Her arrest, at least, lay to rest the ghost of cancer. The civility and decency of the British criminal justice system would not whisk a dying woman from the omen of a hospital bed.
The good news is that Diezani Alison-Madueke was not in the lethal stage of cancer. She was not numb under the knife, nor writhing with despair. Since she did not, at the time of arrest, crouch under the spell of carcinogen, then two things might have happened.
One, she elbowed her way out of the hold of cancer in a miracle. Or two, the story of the affliction was all a lie to impugn the flawless physiognomy of the former belle of oil.
Or shall we add a third: she and her people had concocted a fiction to whip up sympathy. Whatever her iniquity, it made no sense to wish such calamity, that voracious flesh eater called cancer, on a fellow human.
Or a fourth? That her affliction had reduced to a benign status and she could bear her legal travail while her pain hummed in the background.
Whatever the story, that modern blight of a flesh-eater is no stumbliong block to her trial. She can clear her name even if the hammer of cancer looms above her head. If she is not an oil thief, cancer will not stand between her and her plea of innocence.
Since the Buhari administration initiated its anti-corruption war, eyes have rolled Madueke’s way. In the early days, she fed us with pictures of the lowly Diezani. We witnessed the fashion of humility and mien of capitulation. In her hijab, she bowed before General Abdulsalami Abubakar, who was relishing his new role as a power broker in the Buhari vortex. She also soared with Buhari, sharing a row with him on British Airways.
They sat within each other’s breaths and eyeballs, her eyeballs obviously bigger and humbler. This coincidence of ambience generated the first scandal in Buhari’s inner circle. The story was that she stage-managed it with the aid of a Buhari aide, and the man was fired.
They were pictures of humility in a drama of humiliations. She was the same personage who pooh-poohed major newspaper interview requests. But in the heat of her travails, she scrambled to respond to a report by the Osun Defender – no knock on the lowly newspaper. She was the one who waltzed into public functions and mounted every dais with a bored and superior mien.
Yet, Madueke did worse. She had ranted that NNPC accounted to no one as a peacock institution. She huffed and puffed that no one told her what to do. We had a democracy, but she ran oil. She screeched with those words in Jonathan’s high noon, and commentators let her slippery venom flow under the earth like crude oil. Yours truly, however, remonstrated in vain. She snubbed the National Assembly when summoned to answer queries about billions of Naira she spent on private jet travels. Her boss and friend Jonathan defended her in his characteristic drawl and obtuse syntax.
When CBN chief Sanusi cried over missing billions, she strutted about with the hauteur of a princess. She was the great woman of reserve. She neither erred nor stumbled. Was it not the same Diezani that United States Secretary of State John Kerry referred to when he and President Obama met Buhari and his team? He said she was involved in as much as six billion dollars in money in western vaults.
When Jonathan was putting together his cabinet list, Madueke had not only told the former president he craved oil, he warned that she loathed to be assisted by an ancillary called minister of state. When the ministerial list was unveiled, voila! She was the lone Iroko of oil.
But she did not always spread her wings like an eagle. Her first public spotlight was on the road. Her large eyes cringed in tears on Lagos-Ore Expressway. She lamented the portents of potholes and gullies. The road was journey as death. Its jaws snapped cars and trailers and human flesh. It dipped its pen in blood and retold the profiles and families in tragedies and graveyards.
Madueke’s heart dropped, her visage fell and her tear duct dissolved. With her big, bold eyes, imperious carriage and poetic gait, she was a beauty with a human touch. The Nigerian heart tolled with the ministerial belle. She was a beauty after our heart.
Then she evolved into an ice queen, good to behold, but beholden to no one. She became the character in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. The character is the belle in a place called Macondo. She freezes every eye with her physical charms.
Her name is Remedios the Beauty. Every male pines for her flesh. They dig holes in her bathroom so they can ogle while water swishes over her naked body. She, however, never responds to the clamour of lust from the disoriented men. No one attracts her. She even walks about naked at home and on the streets.
A certain peeping tom crashes from the bathroom roof after his eyes lose coordination with his limbs. Others have cracked their heads in such giddy falls. She often is indifferent. But this peeping tom survives and all Remedios the beauty does is ask him to scrub her back.
Marquez was reflecting on the vanity of beauty, among other themes like fatuous divinity of Holy Mary.
When the cancer story broke, I was scandalised by the lack of sympathy by many Nigerians. They believed the story with dry eyes. They did not see beauty. They saw corruption. If you see Miss Nigeria, and her toe suddenly turns maggoty, your eyes will rest only on the sore.
Madueke grew to love power and glamour, and started to see the rest of us as commoners. She was like Livia, wife of Roman emperor Augustus, who saw Roman citizens as “rabble and slaves.” Historian Tacitus saw her as a manipulator of the emperor, and novelist Robert Graves portrays her as Machiavellian in his novel, I Claudius.
If her cancer story was a miracle, she must wish for another one. She must be an apostle of Russian writer Dostoyevsky in his Brothers Karamazov, when he says: “In a realist, faith is not borne out of miracles, but miracles out of faith.” With EFCC and the British zeroeing in on her, she must believe that a cancer survivor will triumph over any charge, even if her sins led to the misery of millions of fellow humans.