‘Authority stealing’ and the legacy of Fela

Even for millions of hapless Nigerians already accustomed to frequent reports of alleged pilfering of billions of dollars and Naira from our three tiers of government, this particular discovery was still mind-boggling in many respects . . .

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First, while all the previous reports were beginning to appear like mere fables – since almost all the accused principles have continued to plead their innocence and with hardly any major conviction since the advent of President’s corrective administration – the case involving the former Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Andrew Yakubu (photo: above), provided only the second solid evidence of the unprecedented looting perpetrated in the life of the previous administration after those involving some retired Air Force Generals who hid their heists in their sewages. This discovery literary provided the ever inquisitive Nigerians with graphic proof of the loot literally in the ‘flesh’!

Second, we can be assured that for generations to come, Nigerians will never grow tired of talking about the criminal ingenuity in the choice of location for the hidden loot. Yakubu chose to hide a total of  $9.7million and  £74,000 along with a few thousands more in Euros, in the most unexpected place imaginable, and, in the process, made the likes of the late Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, and his Mexican reincarnation Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, with the expensive tunnels they constructed, seem like amateurs.

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Yakubu made even Ali-Baba and his Forty Thieves appear like novices because the cave in which they chose to hide their own loot was in a mountain deep in the wilderness, and the entrance also required a password.

Sabon Tasha, the massive slum on the outskirts of the expansive Kaduna metropolis, is the sort of location you expected the poorest among the poor to inhibit. It is, also, sadly, the sort of location preferred by hardened criminals and cutthroats. It is certainly not where you expected to find a fortune except if it was to retrieve a ransom paid to rescue victims of the city’s frequent kidnappings.

I should know. My cousin was a recent victim. That Yakubu chose the exact precinct to hide the cash is instructive. It showed that while he may have been trained and certified as an excellent engineer, he also, undoubtedly, possessed the mind-set of the topmost Mafioso.

Ordinarily, assuming that Nigerians are still capable of experiencing shock, the news that the case is before our judiciary should be comforting to many, but the reality of the ‘system’ suggests that it is also the beginning of their worries.

Few high profile corruption cases have ever been prosecuted to their logical conclusion in Nigeria. And, in almost all instances, the victims have always managed to get-off with light sentences that made a mockery of their crimes while they still retained the proceeds from their loot. With such antecedents, it is perhaps not surprising that some high profile Federal Judges were recently indicted for corruption.

In a curious twist of fate, the Nigerian Judicial system has somewhat found a way to bastardise the plea-bargaining system the Americans used to break the Mafia’s “Code of silence” and essentially brought the criminal fraternity to its knees.  The plea-bargaining system should not be an end to itself, but a means to an end! It is often the light concession granted by the state in the judicial context to get at the bigger crooks whose criminal activities imperilled the collective.

Regrettably, in Nigeria, the system has allowed indicted looters of the public treasury to escape the sort of justice they deserve especially in the life of the previous administrations. In the process, an unfortunate impression was created to feed the growing belief that in Nigeria, justice is not only for hire, it exists only to punish the poor and the weakest segments of our social spectrum.

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Already, there are reports that Yakubu has filed for the return of his cash. He has asked the court to set aside the forfeiture order that granted FG ownership of the money.  Specifically, he wants the court to set aside the order and return the $9,772,800 and £74,000,000 which he said belongs to him insisting that the court lacked the jurisdiction to grant FG ownership of his money. And, quite incredibly, he still wants the court to accept that the money was gift.

In the meantime, a shadowy group that claims to represent professionals from Southern Kaduna has also faulted his arrest and demanded for his release. They inferred that their brother was the victim of a witch-hunt.  While we await to see the outcome of the protracted court case that will follow, it becomes inevitable to recall legacy and some of the enduring legacies of the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Some Nigerians may find issues with the way he chose to live his life, but we can only ignore his legacy at our collective peril.

The late Fela Anikulapo Kuti was not only a musician of universal repute purely on the originality of the Afro beat genre he singlehandedly created. Although he seemed like a reluctant rebel to many, Fela was also a social crusader and seer rolled into. He could have chosen to enjoy the trappings his upper middle-class upbringing provided but preferred to be uniquely different from the social trajectory of his siblings.

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In the song “Authority Stealing”, which he wrote and sang nearly thirty years ago, Fela lamented the prevalence of big time robbers in the highest echelon of the Nigerian society. Against the squalor and misery of what he believed to be the pathetic state of the Nigerian social infrastructure at the time; Fela believed the big thieves ensconced in the plush boardrooms of our corporate entities represented the greatest danger to our quest for rapid development, because, they not only stole with relish in the comfort of their offices, but also with the stroke of their pens!

And in the damming lyrics he composed to conclude the song, he shamed a society which preferred to lynch its poorest for the barest malfeasance while allowing the biggest thieves that thrived in the corridors of power to escape justice unscathed. Fela, is not alive today, but only God knows that king of songs he could have composed in his reaction to alarming decay and degree of corruption experienced in the polity since his demise. 

Everywhere we dare to look today, Fela’s legacy is so evident in the numerous songs on social justice he bequeathed for posterity and their poignant lessons. The songs are not only befitting reminders of his greatness as an artist, but also reasons for sober reflection for both our leaders and the led.

Fela’s songs provide a befitting metaphor for deeper introspection on how the social ills and endemic corruption, and its twin evil of under-development he warned about succeeded in reducing a once promising nation to an importer of garri from India like someone alleged in my WhatsApp Forum at the weekend.

While he is surely entitled to his day before the law, Andrew Yakubu, and all the other felons in the same category should thank their stars that they have been spared the wrath of Fela’s court because the great musician is no longer with us. But his songs, and the lessons they impacted, have ensued that his legacy will endure.

Culled from: Daily Trust

By Muhammad Al-Ghazali | Daily Trust | Publish Date: Feb 21 2017 2:00AM

© 2017 Madjack Entertainment

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