“There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.” – William Shakespeare.
One of my grandfathers worked in various capacities with the old WNDC (Western Nigeria Development Corporation) as a Farm Manager for many decades. During his working life, he traversed the whole of the whole Western Region and parts of the old Mid-West, before his retirement in the late 60s at the mandatory age of 65. After his retirement, he lived only on his pension (that was when Nigeria was still regularly paying the pension of its retired workers regularly and without fail), supported by the monthly contributions of his children and grandchildren. Till he died, he had only one house, left to him by his father. He never built his own house. In fact by the time he retired, he was still driving his Peugeot 403, and when that eventually acted up on him, he was left taking public transport. Yet, this was a man who managed 1000-acre-plus rubber, oil palm and cocoa plantations all over the old Western and Mid-Western Regions. By the time he retired, he only had a few pounds in his account. He died respected and with dignity. Nobody, and I say nobody in this world, could ever accuse him of being corrupt. God rest his soul.
Same with my father. A disciplinarian, who founded a school, in collaboration with the current Olubadan of Ibadan, and other community leaders in their village. Then he was transferred all over the old Western Region, and then Western State, to remote places, before eventually retiring as a Grade 1 Principal. All the houses he built were from loans which he made sure he paid back before his death, leaving his children debt-free. The school he founded attracted students from all over Nigeria. I still remember students from respected and popular families from Borno, Kano, Enugu, Benin, Warri, Port Harcourt and Minna who passed through his school. When he died, most of these now important Nigerians were at his funeral to pay their respects. Nobody ever accused him of corruption, despite the power and authority he wielded as a Principal in the 60s and 70s, when school principals were a law unto themselves.
I am, as a human being and a Nigerian, proud of these men, and many other unsung heroes of our times. Such people seem to be rare these days, but believe me, No, they are not. There are millions of them in Nigeria today, but they are overshadowed and overwhelmed by the corrupt, vociferous few, whose only intent is grabbing all they could whilst they are alive and thereby, through their selfish and deliberate actions condemn their people to poverty, misery, agony and certain death. And this in a land of infinite opportunities and wealth. And I am also proud to be their offspring and to have inherited their senses and character of dignity, the ability to distinguish between good and bad, as well as their Nigerian-ness and dedication to duty and responsibilities.
I recounted all these, (and I am sure thousands, if not millions of other Nigerians will also recollect thousands of such people of credibility and honesty) because of the state of our country today as a result of our fallen morals and civic degradation that have inevitably led to such unbelievable and massive incidents of corruption. Everyday, on the pages of newspapers, we are inundated with yet another scandal. In fact, I don’t believe these are scandals anymore, since Nigerians do not seem to be scandalised by these report. And why should they? We all know what has been happening anyway. It is only the Governments that seem to be unaware of all these things happening right inside their house. The whole world knows, Nigerians themselves know that all our public officials are corrupt. In fact we know how corrupt they are.
It is not rocket science to figure out that an ex-Governor with £20 million in asset and bank account is a thief, who robbed the people of his state and Nigeria blind. It is definitely not rocket science to be able to deduce that an ex-Governor who has a private jet is a damn greedy thief. Or a minister who was allocated oil block, or a local government chairman who has built 20 houses within four years. Or the massive corruption that has been going on for years in the Nigeria Football Association, or the Customs Service, or every other government department for that matter. The mind-numbing and massive corruption witnessed in the last eight years (Obasanjo’s administration) is incomparable to any in the history of Nigeria. Even, Shagari’s inept and wasteful administration, and Abacha’s oppressive one, was nothing compared to what happened between 1999 and 2007. Even, our own “Maradona’s” administration pales to insignificance, judging from what we have had so far. It is now that we are getting the full extent of this massive fraud and conspiracy perpetrated by our erstwhile Excellencies and Ministers. Everyday, the shit keeps hitting the fan. Who could ever think that people like Cornelius Adebayo and Jubril Aminu will be smeared, despite the fact that we know they are not exactly first class examples of uprightness anyway? Yet, there we have it. It is the Adebayos and the Aminus and the Olanrewajus exposed today, others will be exposed tomorrow, by God’s Grace. It should be a learning outcome for current and would-be political office holders and discourage them from dipping their hands in the treasury or accepting back-hander, but would it? If I embarked on naming names of prospective exposures, I will not finish this article. That is a fact. We know them all. It is all of them. Nobody is clean, and they all did it deliberately, to the detriment of the Nigerian people, so they should not expect any sympathy from us. We can only pray that President Yar’Adua’s promises that they will be probed and investigated and dealt with accordingly will be properly and conscientiously carried out. But I have my doubts.
Yes, we have been writing about and exposing corruption to no end. What Nigerians have been asking are: What are the practical solutions? How do we rid Nigeria of all these thieves? Can we ever be successful in tackling corruption?
Honestly, dear compatriots, I get sick of having to write about corruption in our country, as I am sure you are tired of reading about it too, not only from me, but from others. Many sincere and erudite Nigerians have proposed radical and seemingly practical solutions in numerous treatises and write-ups. What I’d rather be writing about are what we can do in practical terms to fight it to a standstill in our country. But we still need to acknowledge and bring it to the fore. We should recognise and admit to our problems, and as far as I am concerned, Corruption is our major problem for now. It has drained the life out of the country, and the end does not appear to be in sight. All our political leaders got into government through fraud and trickery, so what do we expect them to do when they see an opportunity to loot? It is like putting a chicken in a silo full of corn. It will gorge itself. So, the preventative measure is to discourage them and not let them get there in the first place.
