Watchers of the flick of lurid but disgusting theatre in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) starring Minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio and erstwhile Managing Director of the commission, Ms. Joy Nunieh, were served a menu of at least three blockbuster films, for the price of one. On the menu were the following: sex and power game in high places; monumental heist and a sneak preview of the rapacious bleeding of Nigeria by her elected representatives.
Served a la carte, this scintillating thriller however came in the form of allegations. The allegations, let loose during an Arise TV interview programme last week in Abuja, affirmed the line from the play, The Morning Bride by English author of the 17th and early 18th centuries, William Congreve, that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Nunieh, summoned by the House of Representatives committee investigating alleged mismanagement of N40 billion by the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC, turned into the proverbial canary and sang disgusting and indeed irritating rhythms of Nigeria’s age long affliction of looting in high places, oath-taking as weapon of drafting accomplices into corruption ring and sex as concave on the illicit-natured hearts of our political elite.
Bold, assertive and a lioness to the core, Nunieh seemed to be atop her game. In her narrative of the NDDC under her watch, she carefully slung manacles on Akpabio’s wrists. On the front burner of her allegations were sexual harassment, leading to her allegedly dealing the former Akwa-Ibom governor a dirty slap. “Why did he not tell Nigerians that I slapped him in his Guest House at Apo? I am the only woman that slapped Akpabio. He thought he could come up on me. He tried to harass me sexually. I slapped him. I am an Ogoni woman… I showed Akpabio that Rivers women do not tolerate nonsense,” she announced in a seeming conquest. Nunieh seems to know enough to drown Akpabio and constitute his nemesis.
Equally disgusting was Nunieh’s allegation that the minister attempted to inflate the NDDC budget and sneaked 30 contracts into it which included one on water hyacinth. “Akpabio wrote me to put a list of projects from the refugee commission in the budget of NDDC. Refugee commission is another federal government commission for IDPs. How do you tell me to put some of their projects in the NDDC budget when we have so many things to do in the Niger Delta? How do you explain that?” she ranted.
When Akpabio appeared on the Arise TV channel with his own tremor-like but vengeful ballistics, if you didn’t love the soiled apron worn for him by Nunieh, you would at least love his smart, cool operator mien. Armed with documents, he also immediately transmuted into a canary: Nunieh lacked requisite temperament for the office she occupied; she was not qualified ab initio to be in the office as she evaded the mandatory NYSC service. Like every cool operator, Akpabio however lapsed into the fallacy of abusive ad-hominem, an ancient fallacious argument which is also called argumentum ad hominem. Briskly but rudely, he veered into the realm of crooked thinking by suggesting that Nunieh’s “temperament” must have been due to her multiple betrothals.
Invite her four former husbands to give evidence of her temperament, Akpabio thundered. But, what had Nunieh’s alleged marital adventures got to do with allegations of rank corruption against the Honourable Minister? The pitfalls in this fallacious path of argument of Akpabio’s is that, though the speaker thinks they are deploying it as a rhetorical strategy by attacking the character, motive, or other attributes of their interlocutor, they are detracting from acceptable rules of engagement. Rather than attack the substance at issue, they sidetrack genuine debate and spin diversionary and irrelevant, even if extraneous issues. Ad-hominem could even be a cover-up for culpability.
But why did Nunieh throw the sex card in this tango? To my mind, this terribly disfigures and indeed, makes her case against Akpabio very wonky. Did she attempt to play the ex-World Bank President, Dominique Strauss-Kahn/New York maid sex card to curry sympathy to her side? This is because, like Akpabio’s multiple husband allegation, flaunting a yellow card of sexual harassment at that juncture was unnecessary and in fact makes her suspect. Was Arise TV a police station where sexual harassment allegations are lodged? How come that allegation had to rear its ugly head five long months after Akpabio sacked Nunieh in February, 2020?
With this, Nunieh looked no less culpable of spinning a diversionary ad-hominem alien and irrelevant to her submission. This is because, as gripping as her highly believable revelations are and perfectly fitting into the profiling of the voracious Nigerian political elite who mindlessly devour Nigeria like an army of cankerworm, the fact that her fury led her into making such allegation which sounded like sympathy-currying for her perceived weak female gender, makes her potentially suspect. Or could she simply be seeking to make herself the sultry woman the French call the femme fatale, the destructive female? Or just trying to situate Akpabio in the mould of powerful men in history who turned gourmands of female nakedness and saw her flesh as ravishing icing on the cake of power?
A historical excursion into the psychology of power and powerful people, what excites them, why they veer into the accursed path of weaponizing sex as a major constituent of power and why they sometimes are very careless, unconscionable and reckless when a gush of blood momentarily rushes into their groins may explain what Nunieh had in mind.
For all you care however, citing alleged sexual harassment might probably be a way of padding her submission that Akpabio was not just your random crook next door but one whose libido had no discretion.
