Bobrisky and Nigeria’s risky conditions

Bobrisky and Nigeria’s risky conditions

Wednesday, April 17, 2024 11:58 am

Dr Promise Adiele

Dr Promise Adiele

Promise Adiele

Recently the media was agog inundating the public with varied stories concerning the travails of Okuneye Idris Olarenwaju also known as Bobrisky, a young man who in simple terms, chose to be identified as a woman. Bobrisky’s transvestite inclinations provoked different reactions and multiple interpretive complexions betraying either genuine concerns or outright ignorance. While some people consider his attempt at gender transformation as an anathema in this part of the world, many other people consider his physical alteration as a personal way of expression which should basically be his business.

The first group consider Bobrisky’s growing popularity as a risk to his millions of fans who are primarily youths with impressionable minds. The second group are not so vocal, yet they maintain a stealth demeanor which subtly suggests their support for his chosen way of identity expression.

During the Elizabethan period in English literary tradition, disguise was one of the dominant thematic creative and artistic modes of engagements. English god of literature William Shakespeare copiously used disguise and gender transfer especially in his play As You Like It. However, Shakespeare’s use of disguise and gender transposition were temporarily for effects and dramatic purposes. These were eventually reconciled without promoting a culture of obscenity which could offend people’s moral canvas and ethical sensibilities. This essay is not about gender or Bobrisky’s decision to embrace the limelight through perverted, misleading manipulation of his outward appearance. It is not about the risk his actions pose in Nigeria and for Nigerians. It is about a different risk in Nigeria which Nigerians have unconsciously neglected in pursuit of ephemeral illusions of moral and immoral hue. Bobrisky may pose a negligible risk for Nigerians but the country is at a bigger risk, a risky condition which Ola Rotimi in his timeless play The Gods Are Not to Blame captures in these words “we have left our pot unwatched and our food now burns”.

For inexplicable reasons, Nigeria’s crime watchdog, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) suddenly decided to take a break from hounding internet fraudsters and embrace a new pastime which is to defend the physical abuse and mutilation of the naira. Their definition of ‘abuse’ finds immediate expression in the indiscriminate spraying of naira notes at social functions. However, their definition of ‘mutilation’ is supremely flawed which suggests a disposition to mischief. Mutilation means to disfigure, vandalize, deface, desecrate or even mangle an object. Will any normal person willfully do the above to his or her own currency? I doubt it. So let EFCC stay with ‘abuse’ and leave ‘mutilation’ alone.

Of course, many celebrities, politicians, musicians, and entertainers in Nigeria are guilty of ‘abusing’ the naira by spreading it during social functions. But the EFCC seems to be on a selective mission which is still undisclosed to Nigerians. Unfortunately for Bobrisky, he crossed the red line and with the agility of a cat, the EFCC pounced on him – pronto – he was arraigned and convicted almost immediately. It is commendable that EFCC and the Nigerian judiciary did their jobs in the Bobrisky situation with the speed of lightning. I have no problem with that. But one would expect them to deploy the same energy to other risky conditions in Nigeria beyond the risk posed by Bobrisky. The Nigeria judiciary is not so popular following their disreputable showing at the last general elections. EFCC has always been unpopular among Nigerians given their selective fight against misappropriation of public funds and other forms of financial criminality.

Many politicians and public officials in Nigerian have endangered the country putting it at a great risk by rapaciously mismanaging and embezzling public funds to the detriment of the populace. We may speak in terms of the inchoate term ‘immunity’ which is a deceptive expression to protect public officials who have unconscionably looted public treasury empty. It is indefensible that some former governors that do not have immunity but have been accused of embezzling humongous amounts of public funds still walk as free men. These governors are alleged to have practically put the lives of the citizens in their states at risk. Yet, after they left office, EFCC has not bestirred from their apparent slumber to give them the Bobrisky treatment.

