All Loot and No Work Makes Me a Rich Man

“The

last official act of any government is to loot the treasury” has been a popular

quotation on many websites since the global financial crisis of 2008. The

quotation is usually attributed to George Washington (1732-1799), but there is

no evidence that he ever said it.

Dear

reader, please pardon me if it appears that you are being suffused with another

entrée on corruption in our notoriously corrupt country. But don’t you just

have enough of day-to-day corruption scandals on the pages of our newspapers

and in beer parlours, with no sign of abating? And there doesn’t appear to be

anything done about the scandals? What would it take for us to do to arrest the

situation?

My

late English Literature teacher and former governor of Oyo State, Lamidi Adesina,

fondly known as Lam Ade (may his soul continue to rest in peace), used to scare

the hell out of us when he wants to punish us by saying “you are sitting on a keg of

gunpowder, which is about to explode” or “you are tottering on the edge of

a precipice, and you are about to fall inside” or “you are walking at the edge of a

razor blade, and you will be severely cut”. In those days, those

warning phrases used to strike terror into our simple hearts, because what they

mean was that the offending student was nearing expulsion from the school.

For

decades now, that is what Nigeria has been; sitting on a keg of gunpowder, or

tottering at the edge of an abyss. In fact I always shake my head in wonder

that a total collapse of the polity, the economy, the society and the fragile

thread holding the country together has not been achieved. But then, it appears

that this non-collapse into anarchy and bloody revolution has been due more to

the lack of courage, meek and cowardly acceptance of the followers to the

indignities and oppression heaped upon them by their rulers and indifference to

their plight than the resilience of a beaten, degraded and downtrodden people.

I

have always been one to defend my people, even when some of us averred in many

essays that we are cowards, fools, “munmuns” and ignorant people. The reason

being that as part of those same people, I cannot accept that I am in that

denigrating category and neither are 160 million people.

Unfortunately

for me, when one of our rulers, Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State recently

blamed Nigerians for the level of corruption in the country, saying that

political office holders loot the treasury because they have not been stoned by

the masses, it was time to put on my thinking cap and look at things from his

perspective.

“Kleptocracy, alternatively cleptocracy

or kleptarchy, (from Greek: κλέπτης – kleptēs, “thief” and κράτος –

kratos, “power, rule”, hence “rule by thieves”) is a form

of political and government corruption where the government exists to increase

the personal wealth and political power of its officials and the ruling class

at the expense of the wider population, often with pretence of honest service.

This type of government corruption is often achieved by the embezzlement of state

funds. Raubwirtschaft (German for

“plunder economy,” “robber economy,” or “rapine”)

is a form of economy where the goal is to plunder the wealth and resources of a

country or geographical area. Referring to Russia, Daniel Kimmage used the

terms: “kerdocracy”

(“rule based on the desire for material gain”) or “khrematisamenocracy”

(“rule by those who transact business for their own profit”)” (Source:

Wikipedia)

If

it is any consolation, it means kleptocracy is not unique to Nigeria; but I

will not rejoice in that knowledge, as some people will be quick to point out

to me. Is there, or has there ever been, any country in the world ruled

officially by thieves? I have looked at my history books and have not come

across any, but then thievery has never been legally recognised officially.

Nigeria will soon set another world record by becoming the first unilaterally,

officially recognised Kleptocracy in the world. Trust me, the way we a re

going.

According

to some research articles, “the effects of a kleptocratic regime or government

on a nation are typically adverse in regards to the faring of the state’s

economy, political affairs and civil rights. Kleptocracy in government often

vitiates prospects of foreign investment and drastically weakens the domestic

market and cross-border trade. As the kleptocracy normally embezzles money from

its citizens by misusing funds derived from tax payments, natural resources,

internally and externally generated revenues or money laundering schemes, a kleptocratically

structured political system tends to degrade nearly everyone’s quality of life.

In

addition, the money that kleptocrats steal is often taken from funds that were

earmarked for public amenities, such as the building of hospitals, schools, roads,

parks and the like – which has further adverse effects on the quality of life

of the citizens living under a kleptocracy.[3] The quasi-oligarchy that results

from a kleptocratic elite also subverts democracy (or any other political

format the state is ostensibly under)” (Source:National Strategy Against

High-Level Corruption: Coordinating International Efforts to Combat Kleptocracy”

Fact Sheet, Bureau Public Affairs, Washington, DC, August 10, 2006)

In

“Kleptocracy and Divide-and-Rule: A Model of Personal Rule” Daron Acemoglu,

James A. Robinson, Thierry Verdier. NBER Working Paper No. 10136 (National

Bureau of Economic Research) Issued in December 2003, “Many developing countries have

suffered under the personal rule of kleptocrats’, who implement highly

inefficient economic policies, expropriate the wealth of their citizens, and

use the proceeds for their own glorification or consumption. We argue that the

success of kleptocrats rests, in part, on their ability to use a

divide-and-rule’ strategy, made possible by weaknesses in the institutions in

these societies. Members of society need to cooperate in order to depose a

kleptocrat, yet such cooperation may be defused by imposing punitive rates of

taxation on any citizen who proposes such a move, and redistributing the

benefits to those who need to agree to it. Thus the collective action problem

can be intensified by threats which remain off the equilibrium path. In

equilibrium, all are exploited and no one challenges the kleptocrat.

