How to become an advocate of the masses in Nigeria By Kaanayo Nwachukwu

President Olusegun Obasanjo once referred to Nigeria as a wonderland. Although almost everything the retired general has ever uttered can be taken with a pinch of salt, he was bang on the money with this remark.
Obasanjo knows all too well that Nigeria is not just a place where some people can wake up in the morning without a dime in their pockets before heading out, and only to come back with a truckload of money in the evening, just like that, no questions asked.He’s not unaware it’s also a country some of whose citizens cash in on opportunities, good or bad, to launch a career in civil rights advocacy.The Ota farmer himself, after all, is a master in this art.
Having been jailed in 1995 by late dictator Gen. Sani   Abacha on charges of plotting a military coup, Obasanjo declared himself a born again Christian on his release in 1998,  vowing to devote the rest of his life working to improve the lot of Nigeria’s poor masses. With the promise of a better future etched on their minds, Nigerians of all social strata cast their ballots en mass for Obasanjo in 1999, returning him back to the office he had voluntarily relinquished 20 years earlier as a military dictator.
Although his eight-year administration earned Nigeria more money from oil exportation than those of some of his predecessors stacked together, Obasanjo did not make good on his words to the Nigerian poor. Today, Obasanjo is out of power. Goodluck Jonathan is in. Again, Obasanjo has become a social critic, saying he’s advocating for better life standards for the Nigerian poor.In November 2012, in Dakar, Senegal, Obasanjo stated he was fearful Nigeria would witness a revolution in no distant time, if the government didn’t embark on measures to check growing youth unemployment and poverty.
Obasanjo is one of many Nigerians who remember the plight of the masses only when they are no longer close to the corridors of power or have fallen out of favour with the powers-that-be. Former Federal Capital Territory Minister Nasir el-Rufai is on the same list as the man who made him minister.
Shortly before the 2011 presidential election in Nigeria got into full swing, el-Rufai publicly stated that former military Head of State, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, was “unelectable,” wondering if Buhari’s failure to do his best for Nigeria when he had the chance qualified him for a return to office as a civilian president. “Our people deserve better,” el-Rufai said.
Many people interpreted el-Rufai’s comment to mean warming himself into the heart of President Goodluck Jonathan in anticipation for a political appointment in his administration. But when it became less and less likely that he was going to be considered for an appointment in Jonathan’s Administration, el-Rufai suddenly became a political cum human rights activist, criticizing the president and his policies at the slightest opportunity, using the social media platforms.
As presidential aide and, later, minister, el-Rufai’s colleague, Femi Fani-Kayode, publicly cursed anyone who counseled his boss, President Obasanjo, wisely. One of those who received vituperation from Fani-Kayode was none other than internationally renowned author and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka.  Also, like el-Rufai, when Goodluck Jonathan became Nigeria’s president, Fani-Kayode began making comments that were construed, by many, as showing his support for the president, with the hope of getting a ministerial appointment from him. It dawned on him he wasn’t going to get any political appointment from Jonathan when he was dragged to court for alleged misappropriation of public funds running into hundreds of millions of naira. So, Fani-Kayode became a human rights activist, employing the Internet to distort and obfuscate the realities of the Jonathan Administration and, like his former boss, saying he’s fighting for a better life for the Nigerian masses.
It’s not only former public office holders in Nigeria who turn to advocacy of one cause oranother in their quest for reinventing themselves, in the hope that the people would forget their past. In November 2007, Emeka Ugwuonye, a University of Benin-trained lawyer, based in Maryland, brazenly stole $1.55 million belonging to the Embassy of Nigeria in Washington, D.C. The embassy took him to court to recover the money. After five years of legal tussles, on April 23, this year, Judge Barbara Jacobs Rothstein, district judge for the Western District of Washington, ruled in favour of Nigeria, ordering Ugwuonye to refund to the embassy the money he stole from the Nigerian government. He was also ordered to pay Nigeria damages.
From the beginning of the case to its very end, Ugwuonye resorted to harassing, threatening, intimidating and blackmailing or character-assassinating anyone who dared to ask questions regarding this act of illegality. He even sued some Nigerian citizens and journalists for digging deeper into the matter. Ugwuonye, however, lost all of the cases.
Following a series of professional misconduct, especially regarding the mishandling of clients’ fees, Ugwuonye was suspended by the Attorney Grievances Commission and was subsequently disbarred from practicing law in the United States.
Ugwuonye is currently facing two criminal charges in Nigeria pertaining to the theft of the embassy’s money and the alleged misappropriation of $94,948 belonging to Sola Adeyo, a former client of his.
Since his legal woes began, Ugwuonye has taken to social media venues to complain about sundry problems facing Nigeria and now ascribes to himself as an advocate of the masses.
There are more of these so-called advocates and activists – who are more interested in riding to success on the back of the people than give a hoot about them– where these ones come from.
The big question is: At what point do the masses begin to understand their modus operandi, with a view to holding them accountable for their deeds, so they don’t continue to take undue advantage of their (the masses) unfortunate or unfavourable situation?

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