First off, welcome to the new arrangement. Your columnist has not changed. The forum has not changed, but COVID has pushed us here and I hope we will enjoy the usual sizzling analysis and opinion every Tuesday.
If this makes you feel better as a Nigerian, I have good news. They have found grand larceny in Canada – again.
Canadian politicians won’t let Nigeria enjoy its acknowledged presidency of the executive sleaze train.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Finance Minister Bill Morneau are battling accusations of corruption Canadiana.
Till last Thursday, it would have seemed to a guest holding a watching brief that Canada’s handsome prime minister was on his way out of office.
Trouble was over a $911 million Canada Student Service Grant, CSSG announced by the Trudeau government.
It was to pay for student internships aimed at integrating them to the working environment.
The contract for that programme was awarded to a group known as the WE Charity run by two brothers – Mark and Craig Kielburgers.
The award process and close ties between top members of the executive made the programme hit bumps and potholes before stalling on its road to implementation.
The story is that both PM Trudeau and Bill Morneau, his Finance Minister in the Liberal government have had long relationships with the WE Charity.
They appeared in WE public events even as members of their families either work with or have benefitted from its sponsored events in the past.
The charity denies special ties with the Liberal government. It claims to be friendly with all parties and people. That is not how the public sees it.
Canadian conflict of interest rules would have probably disqualified WE from contesting for that chunk of government pie.
PM Trudeau and his minister ought to have recused themselves from all procedures leading to the award decision because of their close ties with it. They did not.
A Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) investigation revealed that the PM’s mother and brother had benefitted financially from speaking engagements with the WE Charity.
The PM’s wife got favours that he says were cleared by Canada’s Ethics Commissioner. As for Morneau, the charity paid for an expenses trip to Ecuador in 2017.
At least one of his daughters works for the organisation. Both men have appeared before a parliamentary committee looking into breach of ethics.
Finance Minister Morneau has reimbursed the $41,000 coverage for the Ecuador trip.
He considers it a short memory lapse on his part. Both men sat at meetings where the decision was made to award the grant administration to WE.
Both ought to know that they should not because it would lead to Canadians believing that closeness influenced the choice of the charity as project administrator. Both men agreed that they fouled the requirement recusing them from taking the decision.
By Nigerian standards, this is, as Macleans described, a foofaraw. It has not stopped the calls for Morneau to go first while they determine the fate of his boss, the prime minister.
Before you rush to show Muhammadu Buhari that corruption is a global thing, the scandal was unveiled by the CBC; the Canadian equivalent of Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, and Radio Nigeria.
This has raised the mercury on the Canadian sleaze-o-meter. Canadians constantly talk about corruption in their country. They just won’t let those of us weighed down by sleaze to moan in peace.
Morneau was quick to issue a cheque of $41,000 reimbursing his Ecuador trip. But some Canadians are still baying for his blood. Canadians are excellent bookkeepers.
They have to be, as the Canadian Revenue Service does not take kindly to those who keep sloppy books.
They would bring the fire of hell down on anyone cooking the books or suffering from induced financial amnesia.
A few of my Nigerian-Canadian friends have been taunting me to dare insult my hosts.
It is a fact that in Nigeria, a giant construction company rewards contractual favours by building palatial mansions for serving ministers and retired heads of state and their ministers.
It is as common as brown envelope influences local press coverage. Former executives retire as proprietors of private universities and heads of sleaze-chip companies after deliberately killing public competition to ensure that theirs thrive.
One diminutive bulldozer of a minister fond of revoking the certificate of occupancy, (C of O) of lands was eventually found to have allocated choice lands to his infant as well as many of his bosom friends.
When confronted, he told his persecutors to award them to their enemies when they become ministers. He is a member of the association of privileged criminals now fighting corruption. In Nigeria, abuse of privilege is not regarded as corruption.
The Nigerian deliberately refuses to recall how a serving president’s daughter was granted access to a presidential jet for her school photography project.
In response to criticisms, her mother tweeted the picture of her daughter chillaxing on the plane so that her enemies could go and hang. One former first son took off in one such airplane in the past, for a frolic. He crashed it and was given a hero’s burial.
Wherever the Nigerian president goes, the presidential jet parks as a symbol of presence, even for an audiologist’s appointment. President Buhari has parked it on a Heathrow tarmac for over 100 days at public expense.
Before him, Umaru Yar’adua enjoyed a similar privilege. A few people would grumble and howl, but they can’t stop presidential privileges.
If an employer of labour fails to hire a relative or child of the president or governor, who would they hire? Children of party chiefs know that the best chunk of the employment pie is reserved for them only. We have witnessed our lawmakers get paid huge sums for contracts not executed.
When you carry a privileged Nigerian passport, do not jump into conclusion with Canadians discussing corruption. No Nigerian should call corruption, what Canadians call corruption.
The parameters are galaxies apart. Canada’s corruption makes the roads motorable 24/7. It makes the water pipes run. It runs effective health care delivery system.
It provides security for the high and low. It provides electricity that doesn’t blink. It delivers jobs or pays allowances to the jobless and the infirmed. A stranger has to love such corruption.
Little wonder this foofaraw only dipped PM’s ratings by five points. Trudeau was on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic. He closed the country down, held constant briefings; announced palliatives to cushion the effect of the pandemic; loans and grants to businesses and employers.
The Trudeau administration has basically pulled the Canadian economy back from COVID-19-induced recession. Over half of those who lost their jobs have been rehired. The Canadian economy was shaken but not flustered by the pandemic.
The programme under scrutiny has been suspended. Both accused have apologised for their infraction with the PM becoming the fifth Canadian prime minister to appear before a parliamentary committee probing the chief executive.
The CBC continues to do its lawful job of putting the executive’s feet to the fire without repercussions. No CBC reporter has been banned from covering 24 Sussex Street or Parliament Hill. Nobody in NTA or FRCN would permit an inquest against a sitting Nigerian government.
I am not asking Nigerian-Canadians to pretend that their government is not ‘corrupt’. I am simply asking them not to involve me.
I am too busy devouring Nigeria’s full course of dishonesty to have stamina for a dessert of supposed Canadian sleaze.
As a Nigerian living in Canada, I look forward to the day, that Nigerians would call corruption what Canadians call corruption.