My wife spoke to me a few days ago. This was after I had received a suggestion as to an alternative way of combating corruption in Nigeria from a very good friend, a member of Champions For Nigeria who resides in the USA. At the same time, coincidentally, several members of the organisation, which I also belong to, gave me their thoughts on this issue of official corruption in Nigeria. They were all concerned. This is in addition to feedback I get from other concerned Nigerians.
My wife was concerned that I am growing emergency grey hairs simply because I seem to be carrying Nigeria’s problems on my head. She seemed to think I am fighting a futile battle, which others greater and more influential than me had fought and had failed. I just had to reassure her that this is not the case. I had to convince her that on the long run, my, and other Nigerian’s fight against corruption will not be in vain, and that there will always be light at the end of the tunnel, even if most of us do not live long enough to see it, at least our children and their children will benefit and see it. That was all I could say. Of course, she is always supportive of my socio-political stance.
My friend from the USA emailed me suggesting that perhaps we should take another look at the way corruption is being fought in Nigeria and this was incorporated into my own suggestions which was published as “Managing Corruption – An Alternative Proactive Approach“, in which I advocated concentrating on preventative rather than remedial measures.
Comrade Ephraim Adinlofu then wrote: “I remembered way back in the 70s, one or two WAEC English questions and essays had always been on ways of curbing corruption in Nigeria. Today, the issue is still the same: movement without motion. Corruption has eaten into the fabric of the Nigerian society. In fact the word “fabric” has become a cliché because of its over usage in the Nigerian context. I think the fight has become more daring and dangerous. The people’s consciousness to fight this curse was aptly raised when Nuhu Ribadu, despite his little flaws, was there. And I am happy that Farida Waziri is equally doing it her own way, even though the momentum seemed to have slowed down a bit. The point we must note is that there is no way anybody or organization will fight corruption without its beneficiaries fighting back. But that should not deter whoever and whatever organization that wants to continually take the bull on. My take is that we should use the students, the youths and General Yakubu Gowon. Gowon is the only epitome of example we could approach and use. He is the best example. Even Pat Utomi and Reuben Abati have testified to it in the numerous write ups; IBB, Ibori and Atiku are, to the best of my knowledge, not good examples to the youths. If IBB had not annulled the JUNE 12, 1993 election, Nigerians would have forgiven him on his policy of “settlement” and use him as a good example, but he blew his chance”.
While I was pondering on this issue, I came across a news item in Nigeria Today Online (Thursday, 5th march 2009) “A member of the Ogun State House of Assembly, Oluseyi Moses, says all the 26 lawmakers in the state are fraudulent and should immediately be arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Moses, who represents Sagamu 1 Constituency made the allegation on the floor of the House of Assembly, shortly after the suspension of two members of the assembly, stating further that he was ready to assist the anti-graft agency in exposing their (lawmakers) financial misdeeds. He further said money and the selfish interests of individual members were the causes of the on-going crisis in the Assembly, adding that what lawmakers earn as salaries is much more than what Ph D holders earn in the country, “Yet we still steal.” “I am calling on EFCC to arrest all of us,” he said. “I will cooperate with the organisation in exposing our financial mess. We should all be arrested. We are all thieves in this assembly. We are only fighting because of our selfish interest and pockets.” He added “I would open up and confess to EFCC. We should all be locked up. The bottom line of the fight is money. Virtually all of us have built mansions and have chains of cars on getting to office, and where do we get the money?”
I was aghast, but not surprised. I knew, and many Nigerians knew, that this is exactly what goes on in our country, federal, state or local government levels. I am of course not able to deduce the reason for Honourable Moses’ sudden contrite and motive. It could well be genuine guilty conscience and repentance; or it could be because of the sudden do or die war within Ogun State because things have fallen apart between the Governor, Gbenga Daniel and his House of Assembly. The Honourable’s revelation is very illuminating and alarming and must be treated very seriously. What goes on in those thieves’ dens called legislative houses are very unspeakable; against the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, against the spirit and ethics of a democratic society, a crime against the Nigerian people and is blatant and unchecked larceny.
A year ago, a member of the House of Representatives, confided to another friend of mine that if Nigerians knew how much money they, Representatives and Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, take home every month, which is not even their salaries, Nigerians might rise up against them, march on the National Assembly in Abuja and lynch them and burn the corrupt edifice to the ground. (I honestly wish this could happen, call me an anarchist). If you are the Chair of a committee in the National House of Assembly, you’ve got it made. Ordinary members are not left out of the underhand deals, and they make considerable money too. It is well known in Abuja that any Federal Ministry, Government Department or Parastatal that wants to get its budget passed, must inflate the budget to cater for the demands of the committees overseeing them, or the budget will not get passed. The same underhand practice goes on in the State assemblies and local government meeting houses too.
