While it is true that sensationalism, exaggerations and silly distortions of facts may be helping to sell newspapers and magazines reporting corruption, and putting corrupt officials on the spot in our country, it is equally damaging, in my view, to our collective resolve to fight Corruption. The other nemesis, of course, is the “kiss ass” pretensions of most, if not, all of us, myself included, to hero-worship anyone in power regardless of their failings and inadequacies. By so doing, we tend to make a genius out of mediocre or just average leaders who then begin to play god by feigning superiority over the rest of us.
The moment we allow such leaders to assume that pinnacle, we are accomplices in making them fall in love with their own ideas and importance thereby blocking out their ears to good advice. Many of them actually institutionalize Corruption into an Art, while the rest of us applaud them in total ignorance. As a concerned Nigerian with a deep rooted regard for the truth, fairness and objectivity, I am deeply troubled that the exaggeration and the “kiss ass” propensity of most of us, is actually making a mockery of our President’s so-called crusade against Corruption with all its contradictions. I think we, first of all, need to make a more conscious effort to minimize the highly misleading distortions and blackmail of all of our leaders, as a rule. Once silly exaggerations and nasty rumor-mongering about their activities in office, are debunked or proved to be false or malicious, whatever case we are making against them, simply lose their traction and effectiveness. As a matter of fact, such rumors often help to whip up sympathy for the accused corrupt individuals, thereby making their critics and accusers, look more like witch hunters, and blackmailers at best, other than people genuinely concerned about the image and reputation of our country.
We all must therefore check our facts, and stop basing our sweeping indictment of our leaders on personal opinions and wishful thinking which are very misleading to say the truth. Corruption definition in much of the third world runs much wider and deeper than elsewhere in the world, I dare say. It is Corruption for the Electoral Commission to seriously condone the illicit activities of the President’s Party to manipulate the election results and to declare false results like we witnessed in Anambra States and a few other States in the North, and else where. It is Corruption for any President to knowingly condone such activities and to look the other way. It is Corruption for a cabal to unjustly imprison a man for being critical of the Government in power, and to release the same individual from prison to come lead our nation by rigging the election for him, based on a “quid pro quo” contraptions by some power brokers in our country. It is Corruption of sorts for the leading figures in our Government to maintain a semblance of unity to the public while they are both working at cross purposes with the President actively encouraging a surrogate to supplant the electoral prospects of his Vice who is now being described as a spare tire the President is only tolerating because of the political dynamite an open schism between them may create for the President.
My point here is that critics have a lot more factual situations to write about in criticizing our political leaders than spreading false rumors that would end up in smoke when they are closely investigated…
President Obasanjo has recently admitted being pressured by some Nigerians to stay on for another term, but he has not told us their reasons for urging him to stay on. It is Corruption on the part of the President not to name those Nigerians, or to dignify their advice by not speaking up on it sooner, and by not openly discouraging that kind of advice in the nick of time. If in close to 12 years as Head of State, this President has not already found some lasting solutions to many of our nation’s problems, he ought to realize, even without being told, that it is time to give other leaders their chance to try their luck. The nation is doing much poorer today than it ever did under Yakubu Gowon, Murtala Mohammed and the earlier years of Ibrahim Babangida So he himself ought to see the naivety or hypocrisy of praise singers who are suggesting to him he ought to seek another term to lay a solid foundation for our country, for when a man takes more than three years to learn how to run mad, how many years would it take the same man to live out his insanity?
It is a perfectly legitimate question to ask. I will admit that Obasanjo has tried his best, but his best has not been good enough, and he too should realize the nation has been kind to him, given all the opportunities that have come his way in a country one 120 million. The President must just cut out is his propensity to assume that any Nigerian or group who dares to disagree with him and his policy is either a saboteur or a renegade. It takes more than one leader to make a great nation, and no one leader has a monopoly of knowledge. All hands must therefore be on the deck.
It is therefore a silly exaggeration for the President to see himself in that light, and to want to project that image in his belated but welcomed efforts to now confront Corruption in our Government and Society. We would be deceiving ourselves and any our leaders would be deceiving himself and the nation to think he can totally eliminate corruption from our society. . Fighting corruption is a job for all of us. The President must appreciate that. There is a group, for instance, that is hardly ever mentioned in our fight against corruption, and yet I see them as creating an awareness that continues to draw very pertinent attention to the evils of Corruption in our society more forcefully than any Government or even the Press and even churches and pastors and mosques and Imams in our midst can ever match. I am talking of what the entertainers in the up and coming Film or Movie Industry in Nigeria are collectively doing to dramatize the evils in our society including Corruption and others.
