You know in your head that you should be inured to corruption stories by now. Since the defeat of President Goodluck Jonathan in the election of March 28, 2015 and the change of government that was consummated on May 29, 2015, you have been inundated with a staple of scandals that confirm he ran Nigeria like a kleptocracy.
You have seen a glut of evidence that proves that “corruption is not stealing” was not a gaffe but a directive principle of state policy. You have read of countless, jaw- dropping plunders in the order of billions of naira, of loot packed in septic tanks, and of some salted away in offshore tax havens.
But you are shocked by this umpteenth scandal, notheless. You are appalled – in spite of yourself – by reports that former first lady, Patience Jonathan, has gone to court to lay claim to ownership of $15 million deposit in four bank accounts frozen by the EFCC.
She is standing on the premise of her constitutional right to “own property” to assert that the curious accounts opened and maintained in the name of the houseboys of her former domestic aide were hers, in actual sense. And she is demanding 200 million naira in damages for the anti-graft agency’s infringement on her convenient money laundering scheme!
And, while you are trying your level best to process this obscenity without compromising your sanity, a corrective arrives to complicate matters: The EFCC has found a fresh $5 million in another Patience bank account. Which means that the balance of her deposits in the Nigeria banking system, as we know it today, stands at $20 million –‘only’! You remind yourself that you know the Patience in question.
She has never been, at any time, a household name in the Nigerian business environment or elsewhere. The highest position she ever attained in her almost non-existent civil service career was permanent secretary. Bayelsa State Governor Seriake D!ckson gave her a ludicrous ghost worker appointment for the sake of his own political survival. Beyond that, she was nothing more than the wife of a man who became president by a stroke of fate.
So you find yourself wondering how she managed to earn $20 million. Has she been paying her taxes? What investment yielded her such abundant profit? Where might one locate a trail of sweat or handprints of labor or any in-demand product or service that could account for her Olympian dollar heap? It turns out that the companies Patience used to launder money were fairy tale entities.
They had no earthly address, no staffer, no robot. The firms did not exist. She conjured $20 million out of nothingness – by sheer magic! Patience Jonathan’s $20 million is the stuff of occult fortune. It is not anything like the quotidian case of personal enrichment at the expense of the Nigerian treasury. It’s something more mysterious, more ambitious, more audacious: it’s a money ritual! Money ritual is a fabled protocol for getting rich in an alternate world where avarice answers to mysticism.
It’s a grand Faustian exchange of one’s soul for mammon. It entails a series of sacrifices whose nature is known only to the cult of initiates. Patience couldn’t have gotten $20 million from anything except a voodoo mint. She had to be printing dollars by herself to come about that amount. In a real world where money flows in the direction of value, it’s impossible to imagine that she could have amassed tens of millions of dollars without producing or offering anything of relative significance.
Her so-called $20 million balance, mind you, is not a picture of the total leafage on her money trees. It’s only a pruned remainder. Patience had been cutting off many B.ranches since the Nigerian electorate evicted her husband and her Aso Rock. An affidavit deposed on her behalf by her aide, Sammie Somiari, said Patience discovered she could no longer access her accounts overseas. She was abroad on medical treatment. It was at the time she needed to access her accounts most that they had been frozen.
This goes to show she had been disappearing money from those accounts up until when they were frozen. EFCC placed a No Debit Order on the four accounts on 7th July, 2016. The fourteen months between May 29, 2015 and July 7, 2016 is an ample period for her to significantly reduce her lodgments to a pittance. And given the demonstrable zeal with which the Buhari presidency has pursued the probe and prosecution of figures that served in her husband’s administration, common sense would have suggested to her to empty her loaded, smoking gun as fast as possible.
There is no way to make sense of the phenomenon of a Patience Jonathan boasting $20 million as part of her net worth. More so, you cannot understand the surpassing stupidity of her public declaration that she is the owner of an amount of money she is absolutely incapable of earning legitimately. Her coming out of the closet as an amazon of money laundering is as outrageous as it is stupefying. The Patience Jonathan that Nigerians know cannot make a clean $1 million except through a lottery.
