Destiny, the factor behind the death of the late president Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, is that which also acted itself out in Jonathan’s emergence as the substantive president and the Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Can this be regarded as divine blessing or punishment? Without exercising caution to reflect on the nature of what destiny has foisted on us, people with different shades of interests rolled out their drums and started celebrating as the seemingly politically impossible has been made possible by destiny. Among others, opinion experts, political commentators and public analysts and civil societies also spiced up the celebration by adding their voices to what should be done by Jonathan to get the country going in the right direction. Without paying due attention to the connection between change and the personality of the leader rocking the boat of change, everybody seems to be overtaken by the pathetic drama which trailed Jonathan’s emergence and the urgency to fix our troubled nation. The imperative of this missing link in orchestrating a progressive and desirable change and what the celebration of Jonathan’s emergence meant in its wider context impregnate this article’s conceptual basis and thematic outline.
Recounting a memorable childhood experience which I find relevant to the ideas being articulated in this write up seems a logical means of fleshing my narration. It was one which I had when I went visiting my grandma to spend one of my primary school long vacations with her. The old woman who is now 115 years was used to telling us, real life stories and sometimes tales. These were stories aimed at imparting and deepening our moral instinct and sense of obligation. On one of those eventful evenings, she narrated the story of a man, Ekundayo, whose father went through hard times to raise him.
Ekundayo was born following an unfortunate incident which saw his parents lose their belongings and three children to a fire which gutted their house while they were away for a family event in Ondo. As fate will have it, after many attempts, his parents never succeeded to have any issue after him. With nothing to live on, the parents entered into pawnship, iwofa, to be able to foot the primary educational expenses of Ekundayo and settle some outstanding debts.
For the purposes of clarity, there is the need to explain iwofa/pawning. This was a form of lending practice in Yoruba land which required placing human being in the household of a wealthy creditor/lender in a dual capacity as a loan collateral, surety and as someone who services the interest that accrues on the loan obtained. The person that is pawned may be a relative, biological son or daughter, adult or a child, female or male. The pawn, iwofa, is required to work in the household of the lender until the loan is paid by the debtor. This work which neither has a defined form, nor scope is the means through which the interest that accrues on the loan is serviced and paid and the payment of the loan secured. After the loan is paid, the pawn can regain his/her freedom. A family may pawn one of its relative just as parents who can also pawn themselves could pawn their children.
While working as a pawn alongside her husband, Ekundayo’s mother died. The lender who witnessed the pains which the poor woman went through before her death was kind enough to let go, Ekundayo’s father, without the payment of the loan which they secured. The burden of how to foot the post primary school of Ekundayo no longer arose as he secured scholarship awards for his secondary and university education. On the day of his graduation from the university, he was able to secure a good job.
As a responsible child, grandma narrated, Ekundayo was up and doing in attending to his father and extended family needs. Some months into his job, Ekundayo drove into his village in a brand new Volkswagen car, a gift which was to be presented to his aged father. With pride and sense of fulfillment, he presented his father with the key and the car’s document. Expectant of the father to be filled with joy and applause for making him a car owner in a village where nobody owns one, Ekundayo was horror struck to hear his father ask the question, “where did you get the money to buy this car?” With a smiling face, “sir,” explained Ekundayo, “from my monthly earnings.” He went further, “daddy, no,…you deserved more than this…”
Without any reason to doubt his only surviving son who had never being involved in any untoward acts, surprisingly, Pa Ekundayo was not satisfied with his son’s explanation. The father approached the head of the community to help persuade Ekundayo to tell the truth. It was at this instance that a meeting of the community leaders was called, the sole objective of which was to probe where Ekundayo got the money that was used in buying the car. Ekundayo labored in vain to convince these elders that it was through a hard earned income that he got the car. The issue was brought to a temporary halt when it was unanimously agreed that a two-man delegation be sent with Ekundayo to Lagos to investigate the genuineness of his claim.
