Andy Uba's Mercedes is bigger than yours

NVS WELCOMES OGAGA IFOWODO TO THE SQUARE

Andy Uba's Mercedes is bigger than yours
By Ogaga Ifowodo


I READ with utter bemusement Andy Uba's piece, "Leadership as a service to our people," in the op-ed pages of The Guardian of January 30, 2007. Given the recent controversies around "Dr" Emmanuel Nnamdi "Andy" Uba, it seemed to me a joke that he should presume to speak so soon on the subject of leadership from the platform of "service to our people." I could only read past the title by reminding myself that "Dr" Uba's notion of "our people" is not the same as mine; that his people can only mean the band of fortune-seekers in the PDP, a party that the president and Uba's own godfather, General Olusegun Obasanjo, most recently described as one in which "there is enough to share," from local government chairmanships to the presidency itself. It was soon apparent to me, however, that Uba meant the long-suffering people of Anambra State, Nigeria, and Africa at large!

Such that by the end of the piece, I couldn't help the thought that only an unrestrained feeling of political arrogance, arising from the impunity and immunity that favoured politicians enjoy under Obasanjo's government, could have enabled Uba to turn sermoniser. Would he, I wondered, be galloping to his would-be electors atop a moral high horse if at the time of composing his sermon he was busy proving his integrity viciously impeached by his very conveniently settled "money-smuggling" case in the US? And if Uba did in fact report his "true" experiences as he "traversed various villages and towns and cities of (his) beloved Anambra State," did his people ask him any of the questions that agitate the minds of many Nigerians? Uba presumes to speak for "We the people" against the shameless "political class" that he recognises as seeking power "not to do good or fight for the common good, but for self-aggrandisement." Can it be the case that, somehow, the people of Anambra really see Uba as belonging to a political class different from the one he now lambasts?

I cannot answer for the Anambra people, though I certainly give them the benefit of the doubt. If, however, we are to accept the inference that they took his good faith for granted and concerned themselves only with the problem of "how to turn around the fortunes of our homeland by modernising it in the context of the true challenges of 21st Century development," then the people of Anambra will have to be a strange breed. For in that case, they will have accepted the inference that Uba epitomises the personal qualities of moral integrity, political rectitude and social vision that he now ascribes to himself. That would make them different from the majority of Nigerians - including their most illustrious son, Chinua Achebe - who have watched with horror and outrage as the Uba brothers, under Obasanjo and the PDP's patronage, have turned the state into their personal fiefdom to do with as they please.

But this is merely playing the devil's advocate; the Anambra people cannot, without the risk of grievously slandering them, be said to be that na•ve or imbecilic. Uba's homily on leadership has to be the product of hubris, of unbridled arrogance. It has to symbolise a brand of the messianism personified by Uba's own godfather, the president. Lest we forget, it is Obasanjo himself who, as it were, announced Uba's gubernatorial ambition. In what was a clearly staged moment, Obasanjo told the messiah-seeking Anambrans to pray so he may "release" to them his ward, one of a kind of leaders that only came from God. Thus, with election day at hand, the self-righteousness that comes with the messiah-complex must have found an urgent image-laundering need in the light of Uba's recent troubles.

It is hard not to see as its immediate spur an image-launderer's diversion strategy. "You must create a different image from the one in the public's mind at the moment. You should start with a newspaper article in which you present yourself as a moral standard-bearer and visionary leader." Hence, such humbug as the time having come for our people to have "new values in politics and leadership," and for "those in leadership positions" to "always inspire people by the sheer power of personal example." As, no doubt, Uba personally inspired so many across the length and breadth of the continent as special adviser to the president of the self-vaunted "Giant of Africa!"

If Uba has any sense of irony, he did not show it in his piece, so it bears reminding him of what is still too fresh in the public memory to have been forgotten. Towards the end of last year, the news that Uba had been charged to court in the United States for the offence of "cash-smuggling" gave banner headlines to the media. Specifically, Uba was accused of smuggling into the U.S. the sum of $170,000 on September 20, 2003 while on Obasanjo's entourage to the United Nations General Assembly summit. He ran foul of the law when he failed to declare an amount more than $10,000 at entry. We remember the damning fact of the "hard currency" being smuggled into the U.S. aboard the presidential jet, and the telling details of what was done with the cash: purchase of a 2003 S-class Mercedes-Benz car reportedly worth $90,000, a brand so special it had to be imported from the U.S. of $45,487.28 worth of farm equipment for Obasanjo Farms (which the anti-corruption president has since explained away as an "unsolicited gift", case closed); and payment by his "girlfriend" and accomplice of credit card bills of $13,000. As the prosecutor, Leslie Westphal, revealed, the case was settled out of court at Uba's instance, but not before the sum of $26,000 had been forfeited to the US government, after which his impounded Mercedes Benz was released.

