Nigerian Politicians as Gangsters: American Films and Nigerian Political Culture

Uche Nworah February 21, 2013

Nigerian Politicians as Gangsters: American Films and Nigerian Political Culture

My favourite all time movie is "The Godfather" trilogy by Francis Ford Coppola. Back then growing up in Nigeria, if you were a guy and you had not seen any of the Godfather movies, then you were generally ‘dissed’ by peers as not knowing ‘what time it is’, The Godfather movies glamourised crime, and so do other gangster movies.

The director of the Godfather movies, Francis Ford Coppola brought to the big screens what decent folks only discussed privately at their dinner tables, he was smart and creative in the production, mixing and combining of the power of crime in very sexy ways, his all-star cast includes Marlon Brando playing the lead role as Don Vito Corleone, and Al Pacino playing the role of Michael Corleone (Don Vito’s last hope for a breakthrough into white America). Robert de Niro and James Caan complete the cast amongst other notable actors and actresses.

My other favourite movies are Scarface, featuring Al Pacino in his star performance as Tony Montana, the Cuban immigrant and drug lord; Once Upon A Time in America and Good Fellas, which featured Robert de Niro, Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci.

My fascination with these movies were just for their sheer entertainment value, they also provided me with some form of escape as I could easily slip into my regular daydreams and assume the role of any of the vicious characters from the movies, and then go after my imaginary enemies with sawn – off short guns, or best still I could fantasise about sending Luca Brasi or the volatile Joe Pesci’s character after them. In this my world, I remember killing emeka ifedi (not his real name) many times for using his father’s Citroen car and his privileged status as a doctor’s son to capture Ijeoma, my love interest at the time.

In all these however, I was conscious and cautious not to let my fascination and fantasies get the better of me, else my murder count would have been in the hundreds by now. I also knew that these movies were only works of art, although art does sometimes imitate life and reality, but my own reality, though twisted by some personal and political events at the time didn’t warrant my trying to imitate art by taking the laws into my hands.

These may not be the case with Nigerian politicians; I just think that they watch too many gangster movies, to the extent that they have now become gangsters themselves. They seem not to be able to draw the line between art and reality. Their actions point more and more to a gangster mentality.

To understand the mentality of gangsters, it also important to identify their key features and characteristics.

Gangsters by their very nature are sworn enemies of the law, they are always on the other side (opposing) of the law, they do not hide this attribute hence they wouldn’t engage in any of their multiple illegal activities. If that is the case, then Nigerian politicians deserve to be classified as gangsters because although they are law and policy makers, that alone does not make them to be on the good side of the law. They are among the greatest lawbreakers, they are artful tax dodgers and evaders, and do not pay for the public services they enjoy; they steal and rob public coffers with their gold pens in addition to committing other nefarious activities.

Just like their gangster idols, Nigerian politicians are highly skilled in the art of deception. They are very good at presenting and projecting personae to the public quite different from their real selves, they are able to cover their tracks such that it is difficult, if not impossible to trace their illegal acts to them.

Nigerian politicians are good at opening multiple bank accounts using false aliases, these bank accounts both in Nigeria and abroad then become hosts of stolen public funds, also they are very good at investing in properties and in other businesses under assumed names, Joshua Dariye, the governor of Plateau state showed Nigerians recently by his actions how this is done, Chimaraoke Nnamani of Enugu state and Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia state belong to this category of Business men cum governors, Orji Uzor Kalu in particular owns an airline (SLOK) and was widely reported to have bought a dream mansion worth over $1.5m in the Potomac area of Washington D.C.

Also there have been this rumour, which refuses to go away about Atiku’s covet investments in African Petroleum, and also about IBB being the real owner of all Otunba Michael Adenuga’s Business empire. Gangsters will operate in this manner; they have people known as ‘fall guys’ who go down for them should anything go wrong, and while the fall guy is away in prison, his or her family will continue to be taken care of by the gangster. This fall guy theory was seen in action in the Maryam Babangida and Glory Okon/Jennifer Madike saga, Nigerians still do not know the whole truth of the level of Mrs Babangida’s involvement in the alleged cocaine stories. Once again deception at its highest.

