Conflict Of Interest. -Abdu Labaran

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By Abdu Labaran Malumfashi.

If anyone is interested in knowing the full meaning of the phrase: Conflict of interest, then they should come to Nigeria. Here, the full meaning of the term would hit them like the proverbial ‘tonne of bricks’ in almost every state of the federation, not excluding the Federal Government itself.

A one time Vice President, who was not known to work anywhere but in the government all his life, is now a Dollar billionaire. There are many others like him who have never worked anywhere but in the service of the federal government, but were in retirement stinkingly rich with questionable wealth whose sources were unclear.

A noisy former governor, once claimed that he did not have the money to purchase the two forms that would enable him to contest the gubernatorial election in his state. But contest the election he did, courtesy of, according to him, his brothers and friends. He won and went into retirement as a Dollar multibillionaire.

In fact, the anti corruption and crime commissions had their hands full with the investigation of former governors and top federal government officials who had illegally dipped their hands into the public coppers.

Many of those who, for now, had escaped the anti graft agencies, were in the National Assembly as members, mostly the Senate or were ministers in the Federal Executive Council. Both were therefore out of the reach of the anti graft commissions and other law enforcement agencies in the country.

There was a former governor, who was owed many months in salary and gratuity by workers and former workers, but was able to pay upfront the entire school fees of his children, up to university level in a high end school in Abuja. Not only that, he also bought a personal airplane while leaving most parts of the state with un motor-able roads.

There was also the case of a former  Commissioner of Police, who one day after his retirement from the Force, claimed that he was a Naira billionaire, with a net worth of N20 billion. He also boasted that in the next 10 years, he would surpass Alhaji Aliyu Dangote as the richest black person on earth. This was claimed by Mr. Shegun Adeneyi, a prolific writer and author, who once served as a Special Adviser to President Umaru Musa Yar’adua, of blessed memory.

For those who have forgotten, Alhaji Aliyu Dangote of the Dangote conglomerate, who was a manufacturer of products such as cement and sugar, was rated by the London Economist and Forbes of the US as the richest black person on the face of the planet.

The courts were not helping the anti corruption agencies in their campaign to lessen corruption in the country, as the ‘offenders’ run to them with their multibillions in search of the so called restraining order, to stop their arrest.

Most of the cases mentioned above were what one might call cases of ‘conflict of interest’. Even if, as they always pointed out, that the billions of dollars were made in ‘legitimate’ businesses while they were in office, that amounted to conflict of interest, because there was no way they could not have used the influence of their respective offices.

For the world to believe that they ‘made’ their fortune legitimately without conflict of interest, they should have nothing to do with government work, but rather the private sector, where they could acquire all they could and the rest of us would applaud them for their success.

That was the way the Dangotes, the Adenugas, the Authur Ezes and their likes, made their billions in Dollars, and nobody was asking the source of their wealth.

In the advanced foreign climes, people would rather work privately than work for the government. If they eventually did, they had to, in a manner of speaking, be forced to take up the government appointment, no matter how high the office was.

The former Governor of California, the richest state in the US, Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger, never took a cent of the $178,000 salary he was supposed to be given per annum. Instead, he directed that the money be given to “those who needed it” as he himself was wealthy enough without the government’s money. 

According to him, the Society had made him stupendously rich through his acting career in the film industry, and that he went into politics to serve the people not to make money.

The current US President, Mr. Joe Biden, was in the US Senate for upwards of 30 years, yet did not own a personal house and was also unable to pay the hospital fee for his own sick child, who died eventually. He remained a poor man up to the time he became the president of the US. 

But for the pension and some services that he would get as a former President, Mr. Biden would be no richer than when he became the number one citizen in his country, because he went into politics to serve the people of his country not enrich himself. 

The richest people in the world, all of whom were in the developed nations, never worked for the government. They made their money in private endeavours. Such people included 1. Jeff Bezos 2. Elon Musk 3. Bernard Arnoult of the French LVHM luxury firm, 4. Mark Zuckerberg of the Facebook fame 5. Bill Gates of the Microsoft Company 7. Warren Buffet of the Barkashire Harthaway Company fame and Mr. Amancio Ortega Gaona of the Spanish Zara Stores fame, to name but a few on the list of the self made Dollar billionaires.

There were many women on the list, and they too had never worked for the government.

And those who went into politics did so only to serve the people, but not to be served by the people, as was always the case in the so called Third World countries, like Nigeria.

In Nigeria, most of the richest people ‘made’ their stupendous wealth while working in government, which explained the ‘do or die’ attitude of many of our compatriots when they were contesting or just going for a top federal government office. Some unlucky people did indeed pay the ultimate price in the intense struggle for some people to be in high government offices.

Some office seekers even went to the extent of making human ‘sacrifices’ in order to get a ‘big’ office through which they would become instantly super rich with illicit money.

All these, in a country so abundantly blessed with in-demand mineral resources, but which, unfortunately, could not be able to provide some basic services that people in other climes took for granted. 

Such services as the provision of constant electricity and water could not be sufficiently provided in the country, including the political and the economic capitals of Abuja and Lagos cities respectively, because the leadership would rather exploit the mineral resources for their own benefit not the common utilisation of all citizens.

May it be well for ALL the good people of the country, Nigeria.

Malam Malumfashi wrote from Abuja.

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