Today, the EFCC has recovered various sums of money, N32.7 billion and $445,000 – large and unimaginable, from the Tinubu ministry of Humanitarian Affairs. Having recovered these funds from the ministry, it simply means that officials in the ministry are culpable and one expects the EFCC to arraign them immediately as they did Bobrisky and send them to jail without delay. To ‘recover’ simply means that the funds were stolen or diverted to other purposes as against the purpose for common good for which they were meant to be used. No arrest has been made, no official of the ministry has been arraigned, and the public has maintained docile silence while lapping up the Bobrisky condition as if the life of Nigerians depend on it. Why is no one talking about the risky situation which officials of the ministry of Humanitarian Affairs plunged Nigerians into by embezzling, diverting or hiding funds meant for public good? Why has EFCC not made any arrests?

Godwin Emefiele, the embattled former governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank is rightly facing the law for putting the lives of millions of Nigerians at risk during the badly conceived naira redesign policy. Emefiele should face the law and if he is found guilty, should be punished according to the provisions of the law. However, what has defied every iota of explanation and cognitive expertise is why Muhammadu Buhari, former president and Emefiele’s boss who contributed on a larger scale in putting the lives of Nigerians at risk, is walking a free man. It is indefensible by every strand of legal interpretation that Emefiele will face the law alone while his accomplices, majorly Buhari who gave the orders, enjoys his retirement in peace. EFCC should arrest Buhari immediately to answer questions about the naira redesign policy. Or to put it mildly, the crime fighting body should at least invite Buhari to make a statement and tell Nigerians all he knows for putting their lives at risk.

Many past presidents all over the world have gone to jail while some are in jail as we speak. Former South African president Jacob Zuma was sent to jail for simply refusing to testify before a panel that was investigating corruption while he was the president. Zuma is by far bigger than Buhari. If it happened to Zuma, it should happen to Buhari because he colluded with Emefiele to put Nigerians at risk, riskier than Bobrisky’s risk. That Buhari has not been invited by the EFCC to answer questions about the naira redesign policy and management of multiple sums of money recovered from the late dictator Sanni Abacha under his watch is indicative of a faulty system sustained by party camaraderie and cronyism. As long as these partial execution of responsibilities on the part of EFCC exists and are obvious to Nigerians, EFCC lacks the moral authority to investigate anyone for any form of financial infraction. EFCC must be seen to be impartial and committed to their jobs of fighting financial crime that put people at risk in the country.

Beyond the EFCC and their lopsided, skewed execution of duties, beyond Bobrisky and naira abuse, Nigerians have a duty to arise and interrogate many other issues that have inevitably jeopardized their existence, putting their lives at risk, riskier than Bobrisky. It confounds every scintilla of knowledge that Nigerians, millions of them educated, would immerse themselves in gossip and rumours about inconsequential issues while the real issues about their lives and future are ignored. Why are Nigerians not talking about the Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway project which would cost a whopping sum of N4 billion per kilometer or N15 trillion overall? What was the process of awarding the contract? Did it go through any official framework or bidding? Who got the contract and what is his relationship with Mr Bola Tinubu? These issues should concern Nigerians because the amount of money involved will put their lives at risk if it eventually finds its way to private pockets.
There are reports that after Bola Tinubu scrapped the oil subsidy, he is secretly paying the sum of N600 billion every week on the same subsidy, yet petrol still sells at N620 per liter. Something is definitely wrong and Nigerians should give these issues the same energy they gave the Bobrisky issue.

Nigerians must ask the federal government how much they have saved from the oil subsidy since last year when it was removed. Why did the federal government increase electricity tariff when there is no adequate electricity across the country? Nigerians must ask these questions because the continued absence of electricity puts the lives of millions of Nigerians at risk bigger than Bobrisky. Last year, the CEO of Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) Sanusi Garba said that Nigeria will pay N600 billion every month as electricity subsidy. Yet the government recently increased tariff on electricity mystifying the whole scheme with technical jargon like bands A and B.

Indeed, Nigerians should rise with one voice, the way they engage on social media over trivial issues, and ask important questions about issues that constitute imminent risks to their collective existence. That is the way of the modern world. If these questions are not asked and consistently too, if these issues are swept under the carpet, it means that Nigeria’s risky conditions can snowball into a fatalistic realm where the demography of victims will extend to everyone including those who think they are protected by wealth and the law. EFCC has a duty to perform. Nigerians, the common people, also have a duty to perform. Risky conditions in Nigeria deserve a collective approach.

*Promise Adiele PhD
Mountain Top University
[email protected]
X: @drpee4


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