This is an extract from Naija No Dey Carry Last, a book by Nigeria’s ‘King of Satire’ Pius Adesanmi, first published here by Premium Times. The book was published in 2015, and may be bought in bookshops across Nigeria, or online.
Apologies for crashing this unsolicited letter into your tight schedule. I am directed by my conscience to write you urgently with regard to your recently disclosed tax returns for the 2009 fiscal year. You and your wife declared a joint annual income of USD 5.5 million out of which Uncle Sam sliced USD 1.8 million in taxes.
In essence the President of the United States and his wife jointly made USD 3.2 million in 2009! The bulk of that money is from book sales and not from your salary and perks of office.
Mr. President, this is truly frustrating and embarrassing. You have only just hosted Goodluck Jonathan, the Acting President of Nigeria. All those ministers, governors, and ‘miscellaneous aides’ you saw grinning from ear to ear behind him are known in Nigerian parlance as his “entourage”. Some of those fellas could make your annual income in just one ‘food for the boys’ contract in Abuja. A contract that will never be executed even after full payment has been made upfront.
Some of them could even spend your annual income on a Dubai vacation with a girlfriend – usually an undergraduate sourced for them by aides. Your annual income, Mr. President, is in the region of what an ordinary local government chairman could claim to have spent on “stationery, entertainment, and miscellaneous” in the first quarter of a given fiscal year in Nigeria. If you ever visit Nigeria and spend 24 hours, Mr. President, Aso Rock and the National Assembly could easily invent a supplementary budget way beyond your annual income to host you.
I have given you these background details so that the suggestion I am about to make would not sound outrageous to you. Mr. President, you and Mrs. Obama are wasting time in America. You are violating the message in this Yoruba proverb – omo to pa owo wale ni iya e nki kaabo (a mother reserves a special welcome only for the child who brings home sack loads of money)”. In the spirit of this proverb, I suggest you resign as President of the United States, an office that can only guarantee you less than $5 million a year, and move to Nigeria urgently.
A man of your stature should have no problem becoming a Nigerian citizen within 48 hours. If there are problems, authentic citizenship papers can be arranged very quickly once you land in Lagos. Ask people about Oluwole. It is election season in Nigeria and I think you should contest for chairmanship of a local government area.
Mr. President, I am suggesting local government chairmanship because it is the only safe haven left to make dollars in millions in Nigeria. You are a man whose modesty and simplicity are legendary. The money you would make at the local government level would be way beyond what you and Mrs. Obama have ever dreamt of, but you would still be able to maintain your sanity and return to America with enough money to merit that special welcome by Mrs. Obama’s mother.
To advise you to run for political office at the state or federal level in Nigeria is to expose you to pure madness. Unfortunately, the madness at those levels is viral and contagious. As governor, rep, senator, minister, or Aso Rock hang-around, we are talking of hundreds of millions, or even billions of loot able dollars.
Mr. President, I am not sure that your mental frame could take the idea of being suddenly plunged into the category of the less than 5% of 150 million Nigerians who could make five hundred million dollars in just one deal, have difficulty spending it, and discuss it like chicken change in the public sphere. That is what we are talking about once you venture beyond the local government level that I am recommending. Mind you, a great deal of the money you would make would be loads and loads of raw cash – transported endlessly in what we call Ghana-must-go bags by your aides. If you encounter a man called James Ibori, he will introduce you to the art of ferrying raw cash daily from Nigeria to Dubai – all that cash passing through Nigerian airports unchecked.
This is the sort of vicious, symbolic violence Nigerians have to cope with everyday. Violence is the knowledge that not a single Nigerian is able to confidently declare that we have one, just one, elected official anywhere in the country who isn’t stealing at the levels I have described. Violence is the kind of figures that are in the newspapers every day: billions and billions being looted in broad daylight by our friends in Abuja and the state capitals. That is terrible knowledge that erodes the sanity of every ordinary Nigerian bit by bit.
Mr. President, if you know that you are going to be able to deal with the quantity of cash available for loot as a governor, rep, senator or Aso Rock insider without losing your mind, then by all means contest for office at those levels. And please do not deceive yourself that you could go there and be principled. The truth of the matter is that every elective office in Nigeria is by nature rigged to turn you into an instant multi-millionaire in dollars.
If you rebel against the nature of your office, Mr. President, if you try to stay above the muck and rot, you will become a clear and present danger to all the Ali Babas around you. They will kill you. So, just go to Nigeria, spend four years jejely as a local government chairman, and return to America with the kind of money that will ensure that your two daughters will never have to work.