All the explanations proffered by Uba in the wake of the revelations did not offer a convincing source of the smuggled money. Moreover, as the court noted, Uba "failed to tender evidence to prove his claim that the smuggled amount came from "his savings" and "some of his family's money" exchanged for dollars at a bureau de change in Nigeria. The court had also opined on the reason why Uba resorted to smuggling the money rather than wiring it through a bank: because "such a transaction would draw attention to the origination, source and destination of the funds."

This scandal had hardly died down when another report once again cast doubts on Uba's integrity. This time, it concerned Uba's long-assumed title of "Doctor," presumably on the strength of having earned a doctorate but which the report suggests he falsely ascribes to himself. Yet, without a conclusive effort at defending his reputation, Uba deigns to champion us "the people" against the very class whose worst depredations he can be said to symbolise under the evidence as it now stands. Rebuttable evidence, no doubt, still evidence yet to be rebutted.

Let me return to my title and be quick to note that only a few Nigerians own a Mercedes, not even if the model is a decades-old rust-box salvaged from the scrap-yards of Europe. But the lucky few who do, and who might glory in their membership of an exclusive club, must envy Uba's new acquisition. Perhaps they, and no doubt many Nigerians, will remember the late Nkem Nwankwo's novel of the rather quaint but unforgettable title, My Mercedes is Bigger than Yours. It is not a good novel, and in my view one of those that made it to print solely on the crest of the phenomenal success that Achebe's Things Fall Apart brought to Heinemann Educational Books' African Writers Series, not to mention the European thirst for exotic and sociological handbooks once they "discovered" that the "savage" African could write.

Its many faults notwithstanding, the novel's plot delineates a story that serves perfectly for analogical purposes. For even as told by Nwankwo (the ancestors continue to rest his soul), a perceptive reader will find interesting parallels between the novel's bathetic principal character, Onuma, and the Anambra gubernatorial candidate. Like Uba, Onuma loves fancy cars, taking a huge loan visibly above his means to buy a gleaming Jaguar. Onuma, too, has a blot on his education, having dropped out of University to pursue a career in public relations. As in the novel, this is an election year, and if not exactly cars, money which buys expensive imported cars, will prove to be the measure of candidates' political vision. With his gleaming imported Mercedes as concrete proof of his vision, Uba, as Onuma, may be so self-absorbed as to believe that any honest person in Nigeria, let alone in a state still bleeding from the grievous wounds inflicted on it by the Uba brothers, would fail to see the self-indictment contained in his article. Uba as the visionary who will help "turn around the fortunes of our homeland by modernising it in the context of the true challenges of 21st Century development?" He might get away with that puff if only he had ordered his 2003 S-class Mercedes-Benz from the Anambra Motor Manufacturing Company (ANAMMCO). Surely, there must be a limit to hypocrisy!


 

Ogaga Ifowodo, a lawyer, holds an MFA from Cornell University, New York . He has published three collections of poems, Homeland & Other Poems, Madiba, and The Oil Lamp, all winners of the Association of Nigerian Authors poetry prizes. 

Ifowodo was a frontline student leader in his days at the University of Benin . He worked for eight years with the Civil Liberties Organisation, Nigeria's premier human rights group, and between 1997 and 1998 was held under preventive detention by the Abacha military regime; a memoir of his prison experience, excerpts from which have been featured in Gathering Seaweed: African Prison Writing (ed. Jack Mapanje), the British Council and Granta's New Writing 14, and in Nigeria's Vanguard newspaper, is in progress. His poems have been translated into German, Dutch and Romanian and have also been widely published in anthologies and magazines, including Voices from all Over: Poems with Notes and Activities released last year by Oxford University Press, Step Into a World: A Global Anthology of the New Black Literature, The Times Literary Supplement, Poetry International, English in Africa, among others.

