Obi Cubana, EFCC and the dance of billionaires by Chinonso Ihekire

By Chinonso Ihekire

It is not news that the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has become a premium tourist destination for a majority of Nigerian billionaires over the years. However, the events that transpired on July 16 this year, have become the intro of the soundtrack into the latest tour by prominent Nigerian socialite, Obinna Iyiegbu (aka Obi Cubana) within the anti-graft den.

While many saw his invitation by the anti-graft agency coming, for others, there are a myriad other burning questions such as, who was Obi Cubana before 2021, and what has he got do with graft?

Born Obinna Iyiegbu in Oba, Idemmili South Local Council of Anambra State, the 46-year-old business mogul has a grass to grace story, like most other affluent individuals. On several media publications, he has claimed to be a product of “hard work and consistency.”

Graduating from school with a first degree in Political Science and shuttling real estate and hospitality, before building one of Nigeria’s biggest nightlife and hospitality conglomerates dubbed, Cubana Group, the billionaire businessman managed to remain blurred from the radar of the public for nearly a decade, until the carnival-like funeral of his mother that brought him to public.

At that Oba Town, in Anambra, perhaps it was the soccer match of money spraying, where wads of hard currencies turned into footballs for socialites, or the social media hype that greeted it for several days, under the #burialofthecentury moniker, that turned Obi Cubana’s late mother’s funeral into a launch pad for public fame. The answers are not really straightforward, but the fame was instant.

Now, the father-of-four has spent three days in EFCC Custody, under suspicions for graft. Usually, these tours could be routine, with no skeletons to unearth. However, sometimes they could be the cross that carries these prominent individuals to their ‘cavalries of incarceration.’ For Obi Cubana, who is currently released on administrative bail, it is a mystery to be solved with time.

Nonetheless, Obi Cubana’s travails have begun to spark off mixed reactions on social media – the midwives of his fame – on why most prominent individuals in society are increasingly surfacing under the EFCC radar, whether it is a sort of harassment disguised under constitutional duties, or if the law must continue to take its course without any sentiment.

“Why are EFCC after Obi Cubana and not Bola Tinubu? We provided evidence of Tinubu’s corruption to the EFCC, including photos of bullion vans going into his home on Election Day, contrary to the Money Laundering Act. Why Obi and not Tinubu? Is it because Obi is Igbo? (sic),” an angry fan wrote online.

On his part, human rights activist, Reno Omokri commented on the matter on his social media platform. His views aggregate a myriad of others who feel that this is a political move, which is still rooted in tribalism. No evidence is given though, beyond speculation.

Another interesting take will be Comrade Deji Adeyanju, a political activist and social media personality, who blurted: “When I told Obi Cubana to be careful, some people said I was jealous of him. It’s still much better to be arrested by EFCC than FBI. He should be celebrating that it’s EFCC. Calm down Obi. It’s not serious for now, but it could get worse.”

The speculations still sway with the likes of other social media figures and political influencers, such as Sir Ariyo-Dare Atoye, with thoughts such as: “EFCC invited Peter Obi, but never Bello-Koko; EFCC invited Anyim, but never Hadiza; EFCC invited Obi Cubana, but never Abba Kyari; How do you expect agitation to stop amidst growing unjust treatment of a section of the country and with disdain? Be guided in 2023.”

With thoughts on the legitimacy of his arrest still soaring in the mainstream, others such as popular journalist Kemi Olunoyo, suggesting the risk attached with EFCC’s spotlight on these high-worth individuals.

“Imagine how Obi will look to a potential investor. He should get his lawyers to erase this libellous digital footprint. He’s already a Nigerian, now alleged money laundering and tax fraud? The EFCC needs to be transparent and release their findings so journalists know,” she said.

And even Abba Bichi, who is the son of the Director-General of the State Security Service, commented, “Nigeria is messed up. They (people who believe Obi Cubana is guilty) are politicians’ puppets! Imagine a sensible person will choose a politician over a hardworking man!” to further stretch out the edges of perspectives that cloud Obi Cubana’s current dance with the EFCC.

With several perspectives from several parties, only time will dictate the tune of Obi Cubana’s travails with the EFCC.

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