Upon the completion of their task, the committee which reported its findings in the community’s fortnight meeting absolved Ekundayo of any wrongdoing. It was after this that the community held a big celebration in honour of Ekundayo and the car’s key which, throughout the investigation period was in the community leader’s custody was released to Pa Ekundayo. What a story, a real life one that shows what values once was as a non-negotiable parameter that poverty cannot displace when our society was in order. It is that which speaks volume about what were once the factors that assumed the status of communal sacrosanct heritage which neither poverty nor vicissitudes of time can displace. This was simply an era when moral values was our community’s common immunity.
A well deserved celebration which Pa Ekundayo and his value-driven community suspended based on the prioritization of what they held in high esteem seems to have been a forgotten thing in today’s Nigeria communities. Following the death of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, the Ijaws and South-South community in Nigeria in particular and other vested groups, individuals, Associations and religious bodies have been celebrating the dawn of their time. Jonathan has since been viewed with the prism of the illustrious son of the soil and his wife, Patience, as the Queen who should be offered all the respect that is befitting of a first lady. Churches and mosques have also joined in offering and soliciting support for the mirror image of Nigerians who is now presiding over our affairs. Human right groups, militants, self-acclaimed activists, public spokespersons, opposition parties, trade unions, peasants amongst others are not left out of the show. Nobody neither seem to be asking the type of question which Pa Ekundayo and his community raised, nor driven by the same mentality to ask who are the couples that are now being referred to as the Nigerian first family? We seem not to be interested in the personalities of these individuals or probably, have decided to close our eyes since we are same of the same.
As a student of history, I was prompted to increase my knowledge base about the Nigerian first family. So, with a paid interest on his days as the Governor of Bayelsa State who succeeded the disgraced Dipreye Alamieyeseigha, I set out to use the goggle search engine to surf for the profile of Dr. Jonathan Goodluck. His ascension as the governor strikes a similar parallel with that of the presidential seat he now occupies. What else? Patience Faka Jonathan with whom Oga ran the Bayelsa state affairs as the first family is on the EFCC list of mone
y launderers? The Nigerian first lady, Madam Patience was as I come to know caught on September 11, 2006 with a stolen $13.5 million dollars (US), a staggering amount traced to have been siphoned from the covers of Bayelsa state. In other words, she was acting as Oga Jonathan’s money transfer agent. As I got agitated, my breathing almost stop pulsating coming to know that earlier in August 2006, the Nigerian first family was involved in a N104 million scandal, that was stolen from the public treasury. Were they absolved of any wrongdoing or offered a state pardon? I surfed the World Wide Web in vain. So, the Nigeria’s first family is light fingered, yet the Ijaws are quick to pronounce them as the illustrious son and daughter of the Ijaw nation. Also, it came to nothing, my search for any editorial comment or storyline by any of the mainstream dailies or Nigerian focused online media on the implication of having a first family with a worldwide known record of public robbery
In the attempt to get to the root of the matter, a friend who interrupted my contemplation raised a funny question that is somehow related to the problem that was troubling my mind. He said, shouldn’t Jonathan be grateful to Dipreye Alamieyeseigha? I said, how? He offered a succinct response that he felt Jonathan should, because, if Alamieyeseigha had not stolen from office, and got kicked out as a result, Jonathan would not have become the Governor of Bayelsa State. he furthered, it was this development that made him to be considered and offered Yar’Adua’s running mate slot. What a logic, I replied.