In his article “We Shall Overcome” (Nigeria Today Online, Friday 6th March 2009) Cornelius Ewuoso wrote “I could not hold back my tears when I read that article by Okey Ndibe, regarding the amount each member of the House of Representatives and each Senator receives annually as constituency development fund: $ 1.2 million and $1.7 million for each member of House of Representatives and each Senator respectively. Wahoo! This is very scary. An amount sufficient enough to pay more than 8,000 striking Nigerian teachers! What a paradox. Where is the transparency and justice? This provokes a question which must asked, what should be our priority? Our pockets or the education of our children? Millions of Nigerians go on hunger strike, live without any means of livelihood while those who claim to be their representatives, loot their money; live in luxury and comfort. There is decadence everywhere you turn to, but our representatives seem not to care. Failure stares us in the face, thousands of Nigeria go home at the end of the month without their salaries, live in continuous misery and yet these despots are allowed to go home with such a huge amount to the detriment of the people. But, whose representatives are they? What is at stake, dear friends, is the question of justice. So many are being treated unjustly; while a few are allowed to whisk away public properties. Teachers are either under-paid or not paid at all, while some are allowed to smile home with this huge sum of money. As a result of this, these secondary and primary scho
ols teachers who could ordinarily sustain themselves and their families through their labour, now live in abject poverty, pains, frustration, hopelessness and uncertainties. And their rights to a meaningful life whisked away by a powerful few. Shall we then fail to speak for these ones and the millions of other Nigerians- the pensioners, displaced NITEL staff, University lecturers, Local Government staff – marginalised and oppressed all over the country? I do not think so. God’s command is relevant here, ‘what you do unto others, you do it unto me (God)’.
So where do we go from here, my brothers and sisters. The very people we are appealing to, to make the laws which will enable corruption to be fought to a standstill; the very people we are writing a petition to, to remove the immunity clause that protects executive office holders from prosecution whilst in office, are the same people carting away millions and billions of Naira in illegal, stolen, embezzled and undeclared loot.
Back on the case of the Ogun State House of Assembly: since people are so deep rooted in corruption, every step they take will continue reflecting that. What do we expect? A few weeks ago, the EFCC was trying to launch its ANCOR (Anti- Corruption Revolution) programme in the South-West, none of the Governors were there – it’s a shame.
Compatriots! Please do not be deluded. What is allegedly going on in the Ogun State House of Assembly is replicated in all the other 35 states of the nation, as well as in the local governments and the Federal House of Representatives and the Senate. It is the free money which Nigeria seems to have that has made democracy and politics in Nigeria a “do or die” battle amongst existing politicians and potential ones. Everybody wants to get there, share in the cake (read: looting) and they will do anything, including murder and genocide, to get there.
Look at how suddenly, disgraced, impeached former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose, has become very relevant again in Ekiti politics, dictating terms and conditions to his party, the PDP, and the party now looking to him as their ace in the pack to win the forthcoming re-election in the state. What a mess? I tell you, the PDP is going to implode soon, and with its Chairman acquiring a N400 million mansion, they are on their way to self-destruction.
Also, Olusegun Agagu, my former lecturer at the University of Ibadan and now, ex-Governor (thankfully) of Ondo State was arrested (or quizzed) by the EFCC for stealing $23 million or 25 Billion Naira within about 6 years. He was caught this time, only after being forced out of the Governor’s Office for rigging himself into office for a second term; he may have stolen 3 or 4 times more during his lacklustre rule in the state. Don’t forget he was also a Minister of Aviation. Even the new Governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Mimiko, was also a Federal Minister of Housing and has himself some case to answer about the small matter of diversion of funds whilst he was running the Ministry.
This is the perfect opportunity for the EFCC to investigate these “dis-honourable” members of the Ogun State House of Assembly, if they are willing to provide full disclosure and evidence, as obviously Honourable Moses wants to do, and let justice take its course. In fact, the whole House of Assembly should be dissolved by Federal fiat, constitution or no constitution, and the Governor himself, who cannot plead ignorance of this entire goings on, be questioned and indicted. These are very serious allegations indeed, and the EFCC should act immediately before anybody develops cold feet. The EFCC and ICPC torchlight must not only be directed at executive office holders, but also on our legislators, local councillors, board members of Parastatals and civil servants.
We therefore call on the EFCC to wade into this issue of the Ogun State House of Assembly. What better chance to prove to Nigerians that the EFCC is capable and that the war against corruption is not derailed?