THURSDAY Column with Mohammed Adamu
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Some of my readers had wondered why I did not write on ‘Tinubu’s bullion vans’. They said that there was no better proof that I am selectively biased in favor of the establishment than that I saw nothing wrong in two bullion vans entering the house of the ruling party’s Leader on the eve of a presidential election. In actual fact, I will love to write on every breaking issue; but no ‘weekly’ columnist can afford to write on every issue. Truth is, some issues lose currency no sooner than they break and others are antiquated by the sudden outbreak of other more beguiling issues. It is the right of an opinion columnist to choose what issues to pour his opinion on what issues painfully or –even if gladly- to allow pass by.
And just as he should not be obligated to write on every breaking issue, a columnist should not be bound to account for why he chooses the issues that he writes about. To impute motive to his choice of issues is to impose on him, by default, a duty to have to do so neither willfully nor freely. I think that it should be sufficient that by choosing a particular issue to opinionate about, a columnist has willfully presented himself to be judged by his readers and they should do so strictly within that limit. Meaning that although his readers have no right to judge his neglect of certain issues, they have a right to judge how he treats the issues that he has willfully chosen to write about. Need I say that columnists are like road officials on ‘stop-and-search’. They will love to stop and search every car, but can they? And although they must always have their eyes as much on sleek limousines as on raggedy jalopies, yet they must be given the benefit of the doubt as they randomly stop vehicles to search.
That writers have a duty to comfort the afflicted does not mean that they have the liberty to afflict the comfortable. And so if the objective of the stop-and-search is to prove roadworthiness, road officials are likely to stop a couple of jalopies more than they will do sleek limousines. And where the stop-and-search is to recover stolen cars and to nab carjackers, road officials will be justified to flag down more expensive cars than they’ll do cheap ones. But the question is why should I feel guilty not writing about Tinubu’s Lagos ‘bullion vans’ when I did not also write about Atiku’s ‘truck-loads’ of dollars in Portharcourt? Yet the irony of it is that it was those who had openly celebrated Atiku’s perfidy in Portharcourt, that still arrogated the right to question a columnist’s dignified ‘silence’ over the presence of bullion vans in the house of a man reputed, himself, to be a billionaire. A maxim of law posits: ‘alegari non debut, quod probatum non relevate’; meaning that ‘what is not relevant when proved, need not be alleged in the first place. Or what does it matter if you prove that two bullion vans were seen entering the house of a billionaire? It will be as ridiculous as wondering why a bullion van should be seen entering a bank.
If you had issues with Tinubu being a billionaire, that I can understand. Meaning that the debate should’ve been about why and how was Tinubu a billionaire and not about why two bullion vans should be seen in his house; which should not necessarily have been proof enough that he lived above his means, because we had to know his means first and then what the two vans contained, to know if they were above his means. But knowing, ab initio –and especially from the claim of his detractors- that Tinubu was a multi-billionaire himself, with multiple ‘lucrative’ sources of income, it makes no sense to me that we should wonder why two bullion vans were seen entering his house. Or if you have issues with bullion vans entering Tinubu’s house on the eve of a presidential election, that too I can understand. In which case your concern should’ve been that the ‘money’ might be used to breach the Electoral Act’s campaign-spending rules and not that you should be outraged you have stumbled on proof that Tinubu might be living beyond his means. Abi?
If we are not appalled by individuals owning banks why should we be about individual businessmen using bullion vans? Bullion vans cannot be any more monied that the banks from which they draw their content. We do not presume that the owners of the money they carry are thieves. Rather we give them the benefit of the doubt it is theirs since we know that they are in the business of making and spending money. Why should I for example, be flabbergasted that two bullion vans were seen entering Atiku’s house in Jada, when I have always known that Atiku is wealthy enough to have a convoy of bullion vans stretched from Jada to Ota without a significant gaping hole made in the reservoir from whence they came? And since it is not unlawful for private citizens to use bullion vans to convey money or other securities, maybe we should interrogate the quantum of money that may have been contained in ‘Tinubu’s vans’ to see whether or not it is true his enemies may have found cogent reason that the man lives above his means.
GOOGLE answers the question: ‘how much money can a ‘standard-issue armored truck’ car (or bullion van) carry?’ The inside of an average van is made up of up to six pallets, or what the dictionaries describe as ‘standardized, often wooden platforms, for handling bulk goods during transportation or storage’ –of any valued or precious items including money. Meaning that money is just one of many candidate items that bullion vans may carry. And they say that one ‘pallet’ of a bullion van can hold up to 100 freshly minted, crispy ‘racks’ of $100 million. Meaning again, that when filled to capacity, a ‘standard-issue armored truck’ or van can carry up to but not more than $600 million –roughly about half a billion US dollars. But it also means that the same van will carry even less than that, if the money is made up of old dollar notes or currencies, because the crispier the notes, the more compacted and the older or soggier, the less compacted. And so, suppose, just suppose that the two bullion vans that allegedly entered Tinubu’s Bourdilon house were ‘standard-issue armored trucks’; and -suppose, just suppose- that they were also carrying United States freshly-minted, not damply soggy, dollars; and –suppose again, just suppose- the two vans, on that fateful date, were each ‘filled to capacity’, they should, put together, roughly be carrying at the most, one billion two hundred million united dollars. Meaning that unless the two vans were carrying some other convertible currency or currencies stronger than the American dollar, it was inconceivable that they should be carrying more than $ 1.2 billion.
The question should then arise first: is Tinubu not in a position to own a billion two hundred million dollars? And need I say that, that ‘billion-dollar’ question has to be left for his traducers to answer? Meaning that just like Buhari’s legal team rested its election case on the favorable submissions made by Atiku’s lawyers (because the former had eloquently proved the latter), the proof that Tinubu is worth more than a billion two hundred dollars and cannot therefore be said to live above his means, rests squarely in the oft-repeated claims of his traducers who claim that the man’s net worth is 32.7 billion dollars and that his wealth came from the following businesses which they say he owns: Oriental Hotel, Oando Oil, First Nation Airline, Renaissance Hotel, Lekki Concession Company, Apapa Amusement Park, Ikeja Shopping Mall, Falomo Shopping Complex, TV Continental, Radio Continental, to mention a few. If it is justified for an Atiku who owns just a university and a bottled and pure water company is wealthy enough to play roulette, why should not a Tinubu who purportedly own all these?
But worse still, what if those vans contained minted naira notes and not even dollars? Or what if the naira notes were old, soggy ones and not minted? They’ll then come to a couple of measly billion naira notes, many times over which Atiku may have spent at the primaries of his party alone.
Or worst, what if the two vans did not even contain money? What if they contained highly valued documents that required to be transported in armored vehicles, for secrecy, and for security? I mean, just what if…?