Our Binance of Collective Disgrace – By Sam Nwaoko

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Opa Williams used to serve Nigeria’s most popular entertainment dishes. Those of us who watched entertainment through CDs would readily remember Opa Williams’ hilarious packages. He was the brain behind “Night of A Thousand Laughs”. By the way, CD meant compact disk and that was the way to see our favourite comedians back then if you couldn’t afford to go to the show itself. Last Friday night, Nigerians were treated to a repeat of “Night of a Thousand Laughs” when news broke that one of our most valued detainees, Nadeem Anjarwalla had escaped from a Nigerian government detention. The man we allowed to do the movie hero on us is the Africa regional head of Binance, believed to be the largest crypto currency exchange platform in the world.

The Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), arrested (some said abducted) Binance’s Anjarwalla, and Tigran Gambaryan (another executive of the outfit) in February this year. When the news broke that Anjarwalla and Gambaryan were arrested by the ONSA, arguably one of the highest security authorities in the country, some of us felt that we would hear a few things and also learn a few other things about both crypto-currency and the people promoting it. These men were taken in on allegations of terrorism financing, tax evasion, currency speculation, manipulation of the Nigerian market/weakening of the Naira against other currencies; money laundering and so on. These were enough to legally detain them and one of the highest security offices in Nigeria was doing just that when the two men arrived in the country on February 26. These are indeed grave offences for which they should be properly charged and, if found guilty, adequately punished. The EFCC was already up and about on the matter just like the ONSA.

Among other things, Nigeria alleged that more than $21.6billion was traded by unidentified Nigerians on the Binance platform for which the government demanded that the identities of such traders should be forwarded to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). From the listed infractions, many thought Nigeria would solve two riddles: The dollar that is fast racing away from sight of the Naira, and the means through which some of the terrorists pummeling our country get their funding. There are thus serious grounds to properly and competently prosecute Binance. It could even be argued that Hushpuppy, who is currently in jail in the United States, did worse things than these…

While Anjarwalla and Gambaryan were in their VIP detention, and Nigerians were wondering what shape and pattern their impending trial would look like, things took a worrying twist. The Nigerian government demanded the sum of $10billion from Binance. From there it began to look like indeed the Binance officials were detained for the money and that the court charges of tax evasion were all a joke. And, from there too it would look reasonable to speculate that Binance as an organisation would act to protect itself from a government like ours. Why will you detain our officials before asking for the details of your citizens doing business with us? What would the bigger picture look like for us as a business operating in many countries if we pay $10billion to you because our officials were arrested in your country? To answer all these questions and more, the Africa Head of Binance just disappeared from detention and fled the country!

The poor, lowly soldiers, on guard at the guest house where Anjarwalla, the Binance Africa chief was detained, are like the proverbial mothers. We were told that they had been arrested and they would employ their noses as a tool to shine the metals. The arrested soldiers would be the scapegoats in the embarrassment which the escape of Binance’s Nadeem Anjarwalla in the custody of Nigeria, is. Those soldiers would wear the shameful albatross. They are like a mother who has a child strapped to her back. She doesn›t know what the straying hands of the child have caused. My mother would scold me when I did things she didn›t expect of me. She was sure I understood her exasperation each time we were in that situation, and what she meant by this common saying of hers: “You will carry a child on your back without the knowledge of which leaves it had plucked.” Those soldiers deployed to guard detained Anjarwalla and co, and prevent anything untoward from happening, were the proverbial innocent mothers. They are like mothers carrying their babies – their superiors – on their back without any idea of what plans they might have cooked and served. So, the successful escape of Anjarwalla from detention and from the country is like the case of “carrying a child on your back without knowledge of what it had done.” The soldiers were standing guard without knowledge of what had gone on behind them, as we say on the streets – they have carried things through their backs. Now, they’re in soup and might just be wondering what had happened. Like the Yoruba observed, when an elder is robbed, the incident would come to him like a flash.

On the flip side of this matter, it might be pertinent to ask if we, the ordinary Nigerians, are not actually the true mothers in this circumstance. In this Binance matter, the Nigerian government, ONSA and the EFCC have both the yam and the knife. These institutions representing us as a people are the prosecution, the defence, the complainant, the accuser and the victim in this matter. Binance is just there at the other side of the divide watching our collective dance of shame! In other words, we should simply sit back and watch the entire scenario unfold. We already have little or no knowledge of the true situation of things with matter. We might be the unaware mother here with our government strapped to our back. The pun is upon us as the people while our unconcerned government and its agencies in this insalubrious show are the child who has plucked some unsavoury leaves. They should please cover our nakedness if they have refused to cover theirs. If the government has refused to cover its face in shame, they should please cover ours. He who has the right face is wary of shameful things.

We will believe whatever the ONSA tells us but they should not tell us to go to hell and have a nice trip. It is befuddling that a massively disgraceful incident like the escape of Anjarwalla from Nigeria isn›t causing heads to roll. Even if the officials refuse to resign honourably as expected of men of integrity, why shouldn›t the Commander-in-Chief wield the big stick? Should President Tinubu not ask questions of the ONSA? If the entire episode is not a prior scheme, I think the outrage from the presidency should be enough to draw explanations and cause resignations. If this isn’t happening, shouldn›t our C-in-C try to save our face by doing something about what happened at the ONSA?

Now, looking around you and when you smell the coffee, does it not occur to you that the Binance collective disgrace of a nation is gradually fading? The reports about the matter are waning, wilting like a scorched vegetable in the evening. Soon, the matter will become a distant memory like the loss of a criminal ship from our waters. The ship had been arrested by Nigerian naval and maritime personnel and it was docked with its illegal cargo at one of our parts for further action. One day, just like the case of last Friday, we heard that the ship had gone missing. It just disappeared from our waters and from Nigeria and that was it. Ali Baba the legendary comedian used this as a joke in one of the editions of “Night of a Thousand Laughs”. The joke? Ali Baba in one of the episodes of the show had talked about a man who ran to the police station to complain that his Okada was missing. Okada is the common name for commercial motorcycles in Nigeria. The police personnel at the counter ignored his histrionics until one of them asked the complainant what he said the problem was again. He repeated that his motorcycle was missing. The policeman looked at him with disdain as he retorted: “A whole ship is missing in this country and we are all helpless, and you are here to talk about a motorcycle?”

Right now, maybe we should just let the bad taste of the Binance episode pass because we are celebrating the rise of the Naira against the dollar. Let us celebrate it, even if we do not know why, and even if the Naira’s condition against other currencies apart from the dollar is nothing to write home about. Leave Binance and the shame of a nation alone and let us relish our current arbitrary punches against the better pugilist-dollar. It doesn’t even matter if the rise against the dollar does not mean anything in the raging inflation and poor living conditions of the majority of the Nigerian citizens. Remember Bobby MacFarren’s song? Don’t worry, be happy. Just forget the handling of this Binance matter and think not of the disgrace inherent in it.

Meanwhile, let us rejoice with our Oga at the Top on his birthday. Happy 72nd birthday President Bola Ahmed Tinubu… À je pé ayé sir, jare!

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