Kleptocratic policies are more likely when foreign aid and rents from natural

resources provide rulers with substantial resources to buy off opponents; when

opposition groups are short-sighted; when the average productivity in the

economy is low; and when there is greater inequality between producer groups

(because more productive groups are more difficult to buy off)”.

The

above accurately defines Nigeria. A societal observation of the wealth of Nigerian

politicians and civil servants showed that despite their relatively low

incomes, a significant number had amassed personal wealth sometimes amounting

to sums exceeding several million, both in Naira, US Dollars and Pound

Sterling. We always wonder how such colossal sums could be stolen, but we now

know that corruption is built into the Nigerian system, accountability is

non-existent, and with a weak and corrupt judiciary, totally besmirched

crime-fighting agencies, an unresponsive and irresponsible government, and,

throw in, a totally befuddled and indifferent society, it is easy, at least for

those who have the access, to walk into the treasury and take what they want.

We

are already living in a KLEPTOCRATIC society in Nigeria – run exclusively by

kleptocrats! And we the munmun citizens sit down as if nothing is happening, some

of us taking sides because of misplaced political partisanship, religious

affiliation, ethnic loyalty and a dumbfounding refusal to speak, see and accept

the truth.

Challenging

Nigerians to hold their leaders accountable, Amaechi said, “If you see a thief and you allow

him to be stealing, what have you done? You have stoned nobody; that is why we

are stealing. Who have you stoned? They came out and started dancing oil

subsidy, oil subsidy. They told you that they stole N2.3trn, what did you do? “Instead

you are protesting ‘bring more oil subsidy’; the oil subsidy that is not

reaching the poor. A few individuals are going away with the money and you have

done nothing. You are mourning Madiba, who lived up to 95, and he was very

angry with Nigeria when he died. You’ve heard that $50bn is missing and you

have done nothing about it. In some countries people will go on the street

until they return that money. It is N8trn, it can change Nigeria”

So

back to the discourse, “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts

absolutely” (especially made worse in a corrupt society) I have never

heard of any democratic country where an appointed employee of the government

will obtain an injunction against the legislative arm of government to stop

them from probing them. This is exactly what the all-powerful, untouchable Minister

for Oil, Mrs Diezani Allison-Madueke just achieved. Yes, if she feels her

rights are being infringed upon, all she has to do is defend herself. She

forgets that as an appointed Minister, ALL her actions should be accountable to

the people, irrespective of what she feels her rights are. Earlier, several

years ago, ex-governor of Rivers State, Dr Peter Odili, obtained a similar

injunction and for eight years now, nobody dared touch him and he is still

laughing at the people of Nigeria. Again, recently, former Governor of the

Central bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido obtained another injunction, but this

time to prevent arrest. A very bad precedent has been laid. Nigerians have

managed to turn democracy on its head and turned to “demo-crazy”. Other

nations use the court to fight corruption and recover stolen national wealth;

but we use the court to retain and promote corruption.

When

will someone or some people sensible in the polity stop this display of impunity

being brought upon us? The oil minister had the audacity to approach the court

to obtain an injunction to stop citizens’ representatives from questioning her

on issues relating to bad governance and, adding ‘salt to injury’ the court

granted such injunction? Who is going to save this country? Should we expect the

heavily compromised labour unions, heavily baggage civil liberties groups, the

Nigerian Bar Association and other relevant establishments to step in?

There

is a form of government called ANARCHISM (Anarchy refers to a society without a

publicly enforced government, which implies political disorder or lawlessness

within a society). Why don’t we just adopt that and stop living this lie called

democracy?

Another

flaw or problem with our politics and demo-crazy is that appointees, mostly

square pegs in round holes, into governments owe allegiance ONLY to those who

appointed them (President and Governors) and NOT to the service of the people

whose very existence is the reason for their appointments. In fact it seems

these mediocre appointees are deliberately appointed to keep oiling the

machinery of corruption. These appointees not only loot the treasury to further

their own political careers or businesses, but “donate” a lot of the stolen

funds to fight elections for their masters.

Till

2015, the year of the General Election, most, if not all government ministries,

departments and agencies of government will remain paralyzed and

non-functional; while the civil servants will be loitering about looking for easy

money to loot and share. And their “ogas” will be looting and forced

to divert looted funds to sponsor elections.

That

is what happens every time an election is near. That is why you hear billions

are missing every time. Nobody to supervise and a vast amount of money are

lying around waiting to be looted.

Maybe

one day, we shall get out of our self-imposed slavery and oppression….but

don’t fold your hand for too long…you and I. You hear? 2015 is coming. We

have to do something to reverse the downward spiral. Forget the National

Conference coming up with instruments of salvation. If they don’t end up in

fisticuffs by the end of an exercise in futility and wastefulness, I will be

surprised.

If

we continue to do things the way we have been doing for the past fifty-four

years, we will consistently be getting the wrong results that we deserve. It

means, continue to put the wrong people in power, and we will continue to get

bad and evil governments of kleptocrats. Simple! A holistic approach to

Nigeria’s problems is needed not jaw-jawing and double-speak.

And

what bearing does the title of this article “All Loot and no Work makes Me a Rich Man” has to do with the

content? None at all, but read between the lines. It is axiomatic of our

predicament.

Election

is coming in 2015; use your vote to get better leaders, and hence, better

lives. It is the least we can do for our children, even if it is too late for

us.

The

Truth shall be told always.

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