Azu Ishiekwene, here talks extensively about the recent discovery of several million dollars stashed away in a house by Andrew Yakubu caused serious uproar across Nigeria.
The recovered money
One of the most frequently asked questions this week is, which Andrew? There was once an Andrew in the first coming of President Muhammadu Buhari who popularised that name.
That Andrew was a metaphor for the millions of frustrated young people who wanted to “check out” for greener pastures because politicians had wrecked the country and robbed it blind.
As part of General Buhari’s war against indiscipline at the time, there was a radio jingle appealing to Andrew and his generation to stay and trust in the promise of a better future. The pop song, “Nigeria Go Survive” by Veno Marioghae, drew heavily on the Andrew metaphor.
That was not the Andrew in the news this week. If there was any other similarity apart from the name, it could only be that, by some grotesque twist of fate, the Andrew of old had changed into a monstrosity worse than the politicians whose corrupt and ugly ways brought despair and the urge to escape.
The Andrew-in-the-news is more like the cousin of Pahom, the tragically fictional character in Leo Tolstoy’s classic, “How Much Land Does A Man Need?”
Pahom was the man who, after buying forty acres of land, went on to buy 125 acres; and still not satisfied, he craved to buy 1,300 acres for just one thousand rubles.
As he was about to clinch the deal, a tradesman tells him about the Bashkirs, a family from which one could buy an acre of land for less than a penny just by being nice to the chiefs.
Pahom grabs the chance and strikes a deal with the Bashkirs. He could have all the land he could walk around for just one thousand rubles. Just one condition: if he does not return to the spot from where he set out on the same day, he would lose his deposit.
He set out. The further he went, the more good land he saw and the deeper his craving to cover more ground. He exhausted himself trying to make the circuit and dropped dead.
His servants picked him up and dug his grave with the spade he had been using to mark the land.
Six feet from his head to his heels was all he needed.
Let’s be clear. The Andrew-in-the-news, Andrew Yakubu, is still an innocent man in the eyes of the law. He’ll remain so until a competent court makes a judgment.
But nothing in the news, at the time of this writing, could help make sense of how Andrew Yakubu came by $9.8 million and £74,000 neatly stored in his improvised cash warehouse, once his family's home.
It could well be that he was keeping the bills of crisp foreign currencies in safe storage for the country against the onslaught of Boko Haram, the sort of thing Al-Mustapha told us that Abacha did with the billions of dollars he stashed away in overseas havens.
Or maybe Andrew Yakubu, a native of Southern Kaduna, had foreseen the mayhem that would occur today and was frontloading rehabilitation funds for his community.
What a credible source told me tends to corroborate Yakubu’s claim that the money was a gift, but it was a most curious gift indeed.
Between 2012 and 2014 when Yakubu was the GMD, there was a practice among four Nigerian banks of playing games with deposits in their care managed by NNPC for the country.
The banks routinely played fast-and-loose with public funds deposited by ministries, government departments and agencies, but the one with the NNPC took the barrel.
According to the source, dividends from the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) and proceeds from crude oil sales in NNPC’s own accounts with the banks were well over N1trillion at the time.
The deal between the banks and at least three top people in NNPC – the GMD and two others, including the minister – was for a brokerage of two percent yearly on the average monthly float/balance in the accounts.
It was paid in cash monthly, often converted to foreign currency and shared among the top three. The source estimated that to retain the deposits, the banks were paying out about N2billion monthly and that continued for at least two years.
It was precisely the type of gift that drove the Andrew of old mad; the type of greed that made Pahom crave the land he did not need. But the Andrew-in-the-news had more than enough room for it.
How much land does a man need?
I’m told that Andrew Yakubu was a good guy, a regular Joe who grew up amidst the grinding poverty in Sabon Tasha, the Kaduna equivalent of Ajegunle, a Lagos slum. He struggled through school and joined the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation as a youth corps member.
Thirty years ago when Aret Adams was group managing director of NNPC and Andrew Yakubu was just an officer in one of the refineries, he won the GMD’s Award. Ten years later, he again won the presidential award by the Nigerian Society for Petroleum Engineers.
It was only a matter of time before he would get to the top of his career. One rung at a time, he finally reached the peak in July 2012 when he was appointed GMD.
The GMD of NNPC is not the mate of the managing director next door. His salaries and allowances are in multiple digits. And if you are Andrew Yakubu, a man who rose through the system, you knew just what to do not only to make the system pay but to make it pay handsomely.
So, why did Andrew Yakubu have to stash away nearly $11m in a family house, in a community which remains as wretchedly poor today as it was when he was growing up, if not worse now?
We’re told he said it was a gift. We have an idea where the “gift” came from, but even if he was born to receive, this was one gift he did not need.
From BudgiT’s infographics, the money, approximately N3.03billion (at the official rate N308/$), could have, among other things, constructed a 700mw hydropower project, constructed an off-grid renewable solar panel to light up his community and environs or reconstructed a major highway.
As we return to the crime scene, trying to get to the bottom of just one in nearly a dozen cases of obscene thefts exposed recently, we must ask the question, what next?
Except we deal - root and branch - with this monstrosity, our servants, like those of Pahom, may just be waiting at the door, ready to use the same spade that feed our greed to dig our six feet.
Ishiekwene is the MD/Editor-In-Chief of The Interview magazine and board member of the Paris-based Global Editors Network.