Yakubu’s vault and parable of the talents

Alabi Williams

Growing up, we were told many of the great parables of Jesus Christ, as narrated in the Holy Bible. These parables are the wise stories told by Jesus to pass instructions in very interesting and indirect ways. As the great teacher, Jesus knew when to get the audience to participate. He asked a lot of questions. At other times, He used parables to instruct, instead of direct warnings and commands. These parables were coded lessons, but so well delivered that their meanings could be lost in their beauties. And as children, these stories were told us with graphic illustrations and they become visible and real. The essence of Christ’s parables are to guide, so that adherents conform and stay on His path of truth and holiness. And our society is supposed to be the better for it.

One very fascinating story in the Bible is the Parable of The Talents, as told in Matthew 25:14-30. Even though today is Sunday, I did not plan to make this a Sunday school class. I don’t preach here, but there is one recent development that bears semblance with this particular parable, and I’m convinced it will help government’s war against corruption, if those concerned connect back to it.

The parable is about a Master, who had three servants. As he was to embark on a long trip, he decided to give Talents to them. Talents could as well be shares in his organisation, which he gave out for the purpose of investment. He gave one five, to another two, and to the third he gave one.

The one who had five invested wisely and soon expanded his investment by gaining five more talents. The one who was given two invested wisely too, within the capacity he was endowed and retuned with two more. The one who was given one talent went and dug the ground and hid his talent. Upon their Master’s return, it was time for the servants to show their report cards and how well they handled what was entrusted in their care. The one who had five presented his extras and was hailed as a faithful servant. He became a shareholder in the Master’s business. Same thing happened to the one who was given two talents. The servant who was given one talent did not expect any reward. He told his master that because he did not trust his hard bargains, he hid the talent just the way it was given. He slothfully produced it and returned it with a curse.

The Master said, very well “. …you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned, I would have received it back with interest.” The talent was taken from him and given to the one who had multiplied his investment. He was thrown into darkness.

The ‘gift’ of $9.7m and £74,000, belonging to Andrew Yakubu, former Group Managing Director of the NNPC, which men of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) unveiled and took possession of at some vault in Sabo Tasha, a suburb of Kaduna, is what brought this parable of the talents into my recent thoughts. Even though I had it hidden in my consciousness, I did not relate to it frequently. And that could have happened to many, including brother Andrew Yakubu. Some of us do not put the early teachings we got from our Sunday Schools into daily practice, or we forget them as we grow up and mingle with the world. Some great men of God have done good exegeses on the Parable of the Talents, using it to teach investment principles and kingdom lifestyles. But it remains a big puzzle that many front bench Christians, who have risen to top positions in corporate Nigeria, have continued to grapple with issues of propriety in the public space.

It might be presumptuous to raise questions regarding the manner of ownership of the said sum, which Yakubu said was given to him as gift. It is not in my place to say whether or not the sum is too much to be owned by one man. There are those who will do all the investigations and tell Nigerians whether what was found or part of it did not belong to the man legitimately. I pray they do a fair job of it.

But I just wonder why the man would prefer to lock up such amount of forex at a time manufacturers are closing shop because they cannot import raw materials. I also wonder whether it would not have made more sense, if he had invested the said money like the good servant in the Parable of the Talents. He would have certainly made more returns and the pests that are now gathered around it may not have reason to do so.

Andrew Yakubu had done 35 good years at NNPC before he was sent home as GMD. He held very sensitive posts such as: managing director, Warri Petrochemical and Refinery; executive director, Exploration and Production; and was head of NNPC, London Office. It is not likely that such a man cannot put some good money in some legitimate vault. Such sensitive positions come with good opportunities and entitlements. But he does not need to eat his food in hiding.

Besides not having to eat his food in hiding and alone, Southern Kaduna could do with a lot of resources at this trying period of its history. The people are under threat of extermination by invaders, who want to take over their farmlands. Some think the invaders are herdsmen, but the systematic attacks are well beyond the capacity of the herdsmen that we know. The audacity of the attackers is underscored by their recent destruction of the foundation for the proposed Nigerian Army Battalion in Southern Kaduna. The chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Yusuf Buratai was accompanied by Gov. El rufai on the foundation laying ceremony. But daredevil troublers of Nigeria went there barely a week after and destroyed the foundation. They do not want military presence in that area, as their actions have announced. They want to lay waste Southern Kaduna.

Therefore, at times like this, Southern Kaduna people should also help themselves and complement government’s effort. They could form vigilante groups, just as the civilian JTFs are doing in the Northeast, assisting government to degrade Boko Haram. But self-help is not possible, if every big man keeps his money in some private vault. There are many areas of need in Southern Kaduna, but it depends on the passion of those whom God had given ‘gifts’ on behalf of His people.

I put calls to my friends in Kaduna. The mood is a very bad one. Yakubu is a shinning light of the people of Southern Kaduna. In his days at NNPC, he assisted a number of people, just that many of those assisted were more interested in their personal comfort. They merely invested in driving big and flashy vehicles. Maybe that was what got him angry and he decided to pocket his money. When I investigated further, I discovered that he might also have some political ideas, maybe to run in the next election. I’m told he did not support Jonathan in 2015, maybe still smarting from his sack as GMD. Instead, he supported Buhari for the presidential and supported Danjuma La-ah for the Southern Kaduna senatorial zone. With his support, Nenadi Usman was effectively blocked from returning to the Senate. Andrew Yakubu, until his ‘gift’ was unwrapped without his consent, had become a rallying point and the local Mr. fix it in the politics of his catchment zone.

Who knows, some people close to him could have blown whistle on that money. There are many things to invest that money on apart from politics. Ginger is now the fastest selling produce in the area. Young men are growing ginger for export to China. Yakubu could have opened a micro-finance bank to assist in the cultivation of ginger.

In the locality where I come from, they say you do not tell the man eating local moimoi to drink water. When it chokes him, he will know what to do. Andrew’s people are very vulnerable in today’s Nigeria. You need the wisdom of a wise servant to survive.

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