The other day someone sent me a WhatsApp video titled ‘Lagos to London: Britain’s new super rich’. It is a short film on the lifestyles of rich and famous Nigerians, whose lives revolve around the two major cities. Not surprisingly the first Nigerians to be featured are the Otedola daughters.
With their affected British accents, they gleefully narrated and showed off their incredibly lavish London’s super rich way of life. Today, Cuppy and Temi are known as Billionaire Femi Otedola’s daughters. But few Nigerians remember that their father was the son of a former governor of Lagos State, late Chief Michael Otedola. And that the wealth they are so effortlessly flaunting might all have started as Lagos tax-payers hard-earned money, diverted to other uses by Grandpa.
All over the country the story is the same. Youths leading extravagant lifestyles are always the children or grandchildren of past or present public office holders who have looted the country dry. They mostly do that so their descendants can live the life of ease and abundance; which they now do.
Another video, which has been trending for months, also has as its theme the looting of Nigeria by our political class. Titled ‘The Kleptocracy tour’ it is an Al-Jazeerah news documentary which featured a London-based Russian anti corruption activist Roman Borisovich. Apparently, the Russian had done similar exposé videos on Russian Oligarchs and Arab Millionaires. It seemed only natural that his third effort should be on Nigerian looters.
Riding through the streets of London in a long bus, Mr Borisovich, who is the guide on the tour, went about pointing at choice properties belonging to influential Nigerians. His first port of call was a 3 million dollar mansion belonging to former Petroleum minister Diezani Madueke. It was recently seized by the federal government but it is only one of the many properties owned by Diezani, who is wanted for financial crimes in both Nigeria and the US.
The next building is another choice edifice owned by the ‘family’ of former head of state General Abdussalami Abubakar. It exists near Hyde Park in central London. Other grand buildings owned by Nigerians were shown in the video but the identity of their owners was not disclosed, possibly due to time constraint on the part of Aljazeera news crew.
When contacted on the issue of Nigeria’s stolen money finding its way into London’s property market, information minister Alhaji Lai Mohammed, told Aljzeerah that 55 Nigerians are known to have looted about 6.5 billion dollars. He added that if one third of that amount were to be pumped back into the economy it could build 600 kilometres of road, 37 hospitals, 20,000 housing units and provide education for 4000 youths: from primary school right down to tertiary levels. How incredible!
What amazes me to no end, is why these people don’t stop to think about what fascinates them in these foreign cities. Is it not because they have everything that makes life beautiful and easy? Why won’t they aspire to have their own cities and towns looking that good and being well-developed? Why steal the money and invest where you need visas to visit and you are constrained by all kinds of laws?
These people seem to me like a man who would take his family fortune and rent a house in his neighbour’s grand estate, rather than develop his family house to the level of his neighbour’s compound. For sure this is how these looters think. If they were to leave the fortunes they stole here, we can have good schools for our children, quality and free healthcare for everyone and the kind of grand homes they like to own abroad will be theirs if they legitimately earn enough with which to buy.
But because our looters have such a warped way of thinking, they would rather loot our treasury, leave all our vital sectors undeveloped and widen the gap between the rich and the poor while littering our society with entitled rich brats who do not know anything about making money there’s every thing about squandering it.
To think that most of us were offended when Donald Trump bluntly called African nations shit holes. Is there any other way to describe our continent when most of our leaders do not think above people who live in shit holes? And they have the audacity to wonder why our there teeming youths are now armed robbers and kidnappers and such bloodthirsty predators who kill at very little provocation.
What else should we expect from youngsters who grew up in poverty, who have no access to good education because public schools are dead, who probably watched their parents or siblings die in pain because they couldn’t afford health care, who live from hand to mouth in hunger and disease and who will probably end up as drug addicts because that’s the only way to dull their pain. What should we expect from them but the burning need to hit back at the society which alienated them?
Unless this government, which claims a zero tolerance for corruption will go after all looters, regardless of position or party affiliation, seize what they stole and pump into our vital sectors immediately we won’t see the real benefit of their anti-corruption drive. They must also name and shame them or else we can’t hope to see an end to insecurity and other social upheavals. Truly, there is an urgent need to prosecute these thieves as we do common criminals because they have to be made to feel the pains they inflicted on society.
For every child that ended up a thug because he was denied education in a country that’s blessed enough to give him free, for every sick person who suffered needlessly because the government wouldn’t give him free medical treatment since the money had been stolen; for every accident victim who met his fate because someone had stolen the money meant for road repairs, for every family that goes to bed hungry because there was no food since the agric sector budget has been shared into private pockets ams squandered someone has to go to jail and that’s the only way to do it.
If they do not or will not do so, then we must all await Almighty God’s punishment. It is a home in hell which is eternal, therein there is no death, only everlasting torment. Our authorities have a choice to give us justice here or delay it till the hereafter.