For some mystical reason, the story of two mansions acquired by two popular Nigerians collided in the same news cycle this week. ‘’Collided’’ is the apt word to characterize the accidental meeting of the contrasting intimations within the narrow time bracket. Because the details of how blogger Linda Ikeji bought herself a half a billion naira home in Lagos is so diametrically opposed to the way the man who happened to be, at some time, the governor of Linda’s ancestral state of Imo, Ikedi Ohakim, became the title-holder of a certain mansion in Abuja. Both tales could not have been anything less than mutually hostile.
Projected on a split screen, the nuances of Linda and Ohakim’s house acquisitions show irreconcilable difference. The disparity in the context of the story of their respective acquisitions crystallizes, on a profound level, the unbridgeable distance between their separate moral habitations.
Linda, 35, volunteered a first person account of her long walk from a starved start to her 600 million worth residence. She had struggled with the odds of making a career out of modeling. She had been a frustrated magazine publisher. And she has always been a tenacious blogger.
She shared that the house was one of the ripe fruits of her resilience and doggedness. She had invested all of her into blogging and stayed loyal to it. This was the reward of a toil that was never suspended.
Linda tells her story with a voice that is nested halfway between pride and humility. She is proud to testify because she procured the reward with diligence. And she is humble to temper her story with lessons because she feels obligated to parley her blog into a platform for inspiring youths, the bulk of her blog’s visitors, who are seeking their own paths to fulfillment.
Ohakim did not share how he became the landlord of the property at Plot No. 1098 Cadastral Zone A04, Asokoro District, also known as No. 60, Kwame Nkurumah Street, Asokoro, Abuja. He would rather the whole world was unaware that in his apotheosis as the Governor of Imo State, he made a onetime payment of two million, two hundred and ninety thousand dollars ($2,290,000.00) to buy that the piece of real estate. But Ishaya Dauda, a Senior Detective Superintendent at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) let us in on the secret.
On Tuesday, October, 20, 2015, at the resumed proceedings of a case in which Ohakim was standing trial on a three count charge bordering on money laundering, Dauda, the prosecution witness, told a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja how Ohakim, acquired the property in a single, hand-to-hand cash transaction.
Ohakim, the governor of Imo State from 2007 to 2011, paid the equivalent of 270 million naira to his lackey, one Abu Sule, a middleman, at the Imo State Government House in Asokoro, Abuja on a certain night. Sule then transmitted the payment to the bank account of the owner of the property, one Alhaji Issa Muntair-Maidabino.
To cover up the new ownership, Ohakim drew a dummy tenancy agreement with Sule, to give the impression that Ohakim had rented the property from Tweenex Consociate H.D Limited.
Ohakim also issued Sule a cheque of 20 million naira in the name of two years rent. But it was empowerment for executing the renovation of that house and another Ohakim property in the same Asokoro vicinity.
Now, when EFCC interrogated Ohakim, he claimed that he was not the owner of the house. He lied, according to his anticipatory script, that he was only a tenant. He only owned up to proprietorship of the property after he was confronted with Sule’s confessional statement.
Ohakim’s case is still far from resolution. Justice Ademola fixed November 12 and 13, 2015 for cross examination and further hearing. But the contemplation of the point of Ohakim’s Abuja acquisition cannot wait –in the light of its contention for news space with Linda’s Lagos acquirement.
Linda obtained her house by the sheer dint of hard work. She avers that no sugar daddy’s coin was in the mix. She bought her apartment with a portion of the proceeds of her cumulative engagement with the computer: her face’s years of fixation on a bright, rectangular screen and her fingers’ multibillion taps on its keyboard.
The lady was upfront about her purchase of her Banana Island residence. She made the scoop out of her own story. She presumed that jealousy would not hold you back from appreciating a descriptive tour of her house…
It’s ‘’on 3 floors consisting of 6 en-suite bedrooms, a master suite with a separate walk-in closet/dressing room and a massive bathroom suite, 2 living rooms, media room, cinema room, gym room, laundry room, a fully fitted kitchen with a large pantry. Two room boys-quarters, a gate house, swimming pool, waterfall, changing room, cabana…’’
Then, she signed off her narration with an allusion to her unbeatable work ethic. Just before some folks would chalk up her wealth to good luck or a money ritual, she states clearly that she ‘’blogs from 4am till midnight.’’ She has no time to indulge a distraction.
Linda’s openness is a counterpoint to her former governor’s concealment. Ohakim was unwilling to publicly identify or be identified with ‘’his house’. He implemented a plot that would deceive the world about the ownership of the property that bears his name. He was a mask wearing landlord.
For sure, he did not become a masquerade because he was a practitioner of the virtue of modesty. He literally hid behind ‘’his house’’ because it was not truly his house. It was a stolen property. And he had to avert having to be called to explain how he struck gold to afford the house.
Throughout Ohakim’s tenure, he advertized himself as ‘’The New Face of Imo’’. But he craved a disguise for the sake of this property. He downgraded to ‘’tenant’’ status for fear of being found out.
While he was governor, Ohakim put much stock in environmental cleanliness. In the name of a ‘Clean and Green’ Imo policy, he banished commercial motorcyclists from Owerri. They were an intolerable stain on the state capital.
It turned out that Ohakim was a fake hygiene policeman. He was a walking warehouse of moral filth while he purported to enforce cleanliness in the city. He was buying houses with taxpayers’ money elsewhere at the same time he was demolishing buildings to conform Owerri to his aesthetic likeness.
The irony of Linda and Ohakim’s disparate house acquisitions is emblematic of the dysfunctional ecology called Nigeria. Citizens pour their sweat into their jobs. They strive to make a legitimate living. A con man rides on the back of a putative election to become their collective robber. He steals from them as a privilege of being their leader.
The story of these two mansions reflects the chasm that divides Nigeria space into two residences. One is a territory governed by the Adamic curse of work. People must win their meals, their clothes and their roof by the sweat of their brow. The other is a terrain ruled by sleaze and ease. You feed off the flesh of those who labor. You enrich yourself by raiding the people’s purse.
Linda’s route to her mansion demanded that she work 20 out of every day’s 24 hours. The path to the house of the man who was Linda’s governor exacted no such stretch of industry and insomnia. He only had to dip his hand into state treasury, commit his specifications to reliable hatchet-man, and voila –‘’his house’’ was ready!
Linda models the time-tested principle of the dignity of labor. She represents a value system that says people live by their labor. Ohakim represents true-blue crooks who assume political office with opportunistic vehemence. They abuse their stint in public stewardship to collect the whole gamut of assets they can’t possibly acquire by working in the marketplace.
The Nigerian political system, as it is, is a discriminatory messianic universe. It offers mandatory salvation to those who are ordinarily doomed to be failures or underachievers in other fields of human endeavor. It invites them to overcompensate for a life that was not supposed to amount to much.
Ohakim, in all probability, pinched out a small fraction of his annual 6.5 billion naira security vote for that purchase. The security vote, according to the canon of our joke, is the governor’s pocket money. He may blow it anyhow he fancies.
One tiny fact I find very noteworthy is that Ohakim conducted the purchase of that Asokoro property in the dead of the night. He maximized the witching hour, a time when the night has the thickness of opaque gloominess that armed robbers find most favorable for operations!
The ultimate shame, however, is that the preternatural error of rogues like Ohakims exercising political leadership over Linda and other diligent Nigerians is not rare. It is the default setting of the polity. And it is a bane self-respecting citizens should be too embarrassed to abide.
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu
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