How about womanizing? Gangsters are the quintessential playboys, it baffles me how they have such high devotions to their wives and family and still live sleazy lifestyles on the side, they are very good at setting women up in rented apartments and paying them huge sums to be at their beck and call, such high class women (prostitutes) are usually trustees of information about hideous crimes their gangster lovers commit.

We all know how Nigerian politicians are and their low level of morality, do not be surprised at the number of big bosomed women that throng their offices daily in search of contracts, hotel operators and owners will ever be grateful to them for their patronage, they are known to keep different specifications of women at the same time in different hotels, sometimes they do not have time to come and ‘service’ these women, this responsibility then falls on their hundreds of aides who would normally demand a ‘sample’ before handing over their masters’ money gifts.

Several women have also benefited from their largesse; they have received gifts of cars, houses, expenses paid travel to Europe and America, etc. Are you surprised that the late military president Sanni Abacha was rumoured to have died in the arms of a Russian prostitute at Aso rock? The Russian lady allegedly was part of a larger conspiracy.

Notice how the different state governors have been adding ‘sweet sixteens’ to their harem, Orji Uzor Kalu came to Enugwu-Ukwu for a chieftaincy title in 2000 and took home a maiden as well, James Ibori has recently annexed a beautiful Enugu girl, who in turn has given him a bouncing baby boy, the story just like the snake between their legs is too long for these pages.

Government houses and lodges are famous for the select parties that take place there, anytime a compatriot or fellow politician comes into town, a gala night is organised for the ‘August’ visitor, with lots of young and half naked women on offer, these women are usually from nearby schools and universities, any surprise then that most state governors usually have it as a priority to set up their own state universities, not for the educational benefits to the people but so that they would have supply bases and hunting spots. Do you know that in Nigeria, pimping for a politician can be quite lucrative? Hmm!

If you live in Enugu, you may still remember the famous Jim Nwobodo parties at the government house while he was the governor of the then Anambra state, the stories of the coveting and philandering that took place in his parties are better not repeated here, else parents would quickly withdraw their daughters from Enugu schools and universities. At such parties catering is provided by the best caterers in town, and only the best wines and champagnes are drunk, sometimes customised champagne are shipped in just like Chief Adisa Akinloye, the then NPN chairman did when he celebrated his first 1 Billion Naira with a grandiose party.

There are other examples, especially amongst the military politicians, remember the woman tussle between the Bamaiyi brothers? And the Ndubuisi Kanu and Jubril Aminu wife swap/snatch?

Picture Al Capone in his champagne parties, with women doting on him and also Al Pacino’s character in Scarface as he coveted his boss’ (Frank Lopez) girlfriend. This is another aspect of the symbiotic relationship between gangsters and Nigerian politicians: parties, women, and frolicking.

Gangsters are known forgers and dodgers. The American government found it difficult to nail Al Capone because Al Capone constantly manipulated his books, records and his bookkeeper, the key witness sought desperately by the government. There is no difference between Al Capone’s tactics and antics and those of James Onanefe Ibori, the Delta state governor. It is only tact and craft that enabled him to wriggle out of his recent legal problem over the identity of the James Ibori that was convicted by an Abuja court in 1995 and the James Ibori that is currently the governor of Delta state, the star witness (the ‘other’ James Ibori) in the matter was missing and could not testify, just like Al Capone’s bookkeeper.

Play back the tape to the Toronto scandal of the ex- speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, I am sure that wherever he is now, Salisu Buhari will be wondering why him and not the others?

Perhaps the greatest resemblance between gangsters and Nigerian politicians is in the area of perpetrating mayhem, killings, and the hiring of hoodlums and goons. Party politics in Nigeria is never complete without political thuggery and assassinations. There is a long list of opponents in Nigeria that have fallen from assassins’ bullets sponsored by political opponents. In gangster land, putting out a hit or contract on a rival gangster is also commonplace.