As if my friend, Kunle, was a clairvoyant, Alamieyeseigha, the Governor General of the Ijaw nation, an ex-convict soon paid President Jonathan a congratulatory visit some days later. The Governor-General who spoke the mind of Ijaw people, said, “I am fulfilled. Somebody must be a fore-runner. He was divinely prepared; I was only used as an instrument to bring him. I am glad the choice was perfected by God’s grace. He is an embodiment of leadership qualities. He is unassuming but I tell you he combines intellect with wisdom. So, this country has made a good choice, I am glad to be part of it …”
On a explicit note, he was simply thanking God for making him steal and for preparing a thief to rule over a country whose leadership is a mirror image of its populace. Could it be that the community/region which these ‘illustrious’ personalities represent sanctions or indulge stealing?, I begun to wonder. In the process of interrogating this question, then, I realized that it was the same community which, after Alamieyeseigha served his jail term lavished on him the honorific title, Governor-General of Ijaw nation. This title, which can be translated as the President of Ijaw nation, suggests that the Ijaw community have seen nothing wrong in stealing. So, why should they be bothered about Jonathan whose value of looted money is no where comparable to that of the Governor-General? Why should they be also worried since his predecessors were involved in fraud and various acts of corruption? What a contrast with Pa Ekundayo’s community, a story which mirrors the place which values once occupied in Nigeria. Being represented by someone who is a thief or criminal is part of the norm that represents our modern Nigerian communities!
If the Ijaw and the South-South people are not bothered that a family with criminal record is representing them and Nigerians as a whole, shouldn’t others be bothered? Surprisingly, opinion experts, political commentators and public analysts, civil societies, religious bodies amongst others have decided to overlook this issue. Could this be deliberate or symptomatic of an endemic disease which has infected our community? Attempts at answering this question have kept me wondering and repeatedly contemplate that it may be by accident that all our serving and past governors were and are criminals and thieves? Whe! may be they were not voted for in the true sense. Again, why is it that no serving or past local government chairperson can survive not being categorized as criminals or thieves? Again, they were also not voted for, we may think! What of the counselors who are birds of a feather as it is with other elected political office holders? “These are all politicians,” again, this protective response, we may muster.
Bearing the above line of analysis in mind, my interrogation will for a while shift base to the interior of the public sector. Why is it that those in our ministries, parastatals, government hospitals, and other public establishments are either involved or aid and abet one form of criminal activity or the other? What percentage of those in this sector can come out with their hands free of any blemish? Like the bosses, the members of staff are awesomely involved in pillaging and subverting the system. Is this debatable?
In beaming my searching gaze through our places of learning, I was heartbroken to observe the same trend. Places that are supposed to be brain industries where we groom our human resources have sadly become breeding ground for criminals and thieves. Our primary and secondary schools, like our tertiary institutions are managed by those who cannot account for the financial resources under their control. Dominantly, the teachers, lecturers and the students are involved in cutting corners and indulge in one form of criminal act or the other. If this is taken as a true picture of our educational setting, then, we may begin to see reason why the public sector is populated by criminals and thieves.
What were observed in the public sector were equally observed in our private sectors. Whaoh! To get contracts, particularly the type that can keep things going in our country, private establishments are known to use corporately garbed criminal package as the bait. Corporate criminality, which is being packaged in different forms and given different cooperate nomenclatures, a trendy culture within the private establishment has now the true face of the sector. The peasants, artisans but to mention a few are no exception to this scourge. We are quick to look down on those who repair our cars, those who helps in erecting our houses but to mention a few, as criminals who should not be trusted without knowing that they are imaging us with the same look. Things have gone terribly bad that few are having their hands not soiled.
But, it is often said that Nigerians are the most religious people. We are devouted church and mosque goers but in the actual sense, we are mere hypocrites, I suppose. In fact, our synagogues, cathedrals and mosques and other religious temples are places where criminality is spiritualized and religiousized. These places of worship are replicates of what the Lutheranian reformists fought against, thus, laying down the foundation of the change that was to precipitate the rise of western civilization. The choice of where to worship is strongly influenced by the caliber of public and private persons, criminals and thieves, in our congregations. Since everybody seems to be oozing and speaking the language of corruption, once jobs are provided for the members of the congregation, religious activities are supported with stolen cash, contracts are awarded to religious heads through proxies, then, it is the congregation members’ religious responsibility to seek Divine protection for these criminals. In other words, the Lord has opened his ways for the congregation to benefit. Religious grounds are now places where corruption and criminals are annointed.
