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Ibrahim Gambari, PH1 (Public Hypocrite No. 1) by Okpia Egbe


IBRAHIM GAMBARI, PH1 (Public Hypocrite No. 1)

First, let me express agreement with Professor Ibrahim Gambari, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy who has characterized Nigeria’s leaders as “hypocritical.” As Guest Speaker at the Justice Akanbi Foundation anniversary in Abuja, Gambari said that Nigeria leaders merely pay lip service to governance.

He is right, and many other Nigerians say the same thing everyday. The difference is that they are not in a position to do anything about it.

Regrettably, there is a category of Nigerians that are in a position to do something, but never do. I would say they are worse than hypocritical Nigerian leaders. I would call them Champions of Hypocrisy, and among them, nominate Gambari to be the Champion of Champions.


Let us remember: in the 1980s and 1990s, Ibrahim Gambari served as Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, and as Permanent Representative of Nigeria at the United Nations. Leading the governments he served were Ibrahim Babangida (IBB), widely-known as the man who has nurtured corruption the most in Nigeria, and as one who has vastly benefited from it.

Does Gambari want to convince Nigerians he never benefited from IBB? If not, why has he never criticized the man? IBB snuffed out an election that Moshood Abiola had fairly and clearly won. What did this professor of Political Science, this “critic” of hypocrisy, say to IBB? Nothing.

But it was during the regime of Sani Abacha that Gambari really established his credentials. As an opportunist, he joined an elite team that provided intellectual and international nourishment for Abacha. They did everything to convince Abacha that his brutal and duplicitous regime was on the right course. Indeed, Gambari told the world: “Nigerians don’t need democracy because democracy is not food. It is not their priority.”

As Nigeria’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations—even as Nigeria became an international pariah and that organization sought an answer to the situation—Gambari defended Abacha smoothly and eloquently. The more we were ostracized, the more he appeared on powerful international television stations, notably CNN, to offer justifications for the indefensible actions of Abacha. Are we to assume that Abacha is now one of those leaders he describes as hypocritical?

Let us also remember that even after Abacha murdered Ken Saro-Wiwa and other environmental champions, Gambari did not identify any hypocrisy. In fact, he stated that Saro-Wiwa was a “common criminal.” In other words, that Abacha’s trial had been fair and within the rule of law. It is this same Gambari that says Nigerian leaders are hypocritical.

Beyond IBB and Abacha, he has not criticized Olusegun Obasanjo, either. Obasanjo is known to have violated Nigeria’s hopes and dreams for eight years, but Gambari has not criticized him. He cannot join the chorus of those who say the man should be probed. Do you wonder why?

If you wonder, I have an answer: in his eyes Obasanjo could not have been bad because Gambari is a major beneficiary of Obasanjo’s farce. Remember the scandal over the sale of highbrow Ikoyi homes that led to the fall of the Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Mobolaji Osomo? Ibrahim Gambari was one of the two big winners.

In the statement by which Obasanjo hoped to be mistaken for a corruption fighter, Obasanjo said: “I have a document sent to me anonymously…where 207 people had been allocated or offered land/property for sale surreptitiously; some with full payment, some with deposit and some without payment at all. I also feel personally embarrassed that almost all members of my wife's family are on that list. As it is, the entire list will now be cancelled without fail, the money collected should be refunded and all the property will be advertised for sale, except those allocated to Ambassador Ibrahim Gambari and Chief Emeka Anyaoku which had been approved long before this exercise…”

What this story means is that for most of 22 years, from 1983 to 2007, Nigeria’s most infamous and vile leaders are people Gambari was pleased to serve, and glad to take from. He shamelessly seized his opportunities and never said ‘No’, to any of them.

In public, Gambari is known for his charming, ingratiating style. He likes to make people feel that he is open and humble. But he is as personally hypocritical as he is politically fake, and this is what makes him such a sad and dangerous study. He has no principles.

Think about it: he spent his years under Abacha strongly justifying that dictatorship and its odious policies. Today, following his service of a Ghanaian democrat, Gambari is in the service of a Korean democrat. That Gambari lacks principles is obvious in the fact that he is trying to convince a military regime in Myanmar that democracy is the right thing to do. At the UN, they really have a weird sense of humor, don’t they? But Gambari does not mind being laughed at; last year, he wanted to become president of Nigeria, using his UN gig as a platform.


It is clear that Gambari’s an unscrupulous, egotistical man. He will say anything at any time, depending on the audience and his personal goals. He is a serial salesman who, for the right price, would sell the UN just as easily as he betrayed Nigerians to IBB, Abacha and Obasanjo.

Thus, at the Justice Akanbi foundation lecture, he was simply playing his normal game: the game of convenience. He spoke of the hypocrisy of Nigerian leaders—no names and specifics, please!—because he thought it would make him sound good before Nigerians, without offending anyone. No names—after all, who knows who might invite him to another powerful office tomorrow?

Yes, Nigerian leaders are hypocritical, but the most hypocritical Nigerians are people like Ibrahim Gambari who have spent most of their careers propping them up, and serving and praising them. They share in all the spoils only to find a whisper in which to offer self-serving criticism. If political prostitution were banned, Gambari would never accept to speak before a Nigerian audience.

I am not close to Gambari, but I know his type well. When it matters, they do nothing to help Nigerians. In public, they will smile and shake hands broadly, hoping nobody can see through them. All hypocrites are the same, Gambari, but some are more hypocritical than others. For the championship, you have no competition. Please step forward and accept your prize.

By Okpia Egbe


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