The nation is currently on a quest to 'rebrand' itself and change its public image and the misguided international perception of what it means to be Nigerian. Consequently, the present administration reached out to Nigerians all over the world to do their bit to achieve this and other important goals. In 2007, for instance, Chukwuma Soludo, the head of the Central Bank, met with ordinary Nigerians around the world encouraging them to reconnect with Nigeria and participate in the efforts to improve the nation such as the African Finance Corporation. One of the many Nigerians that were convinced to apply their efforts to the Nigerian cause, someone who had been doing so for many years, was Kase Lawal. Unfortunately, as has been the case for many other Nigerians, Lawal's love for the land of his ancestors threatens to be a detriment.
On the international stage, there are few Nigerians, and indeed few people, that command respect and reflect success the way Lawal does. He is a billionaire oil man and easily amongst the wealthiest black people in the United States. Lawal, who is a dual citizen of both Nigeria and the United States, owns a Houston bank and holdings in real estate businesses. He also has an endowment of $1 million at his alma matter Texas Southern University. Although many have never heard of him because of what appears to be a relative shyness and signature modesty, he was heralded by Ebony magazine in 2006 for creating one of the most powerful Black-owned companies in the United States. Lawal was also on the cover of Black Enterprise Magazine in June 2006 and his company CAMAC Holdings, a legitimate American-based company, was designated the company of the year. Lawal donated $1 million to the creation of an archive for the papers and other materials of the late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr."I am so proud to have been born and originated and to have been a Nigerian and I know the best of Nigeria is yet to be known in the world stage, it is still evolving ... I honestly believe that sooner than later Nigeria would take its place and would be a part of the global countries that is [sic] leading us into the next century."
Lawal has also been recognized by the Nigerian Lawyers of Association at a dinner in 2007. There, he was applauded for his contributions to Nigeria and its people. The event was attended by Opral Benson, the Attorney General of Nigeria and Nigerian Curiosity's Person of 2007, Michael Aondoakaa, and representatives from the EFCC. At that occasion, another highly respected Nigerian, introduced him by writing,
People are distinguished more by the small things they do, not the big things. People are special by the little cares and concern they have and demonstrate, not by the grand gestures... People excel by the quality and excellence of their being, not by their public persona. One man combines all of these singular attributes, and does so with a simplicity of personality and elegance that makes him so special, and so profoundly loved and cherished by those who are close to him. That man, the special man you honour this evening, is none other than Dr. Kase L. Lawal. Kase is special because people are special to him, at any time, and no matter what. This, we know, is what makes people blessed. And Kase is blessed.THE ALLEGATIONS
On Thursday, April 3rd, a newspaper published by the McClatchy Company, alleged that Lawal was a named defendant in an 8 year old Nigerian complaint accusing him of fraud and cheating the government of $1.9 million in oil royalties. This report was soon followed by a certain website which alleged that Lawal is a fugitive under investigation by Nigeria's EFCC. The site went on to make various other suggestions all of which put the character and reputation of Lawal under suspicion. According to other news outlets, Lawal hosted a function at his Houston, TX home to raise money for Democratic nominee candidate Senator Hillary Clinton. The event raised $100,000 and and with people looking closely at the Clinton's finances, Lawal's action has now come under some scrutiny.
WHERE IS THE PROOF?
Upon doing research and asking questions, it is now clear that the information presented to the world is false. How can Lawal, or anyone for that matter, be a fugitive from the law when he has visited Nigeria at least 70 times since 1999 and he has never been charged? Even though Nigeria has a reputation for lawlessness on the part of the rich, there would have been some talk, some criticism in the media and by lawmakers by now. Also, how can any website claim that Lawal is being investigated by the EFCC when it has been confirmed by actual and reliable sources that no such investigation or inquiry exists? In fact, Nigerian Curiosity has learned from very reliable sources, that not only are there no pending charges against Lawal, but that this has been stated in writing by Nigerian authorities.
Furthermore, the nation just tapped into its connection to this so-called international fugitive during a recent visit to Houston by Turai Yar'Adua on a recent trip to the Port of Houston. Lawal is the only black Commissioner to the Ports of Houston Authority. Yet, the world is to believe that this same individual is a wanted man, the subject of an EFCC investigation and a party to an 8 year old criminal complaint for which no charges have ever been formally charged against the alleged defendant. If he is a party to a crime then Aondoakaa, as the Minister of Justice, should simply press charges against him so that any accusations can be settled in a court of law. Better that, than his spokesperson, Taiye Akinyemi telling the foreign, and arguably biased, press, that, "There are many rich and powerful Nigerians out there. If he's innocent, he should come here and defend himself. The Nigerian courts are waiting for him. Nigeria is practicing the rule of law now."
Don't Become A Pawn:
There is a serious ongoing battle in the United States with various interests vying to gain the White House. This political battle is between incredibly powerful groups who will burn every bridge necessary to achieve the ultimate goal of having their interests and ideas represented by whoever becomes the next President of the United States. This duel has seemingly ensnared Kase Lawal. And, by suggesting that Lawal is a fraud despite no documents or legal evidence proving or even hinting such, some Nigerians might have unwittingly allowed themselves to become pawns in the American political battle for the Presidency. The ensuing result is that the mere mention of Lawal's connection to Nigeria has incited vicious '419' comments and other unfair scam accusations against him and Nigerians as a whole in the comments section at one ABC blog. Nigerians must never allow their interests of improving the nation to become secondary to the interests of other elements. To allow such is to cause a disservice to the average Nigerian who works hard to make ends meet and trusts in public officials to serve their interests.
Let Us Not Sabotage Each Other:
If anyone has any charges against Lawal man and his company there are formally recognized legal procedures that should be followed. There is no reason to believe that any legal charges would not be responded to by Lawal and his attorneys. There is no reason to level reckless allegations or use smear tactics to defame people. To assume and suggest that the mere fact of somebody's wealth makes him/her a suspect is not only dangerous and unfair, but it runs against the inherently Nigerian drive to be successful.
At the end of the day, we all have to watch and see how this 'kase' will end. But, in the mean time, well-intentioned people must insist that things be done the right way and that the interests of Nigeria and Nigerians not be ignored. We must also work to protect Nigerians who have worked hard and excelled within their areas of expertise. This way, we do not create a precedent where successful Nigerians are accused without cause and without evidence. Such a precedent would stifle and put fear in Nigerians who are trying to be progressive and hoping to leverage their success to better Nigeria and its people.