Citizen Ibrahim Mohammed Ogbanago is my kind of Nigerian. He is an honest man. Did you say such a creature doesn’t exist in a country where orphaned millions of dollars are routinely found in various ‘safe houses’? Well, I insist that majority of Nigerians are honest people even if they don’t grab the headlines for their honesty.
The world feasts on bad news. Indeed, the crooked among us would describe Citizen Ogbanago as a fool for returning an envelope containing $10,000 lost by a customer in the bank where the Kogi-born Ogbanago worked as a security man on a salary of less than N40,000 (or $100). But he chose to do the right thing saying, “Not all Nigerians are corrupt…. I am happy I had the chance to prove myself. I want our youths to know that a good name is better than riches,”
His employers, United Bank for Africa (UBA) honoured him at the bank’s annual general meeting where the security man was given an undisclosed cash award. Two state governors keyed in with a total of $15,000 while the Nigerian Senate weighed in with N5 million. The lesson: Even in the midst of the corruption cancer eating Nigeria’s soul, we still have many good people. Ogbanago ended up legitimately hugging more cash than he returned.
The major print and electronic media of the western world did not as much as give a passing mention to the story because it runs against the grain of the demonisation of Nigerians as a nation of thieves, fraudsters, prostitutes and drug pedlars.
That was my observation last week when MSNBC made a splash of the discovery of $43.4million, £27,800 and N23.2m in a 7th floor flat in Ikoyi, Lagos. After the habitual gra-gra by Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ondo State who tried to pin the find on the ruling party, and Governor Nyeson Wike of Rivers State whose paranoia of Rotimi Amaechi makes him to see his former boss’ hand in every shady deal – the nation eventually found out that the cash was lodged there by the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Mr. Ayodele Oke with the approval of former President Jonathan to help swing the last presidential elections.
According to reports, the NIA collected $289,202,382 in cash, from the account of the National Petroleum Investment Management Services, NAPIMS (a subsidiary of NNPC) in February 2015 after the postponement of the general elections.
The pattern that is emerging from the various revelations on this and other recoveries so far made by the EFCC is that President Jonathan was an extremely weak leader. Desperate for re-election, he approved or allowed his name to be used to approve large sums of money from the national treasury in cash without even a nodding acknowledgement of due process. Party and government officials around him took advantage of that weakness and milked the nation dry.
Online medium Sahara Reporters has revealed that the whistle-blower in this case is a security guard who has now relocated following the rumoured prevalence of the incidence of ‘sudden death’ among drivers, security guards and domestic servants of the high and mighty men and women of yore for the simple offence of ‘knowing too much’.
Elsewhere, as I combed the media to see if the foreign media were interested in the aforementioned Ogbanago story, I found big splashes on one Gbenga Ogundele aka Benson Ogundele, age 58, of Laurel, Maryland,who bagged 234 months in prison, along with his wife, Moji Popoola, aka Mojisola Oluwakemi Tin Popoola/Moji T. Popoola, age 42, also of Laurel, who was jailed for 18 months for conspiracies to commit wire fraud and money laundering arising from a scheme to defraud vulnerable victims of millions of dollars. Judge Grimm ordered Ogundele to forfeit $2,195,103.36, and ordered Mojisola Popoola to forfeit approximately $165,000 and to pay restitution of $34,100.
In another breath, the FBI canned a 31-year-old Nigerian hacker, Obinna Obioha, for committing wire fraud in the US. He faces up to 20 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. He has already pleaded guilty in a US court to a wire fraud of $6.5 million, a sum he acquired by hacking into computers and email accounts of some American companies. Alongside accomplices, he monitored victims’ information to identify impending transactions and also created knockoff email addresses that appeared similar to the victims’ legitimate accounts.
As I was trying to wrap my head around all this, news came that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,had uncovered yet another large sum of suspected laundered money to the tune of N448.85 million in Ghana-Must-Go bags in a shop at LEGICO Shopping Plaza, Ahmadu Bello Way, Victoria Island, Lagos. No claimant has shown up. Apparently, there is still a lot of stolen funds stashed both secretly and in plain sight yet to be discovered.
But I choose to celebrate 29-year-old Citizen Ibrahim Mohammed Ogbanago today because he represents the marginalised 99 percent of our population who toil honestly from day to day to put bread on the table and would never touch a dime that wasn’t earned through honest labour. He is my kind of Nigerian, the type that MSNBC and the other major media have never bothered to highlight. Instead, it is the minority thieves in government and their fellow criminals in the Diaspora who hug the headlines.