What is the difference between a liar, a hypocrite and a thief? You wouldn’t know how difficult a question this is until you try to answer it.
Where for instance would you place House of Representatives member Ndudi Elumelu, Chairman House Committee on Power; or his Senate counterpart Nicholas Ugbane?
Most Nigerians were actually beginning to come to terms with the fact that the only thing we have to worry about nowadays is bad governance; that the era of impunity and bare-faced lies is over. But representative Elumelu
is presenting a very special challenge to all our suppositions. Is our country really, truly this hopeless?
Is Elumelu the same young man who was spitting fire and swearing to expose corruption in the power sector only a few months ago even if that would cost him his life? It is nearly impossible to marry that other Elumelu with the present pathetic, tragic figure; at the EFCC headquarters last week he looked every inch like a lizard that narrowly escaped drowning.
If the ugly facts of this disgusting development were not so glaring, many Nigerians would have been satisfied with the theory that the young man is a victim of political pacification between President Umaru Musa Yar’adua and his mentor, tormentor and benefactor, former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
That rather attractive theory goes like this. That following Yar’Adua’s damaging observation that the Obasanjo regime had spent $10 billion on power sector “without commensurate result”, Obasanjo read that as a frontal attack on his person and his regime. It was a correct diagnosis because no sooner had Yar’adua pronounced those words than they became the defining phrase of the Obasanjo legacy. As a result relations between the two degenerated to a dangerous nadir. Inevitably Obasanjo’s moment came when a combination of self-propelled factors came together to make Yar’Adua a very unpopular president among virtually every sector of the Nigerian society, including his party the PDP. He was loosing grip and he desperately needed a lifeline.
According to this theory, a contrite Yar’adua then turned to OBJ; OBJ was willing to help, but his price was a reversal of the damage that Yar’Adua’s comments and the power sector probe which the Elumelu committee sensationalized had done to his pride and legacy, such as it was. Thus began the process of rubbishing the Elumelu report and the setting up of an Ad Hoc committee which eventually cleared the former president and naturally indicted Elumelu himself. Insiders say that without the need to placate Obasanjo, Elumelu would have gotten away lightly with the N6 billion Rural Electrification Agency (REA) contract scam because it was a common practice between the members of the NASS to scratch each others’ back at the expense of Nigerians.
Whether this outlandish theory is true or not, two facts are as clear as daylight: one, all those that have been so far indicted in the REA scam deserved to be where they are, including, unfortunately, the very popular and amiable permanent secretary of the ministry for power Alhaji Abdullahi Aliyu. The second fact is that Yar’Adua is out for blood like he’s never been before; (according to one account he rejected an intervention from Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar and refused to pick former president Shagari’s call on the same issue).
The case against Elumelu and his conspirators is compelling enough. First there was this huge amount of money at the disposal of the REA waiting to be spent; the only problem was time because they had only two weeks within which to spend about N7bn otherwise it would have to be returned to the government coffers.
So between the leadership of the House and Senate committees on power; the management of REA and the officials of the ministry for power, they quickly cooked up a plan.
Elumelu and fellow legislators kicked aside all due process, submitted or caused to be submitted nine companies and asked the MD of REA to award those rural electrification contracts to them. The MD naturally added his own companies and wrote a letter to the permanent secretary of the power ministry for approval. The permanent secretary who was the Acting Minister at the time because the substantive minister Hajiya Balaraba Ibrahim had been removed by the president on the instigation of some of those same conspirators, inexplicably overlooked the flagrant disregard for due process and granted approval for the contracts and the payment of 15 per cent of the fee. The balance of 85 per cent was equally withdrawn from the REA account and lodged in the banks where those contractors have their accounts.
Thus for all practical purposes, the contracts have been fully paid for. Never mind that in all probability none of those constituent communities that were supposed to enjoy those projects have seen one day of electricity since the contracts were awarded.
All this those people were able to do within an incredible 14 days! You see, who said that government or bureaucracy is slow? (To be continued).