Thoughts on Otedola/Dangote N155m donation

 Casmir Igbokwe

 First published June 28, 2009

I thought we were done with missing genital tales in Nigeria. But primitive societies are never short of ludicrous stories. Last week, police authorities in Taraba State confirmed that four people had lost their lives in the hands of an irate mob. The four were not armed robbers. They were not kidnappers. They were, according to the Commissioner of Police in Taraba State, Aliyu Musa, suspected to have snatched the genitals of some people.

 Much as I pitied the deceased who died for something they knew nothing about, my pity went more to those who committed the atrocity. They did it out of ignorance. They are probably illiterate citizens, who need some training on how to live in a civilised society. Though this type of story is not peculiar to the North, I pitied that region the more.

 Northern Nigeria is a bundle of contradictions. It has some of the richest and poorest people in Nigeria. It has the highest concentration of born leaders and born trumpeters in the country. It probably harbours more preachers who teach tolerance and love but witnesses more religious crises in the country. Northern women are naturally beautiful and adorable but they suffer untold subjugation in the hands of their men. The urchins called almajiris roam the streets begging for alms. Sometimes, they are easy tools in the hands of mischief makers who use them to fight one cause or the other.

 I believe the North needs more education – more help to catch up with the rest of the country. The government may not do it alone. This is where wealthy individuals from that region and their friends should come in to give a helping hand.

 Achieving this objective requires the ingenuity of those who organised the fund-raiser for the rehabilitation and expansion of the Ilorin Central Jumat Mosque. Recall that the fund-raiser took place penultimate Friday under the chairmanship of the Niger State Governor, Babangida Aliyu. At the event, Nigeria’s billionaires and millionaires struggled to outshine one another.

 The most dramatic was the donation between arch friends later turned arch-enemies, Aliko Dangote and Femi Otedola. According to reports, Dangote donated a total of about N75m. Not wanting to be outdone, Otedola donated N80m. The audience responded with a great applause. The organisers must have felt very pleased as millions upon millions of naira poured in from other highly-placed Nigerians. It is expected that the mosque, after refurbishment, will have 99 domes and accommodate about 10, 000 worshippers.

 This is good. It is no mean achievement to contribute to the building of a befitting house for Allah. Such big donors may get pardon for their sins and even make paradise before tight-fisted fellows who do not contribute to such causes.

 However, I believe that it will be better if such donors also sow a seed in the individuals who will worship in those imposing buildings. For what will it profit a man if he builds a palace and there is no family to live in it? Surely, Dangote and Otedola will not want almajiris and other dregs of the society to inhabit a worship centre they laboured to build.

 Today, Nigeria is assailed by a myriad of problems. Academic Staff Union of Universities is on strike. Fake and adulterated drugs are everywhere. Militants are blowing pipelines in the Niger Delta, in spite of the amnesty the Federal Government granted them. Our oil revenue is dwindling by the day. About 10, 000 Nigerian teenage girls were reported to have been trapped in sex slavery in Morocco and Libya. The rest may have migrated to Italy or other European cities to look for greener pastures.   

 To cap it all, a United States-based agency, last Tuesday, rated Nigeria as 15th, out of the 177 countries that have greater tendency to fail in the world. According to The Fund for Peace in its 2009 Failed States Index of 177 countries, “Although Nigeria is an oil-rich nation, oil revenues scarcely benefit the majority of Nigerians. Instead, elite and criminals benefit from the vast oil reserves. In order to improve its economy, oil revenues should increasingly be directed toward public service programmes.”   

 True, criminals in government and elsewhere have sapped the nation dry. Corruption and other criminal tendencies do not reside only in Nigeria. The only problem is that while we worship our own criminals who have a lot of cash to throw around, other nations make them face the law.

 Last week, for instance, US billionaire, Sir Allen Stanford, appeared in a Houston court in handcuffs and leg chains with regard to a $7bn fraud charges levelled against him. Before his court appearance, he had already spent a week at a detention centre. Stanford allegedly conspired with some others to defraud investors who purchased $7bn in certificates of deposit from Stanford International Bank. They allegedly promised such investors returns that were too good to be true.

 Remember our own wonder banks? How many of those involved in defrauding Nigerians of their hard-earned money have faced the music? Almost on a weekly basis, some of the victims of these wonder banks urge me to plead with the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria to release their money trapped in these banks (as if the CBN Governor needs my advice to do what he is supposed to do).

 One interesting thing about Stanford is that he handed himself in to Federal Bureau of Investigations agents. For us in Nigeria, that is another big lesson. How many of our billionaires will willingly hand themselves over to law enforcement agents to be investigated. There were allegations and counter allegations as regards the reported share manipulation of AP Plc. I’m not sure how far the relevant authorities have gone to compel the principal gladiators to face the law of the land.

 For us to grow as individuals and as a nation, we must get our priorities right. We must make our laws work. Those who kill for whatever reason, be it manhood theft or breast theft, must face the consequences of their actions. The society that produces such characters needs serious education. They need good things that make life worth living. Without this, we may discover that the body of the worshippers may be in the mosque while their spirit may be revolving around what to eat and how to escape from genital thieves.

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