Father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, must have had the conversation last week between Senate President, Godswill Akpabio and the recently cleared Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) Ola Olukoyede in mind. While propounding the theory of what is now known as Freudian slips in his 1901 book he entitled The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, Freud discussed what in German is called Fehlleistungen. It is another name for faulty actions which mirror bits of unconscious mind leakages into conscious behaviour. This leakage, otherwise known as misspeak, according to him, prompts a speaker to say what is unintended in the course of speaking. While some call it slip of the tongue, psychoanalysts call such slips parapraxis. They are slip-ups that can be traced to unconscious thoughts, desires and urges.
Last week at the Senate screening session for the then chairmanship nominee of the EFCC, Olukoyede let slip what he most probably wanted to say, but what ostensibly dominates the minds of Nigerian people. Such words are heresies today and can only be said in whooshes of whispers. Only bastards who do not love the current musical ensemble can utter them out. Or tribes that harbour ethnic hatred for the current power calculus. Nevertheless, the conversation, which psychoanalytic theory calls Freudian slip, from Olukoyede to Akpabio unconsciously revealed the dirty underbelly of the fight against corruption in Nigeria. It is why, per adventure, Olukoyede has the mind to clean the Augean stable of corruption in Nigeria, he is perceived to have, ab initio, failed as he is ranged against the impossible.
As the screening session went by, Olukoyede was sucked into the need to explain the modus operandi of the EFCC. To do that, he went comparative, deploying a relatable, living scenario to convey the commission’s operations. “If we are investigating the Senate President for example…” he had begun. Apparently a good reader of his environment, Olukoyede immediately perceived the turgidity of the atmosphere. Smiles suddenly evaporated from the faces of the lawmakers and their countenances were ashen like one who had just marched on excreta. Olukoyede must have felt like he had stepped on a cobra’s tail. And he recoiled. The gudugbe – the humongous and consequential – had fallen nevertheless. Like porcelain that it was, or the egg that Niyi Osundare fittingly compared to the spoken word in his The word is an egg, the egg had fallen and its messy entrails were now visible to a discerning world.
Akpabio would not have Freud direct his fate that magisterially. And he bellowed it out immediately. “I’m very glad that the nominee wants to use the Senate President as an example. But Mr. nominee, leave the Senate President for now, look at this direction (pointing at the seats of opposition lawmakers).”
“For now…” That should be another Freudian slip; this time, an Akpabio speaking the minds of Nigerians. Olukoyede should leave the Senate President, for now, but he should not leave him for too long. The EFCC chair must investigate Nigeria’s No 3 man who is festooned all over by dark tar of fraud allegations.
Until May of this year, Akpabio was a subject of intense investigations by the EFCC. The commission claimed that a N40 billion fraud was allegedly perpetrated by him in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) which he headed for three years. It claimed further that his name and that of former Acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei, had featured notoriously in frauds unearthed in the commission. Both were major dramatis personae in investigations into allegations of fraud in an over-N86 billion contract scams. In the EFCC’s claim, the duo left footpaths that maggots leave in their trails while wriggling on rotten meat. Pondei, you will recall, was the hero of that ill-starred slumping drama in the House of Representatives not too long ago. As the grilling in the parliament became intense and hot, the professor was suddenly reported to have lost consciousness. Now that Akpabio has become Nigeria’s No 3 man, with power and majesty at his beck and call, Prof Pondei has no need to go on a binge of infantile slumping any longer. Since then, even with all the mind-boggling sleaze uncovered in the NDDC, like a typical big man in Nigeria, the slumping professor has lived happily ever thereafter.
God bless the Yoruba. When a man’s irritancy becomes ten a dime, they liken him to the tortoise, the alabahun who was always embroiled in illicit acts. Like the alabahun, it seemed allegations of corruption do not refuse to stick to Akpabio at every whimper. Before then, the anti-graft agency had arrested Akpabio for an alleged theft of N108.1 billion of Akwa Ibom State funds during his governorship. It was the product of a petition by an Abuja-based lawyer and activist, Leo Ekpenyong. Akpabio had spurned an invitation by the EFCC to appear for questioning on March 29, 2023 and travelled abroad. His lawyer, Umeh Kalu, SAN, in a letter to the anti-graft commission dated March 27, 2023, alleged that the man who is now Nigeria’s Senate President suffered from pneumonia and cardiac arrhythmia. Big ailment of big people in big trouble.