We can talk about and proffer many solutions till we are blue in the face; we can have as many anti-corruption agents and agencies as we like; we can hold millions of conferences and seminars on tackling corruption; we can even take up guns, but the reality is that the most important and effective solution to corruption lies in the power of the people, ourselves, Nigerians. If we, the people of Nigeria do not condone it and take a zero tolerance stance and action on it, that is when thieving officials will be rid of their kleptomaniac tendencies. It is when the people of Nigeria rise up as one, irrespective of tribal and religious differences, against corruption, that we will start making and seeing a difference.
It seems to me logical and sensible that it is the people who should, must, take this battle forward. The Government (all tiers of government and their civil services and all their other arms) can not tackle it, simply because it is the Government that is corrupt. The people in this case are the victims of government or official corruption. The people consists of organisations, individuals and the masses; all suffering as a result of Government insensitiveness. It is the government that must be tackled on corruption. They can not effectively tackle corruption because they are the cause and the root of it. You can not expect a thief to tackle a thief.
You see, compatriots, in an ideal democracy, power is derived from the people. Despite the many flaws and abuses of democracy, it is the people that should call the tune. The more we continue to let people like the Adedibus, the Ubas, the Aminus, the Dariyes, the Nyames, the Alamieyeiseghas, the Iboris, the Odilis and their sorts, and irresponsible and murderous political parties, ride roughshod over us, the more we lose that power, and the more we decline as a functional and vibrant democracy. We will continue to suffer the consequences and the murderous grips of these corrupt and vicious elite will never be loosened.
The problem is, the environment in Nigeria is very conducive to enhance corruption. Remove the machineries and the people that feed it from the root, and what we will have is a progressive country that will be one of the best place to live in the world. Mind you, corruption can not be totally eradicated in any country in the world; the aim should always be to reduce it to a manageable level, which will have an infinitesimal impact on our economic, social and cultural well-being.
Laws and rules are for the guidance of the wise and for disobedience by fools, so they say. Constitutions fall into this category too. We must not be fooled by the phrase now being uttered by these same thieving elites – “rule of law”. They cannot be flouting the rule of law and expect us to judge them by the rule of law. They simply can’t eat their cake and have it. We must make the country hot for them. They must not be allowed to walk the streets of Nigeria defiantly and arrogantly. We must use our votes to ensure they are put out to pasture, if they are already in there, or ensure that their sorts, always waiting in the wings do not get there. And for those who are there, we must demand accountability and good governance. This includes public officials and civil servants, because, believe me, politicians can only rob us with the connivance and cooperation of the civil servants.
It is going to be difficult but not impossible or unachievable in out time. It is difficult because of the orientation of our people. For example, when ex-Governor Ibori seemed to have won his battle to keep his ill-gotten assets in the UK, a whole Bishop presided over a “Thanksgiving Service” for him, together with his cousin, the incumbent Governor of Delta State, and the whole Delta State Executive Council. It is very laughable and sad. What and who are they thanking? God?. For letting him rob his people and get away with it? Shame on that Man of God. You see why we should not be too fanatical about religion? And when DSP Alams was released from prison, where he rightly belonged, the whole Ijaw Nation gave him a hero’s welcome for robbing them blind. He then had a well-publicised wedding for his daughter attended by the mighty and famous all across Nigeria. Probably only his Nemesis, ex-President Obasanjo and Nuhu Ribadu were persona non grata at the event.
And the ex-chicken-governor of Ekiti State? His posters are now appearing all over the state praising him, and wanting him back as Governor to resume his mis-rule. Even the recent arrest of Chief Adedibu did not prevent his supporters and hangers-on from bringing drums and songs to welcome him back to Ibadan on his return from the Inspector General’s interrogation and court charges. Even whole communities tend to ignore the evidence and ignoble behaviour of their sons and daughters, and hide behind tribal and righteous indignation, saying, “He/she is our own, let him do it, we don’t mind” (“Omo wa ni, e je o se”, in Yoruba). Yes, we must all have our supporters, who will stick by us in times of trouble and good times, but this tells us how difficult the fight against corruption by the people themselves will be. But, no matter whose ox is gored, it must be fought from the perspective of the people.
There must come a moment when Nigeria, as a country, reaches a point when we have to know that things have to change, and change fundamentally and radically. As a nation, we seemed to have reached that point in 1999, after the institutionalised corruption of Babangida and the murderous dictatorship of Abacha. A democratic government was elected on the assumption and expectation that root and branch reform will be introduced, from which no institution of the state emerged unscathed, and thereby the energies of Nigerians will be liberated once again, after the inept Second Republic of Shagari. That process has by and large been successful, but corruption that had been so much hidden fervently by its perpetrators and worshippers, is threatening to derail us. Of course, it has always been a threat in Nigeria, but one way or the other; we have lived with it and pretended that it does not affect us. Really? It always had, but we have always had heads stuck in the ground like ostriches, not caring as long as we can eat three square meals a day, and indulge in our other pastimes.
But there is hope. At least the perpetrators are being exposed now and some of them actually being prosecuted while some Western countries, which never used to care before, and used to benefit directly and indirectly, are now seemingly helping us fight our own war. It is a start, from Obasanjo’s EFCC and ICPC to the UK’s Metropolitan Police.
Believe it or not, it was “people power”, and nothing else, that made Madam Speaker Etteh resign eventually after she and her ignoble backers held out for a long time trying to call the bluff of Nigerians. She eventually committed the equivalent of a political hara-kiri, after she and her god-fathers sensed the mood of the people. Good riddance. There are many more to come. I can imagine Ibori, Odili, Lucky Boy Igbinedion, and all the rest of them running helter-skelter trying to prevent probes and investigations and having nightmares and sleepless nights. And so should they be. They have murdered sleep (and a lot of their people), so they must not sleep.
The Lord have Mercy on us.