The lost children of Banking ZuwoBy Tatalo Alamuon
As the interrogation and frisking of economic predators get under way, Nigeria is awash in dark comedies. There are unconfirmed and unconformable reports of money hidden away in the most unlikely of places and in the most delicate parts of the human anatomy. As Ibrahim Magu and his people close in, cemeteries, forsaken graveyards, solitary grain silos, soak-away and abandoned water reservoirs are reported to be brimming with various currencies.
A notorious female socialite has let it be known that she is carrying an eight month pregnancy which will not terminate until the return of the great prophet. The Yoruba call such monster children, “Omopeninu”, (The one that tarries in the womb). It was also said that an infamous carpetbagger in one of the provincial capitals recently celebrated the “turning of the grave” of his parents by summarily exhuming and expelling the remains and reburying them in gold caskets filled with Nigeria’s looted patrimony.
Thereafter, the sepulchre Bureau de Change was walled round and electrified. Another was known to have hurriedly constructed a modern Plaza with a secret underground floor filled with cash. Another dug up the soak-away and replaced the human waste with more expensive inhuman waste. It doesn’t get more ghoulish and it all reminds one of the last days of the Roman Empire. If retired General Buhari is looking for a way of balancing the budget deficit, it is obvious that he doesn’t need to look farther afield. It can be internally sourced.
The Nigerian grave yard is an El Dorado brimming with filthy lucre. This is the way of Black people. Mother Nature has gifted them with prodigal resources. After clumsily extracting, they return to bury the proceeds alive. The grave yard cries, and so do the living dead. This is the sacred ritual of the eternal hunter-gatherer. With Nigeria in the last stages of a regression to the Stone Age, who will save the Black person from himself?
But how will the founding patron of private state banking in Nigeria view this development? Very dismally indeed. Barkin Zuwo would have dismissed these unworthy descendants as cowardly banza who could not make an economic kill and stand by it, waiting for any impudent state interloper to dare query them. These are not valiant repositories of state funds but ordinary garden variety robbers who could not hold a candle to their illustrious forebears.
So, God bless good old Barkin Zuwo, and may Allah grant his commodious frame a fitting repose. It was said of the late King Farouk of Egypt that he was a man of much weight but little substance. Farouk, it will be recalled, developed an enormous, Pavarotti-like girth and phenomenal bulk from polishing off a whole lamb at a single sitting. When Nasser finally overthrew him, the obese hulk had to be wheel-barrowed into a waiting ship.
Our own Barkin Zuwo cannot be accused of such gastronomic impunity. Although rumours had it that the late beloved governor of Kano was partial to a huge bowl of Tuwo Shikanfi which he munched with an agrarian relish, he could not be accused of gluttony. The second executive governor of old Kano might have been educationally challenged in the western sense, but he was nobody’s fool. He was as sharp and shrewd as a political marksman, and keen –witted to boot.
For the three months he governed good old tempestuous Kano, there was no shortage of drama, and of the electrifying stuff, too. With his furry Fez cap, the former NEPU stalwart of Nupe extraction could have been mistaken for a Black actor impersonating a pre-Gorbachev era Communist Party supremo, or a royal extra hand in the film, Trading Places.
It was however in the department of creative misprision that Barkin Zuwo courted real immortality. It will be recalled that when good old Barkin was asked about which mineral resources his state could boast of, he growled: “ We get am for Phanta, Coca cola, Sphrite and Miranda”.
Please recall that around the same time, another colleague of Barkin from the old wild, wild west, a dedicated strongman who could prise open an iron fortress gate with bare fists, was asked what he thought was behind the whole phenomenon of students unrest. Infamously, the celebrated stalwart from Erunmu agrarian community near Ibadan was said to have retorted: “How can they rest when they are always fighting?”—or words to that effect.
When the soldiers eventually struck putting an end to the shenanigans of the Second Republic, Barkin Zuwo marched to military detention camp with plenty of aplomb and pizzazz to spare. (Please note that snooper did not say pizza). Zuwo was not going to be fazed or cowed by some boy scouts pretending to be generals. He had after all known the dreaded and ferocious Abacha as a mere boy playing football in Kano, a feat that earned the future infantry general the appellation of“Obe the Pele”.
It was in brief detention that Zuwo finally earned his deserved place in the Guinness Book of records, and in the most bizarre of circumstances. It was put out to the world at large that a huge some of money was found under his bed. Zuwo could not understand what the fuss was all about. “It is govmen money in govmen house, shikena”, the old NEPU hell-raiser tersely noted.
The churlish press boys quickly nicknamed him “Banking Zuwo” to reflect his new status as the banker of the bankrupt. But Zuwo was not done yet. When it was let out what a staggering sum of money that was found in his house, Zuwo cried blue murder. “Barawo ne” (Thief!), he screamed at the NSO boys. According to Zuwo, there had been some creative accounting somewhere because the money he hid was far in excess of what had been declared.
Ibrahim Magu and the new firebrand no-nonsense EFCC should note this. Till date nobody has bothered to reconcile the differing accounts or the accountants for that matter. The man of the people chopped until the redeemer of the people came, oil flowed and blood flowed, but If anything, Nigerians had merely exchanged monkeys for baboons apologies to Sad Sam.
Twenty five years later, in the year of our Lord 2008 the “Banking Zuwo” drama replayed itself, which shows that in Nigeria, the more things change the more they remain the same. Enter Joshua Chibi Dariye, the former governor of Plateau state and a celebrated modern-day Croesus and fugitive from Metropolitan justice.
Ousted twice from office by forces loyal to the implacable General Obasanjo, the dapper Dariye survived by the skin of his teeth, with his elegant French suit dripping with the dewy mush and manure of the remote plateau. The old EFCC under Malam Nuhu Ribadu, like a vicious rottweiler, went beyond the call of duty to nail him. Disobliging the tenets of democracy and the rule of law, it finally assembled six members of the assembly to commit executive regicide.
It is understandable, then, if there was no love lost between the EFCC and the then embattled Dariye. In the heat of battle, and in a gory turn of metaphor, Dariye likened the EFCC to dogs which he said constituted a mouth watering delicacy among his people. It will be recalled that Dariye’s sturdy tribesmen once made a mince meat of the invading caliphate forces in a memorable massacre which turned the entire plateau into a grisly fountain of blood. In the event, wiser counsel prevailed and a bloody show down was averted.
But that was only an inconclusive battle in an unending war. The gladiators eventually returned to the ring. This time it was an embattled Dariye who moved rapidly to the offensive against his tormentors. In an allegation all too reminiscent of the late Barkin Zuwo, Dariye claimed that there was a shortfall of 741 million naira between money actually impounded from him and money actually declared. Phew!!!. Zuwo would have been barking mad.
Now, in international gossip circuits, as snooper noted at that material point in time, the British journalist is often the butt of cruel jokes for congenitally fiddling with expense accounts. The rich Americans are openly and brutally scornful of this hand wringing petty thievery. Snooper was not sure whether this vice has also caught up with the metropolitan cops. The British High Commission actually confirmed that only part of the money has been returned even as the Federal government of that period chose to hide under empty technicalities.
This did not assuage Joshua Dariye, and neither would Barkin Zuwo ,his patron saint, have been too pleased. With or without metropolitan reassurance, Dariye cried blue murder. That seems like ages ago, but we are again at a similar conjuncture in this endlessly gory tale of the gang-raping of a nation by its own privileged children. The tribe of economic rapists has multiplied. With so many notorious Nigerian economic predators taking refuge in Britain, let the Metropolitan Police beware of Africa as the new ethical graveyard of the white man. There is an evil spirit abroad.