< P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"> Over this weekend, I was privileged to watch three such Nigerian movies that have, in part, informed my decision to do this piece. The three movies are “One Dollar”, “Abela Pupa”, and “Toyin Tomato”. I would strongly recommend all of the three movies to any of my readers who not only value entertainment as much as I do, but who may also want to learn something about the decadence of our nation, and how far the lust for money and power has hobbled our country. It is simply amazing. I also discover, in those movies, that the propensity to want to exaggerate and intentionally misleading people and “kissing ass” runs very deep in our country. It has, in fact, become a national cancer if you think about it.
Let me now return in full force to how distortions in reporting and sheer exaggeration is muddling our current effort to collectively fight Corruption to a standstill. I refer to the current rumors making the rounds all over the world that Gbenga, the son of our President has become a conduit pipe for Corruption in our country, by using his father’s connections. The President was so concerned about the rumor that he went out of his way to be the mouth organ of his son, like most good fathers are bound to do. In defending his son and replying to all critics accusing him of Corruption, he even threw a challenge that anyone who has any information that could prove his guilt should feel free to say or publish it, any where, any time. He even told the nation nobody should be considered a sacred cow in the corruption crusade he is leading. Not even his first lady, Stella, would be spared, jokingly adding that if himself as a former President, can be sent to jail, having served for three years in the Abacha’s gulag, nobody should consider the first lady as above the Law. He passionately defended his son and challenged anyone with information about the alleged 22 million deposit in an American Bank to come out with their facts and figures, if they have one.
Responding to that challenge I had made in a point of duty to try and investigate, if it was true that President Bush had actually issued an indictment warning Obasanjo about money laundering involving his son in a Bank in America. It does not normally lie within the purview of responsibility of an American President to issue that kind of indictment to another Head of Government. My investigation of the charge which is still ongoing, has, so far, produced nothing to substantiate what many Nigerian Newspapers and Internet writers have been reporting as facts. If anything it seems to me like more rumors or blackmail at this point.
Following the same trend, I did some investigations on the ongoing charges against the former Inspector General of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun. While it is true that Tafa may have misappropriated some funds allocated to the Nigeria Police during his tenure as IG, the versions we are all reading in the Newspapers and the print media and the Internet are grossly exaggerated. What the former IG may have done may be enough to put him behind bars. I am not disputing that, and that is up to the Law Court to decide. But what is so troubling to me is our propensity as a people to sometimes make up stories which are false.
I recall that similar rumors were carried on Senator Omisore while he was on trial, not too long ago for the murder of Uncle Bola Ige. I can also see that worse allegations continue to be made on Ibrahim Babangida, Sunny Abacha, and right now on Atiku Abubakar and lately on Buba Marwa and even on my good friend and former State Governor, Rear Admiral Okhai Mike Akhigbe, the one I know best out of all these leaders. I did work for Akhigbe, as the pioneer Director of the Directorate of Foods, Roads and Rural Infrastructures in Ondo State, way back in 1986.. Of all the State Governors I ever had the privilege of knowing, up close and personal, Okhai Mike Akhigbe was clearly one of the best in terms of hard work and public probity.
I don’t know about you. The Akhigbe that I know was a very upright Governor. I still hold him in high esteem till tomorrow, and that is not about to change. I guess I could also say the same thing of the young Brigadier General named Buba Marwa when he was Military attache at the Nigerian Permanent Mission in New York in the 90s before his posting to Lagos State as Governor. He was, in fact, one of the first patrons of the Sergeant Akintide Educational Endowment Foundation based in Akure, Nigeria, with a branch office in New York. He is the kind of man, in my judgment, that has the moral rectitude to rule our nation, if he is given the chance But if you are going by what is said and written about all these Nigerians leaders, across the board, you will think they are nothing but devils. Why? Because so much is being said and written about them that are not true at all, if you dare to ask for facts and figures.
Nigeria is fast becoming a nation of rumor-mongers per excellence, and such notoriety does not lend any credence to our collective efforts to stand up against Corruption, and to bring it under control in our country. We, myself included, are all guilty of the malady, and awareness is all we need before we can begin to effectively address the negative effects of this observation in the overall interest of our country.
I rest my case.