In 1998, he was named recipient of the pen USA Barbara Goldsmith Freedom-to-Write Award and of the Poets of All Nations ( Netherlands) "Free Word" Award. He is an honorary member of the pen centres of the USA, Canada and Germany and a fellow of the Iowa Writing Program. He is currently concluding a doctorate in post-colonial literature at Cornell. Ifowodo has been a regular contributor to the Op-Ed pages of Nigerian newspapers since his student days.

 



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Re: Andy Uba`s Mercedes is bigger than yours
Jthelmsdeep posted on 03-23-2007, 16:15:03 PM
In the short couple of months that I have been associated with the NVS, both as observer and then participant in the exchange of ideas, I must admit that this is one of the best articles I have read. For more than thirty years we have been 'raped' by leaders who treat our nations coffers as though it were their own private bank account set up exclusively to satisfy their inordinate and visceral sense of greed. This gross display of nepotism, if it weren't so cruel, would be almost comical. Whatever we do as a people, we must do it quickly. There are too many intelligent and capable leaders rotting on the dung heap of despair, while imbecilic men tout their well-worn buzz words about caring for the people's needs while lining their 'baban riga' pockets with the wealth procured off the backs of hardworking but destitute Nigerians. We must do something!!!
Re: Andy Uba`s Mercedes is bigger than yours
SOC Okenwa posted on 03-23-2007, 16:54:41 PM
Ogaga,

I join millions of fellow villagers including the able management team to heartily welcome you on board! Of course your name rings a bell. I have been reading through the internet your wonderful contributions in the Nigerian Guardian newspaper.

Your first contribution in the NVS is as usual a masterpiece. While I share in your radical approach to issues especially as they concern our morally-depraved motherland and her continuing struggle to free herself from those hell-bent on raping her to a state of coma let me add that Nigeria shall soon be free!

There is beckoning light at the end of the tunnel. The Ubas of this world will not stand the wind of change when it gets blowing across the lenght and breadth of 'Nigara'.

Welcome aboard comrade!

SOC Okenwa.
Re: Andy Uba`s Mercedes is bigger than yours
DoubleWahala posted on 03-23-2007, 17:19:21 PM
Ogaga Ifowodo looks remarkably like a younger version of 'Cicero', the late Uncle Bola Ige himself.

Furthermore, it would appear that Ogaga's literary skills are as sharp as 'Uncle's' oratorical ability was.

Welcome aboard, Ogaga. Great write-up.

DW
Ub(a)quitous Shame..
Auspicious posted on 03-23-2007, 18:21:07 PM
Thank you, Mr. Ofowodo for your refreshing piece.

If the subject of your debut article (or his marabouts) has any shame, he would feel really, really down on reading this.

But I am afraid he probably cannot comprehend or appreciate what you have said. And there lieth the problem.

Oh well..welcome abroad the NVS Spaceship and Godspeed, Brother!

Auspicious.
Uba Never Wrote that Article
Akuluouno posted on 03-23-2007, 19:18:52 PM
Dear Mr Ifowodo,

Truth is that Uba never wrote that article. True is the moral turpitude in which he wallows and from which he wants to mount the sacred seat of governance.
It shows the level which our leadership ethos has degenerated. In much saner climes, the largest political party in Africa would eschew parading such a character as their candidate for a popularity contest.
But seeing that we are Nigerians, which is akin to the proverbial lizardians where everyone is lying down, it is difficult to visually ascertain those who have stomach ache and as such, anything goes.
Re: Andy Uba`s Mercedes is bigger than yours
Truthsayer33 posted on 03-23-2007, 19:46:42 PM
Andy Uba is a hadsome charming liar and cheat.He is trying to be Zik without the intellect,Zik without the selflessness,Zik without the integrity.In fact a fake diet 419 Zik.
Re: Andy Uba`s Mercedes is bigger than yours
Igwe posted on 03-23-2007, 22:21:49 PM
Very good read, Ogaga. The analogy is spot on!

Unfortunately, Ewu, "Andy"'s hatchet man, is bent on coronating (apologies to Ndibe) "Andy" for Ndianambra.

TUFIAKWA!

But make no mistake, it's a dream that simply cannot materialize. The battle is being waged on diverse fronts and Andy will soon find his level or put where he really belongs.

If "Andy" is reading this, my sincere advice to him is: after this his abject attempt to rule Anambra would have failed, as it is sure to fail, let him go to school and get a decent first degree. Hopefully, if he's sincere about getting the degree, and he has professors like Ndibe helping him, he'd see that there is more to this life than amassing filthy lucre in the service of despots. Then, and only then, would he understand that what he owes Ndianambra is unreserved apology for bringing them so low, for roundly insulting them and tainting their collective pride.


