Since February 10, 2015 when I read the advertorial published in THISDAY titled: Brazen Looting of Lagos Treasury, 1999-2015 – which chronicled Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s massive wealth, I have been too shell-shocked to function effectively. I have been hard-pressed to understand, if true, how one man can acquire so much in one lifetime. I have struggled to match Tinubu and Babatunde Fashola’s public postures with the gravity of the allegations levelled against them. Can it really be true that Bola Ahmed Tinubu owns all the property listed in the advertorial? Is it true that Fashola also owns vast wealth and has been conniving with his godfather to defraud the state?
I have been heartbroken, shattered, devastated and depressed about the sheer scale of abuses, mismanagement and careless disregard for the public interest that Tinubu and Fashola are accused of. Even though some of these allegations are not new, the scale of the malfeasance and the cheekiness revealed is truly remarkable and frightening. The alleged unrestrained greed exhibited in the quest and method of acquisition is quite troubling. To me, these change agents need thorough examination especially at a time like this when the change mantra has rented the airwaves, and many are being led to believe the magic wand to solve all of Nigeria’s problems is change.
Striped of the politics, we want answers. And the fierce urgency is now, today not tomorrow.
The question is: if true, does Tinubu really need so much wealth? I have repeatedly asked, praying that I am in a deep trance and will soon wake up and realise it is just my mind playing funny games on me. But one full month after, the allegations were published, they have not been denied. Is he going to take this massive wealth to the great beyond? If the answer is negative, then of what use are all these primitive acquisitions of material wealth when poverty pervades the land as he himself has repeatedly acknowledged. It is difficult for one to understand the voracious appetite of some people, who it is alleged have shared our collective patrimony among themselves and yet have the audacity to tell us that for our tomorrow, they have given their today – when in actual fact, for their today, they have taken our tomorrow and that of our children. The architects of change have been caught in a scorching irony of hypocrisy.
The more I think about the grand deceit packaged as change, the angrier I become and the more convinced I am – that I have been right all along with my serious reservations about the message, intentions and the motives driving their quest for power. Indeed, more than ever before, I am convinced that the change we need is from those who have craftily hoodwinked the people into believing that they are the ones who can bring succour to them. We need change from those who have cunningly played on the gullibility of our people to fleece them of their commonwealth, only to point an accusing finger at others as the cause of the problems of the country. When they claim Lagos is working, I say, oh yes indeed! It is working for their pockets. I am yet to see anybody who is a beneficiary of the alleged sleaze that will not tell me Lagos is working in the manner it is currently working for the pockets of a few.
The scale of what Tinubu and Fashola are accused of appropriating from Lagos taxpayers is so mind-boggling that I fear for the future of this country – I am frightened of what may happen to Nigeria if these people are entrusted with power at the centre. More baffling is that instead of Tinubu and Fashola responding to these specific allegations, all we hear is an impotent threat of a lawsuit from Tinubu, while Fashola who has been very vocal on the “missing” $20 billion on the campaign stump has kept a deafening silence. A man loudly projected as a sterling performer, not only now has his integrity been called to question, but has been practically accused of misappropriation of public property and abuse of office. A man who has been shouting change and has consistently accused those at the federal level of massive corruption, has been unable to respond to grave allegations of mismanagement, misappropriation of state resources, inflated cost of contracts and collusion to defraud government of its property valued at several hundreds of billions of naira. The exemplar of a good administrator now has his back to the wall. What an irony!
Until these allegations were made into a documentary currently airing on Africa Independent Television (AIT), there was no rebuttal from Tinubu or his spokesperson upon the publication of the advertorial under reference, neither has there been any reaction from Fashola who has carried on as if he owes nobody any explanation on how he has managed public resources entrusted in his care.
Not surprisingly, the allegations are not weighty enough to rouse and outrage the people into the streets to demand answers. Our self-appointed custodians of morality in the society, especially the human rights community have kept a deafening silence. The many organisations committed to transparency and anti-corruption have either lost their voices or feign ignorance of the publication or documentary.
Femi Falana has not found his voice to call for a thorough probe; he has not rushed to court to seek an order of mandamus to compel the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) or the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) to investigate the allegations; he has not directed his NGO, SERAP to start demanding the probe of Tinubu/Fashola like it did of Gitto Construction Company’s church building gift to the Otuoke community.
What about Professor Itse Sagay? He has not said a word because it is Tinubu and Fashola that are involved. Professor Wole Soyinka, the Nobel Laureate and the wordsmith of Africa, is yet to hold a world press conference on the state of the nation to call for investigation into all the allegations or accusations. He is yet to even write his lengthy treatise with high-sounding grammar condemning the alleged record sleaze. Nobody or group is organising a one million-man match to demand accountability, investigation and prosecution. Rather, the godfather, who is the accused, is the one organising a one-million-man march to shore up his battered image and divert attention from the allegations. He is dragging out hapless Lagosians in fetters to march for him and sing his praises in joyous hymns instead of moving to convincingly clear his name. This is a sacrilegious irony for the change mantra. Something must be deeply wrong with our society and its value systems. Talk about one nation, two moralities.
For those who don’t know, it is not enough to just mouth change for the sake of it, change depends on our actions, attitudes and must be meaningful. But what we are seeing in this so-called change is that the narrative is different from the actions and attitudes of its proponents.