Gangsters are known to belong to mobs and so are Nigerian politicians, hence the descriptions Kaduna Mafia, Langtang Mafia etc. This mob mentality actually became a permanent feature of party politics in Nigeria in the second republic.

In the eastern part of Nigeria, there were lots of such hired goons, who were financed by the politicians at the time; Jim Nwobodo was financing the Jim’s Vanguard while Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu financed the Ikemba Front. Clashes between these two opposing camps were widely reported in the media and at the time provided real entertainment to the party politics followers, their rivalry culminated in the now famous Nkpo junction clash between the Jim’s Vanguard and the Ikemba Front, this clash led to the ‘ignominious pimp’ speech by the Ikemba.

In Imo state, the ‘weeping’ governor late Sam Mbakwe set up the Onunaka Front Organisation (OFO) which he used as his own private security outfit, Mbakwe had no problems in recruiting members into this organisation as he had ample supply from the unemployed weight lifters who normally congregated at the Aba stadium, known as “ndi akpu obi’ (Big and muscular lads).

These political thugs later metamorphosed into armed robbers when they were disbanded as a result of the Buhari/Idiagbon military coup, but having tasted power they never really went away and have continued to provide ‘executioner’ services to successive politicians, they were recently seen in action in Anambra state but this time under the direction of Chris Uba.

Militia and Vigilante organisations such as the OPC, MASSOB and The Bakassi have also been used in the Western and Eastern parts of Nigeria by politicians as thugs to intimidate their opponents; the politicians are known to sponsor these organisations through the purchase of arms and also by making financial contributions.

The other associated characteristics between Nigerian politicians and gangsters are betrayal and back stabbing (the kiss of death theory). OBJ demonstrated this in his saga with Audu Ogbeh, he was having lunch with him while at the same time detailing security operatives to his house to put him under house arrest and force his resignation.

IBB did the same to his alleged friend, late M.K.O Abiola when he annulled the June 12 elections, which Abiola had contested with IBB’s assurances and won, this made Abiola to remark that ‘with friends like this, we no longer need enemies’.

I can recall Michael Corleone kissing his brother-in-law in the presence of his sister, despite having given the order for him to be executed.

Picture Al Capone in his dapper immaculate suits, remember how Tony Montana described the attempted assassination on his life, ‘they wanna spoil my $800 suit’ he said.

Nigerian politicians are lovers of high fashion, their fashion budget can offset the interest payments of the mounting debts they incur on behalf of the electorates, in his days Jim Nwobodo was famous for his canali suits, when they come abroad, they only shop at the best shops, the Harrords, the Russell & Bromleys. Mrs. Maryam Babangida is still remembered today, not for her better life programme but for her fashion contest with Mrs. Maryam Abacha. The politicians wear the best and most expensive lace and brocade materials, their shoes and slip-ons are usually of the best animal skin and Italian leather. How are they able to afford such luxuries? With our money, of course.

There is now a growing trend of godfatherism in Nigerian politics, the same way Amerigo Bonasera came to kiss Don Corleone’s (the Godfather) feet to ask for favours, so do Nigerian politicians run to their respective Godfathers for help, for the state governors, these Godfathers force them to sign away their federal allocations, they also enter into pacts with the devil by swearing oaths of loyalty and allegiance at native shrines. IBB is now the biggest Godfather of them all, every known politician in Nigeria have benefited from his benevolence, no wonder they are always running to his Minna residence to pay homage.

In the west, Chief Lamidi Adedibu and Alhaji Azeez Arisekola-Alao hold sway, Arthur Nzeribe may be waning in importance but he still has his loyals, in Anambra state Chris Uba has taken over from Emeka Offor as the political Godfather in the state, in the other states Godfathers abound as well.

Nigerian politicians and gangsters are also known to be corrupt, they bribe judges and therefore corrupt justice. They intimidate their opponents using different tactics; finally, they are professional liars, and always speak from the two sides of their mouth, you can never trust a gangster, neither can you trust a Nigerian politician, not with your life nor with your protection, because they think only of their own survival

Last Edited by: Updated: June 19, 2018


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