A Bruce-ing Debt and Uncommon Sense


Like love gone sour, the story is always never palatable once repayment agreement breaks down between a usurer and the borrower. What follows is the lending bank and the debtor-customer tugging at each other’s throats in the open.

The situation is hardly different today after AMCON seemingly launched a crackdown on those who had benefitted from government’s stimulus package between 2009 and 2010 following the global financial crisis that brought many companies to their knees.

But, so far, the one that has generated much dust is that of Senator Ben Bruce. Not that the fair-skinned dude raked up the biggest debt; far from it. The debt portfolio of his Silverbird Group is put at N11billion, a chicken change compared to others.

What makes Bruce’s case amusing to many is that, until now, he had, through aggressive self-progression in the media, built a reputation for himself as the master of “commonsense”. In newspaper articles as well as the soap-box, he is quick to analyse the problems ailing the country and offer solutions, never mind if they sometimes sound quixotic.

Now, what many are still trying to find is the “commonsense” in Bruce once offering to donate his pay to workers in Osun State being owed arrears of salaries. It has taken AMCON’s sliding tackle for a few salacious stories to leak that workers in Bruce’s own business concerns themselves were in fact being owed back pay even at the time the smooth-talking showbiz promoter-turned-politician was offering to “dash” Osun workers salary he earned as a senator in Abuja.

As if that is not enough, his native Bayelsa State has since joined the inglorious list of states owing workers arrears of salaries. In fact, the Bayelsa State governor has lately been having sleepless nights, begging workers to accept half-salaries until the situation improves.

Suddenly, the Bayelsa senator has been keeping a studied silence about his own state.

To the mischief-makers, the only “commonsense” in the circumstance is that Bruce’s charity begins at home.


Oil empress and her toyboy

Before the cookie crumbled, she was everything every woman wanted to be: rich, powerful and famous. As a trusted confidant of the immediate past tenant of the Rocky Villa, she was naturally entrusted with the oily portfolio.

Given her closeness to the Oga Patapata then, she was one of the few lobbied by even colleagues who craved to remain in the master’s good books. So much that stories were told of how Oga’s plush office was a no-go area for anyone once she came around to “brief” the bowler-hat-loving son of a canoe-maker. Even for hours on end.

Naturally, tongues soon began to wag that what happened behind closed doors was more than giving account of how many barrels of crude were sold and how much had been banked.

But once Oga lost his tenancy of the Rocky Villa last year, everything literally went southward for the once mighty madam. Not only did she have to scurry away to Queen’s land claiming she was now suffering from a life-threatening medical condition, she has had to contend with massive bad press linking her to the industrial scale looting while she minded the oily portfolio.

To evoke public pity, she once released her pictures without make-up and scarf in which she really cut a pitiable look. To answer persistent gossip that the sort of jewelry she often wore while in office was too expensive for her legitimate earning as public servant, she initially explained that a good number of those swanky wristwatches and necklaces were procured on credit; that her trusting jeweler did not mind her wearing them around until she finds money to pay – a line many dismissed as a tale-by-the-moonlight.

But the story soon changed when the thief-catching agency raided her palace located in an upscale neighbourhood in the Rocky City and found, among other exhibits, a wristwatch costing more than 500k of the mighty currency spent in Queen’s land. Not to talk of the worth of the palace itself, put at billions of cowries that is legal tender in Nija.

Confronted with these new hard facts, madam is now saying someone of her status, who has worked for donkey years in “juicy places”, should not be expected to be wearing rags around or living in a small condo; that even market-women at a popular mall in the ancient Oluyole city wear more expensive trinkets.

Given her sudden switch from dovish to hawkish talk, many were quick to surmise that Oga Madam has probably realised that attack would be the best form of defence for her in the circumstance. Of course, she has a lot of explaining to make in the times ahead following the freezing of the assets of one of her key fronts in Yankee’s land. When the going was still good, both of them closed so many sweetheart deals, the most talked-about being the one involving billions of Yankee’s greenbacks. As the gist goes, once the loot was hurled out of the oil receipts due to Naija, the smart dude in turn double-crossed Oga Madam by pocketing the fat dough and simply walking away.

To add insult to injury, the bobo was soon sighted in Paris, the acclaimed world’s capital of romance, holding the hand of a famous US-born black model whose first name begins with the 14th letter of the alphabet.

Pained by the turn of event, Oga Madam was said to have cried privately to confidants: “Kai!, this boy has f..ked me big time.”

From what we gather, Madam meant that lurid word in both amatory as well as fiduciary sense. The guy, who is much younger, was kept by Madam also for very special “domestic” services.

From the intelligence reaching us, this web of romance and larceny tops the revelations to be made public by the thief-catching agency in the times ahead.


A proxy war ends in gnashing of teeth

When the results of a contest to pick the standard-bearer of the broom party in the acclaimed “heartbeat of the nation” became known few days ago, what would have immediately struck the casual observer was the triumph of the guy earlier considered the dark horse. Well, that is merely the surface of the matter.

Beneath was a nasty battle that pitted the national chair of the party against the tough-talking, doughty gomina of the province under reference.