What is needed here is not the one-million-man march. In fact, one thousand-million-man marches will not clean the slate. Let Tinubu explain to Lagosians how he got so rich.
What is needed is not a gentle query, but a fiery rebuke and condemnation of this alleged looting: “We need the storm, the whirlwind and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of Nigerians must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of these people must be exposed and denounced”
Now imagine for a moment that it was another person from the ruling party that was alleged to have stolen so much, what would have been the reaction of these people and groups? The outcry is better imagined. All sorts of shady groups would have been organising protest marches against the person and calling for his prosecution. Now, can someone remind me what Stella Odua and Patricia Etteh were accused of that led to their fall? Now, who was in the forefront of mobilising public opinion against them? Why is there no similar outrage against Tinubu and Fashola? Why are the public opinion moulders not saying anything? Is this the change that they talk about?
Now, put all what these women were accused of in the context of what Tinubu and Fashola have been accused of, the two women will be canonised saints.
Below are some of what Tinubu/Fashola are accused of appropriating:
“The largest landlord in Lagos has done as he pleased, and the rest of the state just has to deal with it. To start with, No 4, Oyinkan Abayomi (formerly Queens) Drive, Ikoyi: A 5-bedroom detached house on one acre of land which was originally the Lagos State governor’s guest house since 1979, now belongs to Tinubu. The certificate of occupancy of the property valued at N450 million was signed and released to him by Fashola in 2007 shortly after he resumed office.
“Tinubu’s residence at No 26 Bourdillon Road, Ikoyi was initially falsely presented as an Oando Plc guest house. Later, he purportedly bought it from Oando, and used public funds to rebuild and renovate it. The Lagos State Government bought the property and paid an undisclosed sum to him and thereafter gave the property back to him under the bogus Pension Act he signed into law shortly before he left office in 2007. The property is worth over N600 million.
“The annex of the Lagos State Guest House in Asokoro, Abuja was bought by the state government in 2006 for N450 million, purportedly to protect the main house from a security breach. Shortly after Tinubu left office, the property was transferred to him under the pension plan he signed into law before leaving office.
“The 250-hectare land valued at about N35billion and strategically located at the Ajah junction on Lekki road was initially meant for a general hospital for the people of Eti-Osa Local Government but was allegedly acquired by Tinubu and handed over to Trojan Estate Ltd – a company owned by Deji and Wale Tinubu – to develop as Royal Garden Housing estate at the expense of the taxpayers of Lagos.
“The 1,000 hectares of land valued at about N75billion located at Lakowe near Abijo at Ibeju-Lekki Local Government Area and given to Lekki Concession Company (LCC) which is allegedly partly-owned by Tinubu and Fashola and is being developed as a golf course and housing estate by Assets and Resource Management Ltd (ARM) as ADIVA project.
“The prime land of 157 hectares with 2.5km of Atlantic beachfront valued at about N10 billion and purportedly stolen by Tinubu from the communities of Siriwon, Igbekodo, Apakin, etc in Ibeju-Lekki Local Government Area and given to Ibukun Fakeye, his alleged crony to build a golf course and luxury villa with little or no compensation to the villagers. In addition, Tinubu was alleged to have to paid $20million (N3 billion) out of the public treasury to Ibukun Fakeye to commence the project in late 2006. Fashola has since released additional funding for this project, which is not owned by the state government.
“The 14-hectare Parkview Ikoyi estate foreshore land reclaimed by Lagos state government is now purportedly owned by Tinubu. While in office, he purportedly allocated to himself the former Strabag yard beside the Lagos State secretariat at Alausa, Ikeja. The property has now been developed into a shopping mall as big as the Palms in Lekki. This is a public property brazenly stolen and now allegedly owned by Tinubu, aided by Fashola.
“The choice property at Lekki-Epe road on which he built and owns the multi-billion naira Oriental Hotel and the extension of multi-level recreation centre by Mobil in Oniru Estate on Lekki-Epe road jointly owned with ARM and Tunji Olowolafe. All these assets valued at over N25 billion were allegedly obtained without paying a kobo to the Lagos State Government.
Tinubu raised a loan of N4.7billion on Eko Akete project for which nothing was achieved before he turned around to sell the property to his Chagouri friends of Chagouri & Chagouri and Hitech Construction Ltd at a ridiculously low price at the expense of the taxpayers of Lagos. Tinubu applied to personally purchase the federal secretariat building while in office. When he couldn’t get to buy it, he directed Fashola to stop the eventual owner of the complex from developing it. The complex is presently wasting away, courtesy of the Lagos State Government.
“It took several months of horse trading and underhand payments before Fashola could allow the new owners of 1004 flats to redevelop the complex (Wole Babalakin). Several other buyers of federal government properties and developers of properties in Ikoyi, Victoria Island and Government Reservation Area, Ikeja were forced to succumb to the outrageous demands of Tinubu, Fashola, Commissioner Abosede and other officials.
The Critical Care Unit of Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) in Ikeja, built and equipped with state funds, is now owned personally by Tinubu. He has put Dr. Sikiru Tinubu, (a supposed cousin of his) to run the outfit. It is run as a private unit and proceeds are pocketed by the duo…”
With Shaka Momodu E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org