Bill Clinton appears to be an archetype of the philandering powerful man in office. Referred to as “a hard dog to keep on the porch” by his wife Hillary, his dalliances in the White House as President of America nearly got him to kiss the American presidency bye. While Paula Jones accused him of publicly warehousing his erect manhood in front of her while they were in a hotel room, his “inappropriate” relationship with White House intern, Monica Lewinsky, remains a great example of indiscretion in high places.
So also was François Mitterrand, French president, 1981 to 1995, who kept the secret of a mistress and child out of wedlock from the press for the period of his 14-year stay in office. This is not to talk of his successor, Jacques Chirac whose wife, Bernadette, described as a grief in the heart on account of his obsessive thirst for the midriff of the female gender. Or Chirac’s own successor, François Hollande who, in disguise, took trips out of the Elysee Palace at nocturnes to visit a mistress in a flat in the city. However, one case that shows this sex-as-icing-on-cake-of-power path as ruinous was that of Dominique Strauss-Kahn who not only lost his job but the prospect of becoming the French president, on account of a New York hotel maid’s allegation that he sexually assaulted her.
Akpabio however threw his own riposte. Watching him on that Arise TV programme, you would be pardoned perceiving him as guiltless of Nunieh’s allegations against him. Also, you most probably would get no recrimination if his suavity makes you conclude that he was just a typical Smart Alec, an able representative of the smooth crook class that Nigerian politicians really are. Akpabio appeared on that programme, borrowing the lingo of the streets, as cool as cucumber. Fluid and effortlessly piercing darts at Nunieh to do the expected damage, he methodically deployed his gift of the garb to an advantage.
After leaving the TV programme, he must have won to his side many of his erstwhile accusers. Even when we know that this is not likely to be so, Akpabio escaped with the impression of a reformer who always gets diatribes and recriminations from a rank system like Nigeria’s sworn to a romance with sewage. Did you notice the Honourable Minister periodically massaging the ego of the President in each of his sentences… the “GCFR” affixes each time he mentioned Buhari’s name, the Buhari anti-corruption advertisement that sounded like the refrain of a badly sung hymn? You have to be master of the game to flaunt such art of suavity.
Both Akpabio and Nunieh can however not escape from the grave charge that, in the last 20 years, they are part of the Niger Delta elite who mindless underdeveloped the Niger Delta. No one would again listen to those Ken Saro-Wiwa-like agitationist narratives that Nigeria kept the Niger Delta down. Yes, for decades, the Niger Delta was a geographical enclave that fed the gluttony of Nigeria’s political elite, but yet confronted with polluted rivers and gross underdevelopment.
However, from the days of OMPADEC, down to its transmuting into the NDDC, Nigeria had funneled trillions of Naira into the Niger Delta and such humongous funds have been trapped in the gluttonous private pockets of Niger Delta elite and their accomplices. Massive and endemic corruption has made the world develop sparse patience to listen to an apparent boring narrative of the Nigerian elite impoverishing the Niger Delta. Worse still is that appointees into the NDDC are square pegs in round holes. If you squeeze these ills into a ball, it will appear now that, until the people of the Delta begin to pelt their sons and daughters with stones for how they worsen their already sorry plights, the world may be impatient to hear their cries of woes.
The massive rot in the NDDC in the last 20 years is as brackish as the polluted rivers of the Niger Delta. This is why the news that the Muhammadu Buhari government had commissioned a forensic probe of activities in the NDDC, from 2001 till date, should ordinarily be gladsome. As an aside, this audit is needed in the NNPC, another Nigerian fetid basket of maggots, as well. However, when one realizes that this same government has been implicated severally for its timid will to purge the system of leeches and offering self as a nest for corrupt but favoured government officials and accomplices, the initial excitement of the probe would fizzle out.
By the close of last week, the melee threw up another pointer that Nigeria is running a banana republic, a pejorative description of mindless lawlessness and dictatorship. A few days after the Arise TV spat, over a dozen stern-looking security personnel reportedly stormed Nunieh’s Port-Harcourt home at about 4am. They were even alleged to have forcefully broken into the house like armed robbers. Amidst the back and forth, Rivers’ gruffy countenance, gruff-voice governor, Nyesom Wike, stormed Nunieh’s home, spirited her inside his official car and drove her away like some movie mafia Capone. As he drove off, he thundered, “impunity cannot be allowed to stand. Not in Rivers State. We are ready to fight for justice.”
The police invasion was reminiscent of Buhari’s 1984 military dictatorship, replicated in the 2016 nocturnal invasion unleashed on judges’ quarters, with a view to demonizing them as corrupt. Wike equally deployed his gruff to the rescue as he prevented SSS operatives from arresting them. So, why are we advertising dual lawlessness like this, that of Wike and the federal goons? And why would the authors of this daybreak invasion target Nunieh for arrest on a day she was to give evidence before the House probe committee? What offence had she committed between the time of her first appearance at the committee and time of her attempted arrest? If the offence was before her appearance at the panel, how come it became so urgent as to warrant a breaking into her house?
In saner societies, Akpabio ought to have been asked to step aside as minister to pave way for an unbiased investigation. But, has that ever happened in Nigeria?
Dr Festus Adedayo is a Columnist with the Nigerian Tribune