Recall that when the khaki-loving gomina initially professed his preference for the guy as the only one he trusted to continue the “good work” he started, all hell was literally let loose against him. Barely concealing his own opposition to the proposal, the Oga Chair, who is much older, chose to speak in parables. Incidentally, he happens to hail from the same province and was, in fact, once a gomima of the area himself.

But as events began to unfold rapidly, things got more distinct. It did not take long before it became crystal clear that just as the khaki-wearing gomina had his own preferred candidate, Oga Chair, too, was working for another aspirant, though covertly.  Unknown to the public, the whole matter soon turned into an ego battle between the duo.

The gomina and his supporters saw the Oga Chair’s action as repaying the good done him two years ago with evil. It is open secret that but for the former’s strong support, the latter would never have smelt the national secretariat, much less become the chair. Not only that.  Since he unceremoniously left the gomina’s office many years ago, Oga Chair never won any election in his ward or local government for any party he belonged to. But in the last general elections, the gomina rallied and ensured that the poll was won in Oga’s area lest traducers begin to mock him in Abuja.

But a smooth operator, Oga Chair always encouraged his favourite to coax like minds among the motley crowd vying for the ticket to sign joint-petition to him on anything he considered inimical to his ambition. That way, he was able to create and sustain a facade of neutrality. And whatever complaint was made in such petition, pronto, Oga Chair granted.

But a battle-hardened warrior, the gomina kept all the gunpowder dry till the D-Day. Lo, when the results came, not only did his candidate win by a wide margin, the one favoured by Oga Chair performed woefully.

For now, the score is: gomina 1; Oga Chair 0.


 …The swindling of the oil sheik

Still on the primaries where the khaki-wearing gomina shamed the Oga Chair of his party. That the latter’s anointed performed woefully in the contest is no longer news. But what you certainly have not heard yet is how our friend lost a fortune in the process.

For clarity, our friend used to be a member sheltering and supping under the big umbrella. But he was smart enough to jump ship before the umbrella party was swept out of the Rocky Villa last year. Of course, before then, our friend had saved up a huge war chest from many juicy contracts showered on him.

In fact, in the beginning, he was even given the junior portfolio in the juicy federal department that oversees the construction of roads, among others. Never mind some busy bodies who prefer to peddle the idle talk that it was all courtesy of our friend’s Jezebel of a spouse highly connected to the then bowler-hat-loving Oga Patapata.

From day one, our friend never hid the fact that his interest for joining the broom party was solely to realise his dream of succeeding the khaki-loving gomina. So, he started spoiling anyone and everyone he thought could help him realise his ambition with cash rain. We gathered that Oga Chair of the party was consistently on his dough. Ditto numerous traditional chiefs who, apart from constant flow of cash, also took his kola nut, he-goat and schnapps drinks from time to time.

A master of “settlement”, our friend also spoilt leaders of the broom party at local government level by not only placing them on monthly salaries for more than a year to the primaries, but he literally dazed them by handing them keys to Tokunbo cars for “mobilisation”.

As word spread that our friend was spending like a drunken sailor, all kinds of gold-diggers, political quarks and charlatans soon flocked to him. Daily, they fed him with false reports of his growing popularity. The more they plied him with such sugar-coated forecasts, the more he opened the cash tap.

As if that was not enough, a week to the decisive contest, our money-miss-road friend literally broke the bank, releasing a whopping five million cowries of the currency used in Yankee land. From what we gathered, Mallams selling dollars had a swell time counting, counting and counting the cash. Given the wet smell of the cargo, many concluded it must have been brought fresh from an underground vault.

But all he got at the end of the day were just few votes. Since the verdict was announced, our friend, we gathered, has slipped into depression.

Surely, people are very wicked.


 Fela as role model in elite school?

Sure, we all love Fela’s music steeped in anti-establishment vitriol. But how many will come out in the open and name him as a role model, least of all the sort of mentor for their own children? Of course, that is a tricky question.

At least, that was the conclusion IC could draw few days ago when an upscale private school in Lekki, Lagos, hosted a sendoff dinner for her graduating Primary Six pupils. By the way, the school’s name is Meadow Hall.

It was a beautiful night of music, dance and food with the young ones resplendent in their Sunday best, accompanied by their proud parents.

Then, to spice the occasion, the Master of Ceremonies randomly picked on parents in the gallery to share what they considered their most unforgettable moments while their wards were attending the school.

A mom got up and said hers was the day her son came home and proudly announced to her that he was part of a school drama sketch. She said: “My little boy told me they asked him to play Fela, the Afro-Beat musician in the drama.”

To that, the hall erupted in delirious laughter. Of course, a few thoughts must have been playing in the minds of her listeners. For instance, was the boy expected to play a sax in pants, puffing at a wrap of “Nigerian Natural Grass” (Indian hemp) ala Fela?

After the laughter had subsided, the mom, barely concealing her own smile, added: “Well, I did my best by simply teaching him some of those Fela’s moves (dance steps) on the stage.”

Of course, that drew more laughter.

The Interview Editors

Written by The Interview Editors

The Interview is a niche publication, targeting leaders and aspiring leaders in business, politics, entertainment, sports, arts, the professions and others within society’s upper middle class and high-end segment in Nigeria.