Unquestionable as the way of Almighty God is, these two ailments suddenly disappeared immediately words allegedly went round that Akpabio was the preferred candidate of President Bola Tinubu to head the senate. Since Akpabio became head of the upper legislature, his sins have literally been forgiven him. In any case, the hunter haranguing him then, Abdulrasheed Bawa, has met his own comeuppance. Not only has the hunter become the hunted, Bawa has languished in the penitentiary for months now and nobody is losing sleep about the detention. The claim that he is probably suffering this fate because he knew too much about the Big Man of power’s past has not attracted any Nigerian’s bother. Bawa’s sin must be as tall as Ibadan’s Bower’s Tower for our saintly Big Man to have locked him behind bar without having him charged to court. A few days ago, words surfaced that the youthful ex-anti-corruption czar was embroiled in a N580 million illicit funds binge.
Akpabio must have shouted “Praise the Lord!”
God always rescues His own, shortly before they hit their feet against the stone. He couldn’t keep His eyes away from His elect, who is now the Senate President of Nigeria. By Akpabio’s testimony on the floor of the Senate, the good Lord rescued him from the machinations of the EFCC and its erstwhile chair, saving him from being “embarrassed” by the brusque, youthful EFCC chief. Again, that Bawa’s rudeness must be as high as Bower’s. Why would he be rude to the Almighty Akpabio? While not addressing how he didn’t steal the said money the EFCC claimed he had stolen, Akpabio believed that sensationalism was the culprit, and it must roast in hell. “I think the EFCC has engaged more in sensationalism than in real investigation. For me I have had my own fair share (of embarrassment) where even a letter informing EFCC that I won’t be able to come over a frivolous petition, was released by the office of the chairman of EFCC. You could see the chairman’s stamp on it. He released the letter just to embarrass me before the 2023 elections but by the glory of God I surmounted it.”
In the same vein, Akpabio brought in the issue of the arrest of ex-Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, who was apprehended in a gangsteric manner by the EFCC. “I don’t see how the EFCC will arrest a former governor and come through the rooftop as if they are taking Pablo Escobar. It happened to Rochas Okorocha. They broke through the POP and the whole world watched and for you that is investigation. EFCC needs to conduct proper investigations before carrying out arrests,” he said.
Then Akpabio went to Ogun State, to Yewa land, where he solicited the support of the people for the governorship ambition of Senator Adeola Olamilekan, popularly called Yayi. Four months plus into this term, politicians have already begun to haggle the price of the next term, as if it is a fish. Democracy, as it is understood in saner climes, isn’t and shouldn’t be only about elections and voting. It is more importantly about good governance, respect for the people and their rights to decent living. How is Akpabio respecting their rights by pushing a candidate their throats at this time? What have they benefitted from “his” government now to back up this homily from him? Akpabio would have discharged himself well at that occasion if he had spoken softly to the people about what ‘his’ government is doing at the moment to remove the people’s economic and living heartaches, rather than dabbling into the politics of a people who do not see governorship as reward for big purses.
Sorry that I digressed. So when, at the end of the senators’ boisterous laughter and the expiration of his Freudian slip on the floor of the senate, Olukoyede said “If you are fighting corruption, you become the enemy of everybody,” he probably knew the enormity of what he was about. By this appointment, Olukoyede has been asked to fight principalities and powers that have existed in Nigeria even before his forefathers were born, what Daniel Jordan, in his famous A culture of corruption, has described as Nigeria’s “image as a bastion of bribery, venality, and deceit.” He has been asked to combat a crime which, among Nigerians, went global the very moment new criminal markets began to emerge all over the world. His job description is, at the risk of sounding like a prophet of doom, doomed from the beginning.
The incubus Olukoyede is being asked to confront, according to a review of Stephen Elis’ This Present Darkenss: A history of organized crime in Nigeria, has become a culture and reputation renowned with Nigeria and Nigerians. A culture which, broken to its brass-tacks, is that of drug-trafficking, fraud, cyber-crime and other types of criminal activity. The new EFCC chief is being asked to fight criminal networks that have a global reach; a Nigeria where its origin of organized crime has been traced to, as far back to the years before colonial rule. These crimes then became manifest during the First Republic when “nationalist politicians… in need of funds for campaigning, (offered) government contracts to foreign businesses in return for kickbacks, in a pattern that recurs to this day” and where “political corruption encouraged a wider disrespect for the law that spreads throughout Nigerian society.”
