By Pius Adesanmi
Some of my friends have said that we moved too quickly within the same week from Hijab-Gate (religion) to Innoson-Gate (ethnicity). I told my worried friends that I do not share their despondency.
On the contrary, I am saying Allah be praised for I have learnt to give thanks and praise to God for little mercies concerning Nigeria. At least two days separate our cursing and hating each other on account of religion, from our cursing and hating each other on account of ethnicity this week.
That is considerable progress and sufficient ground to celebrate and give thanks to God, considering the fact that we used to multitask our hatreds on several fronts simultaneously. Now we hate on one basis at a time, before we transition to the next basis for hate. One hatred at a time. No more multitasked hatreds on multiple fronts at the same time.
Having done Christianity versus Islam over hijab before transitioning to Yoruba versus Igbo over Innocent Chukwuma this week, chances are we will be back to APC versus PDP by Christmas. Is this not progress?
Given the fact that we have less than 48 hours before we forget GTB and Innoson and move on to the political front of hatred (then back to religion, ethnicity, politics; repeat cycle of hatred ad nauseam), I deem it important to enter a few pertinent submissions so that your sorry ordinary Nigerian ass may once again contemplate the enormity of the price you pay for your stubborn and congenital apathy towards memory.
Save for a comment on my friend, Barrister Abdul Mahmud’s wall, I have largely stayed away from the raging inferno of ethnicity feeding into a business relationship gone bad between a bank and a business man. In the main, I see a typical Nigerian farcical plot complete with layers of irregularities, counter-irregularities, and plain bad behaviour. Somewhere in all this is a dividing line shaped by ethnicity and primordial sentiments.
If you are Igbo, you tend to believe that the bank is a rogue Yoruba bank that has been stealing money from the business man, violating court orders, and corralling the instruments of the Nigerian state to intimidate the hapless business man.
If you are Yoruba, you are probably retailing the acerbic narratives of the bank and the EFCC, aided by your friends from the North who have been dragged in because their Sai Baba is being accused of going after the business of his enemies in the South-East.
This, in the main, is where we are. We are here because, once again, we have sacrificed memory on the altar of primordial sentiments and failed to press our immediate past experience into the service of our collective interests as the little peeps.
You see, primordial sentiments are not just invidious, they are also blinding and require a fundamental surrender of the part of one’s critical faculty that should be constantly sentient in order for one to be able to grasp the full dimensions of one’s situation.
Were your sorry ass as an ordinary Nigerian not blinded by primordial sentiments, you would have been able to reason on the basis of memory that who scammed who between GTB and Innocent Chukwuma is an intra-class fratricide that is none of your business.
When we speak about a particular class we call the Nigerian elite, many have a reductionist conceptualisation of the matter. You think in terms of individuals, of those one percenters in politics, social circles, and business.
It is important that you broaden your understanding of the elite. It is individuals. It is their social group or class. It is also their institutions and apparatuses of dominance, control, and exploitation. In other words, the politicians, the state and her instruments of violence (the Army, the police, EFCC, etc), the banks and other instruments of financial accumulation and oppression, are all part of a one percentile elite organism of exploitation and oppression.
An individual member of this group in a feud with an institutional member of the same group is really a case of Gambari pa Fulani. It is none of your business because however it plays out between Innocent Chukwuma and GTB, none of the feuding parties will lose. YOU will still lose out, you and your sorry little ass. Forget ethnicity. Forget your Yoruba-Igbo incubus: you will both pay the price of this feud between a business man and his bank.
This is where memory helps. Unfortunately, memory and the Nigerian are always hostile neighbours in the same sentence. In 2009, the current Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, rendered an historic service to this country. It was one of the most patriotic acts ever rendered this country by a citizen – a blue blooded one percenter for that matter. He was then CBN governor. He carried out a thorough audit of the banking sector, indicted so many misbehaving and criminal bank chiefs and, in a revolutionary manner, published lists of bank loan defaulters in two installments.
Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s action was a climacteric. Nearly two hundred and fifty names – the most prominent names from every corner of Nigeria, old money, new money – were involved in the most egregious abuse of depositors’ funds in criminal collusion with our banks.
Virtually every billionaire in Nigeria appeared on the list of chronic debtors – Dangote, Otedola, etc. Virtually every corporation, every holding in the country, featured in the list as owners of non-performing loans or outright bad debts.
