Monday 15 March 2010

Nigeria: General T. Y. Danjuma - a very influential Nigerian

Dished out willy-nilly
Some three weeks ago a very influential Nigerian revealed an interesting power dynamic in how the resources of Nigeria were profligately handed out without accountability or scrutiny.
This man was endowing $100 million to a foundation and revealed how he made $500 million in profit [1] from the allocation of an oil block tossed to him by the then Head of State, General Sani Abacha [2].
An oil block in the general sense is a prospect that requires surveys and analysis that might yield the possibility of oil and gas which can be exploited to its full potential for great profit.
Oil for money, gas for nought
Where there is the discovery of oil, the owner of the oil block might well have hit the jackpot, unfortunately, the dearth of imagination and professional ability has also left oil blocks abandoned if gas was discovered because the infrastructure in Nigeria has not been developed sufficiently to profit from gas exploration through to the market.
General Theophilus Danjuma (rtd.) [3] was Chief of Army Staff in the 70s and the Minister of Defence between 1999 and 2003, but some 12 years ago he was influential enough to profit from the generosity of being tossed an oil block.
If he not being in government were able to get a piece of Nigeria’s resources without recourse to some due procedure by the big chief under whom power and authority is exerted for the Nigerian entire beyond any accountability, one can only wonder what those in power did and what everyone who could peddle influence could get in oil blocks and more.
A really lucky chap
The oil block that General Danjuma got was sold off on its potential for $1 billion and after paying off his dues, taxes and other matters he was left with $500 million profit that he could not find much to do with.
Many questions arise from this revelation of truth as to how Nigeria’s great fortunes and potential has been squandered off for patronage and the maintenance of power along with the quest for power by others who might want to have access to the means of doling out these resources for unspeakable amounts of wealth and amazing influence. [4]
Retired at 41
General Danjuma is 72, he had risen to the highest ranks in the army allowing him to retire at 41 – I would not suggest that he did not attain this position by merit and dint of hard work but it is rather exceptional that anyone anywhere in the world in whatever profession can retire at 41.
After retirement, he apparently did not sink into the background per se, he engaged in business activities that probably bought him some grief that he was readily able to have the sop of an oil block tossed to him by a Nigerian leader though not in our name.
It would be nice that some oil block were awarded for meritorious services to Nigeria as a whole, but no, this was all for personal enrichment at the expense of Nigerians, banditry attempting to gain respectability and even succeeding in Nigeria.
Half a billion with no sense
This oil block was award according to the time frame in 1998 and it was held on to for 10 years and sold in 2008 having not yet been exploited but having the potential persuading some other company to shell out $1 billion for it.
General Danjuma, a not so notable businessman in Africa somehow acquires liabilities totalling half a billion dollars – you wonder how he could have been under the radar for so long with no one realising he was a man of such considerable means.
Then with $500 billion in hand, this is cash in the bank, not assets as other businessmen are usually valued, he finds himself in a Midas dilemma; all this money and no sense of what to do with it – this again exemplifies the Nigerian story, so many resources, so much money, maybe so much talent but no wherewithal to do something wonderful and beneficial to the nation that supplied the means to be raped and plundered with impunity.
What oil does to Nigerian politics
Now, General Danjuma, revealed this as a microcosm of how Nigerian resources have been expended as well as the underlying psyche of why there is a quest for power by many interests that might make a grab for that power if they are not kept comfortable by sharing that largesse in a circle of the corrupt palliation of rivals and power bases.
There is no telling that this plunder continues under the stewardship of whoever is leader of the country even if it seems to be more transparent than during the military era, but a good deal of the people who claim to be leaders were once in the military, at least 3 of them have run for presidential office with one having ruled for 2 terms.
With this in the public domain, it is no wonder that there is unrest in the Niger Delta when people see the rich pickings that people with influence can take at the expense of the indigenes who suffer in squalor and penury.
It goes without saying that, if a non-player like General Danjuma could have access to an oil block and make so much money, many others would have made much more along with the usurpation that might have occurred exploiting the more viable oil blocks – the mind-boggling figures of over hundreds of billions made from oil but lost in the system cannot be far from the truth.
Prescription for good health to Nigeria too
Lest I forget, though I can no more find the source, it was General Danjuma who having fallen ill a few years ago got a prescription from his doctor to spend two weeks of recuperation in the French Riviera – now, that is a prescription I would want to swallow till I am overdosed; on the Nigerian people’s money to boot.
General Danjuma, is back in a position of great influence [5] advising the Acting President just because every Nigerian leader still has to have some influential retired general in the background to ward off other pretenders – despite this blot on General Danjuma’s seemingly questionable record, in all honesty, he is perhaps the most acceptable of all the other generals the Acting President had to choose from.
General Danjuma, was launching an endowment of $100 million to his foundation established to tackle health issues that might hopefully allow him and our comatose President to seek treatment in the country, one wonders if this is his purgatory presaging absolution.
He is left with $400 million that he could disburse to other worthy Nigerian causes and maybe persuade other looters of our resources to put something back into Nigeria or allow his children to squabble and destroy themselves fighting to be sole inheritors of the loot – such is the tragedy of power and money in Nigeria.
[4] The Punch:: How Nigeria lost billions of naira to discretionary – Google advisory – harmful website / Comment - Observer: Hu and cry over Chinese oil deals – Comment in 2006 talking about the prospect of General Danjuma making $1 billion from the oil block he was gifted by General Sani Abacha.
The Nigerian tale of two oil blocks – Some additional background to how oil blocks were retained or usurped depending on who was wielding power and influence.
[5] Danjuma to Jonathan: Act now, time is short – After his appointment as chairman of the Presidential Advisory Council.

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