Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Taste of Oil is in the Drinking

This is a comment to a news article from a Nigerian newspaper.   It is a wonderful, sarcastic, well written short story about oil corruption in Nigeria.    

The story may be written by someone named Darlington Ehondor.  It says it is.  I have no idea if this is a known person in Nigeria, a known writer, or an anonymous critic, or what.   He does not name names below when he accuses everyone of corruption, so maybe this is not so dangerous to do.

I particularly like the idiom of the "Nigerian Cake", that Nigeria is seen by its people as a big cake that everyone can and should take a slice of.  

The original is a comment at the bottom of this article:

10 months ago

A lot of people wonder why the oil sector is so pathologically notorious for sweet-toothed scams and mouth-watering scandals. I used to wonder myself, and my wife wouldn’t stop gawking at the TV each time a new kettle of rotten oil bubbled over and covered our television screen in blinding mist. But when the Nollywoodesque Lawan-Otedola circus show exploded into a national pastime, I decided to find out exactly what made oil tick. What I discovered will make you drool and dry with desire.

“Can I taste some oil?” I asked Jack Rider, managing director of Rivers Of Oil In Nigeria (or ROOIN), a foreign oil prospecting company, which specializes in drilling and draining crude somewhere in Bayelsa State.

He said, “I should be glad to give you a glass or two of Bonny Light. It’s the best blend there is – better than anything the Saudis and the Venezuelans have on the market. Senators and their SUVs drink that a lot.”

I was excited at the prospect.

So he flew me on his company’s helicopter to its off-shore oil rig off the Atlantic Ocean. As soon as we touched down on the helipad, I was instantly overwhelmed by the strong, enveloping smell of raw oil, which made me feel groggy, a near feeling of drunkenness. In my mind, I reasoned that, if the smell of oil could muster such an inebriating high, then the taste of it must be in the drinking, awesomely over-powering.

Amid the deafening hums and hollering of machines and clock-working engines and sea breeze, I yelled out to Rider, “I am feeling like I just stepped out of a beer parlour! Why is that?!!”

“It’s the smell of oil! No one comes here without tipping over with the kind of psychoactive reaction you are experiencing at the moment, as a result of stepping on this rig. But wait until you taste the taste of oil.”

Before I knew it, Rider was handing me a huge transparent mug, and I stared with amazement at its thick black content. The strong aroma hit me so hard my legs wobbled a few seconds.

“Drink,” Rider said.

I took a sip and waited for it to take effect on my taste buds. Its smoothness on my tongue felt like velvet. When Rider looked away at a particularly noisy machine, I pretended to swallow.

I said, “It tastes like Wall’s ice cream. Now I know why they call it ‘sweet crude’.”

“It’s the same reason politicians and business people are losing their minds and pointing accusing fingers at each other over it. I tell you something, my friend, oil is an addictive drug. Once you taste it, you never want to leave it. People go into public service in your country because it is about the only place you can taste oil to your heart’s content. For them, it’s a contagious disease with serial infestations. You won’t believe how much they thirst for oil.”

I asked Rider, “How many politicians have come here to taste your brand of oil?”

“They don’t just taste, they cart it off in barrels and ship-loads and give some to their friends.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“If you don’t believe me, then who will you believe – the guys at the NNPC, who are the chief poisoners in the oil-drinking business?”

I interjected with disgust, “The guys at the NNPC are supposed to protect Nigerian oil from those plundering and pillaging it.”

“Well, they are up to their eyes in the plundering and pillaging business themselves. Of course, they work hand and foot with the political fat cats. ”

I said, “I don’t expect you to name names, but would that include legislators and people in the executive arm of government?”

“The people in the hallowed dome and those on the Rock. They troop in here regularly like termites and we have to fill their orders, which they write off by sneaking them into the national budget.”

Rider suddenly and instinctively motioned me over to a corner of the rig and I was sub-consciously amazed to find a stack of barrels with my name written on them in Bodoni bold. I asked him, “Whose are those?”

“As you can see, they are yours, Sir – my personal gift to you. Those barrels are your share of the proverbial national cake, your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to strike it rich. Or don’t you want them? You might not get another chance. There is a room-full of legislators lining up to load them off.”

“Are you bribing me?”

“Hell, no! I am giving you oil to whet your soil so you don’t write any of what you’ve seen and heard here, or the politicians are going to confiscate our license and turn it over to our rivals over there in Prominent Petroleum, who have been working hard to match us bribe-barrel-for-bribe-barrel in the competition for the hearts and minds of politicians in hallowed places.”

“I can’t take that home! My wife has petro-phobia, a convulsive fear of petroleum. She can only stand the smell of cooking oil. Thanks, but no, thanks.”

He said, “Politicians don’t take their oil home – only the spoils of oil, the cold hard cash. For their wives, it is life’s elixir. Or why else do you think Patience Jonathan goes to Dubai every day?”

But I wanted to know something else, so I asked the managing director, “What if a politician doesn’t know where to sell the bribe oil you give him and he threatens to fry your butt in a deep fat fryer?”

“We convert his oil to cash, and we’re talking tons and oodles and gazillions of dollars, pounds, yens, and even yuans, as the Chinese have begun to swim in these oily waters increasingly. It’s our way of thanking the politicians for their magnanimity.”

“How do the politicians thank you for thanking them?”

“They double the price of petroleum products and blame it all on the global economic recession. That way, we are shielded behind a formidable wall of officialdom.”

“You mean you are helping to ruin the Nigerian economy?”

Rider was furious. He blared ferociously, “Just because my company’s acronym is ROOIN doesn’t mean that we are the ones tumbling your economy into the gutters.”

I said, “You are not worried about the environmental damage then. Look at these waters, no one can fish or swim in them anymore. The oil in the soil eats up our toil, and everywhere is the reek of sleek. What do you say about that?”

The oil company owner put in a defence. He said, “Never mind the cliché, but who ever made an omelette without cracking a few eggs? Environmental costs come with the crude business. Without it, we wouldn’t be in business. We would roll over and evaporate.”

“You are being insensitive to those whose livelihoods depend on these waters.”

“Who says we aren’t sensitive to their plight? The politicians just won’t let us do something about it because the money will come out of their bribes, and nobody wants to go home with chicken change. And, by the way, it’s not like we are the only ones damaging the environment.”

“Who else is?”

Rider said, “The pipeline raiders, who puncture holes in oil pipes in the bushes of the Niger-Delta and cart off crude in buckets and wheelbarrows. They are the ones you should be honey-punching with your jibes, not us who do honest work by drilling legally and legitimately.”

I said, “The pipeline raiders work for the politicians.”

“How did you know that?”

“I heard it from Zainab, who is a girlfriend to Senator Homeward Bound, who she says let it slip out during a particularly talkative orgasmic frenzy in a seedy motel the other night.”

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