If Olukoyede is desirous of making impact in his new assignment; if he genuinely wants to reverse the belief out there that he would make a colossal failure of the job, the first thing he should do is do an organizational introspection. When a child goes inside the bush, Yoruba’s constant belief is that such a child would emerge therefrom with their clothes stuck by mistletoe. So they expressed this in incantations that, “wara were l’omode nt’oko eemo bo.” This seems to be true with past chairmen of the EFCC as they always emerge from the office with their clothes covered by “eemo.”
Since the EFCC Establishment Act was first enacted in 2002, the “eemo” failure has dogged their path. The Act authorized the commission to combat economic and financial crimes, prevent, investigate, prosecute and penalize economic and financial crimes, so as to sanitize the system. From Nuhu Ribadu, to Farida Waziri, Ibrahim Lamorde, Ibrahim Magu to Bawa, the commission is seen today as a mockery of crime fighting. The only major sparkle that ultimately became unenduring, came from Ribadu who initially put the fear of God in the hearts of political and social criminals who dot the landscape of Nigeria. Unfortunately, the spark was for a short while. Ribadu soon dissolved the agency into an Alsatian dog that the Obasanjo presidency sent on howling assignments as its whim dictated. His own lust for political power finally rammed the nail on the remnants of his personal social capital.
Today, the EFCC, which arrested, prosecuted and jailed a former Inspector General of Police in Nigeria, has become the tiger that politicians boast that they have by its tail. It descended from that Olympian height into carving a pussyfooting renown for itself as a hunter of kindergarten online malefactors. So, if Olukoyede wants to make a success of his new job, he must reinvent the image that the drafters of the EFCC Act projected for the commission. Fear, they say, is the whip that exorcises the ghost of crime from the human heart. It is only when the EFCC earns back the dread, respect and fear of Nigerians that it can be seen as an effective tool against criminals.
Today, the atmosphere of crime and criminals has become more acidic than the 2002 when Obasanjo established the commission. In 1908, the United States of America occupied Nigeria’s unenviable vantage too. Though the years of industrialization had made America wealthier than ever and becoming in the process a new world power on the block, having become victorious in its naval conquest over Spain, the dark clouds that dogged its horizon was that of crime. American cities and towns were fast assuming the image of a breeding ground for a future generation of professional lawbreakers. Compared with corruption that was becoming rampant in local politics, with the emergence of crooked political machines, violence was just the tip of the criminal iceberg in the USA. Businesses had become a cauldron of sleaze too and hearts of crime were spreading like a metastasis. But in 1906, President Roosevelt, a man “who had no tolerance for corruption and little trust of those he called the ‘malefactors of great wealth,’” began the reform in the criminal justice system in America and appointed someone who was a likeminded reformer like him, Charles Bonaparte, as his Attorney General. On March 16, 1909, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was born. Till today, the FBI has remained a highly dreaded domestic intelligence and security service of the US and the country’s principal federal law enforcement agency.
If Olukoyede is averse to going down the drain like his predecessors, becoming captives of the corruption they were asked to fight, politicians must dread him and malefactors must see him as incorruptible. He must wear the toga of one policeman in the service of the Oyo State Command, ACP Francis Ojomo who politicians and evil-doers nicknamed Ko gb’owo, ko gb’obi (literally, he collects neither money nor kolanut) for his incorruptibility. That nickname was a parodied epithet of God as one who demands no bribe from anyone to perform His fatherly duty in the life of man. Olukoyede must avoid any dalliance with politicians. He must make the Bola Tinubu presidency his place of primary assignment. In doing this, he would have shown the world that politicians, no matter their political leanings, are not free from his corruption-sniffing Rottweiler dogs.
The first place the EFCC chair should begin his assignment is to invite Godswill Akpabio to explain allegations of corruption against him. Not doing this will give the impression that his senate clearing, in spite of glaring violations of the EFCC Act on his appointment as the commission’s chairman, was a pro quid pro for pushing allegations against Akpabio under the cellar.
Olukoyede can help Nigeria battle this image crisis and perception of our country as the habitat of corrupt people. Because the world is a global village, the available information out there, secured at the press of a button, are damming. No meaningful development can take place with such optics. The EFCC chair can help reduce that uncomplimentary image to the barest minimum by ferreting corrupt Nigerians from their holes and making public examples of them.