It was great relief that the empress of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) appeared before the House ad-hoc committee probing the capital market. With that, the debate on whether the big madam would honour the invitation or not came to an abrupt end. That she submitted herself to the rule of law was a great piece of news, especially in a country where, a few years ago, no one could have even whispered that a woman who commanded omnipotent power should be compelled to appear before a mere House committee.
But that she appeared before the House ad-hoc committee is one thing; it's another having her tell the truth about the unprecedented fraud that took place in the stock exchange under her watch, during the decade-long period the NSE became her private fiefdom. But Mrs. Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke, in her usual style of talking down on constituted authorities, addressed members of the House ad-hoc committee as a school headmistress addressing her pupils. No wonder in her comedy-like testimony, she left no one in doubt she was literally in charge of the entire hearing. So obedient were House members turned pupils who beyond listening to her long stories - most of which had nothing to do with the probe itself - only interrupted her with loud laughter. Even one member went as far as complimenting her for competing with Patrick Obahiagbon as Nigeria's wordsmith.
This time, Harvard University became the new casualty of Okereke-Onyiuke's usual name-dropping. Unlike "Toronto University" in 1999, she this time round went as far as telling the watching world that while some bragged about going to Harvard University just to study, she had been so quiet not to let anyone know she was a world-respected pro-bono professor (teaching free of charge) at the same Harvard University, not to mention bragging about it publicly. That she made such colossal claims while the world watched without any member of the probe committee demanding further explanations, including the course and the year she taught at Harvard, showed that even the House members had no reason to take her seriously. The truth is that Harvard University is used to shameless claims like hers. It also knows that, should the university go after her, she could smartly shift her claims of having taught at Harvard University in the US to mean the "Oluwale Harvard University" located in Idumota, Lagos.
Watching the commissioners' testimony and seeing how sharpened their tongue-like swords aimed cruel words like arrows, one shouldn't be in doubt that they're out to publicly disgrace their boss. But should that have been the best way to settle boardroom disagreements? No doubt, if House members could side the empress, why should the SEC commissioners, people who, a few years back, were handpicked by the same empress herself? Or shouldn't they not have spoken against someone who not only fired their empress from office but also who, since arriving in 2010, has continued to make office corruption difficult?
Little wonder the commissioners lied under oath, including telling the world that they never participated in any management meetings with the DG, as well as being involved in "Project 50" (the celebration of the country's 50th anniversary of its capital market), notwithstanding they were seen all over the place during that golden celebration. Why should the commissioners who illegally leaked internal memos to the Hembe-led probe committee not have claimed never to have participated in management meetings?
If the 12 apostles appointed by Jesus Christ himself could testify against him when he was about to be crucified, one wonders why these angry commissioners shouldn't do the bidding of the empress, the woman who, during her reign days, was virtually in charge of appointing and firing even SEC DGs and commissioners? It would have been quite unusual for protégés to not defend their godmother, especially when the protégés' are fast nearing the end of their tenures.
The only piece of good news is that, notwithstanding all the surprising ambushes, Ms. Arunma Oteh not only has survived, she has also remained the winner in this ferocious battle to disgrace her out of office for boldly standing on the way of looters. In fact, not only has she played with the lion's tail without the lion eating her alive, she has single-handedly shown Nigerians that, rather than fear these vampires, it is fear itself we should fear. In giving it to them, she has also shown us that there's no danger in standing up and saying "enough is enough".
That she has not been swallowed alive or rounded up testifies to the fact that these so-called "gods of money" are more vulnerable than we could imagine. And that notwithstanding their bloodcurdling, brains-scrapping, and soul-lighting from earth to hell threats, unbelievably, one determined woman could easily dismiss them and their threats as merely empty and baseless ones.
In other words, having successfully outflanked, outfoxed, and outclassed them in their own game, rather than becoming the casualty, it's these same threat-peddlers who're increasingly caught in their own trap, and who're increasingly ending up in EFCC net. And that Mr. Herman Hembe, the errand boy questioning her competence is already in EFCC net with his deputy is a testimony that more of people like him will soon fall.
Thanks to her perseverance, her fearlessness, her iron-cast patriotism, our God-sent woman-warrior (like Hua Mulan, ancient Chinese greatest woman-warrior), she has for the first time unfrozen our public servants from their fears. Not only that she has touched the untouchables without heavens falling, but also the status quo is fast melting away like a house of ice. That the world has not come to an end shows that it requires one determined person to rouse the revolutionary blood in an ever-frightened people. May the God of millions of dispossessed Nigerians be on her side the same way He was on the side of David to defeat Goliath.
- Professor Ijora-Benson writes from Dallas TX.