We are talking of hundreds and hundreds of billions of naira. Nigerian banks will take your owo oniru, owo oniyo, owo alata, your hard-earned deposits of one thousand naira, the money of the newspaper vendor, the money of the roadside mechanic, the money of Iyaloja, the money of unpaid teachers, nurses, the money of civil servants, roll them into billions and parcel them out as non-performing loans and bad debts to Dangote, Otedola and billionaires of every tribe, politicians of every faith, social climbers of every hue.
What SLS revealed in his 2009 list showed that Bukola Saraki was a boy scout with his heists at Société Générale Bank.
The bank chiefs, mostly Bible-wielding, Holy Ghost fire-spewing morons, understand the game. They do not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, tribe, or political affiliation. Once you are one percenter, you are in on the family crime that is the Nigerian banking and financial sector. They give you billions in loans and credit instruments with little or no due diligence because there are all kinds of in-built cuts and kickbacks. The banks rub your back and you rub their backs.
They will never lend to your sorry little ass as an ordinary citizen. They will never lend to your little business. If you are a Mai Shayi, you better not approach them for a loan to grow your business. Pray that Governor Ganduje wakes up on the happy side of his bed tomorrow morning. If you are a market porter in Makurdi, you better not approach Nigerian banks for a loan to help your small business hustle. Pray that Governor Ortom dreams about wheelbarrows tonight. The banks will not give you loans but they will take your little money, your meagre deposits, and parcel them out as loans to the billionaires. Never really to be repaid.
Because it is all a game, Nigeria made noise for about a week after Sanusi published the lists. And we moved on to our eternal shame and damnation as a people. Not a single arrest. Not a single prosecution. We moved on.
In fact, Professor Pat Utomi, who appeared in the list as a loan defaulter, did a lot of gragra. He made a lot of noise and threatened to sue. I guess someone eventually whispered to Prof to observe the golden rule of silence and let the matter blow over. We never heard pim from Prof again. We never heard from any of the 250 people listed again. We moved on.
But your sorry little ass as an ordinary Nigerian has been paying for the crimes of these one percenters and the conniving banks. Oho, so you think that the banks went to sleep just because Dangote, Otedola and every other Nigerian billionaire did not repay the loans?
No, the loans are passed on to you in a cruel Darwinian equation. That is why Nigerian banks are forever making you pay fees that you cannot for the life of you understand. That is why they are always criminally withdrawing little sums from your account – fifty naira here, a hundred naira there. They charge and charge and charge and bill you out of existence. You are repaying the non-performing loans and bad debts of their criminal one percentile family members.
Innocent Chukwuma and GTB are family members in this game. It is poverty that makes you invest in Yoruba-Igbo feuding when there is no such thing going on in this matter. One percenters are too rich and busy to think like you. No matter how this pans out, the debts will be parceled out to your sorry little Igbo and Yoruba asses in the bills and charges you pay for the 17th-century services of GTB. They will milk you to get that money back, while eventually reaching a deal with Innoson.
Let’s recap for it is very important that you understand these things: Nigerian banks, Nigerian instruments of state violence, and social, business, and political actors are all branches of one class organism called the elite.
In Nigeria, this expanded elite is irredeemably criminal. It is also a non-sentient, sociopathic elite with zero inclination towards even the most rudimentary understanding of the social contract. The only social contract between you and this elite is the partnership between the horse and its rider. That is the only way the Nigerian elite can ontologically relate to you.
So, fight GTB but do not fight GTB on account of its family member – Innocent Chukwuma. Fight GTB in a broader, expanded and more meaningful sense because she is a member of a criminal cartel called the Nigerian banking sector.
Nigerian banks are wholesomely irresponsible. They offer you the most atrocious services imaginable. Customer service is zero. Banks in the Songhai Empire of Askia the Great offered better online services in the 15th century than what Nigerian banks currently offer in the second decade of the 21st century.
When they maltreat your sorry little ass, they don’t care about your ethnicity or religion.
With elections around the corner in the next two years in Nigeria, many of them are already prospecting for who could become governor, who could become a senator and potentially head a “juicy” Senate committee. With your deposits, they will extend credit facilities to these potentially bankable politicians.
You will only hear about it if things go south and they begin to fight.
Stop picking sides.
Grab a popcorn, open a bottle of Orijin, and enjoy the fight.
Pius Adesanmi, a professor of English, is Director of the Institute of African Studies, Carleton University, Canada.