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George Uboh

“Carry go no be quarrel” – street parlance.

At the street level folks don’t get to sign contracts. What enforces agreements is mutual respect, honour and the knowledge that reputation is everything. The concept of “carry go no be quarrel” entails that any side to a bargain can call it off without the other party picking unnecessary offence – a person who summons a street vendor for instance is not under obligation to buy the wares on offer even after picking them up, sizing them up and inspecting them. Dr Gorge Uboh, the managing director of Panic Alert Security Systems (PASS) of all people, being a streetwise guy, should know this unwritten code if he is truly worth his salt. Uboh is however not only oblivious to this code but is also blissfully ignorant of the odium in which the average right thinking Nigerian holds him.

The derision with which we look at this jobber has nothing to do with his visage, which he will by the way do well to keep out of the public conciseness for all the negatives it has become associated with. The disdain is the direct consequence of Nigerians finding out that the man who pontificates as the cure for corruption is himself a cesspool of sleaze and that whatever we hear from him cannot be trusted – even a greeting of “good morning” from him requires one to double-check what time of the day it is.

In a recent interview he granted to disparage the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), he accepted his badge as an ex-convict so this article will take it for granted that the man we are dealing with here is a self confessed criminal since people are not usually convicted for being law abiding.

For the benefit of those who may not know Uboh’s antecedent, he is the same fellow currently being tried by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for criminal conversion of property belonging to the Police Equipment Fund (PEF). It turned out that our anti-corruption crusader took six units of operational vehicles belonging to PEF from which he sold two units of Toyota Hilux pick-up vans in violation of known laws.

With such long trail of criminal involvement from his past, it was no wonder that he tried to use the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria into helping him shake down a former EFCC Chairman, Mr Ibrahim Lamorde after the deal between them soured. It was the Senate outing that exposed Uboh for what he is, a man who constantly look for loopholes – not offer solutions for plugging them but to criminally exploit them for his own end. Once the authorities wise up to those loopholes then all those that corrected the lapses become his sworn enemies and are made the subject of elaborate blackmail in the media.

This was exactly what Uboh did with his interview in which he attempted to cast aspersions on President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption fight and using the AGF, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN) as the proxy on which to unfurl his hate driven vitriol. So incapacitating was his anger that the interview turned out to be an indictment of his character. He made it clear adequately that monetary gain and not patriotism was his drive for tracing the stolen funds and the clamour for the AGF to recover the money was so he can net his cut.

In a country where there is a Public Procurement Law, Uboh admitted he was all glee when his company, PASS was issued an engagement letter on the strength of his personal relationship with the AGF without any competitive bidding process. Has it crossed his mind that the letter disengaging him could have been the consequences of realizing that he did not comply with the process for being engaged for the assignment; or that his criminal record does not sit well with the new direction the country is treading?

One must apportion some blame to the AGF in this matter. True, he is not omniscient to fathom the character of all his acquaintances but a background check would have easily flagged Uboh as an ex-convict that cannot be entrusted. He would have also known about what the man did at PEF and later at the EFCC. The other thing is that once these facts became known to him, he should have public disowned the managing director of PASS on the strength of information available in the public domain. Instead, Malami tried to adopt the gentleman approach in dealing with a man to whom honor is an alien word. All these are however in the past now.

Looking forward, Uboh is a lesson to the government that not everything should be outsourced. The same recovery that this character was making so much noise about was what the EFCC quietly achieved without the operatives holding the government and country to ransom. And when it is time to outsource we must make sure we are not engaging an ex-convict, someone standing trial for criminal theft or a person unable to resist the temptation of asking for more cut than they are entitled to.

Now that the Ministry of Justice has done the right thing by distancing itself from Uboh, he should be smart enough or pretend to be and move on. Like a peddler of contaminated goods, authorities have after their assessment seen the poison he wants to foist on the system and have told him “carry go” and it should not be a quarrel.

Written by Philip Agbese, National President, Stand Up Nigeria.