She has won none. Her claim to ownership of $20 million she obviously stole from the Nigerian treasury is the salt of a lie on the wound of a heist. Her preposterous possessiveness resembles the spectacle of a thief pleading that the stolen goods that represent the collective wealth of an entire neighborhood belongs to him! It’s clear that keeping those millions of dollars for too long gave Patience a false sense of ownership.
Possession is nine-tenths of the law. But, the truth is that the number of years she has had the spoils doesn’t make her the rightful owner. Neither does it make her less a thief. If anything, every new day she kept the stolen goods made her a more impenitent thief! And talking of repentance, Patience is impervious to it. Even a close shave with prison has not transformed her covetous core. In 2006, during her husband’s term as governor of Bayelsa state, EFCC caught her twice trying to launder money.
First time, Patience tried to launder 104 million naira through her ‘business associate’, a certain Nancy Ebere. Ms. Ebere implicated Patience in a sworn affidavit. Second time, Patience was intercepted at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport while trying to smuggle out a baggage of $12.5 million cash. She escaped prosecution on the two occasions. She was allowed to go home and sin some more. Obasanjo had, before then, decided to make her meek-looking husband the running mate of Governor Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
So he declined to authorize EFCC to expose the wife of the future vice president as a kleptomaniac! The free pass gave Patience the impression that she was above the law. She could steal without fear of any repercussion. If she was caught, she would not do the time. She would be set free to relearn the art of stealing and escaping with the booty! An excursion into the land of the dead also proved insufficient to educate Patience on the vanity of life. By her own telling, she once fell sick and had to be rushed to a German hospital.
Her condition was bad and it so worsened she ‘died’ for one week. It took 13 surgeries in a world class health facility to bring her back to life. At a thanksgiving service in Aso Villa chapel, Patience testified that her aides stole her jewelries and personal effects because they thought she would come back in a coffin. She said she owes her survival to divine mercy. God gave her a second chance. And in appreciation of that grace, she would be a better human being. She would serve the society. She would help humanity.
We now know that vow she made in a place of worship were empty words. She didn’t become born again. She continued in her money laundering habit. During her husband’s re-election campaign, Patience fought like her life depended on her extended stay in the presidency. She was more desperate and aggressive than her spouse. She militarized her home state of Rivers. She asked her husband’s supporters to stone members of the opposition. She called her husband’s main rival “B.rain dead.”
Now, we know why. She was fighting to protect her bloated bank accounts. If her husband had won, she wouldn’t have had any reason to fear she might be found out and disgraced. She would have had four more years… to launder more taxpayer money. Patience thought a big deal of being the first lady. After her husband became president upon the death of Yar’Adua, she began to contend with Yar’Adua’s widow, Turai, over a parcel of land.
She had to announce her apotheosis with a land grab! Patience was intoxicated by privilege. She pushed back criticisms of her pride and power show. A frustrated then-governor Babatunde Fashola complained several times about an unelected official’s penchant for forcing a proper lockdown on the biggest city in Nigeria each time she came to Lagos. The lady refused to make her visits less painful. Instead, she called for a constitutional amendment so that the names of she and wives of other political office holders will be officially entitled to enjoy their own perks and “retire with benefits” like “our husbands.”
The amendment she asked for did not happen. So, she seized the initiative. She awarded herself no less than $20 million dollars in retirement benefits! What’s saddening in this matter is not she stole from the Nigerian people. Very few Nigerians can hold on to their integrity in the face of the temptation to steal “government money.” What makes this case very grievous is that Patience is insisting on her right to squander all the money she has stolen. She says she has a right to ‘own property.’
She implies that the Nigerian people have no right…not even to the right to reclaim what is left of her loot! Patience Jonathan once requested Nigerians to call her by the new name of “Mama Peace.” Her concept of ‘peace’ is totally divorced from justice. She wants to be left alone. Her definition of ‘peace’ is a state of respect for her ‘right’ to consume millions of dollars of Nigerian taxpayer money!
About the Author: Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu is a columnist for SaharaReporters. You can reach Emmanuel at firstname.lastname@example.org