By Tunde Asaju
If like me you were used to reading about the bad economic situation in Zimbabwe, you might be forgiven for thinking that Zimbabweans are dropping dead like the animals in Matobo National Park. Apparently, it’s all fake news. Zimbabwe is liquid. Uncle Bob may sometimes snooze at public functions, or stumble even with two extra hands to get to a microphone; but once there he delivers. This is why some mavericks have created inventive memes for him on every subject under the African sun.
Records show he leads the pack in acquired degrees, having eight degrees in his quiver from law to administration and science. This perhaps is why his wife, Grace was encouraged to break a record of her own – earning her PhD just two months after enrolment.
Last week, Lady Grace, proved all the doomsday reporters wrong by suing a jeweller who played her 419 by delivering a gold ring meant for her 20th wedding anniversary celebration, instead of the $1.35 million diamond ring she ordered for the occasion. Jamal Joseph Ahmed, the Lebanese businessman offered Mrs Mugabe a $30,000 gold ring as substitute.
Now, who says Zimbabwe is poor? Auntie Grace is a modest First Lady. She could have flown to Freetown and seized gone to Sierra Leone, rough-handle Pastor Emmanuel Momoh and seized that 709 karats he’s hoarding. She recently went to South Africa and beat up a lady, Gabriella Engels before riding a diplomatic immunity plane back to Harare.
For one, don’t believe fake news; and two, appearances can be deceiving. Look at Madam Globe, aka Diezani Madueke – even while ravaged by cancer she is still a beautiful lady. Married to a one-time chief of naval staff, she had both Naija, American and British education. She became the first female OPEC secretary-general, first executive director of the almighty Shell Petroleum. She absolutely lacked nothing but of late Ibrahim Magu has been putting liens on her millions and assets at home and abroad. He swears her wealth was acquired through gratification. If you believe that, again appearance can be deceiving.
By now we all know that if Government House could transform a khaki-wearing Adams Oshiomole into a suit-wearing husband of a foreign beauty queen; it could also make ordinary men mad. While Sai Baba’s first term is as wobbly as a two-footed fire pot, debtor-governors are falling over each other for the position of 2019 Campaign Director.
On the top pile is my own governor, debtor Yahaya Bello. If I was Mrs. Bello, I would be wary of my husband’s obsession with the President’s second term knowing that he is the father of many nubile damsels. But Mrs Bello could not pay my consultancy fees. When Sai Baba returned from medicationing in London, not even the chairman of Daura local government declared a public holiday, but Bello sent home Kogi workers for a whole day. He never tires to convince us to give Buhari a second chance. Lately another insolvent governor, Samuel Ortom has joined the plea.
For celebrated debtors, these guys are snazzy dressers. The crease on Bello’s kaftan could slice through a wedding cake while Ortom’s cap is a threat to banga lovers. Ironically, Sai Baba had these two Tartuffes in mind when he wondered how debtor-governors slept without valium. Kogi and Benue top the pile of states whose workers are dying for non-payment of wages in spite of several financial bailouts. Bello is master of duplicity, he gets his lieutenants to compile the list of ‘social-media influencers’ in the state civil service. When they find them, they pay them first. That way, coupled with his recent hosting of online publishers, he escapes scathing criticism. Ortom has not fared better.
They are not the only smiley debtors who dress to kill, are grossly overfed, stupendously overpaid but grossly underperforming while their workers and pensioners literally drop dead. On his recent visit to London, Vice President Yemi Osibajo travelled with some of them. They include Constituted Authority Isiaka Ajimobi of Oyo State, whose blue suit contrasts with the endemic poverty reflected on Ibadan roofs and on the faces of its inhabitants. They’re out to woo agric investors. If you ask Abubakar Yari why he spends Zamfara workers’ salary gallivanting all over the place, he’s likely to attribute that to the zina in Gusau.
Swallowed by debt, these governors have good sides. Take Nyesom Wike for example, for over a week now, he has turned Madrid into Port Harcourt Madrid, signing agreements and MOUs. Debtor Rochas Okorocha couldn’t find money to pay salaries, but he’d borrow to erect an effigy in honour of his fantastically corrupt mentor, Jacob Zuma. Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State has not paid salaries, but he was ‘generous’ to some raggedly-beggarly teachers he met at a local school with N300,000. Akwa Ibom’s Emmanuel Udom recently ‘donated’ $50,000 to Naija’s Super Eagles. All these are unbudgeted state funds but it gets them press mileage. With that mileage, you can never convince any of their vuvuzelas that these are non-performing drones. While Yari and his debtor-mates have thankfully been cut off foreign loans, they want to take bonds to finance their profligacy. Who says these debtors are not performing?