Oduahgate: An Annoying Feeling Of Déjà Vu

By Alphonsus E. W

Stella oduahBut they had not gone twenty yards when they stopped short. An uproar of voices was coming from the farmhouse. They rushed back and looked through the window again. Yes, a violent quarrel was in progress. There were shoutings, bangings on the table, sharp suspicious glances, furious denials. The source of the trouble appeared to be that Napoleon and Mr. Pilkington had each played an ace of spades simultaneously.

Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

-Excerpt from George Orwell’s Animal Farm

When influential online news platform, Sahara Reporters, on 15th October 2013 broke the news of the purchase of 2 bullet-proof vehicles for the Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah for a stomach-churning sum of N225m, there was expectedly a huge storm of public outrage.

As has become the norm with such scandals, a pattern often plays out; a whistle-blower leaks the story, the public official involved first denies then defends, then accepts the allegation.

The press laps up the story in the form of a media blitz. The Federal Government makes the right noises; words like “probes”, “committee to investigate”, “EFCC”, etc are bandied about.

 A sham court trial or appearance before a Senate/ House Committee is arranged. While this is going on, the gullible masses would have some verbal fodder for discussion on social media and beer parlour parliaments as they typically rail at the government for endemic corruption.

 Brilliant pieces of journalism laced with pieces of jaw-breaking and Obhiagbonesque words pervade public news domains in the backdrop of the charade that is the public hearing.

 The parody/ comedy is extended long enough until when the public is tired, the hue and cry peters out then the whole saga is swept under the carpet of national forgetfulness. ..Until the next time out.

The same scenario played out in the cases of Salisu Buhari, Chuba Okadigbo, Ghali Umar Na’Abba, Ibrahim Mantu, Adolphus Wabara, Evan(s) Enwerem, Patricia Etteh, Profs. Babatunde Borishade and Grange, Farouk Lawani, Ali Maina et.al, a long list fitting for the award of most shockingly corrupt public official.

What has been said that has not been said before? Between the times it has taken me to type this article and when you’d be reading this article, billions of Naira must have changed hands, rewards for mostly corrupt deals.

Face the facts. The Federal Government set up a committee to investigate the embattled minister. And I laugh in Swahili. Who is to probe who? Preposterously hilarious. Go and ask them about the Ribadu probe panel and how a member of committee challenged his chairman right in front of Mr. President and it was allowed. Who is fooling who?

Reading the Minister’s defense to the Presidential query, it wouldn’t take a discerning mind long to see through the smokescreen couched in a carefully worded statement subtly aimed at diversion and subterfuge.

Going to lengths to explain that the due process was followed in the procurement of the vehicles, did that in any way address the topical issue on the lips of everyone of the morally the reprehensible sum that the agencies under her Ministry were made to cough up to ensure the purchase of the vehicles?

Maybe this is her own ‘robust answer’, reminiscent of Pastor Fatoyinbo of COZA Ministries. What this contrives to do is that it makes the masses to have a deep and unshakeable sense of distrust for anything that has government on it, in addition to making them bide their time when it would be their turn to walk the revolving doors of power so they can loot as much as they can within the term allocated them.

 But they don’t care, those mindless fellows in the corridors of power. Or how do you explain the fact that a Minister purchases cars for N225m when over 30, 000 students have been sitting idle at home because the same government for whom this Minister is working refuses to meet the demands of the lecturers?

And it keeps getting curiouser and curiouser  with confirmed and unconfirmed allegations keep mounting on the sidelines

Shockingly similar, eh? Don’t smirk. Bloated sums in the form of over-invoicing and bullet-proof vehicles. What bullets are they dodging? The masses surely aren’t their purveyors nor are they the harbingers of the fate that these public officers fear that makes them hide in AVCs (Armoured VIP Carriers).

He is a thief who is caught now. Till then, you are a public officer above reproach, worthy of the title ‘Honourable’. It doesn’t matter the scale of looting. You are not a thief until you are caught.

Like the hapless animals in George Orwell’s timeless classic, Animal Farm, the masses peer from face to face, unable to decipher who is human and who is animal among the lot. Until the next time out, it would remain a strange feeling of déjà vu.

As for