In the article posted below, written by the New York based Human Rights Watch and culled from Allafrica.com , references to "Andy" are unmistakeable.

Nigeria: Indicting the Opposition

Human Rights Watch (Washington, DC)

GUEST COLUMN
March 22, 2007
Posted to the web March 23, 2007

Ben Rawlence And Chris Albin-Lackey


Nigeria's 'war on corruption' seems to be turning into a political witch hunt.

Despite eight years of civilian rule, the Nigerian government can't seem to shake off its autocratic habits. Under military leaders, presidential decrees were the norm. But today President Olusegun Obasanjo's administration appears to be selectively interpreting the law to similar effect, this time to eliminate scores of opposition candidates from the national and state elections in April.


Obasanjo, who is expected to step down in May after the elections, has presided over Nigeria's longest-ever stretch of uninterrupted civilian rule. Last year he tried to amend the constitution to allow himself to stand for a third term, but was defeated in the face of unusually strong opposition led in part by his own vice-president, Atiku Abubakar. This battle brought long-simmering tensions between the president and his deputy to a head. Since then, each of them has busied himself leaking purported evidence of the other's corruption to the press. Atiku deserted the ruling People's Democratic Party and now seeks to succeed Obasanjo in office as a member of the opposition.

Atiku has been informed by Nigeria's Independent National Electoral Commission that he would not be on the ballot because of an administrative "indictment" on charges of corruption. The "indictment" was issued by a special panel set up in September which confirmed charges brought against Atiku by Nigeria's corruption watchdog, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The vice-president is not alone in this predicament; 37 other candidates have also been disqualified from running after being "indicted" by a panel that deliberated for only 48 hours after the EFCC presented them with a list of allegedly corrupt politicians. Conspicuously absent from the list are several senior Nigerian politicians previously named by the EFCC, including the vice-presidential candidate for Obasanjo's party, Goodluck Jonathan.

Corruption in Nigeria remains an enormous obstacle to fighting poverty and making government accountable. It's hard to argue that barring corrupt politicians from holding office would be a bad thing. But Human Rights Watch is worried that the presidency appears to be using corruption allegations selectively to frustrate the ambitions of his political opponents.

Nearly all the people who have been barred from the elections are either members of the opposition or supporters of Atiku within the ruling party. The "indictments" have helped to clear the field of opposition candidates in some of the country's most high-profile electoral contests.

At the same time, notoriously corrupt allies of the president have been left untouched. In fact, several of them have a clear run at electoral office because their only credible opponents have been struck from the ballot.

These recent moves cast a pall over Obasanjo's legacy as he prepares to leave office. They threaten to delegitimise the results of the April elections. Moreover, they have done inestimable damage to the credibility of his government's widely-heralded "war on corruption".

With the elections only weeks away, Atiku and others are challenging the legality of their disqualification before the courts. The court of appeal has ruled that Atiku and the others can contest the elections, but the electoral commission is challenging the matter in the supreme court. But even if the courts uphold Atiku's right to stand, by then it could be too late. Nigeria's electoral commission has already warned that adherence to such court judgements could derail the elections if the ballot papers have already been printed.

If the elections are indeed derailed, then the consequences for Nigeria will be grave. The vice-president has promised "anarchy" if he is not allowed to stand. The much-praised war on corruption that has collected many high-level scalps will appear to be little more than a political witch hunt. Once again, Nigerian voters could face the prospect of an election where the choices have already been made, and not by them.
Re: Andy Uba`s Mercedes is bigger than yours
NWA-DIKE! posted on 03-23-2007, 23:15:27 PM
Its Good And Always Good Even In The Uniben Days....... Aluta.
Re: Andy Uba`s Mercedes is bigger than yours
Dragon posted on 03-24-2007, 07:52:46 AM
Zorro,
You are welcome on board....your fedgocol wafi buddy
Re: Andy Uba`s Mercedes is bigger than yours
Katampe posted on 03-24-2007, 14:59:19 PM
Ogaga,

You haven't changed from when you were in FGC. But, I like the idea that the Wafi spirit still dey your body, like everyone else. So Mrs Osuagwu's teaching style worked with you, or is it Balogun that taught you english and literature ni? Those were good old days. We have always been survivors.

Welcome to the square !!
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