve Nigeria by simply turning in her resignation. It does not mean that what has been said about her is true or has been proven. It simply means that in the best interest of the country and the President whom she serves, she needs to let Nigeria focus on the more positive side of the President’s agenda than focusing on her.
I should say that Stella Odua is somebody I personally admire for doing something which her predecessors lacked the conscience to do and that is to see that there is an International Airport in the heartland of perhaps the most itinerant tribe in the world today – the Igbo. It is a huge achievement that she should be proud of with all the concerted effort. We understand that she may have stepped on many toes in a bid to change how things are done in the industry and naturally, there are some who may not be happy with her. That is the nature of things – you win some, you lose some but no one public official is indispensable. The President can and should find someone who constitutes less of a distraction to continue to serve his agenda for the industry. It is nothing personal. It is just that public business requires every punctilio of honesty and integrity. If it is called into question in the minds of reasonable people, the person should respectfully step down.
As a matter of fact, when was the last time a corrupt public official in Nigeria got permanently crippled by the opprobrium. Don’t they turn around and get awarded the highest honors in the land? When was the last time any one got stripped of his CON or GCON or GCFR or OON for conduct unbecoming of a public official? Don’t they turn right back around to run for even higher offices? When was being exposed the death knell that it should be in Nigeria? No one should cry for Princess Oduah because by Nigerian reality, the opprobrium is only a temporary setback. Look for her to bounce back as a Senator or Governor or Presidential contestant. Haven’t we seen all that before? Please save your tears for Princess Oduah and instead bring out your handkerchief and weep bitterly for Nigeria.
That is not to say that she is the worst minister in government or that she has not done a good job or bad job. Her distraction has become a liability and she should take responsibility for the discrepancies in her educational background. She created that unnecessary vulnerability and SR nailed her. In a country that uses titles and degrees as a surrogate for competence, we owe it to the country to present the most competent person for the job and not the one with the most degrees.
I should also add that the bravest Nigerians are people like Sowore, Daniel Elomba, Ikenna Ezennekwe who risk life and limb digging dirt around corrupt public officials and exposing their find worldwide. These people are National heroes and we all owe them a whole lot for sticking out their necks. Naturally, if they reside in Nigeria, many of them would have been killed ala Dele Giwa. Those who jump all over them for their mistakes and errors should have the decency to appreciate that these men are unpaid social crusaders who are risking a lot for the average Nigerians. For the rest of their natural lives, they will be looking over their shoulders for aggrieved public officials who might harbor deadly resentment for being exposed. Like the rest of us, they are entitled to mistakes here and there.
It is morally wrong to not recognize the perils of their way of life. For the huge risk they are taking on behalf of the rest of us, they do not deserve the clannish stone throwing. Let every clan raise their own army of dirt diggers and go after the other clan. Nigeria will be thankful for it.
As well, the online blogging industry is a self-regulating one. Elombah.com runs articles on the faux pas, omissions, and commissions of Sahara Reporters and vice versa. The bloggers are competing for who will win the most loyal readership, who will find the sexiest and the most compelling dirt, and by competing against each other, they help to regulate each other. As well, the bloggers know that their own credibility is on the line every time they make a mistake and that it behooves them to get it right always or perish. With the intrinsic pressures to make the right call, they will always be guaranteed the highest job approval rating of consciousness Nigerians. They will make mistakes, of course, but if the air stinks, there is a fair chance that there is a pile of dirt around. Once they call the stinking air, let the rest of us dig for the nearby pile of dirt. If it is not there, it might be that someone just farted. No problem. As for the dirt digging business, it is everyone’s responsibility as a matter of good citizenship.
The Sowores and the Elombas of this world are better Nigerians like the rest of us. That is just the fact. Kudos to all our dirt diggers. If our Public Officials and the rest of us are half as patriotic as the Sowores and the Elombas, there would be no need for a Sovereign National Conference – a conference that has become imperative because after 100 years, we still cannot find true Nigerians but for an idealistic handful – the Sowores and the Elombas.