By Abdulmalik Inuwa Suleiman
The beneficiaries of the corruption in the oil industry are definitely still smarting from the industry wide changes implemented by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu especially at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). It was to be expected that they will not go down without a fight and that the seeming calm after the changes were announced was just the oil bandits in retreat to reassess their strategies for challenging a government that has exhibited zero tolerance for corruption.
Even after spending weeks to perfect their response to the clamping down on corruption in the industry they were only able to rehash their old strategies – launch personal attacks on the minister and his family. This took the wind out of the re-launched of a campaign of calumny they had launched against him in the past since it came out as the same tired stories they had always peddled.
A tweet by one of their online partner was all the other paid platforms latched unto to push out a news alert that Dumebi Kachikwu, the minister’s younger brother has been declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). They also hyped the aspect about his bank account(s) being frozen without being able to specify what phantom crime they are accusing him of this time around.
A call to Dumebi Kachikwu however exposed the story as a figment of the writers’ overstimulated imaginations as he not only denied being on the run from the anti-graft agency but that he was still able to transact with his account(s) as at the time he was asked to verify the story.
That a false story was pushed out as breaking news should worry all of us. Not just because no one wants to or deserves to be so slandered but because of the inherent risks that such irresponsible behaviour poses tour collective freedom. All over the governments are scaling back on liberties often citing terrorism and online trolling. We have been fortunate that the ill-conceived bill to regulate social media and online platforms died a natural death but this kind of online hooliganism risks creating the basis on which society would demand a restriction of the freedom available online.
Much as one would want to call the online trolls to order however, they are merely the symptoms of a more insidious disease. They are the smoking guns while the hands that pulled the trigger actually belonged to the bandits that had held Nigerians hostage until the recent changes made to the way the oil industry is managed. The kite flown about Dumebi Kachikwu’s arrest was apparently better managed than another story that surfaced at exactly the same time. The Dumebi story basically tried to hide under the EFCC without canvassing the position of its sponsors.
The true identities of those paying for this campaign however surfaced in the second story that flushed morality down the sinkhole with unprintable accusations targeted at undermining the marriage of the Minister of State for Petroleum. It did everything to cast aspersions on his person as a gentleman as only could be delivered by the worst form of yellow journalism.
In the story, one of those redeployed by Kachikwu was desperately packaged to appear like the victim. Had those who rehashed this overused rendition of an event that never happened bothered to cross check their facts, they would have seen that redeployment of their principal was an act of unmerited mercy as thousands of Nigerian youths has taken to the streets at the height of the fuel crisis to demand the sack of this particular official for an history of record setting corruption. That a person who should have been fired, arrested, tried and jailed for serial theft is now piloting a campaign of calumny against the minister that showed magnanimity is the real definition of travesty.
My one cent for the team working on this new round of “bring the Kachikwus down” attack is that they should get back with the owners of the brief and demand more money because the task they have signed up for is not an easy one. They are being asked to hallucinate about events that never happened and this is a sure way of toying with eventual mental incapacitation because the prolonged hallucination trips could become addictive.
To the sponsors of the stories, one can only offer sympathies. It sucks to be cut off from the slush fund that used flow freely before Kachikwu became minister and brought so many dizzying changes that have dried up the tap of corruption money. But they will do well to keep their powder dry, save as much of their stolen wealth as possible instead of paying for expensive but pointless propaganda – there would be expensive lawyers to pay, bail to post and refund to make to when the EFCC finally gets to the right chapter that concerns them.
The rest of us look forward to being able to browse the net and read stories that chronicle the decisive steps the country is taken towards greatness and not some toxic piece of trash strung together by oil cabal members struggling to return from the permanent retirement that the change agenda has forced them into.
Suleiman is a public affairs analyst and wrote this piece from Katsina, Katsina State.