It is high time we took a look at the family structure may be it may be experienced, departure from the pervasive culture of corruption. As my observation and findings reveal, a lot has gone wrong with this smallest unit of the society to the extent that it could be said to be a failed institution. Owing to a number of factors, parents
could no longer exert their influence on modeling their wards to taste. These factors include both imposed and self-induced ones, which in my forthcoming article will be extensively explored. Most parents cannot feed themselves let alone carter for the needs of their children. As a result and coupled with other reasons, it has become difficult for parents to provide desirable guidance for their wards. How many parents bother to query the source of the property in their children’s custody? Few, indeed! Our parents are quick to join us in condemning a family member who, on moral ground, refuses to confer us a solicited favour based his/her aversion to nepotism. If a count is taken of the percentage of the Nigerian contemporary family members that have once contemplated whether, the favour that had once received from a family member is obtained through a legitimate means, less than one percent may earn pass mark.
When a family member is appointed into a privileged position, members of the family are quick to celebrate the dawn of their era to milk the nation. Everybody will forward his need in one form or the other without minding to ask if within his lawful earnings, the person whose favour is solicited has the capacity to meet up with those needs. Nobody cares to know if that is within his lawful earnings or not. Everybody will count on such person to fix them in strategic places even when it requires scarifying merit. As it was with the Ijaw example that was earlier cited, is, with the Yorubas, Hausas, Ibos and other minority tribes that make up the Nigerian family system. Corruption and other social ills now live and wake up with us in our various families.
Since those between the age of 0-14% make up 41.5% of our population, and given the condition that they will be groomed into adults by people and environment that have personified and personalized corruption, impunity and disregarded ethical norms as a way of life, then, all things being equal, less than one percent of them may grow up to be upright. This is the golden rule of life as what shapes our person will be determined by the ambience that prevails in our society. It is for this reason that change is only guaranteed when people show the sincere readiness to accept change and get themselves committed to doing this. Relying on God without walking the talk is a wishful thinking, and a deliberate abuse of divine norms. Doing this is an elegant way of unveiling our ignorance. In view of the fact that walking the talk is a divine requirement of change, and more so, an indubitable golden rule of life that underlie the process of bringing about change, by compromising, ignoring, circumventing, or abusing this rule, the consequences will alienate all and sundry.
How can a society which is pleased in drawing negative comparison between two evils and uses one as a benchmark to adjudge the other, claim that it is only the leaders are corrupt. Both the leaders and the followers are corrupt, criminal minder, hypocrites, and it is for this reason that we have been having the type of leaders who are mismanaging our affairs. We have lost our sense of values, although we are hesitant to accept this reality. We have a society which fits into that popular saying, “we are all thieves, but it is only those who are caught in the act that are so tagged.” We must square up with the reality that 99% of Nigerians are criminals, thieves, potential criminals, and hypocrites. 99% of us are involved in different capacities in the acts that have pauperized our economy, destroyed our parental institution, rendered our educational centres sterile, decimated our humanity and eroded the values which ones sustained and parachuted our country to enviable heights.
We need to understand that criminals cannot passively change any society. This is against the rule of life. The moral foundation of change requires change agent to walk the talk. We must begin with ourselves as it is people that build institution and the society before both can play their roles in the life of the people. The way that a structure that is placed on a shaky foundation will go down with time, is the way that a society that intends to bring about change by entrusting their life to criminals and thieves will end up in ignominy. Countries which had followed this path are living examples that every other group of people that follows such path will be engulfed by war and crisis with devastating consequence. We may begin to reflect on Liberia, although a high level of wisdom may be required to explain how this fits into our context. This will be explained in my special article on the 11 years of our democratic experience. By experimenting with criminals and relying on them to bring about change, our woes will only be deepened and evils days postponed.
The change we are yearning for can only be achieved by changing our lives as a people whose community is exorcised with criminal spirit. The rule requires walking the talk; therefore it is on this premise that I proclaim that Jonathan Goodluck who has violated the golden rule should submit all his stolen wealth, allows his wife to be prosecuted before he should be held in high esteem. This is the most critical step which everyone must apply on himself before genuine change can actually takes place in Nigeria.