There are times in our lives when we really must talk less and speak more. I am not saying this because my training as a journalist encourages me to use only two of the openings on my head – my eyes and ears [and my nose of course for being the nosey parker that we are]. It is more than that. First, the Bible tells us that our tongue is one of the most difficult of our organs to bridle and that the man who is able to do this is man indeed. This injunction got greater fillip when I was with TELL first as staff then as senior writer. Every Wednesday when we had our editorial meetings, Mr. Fola Adekeye, a senior editor used to tell us that if we were to sit quietly in a bus or a public place like the newspaper stand, with people arguing back and forth, we were likely to pick a couple of great story ideas.
That was exactly how I got this idea of making our public officials to take their oaths of office before deadly shrines like the Okija Shrine or any other wicked juju groove in this country. I know that proposing this would be considered absurd and outrageous from my Christian brethren, but I cannot but agree more with those who have canvassed this idea in recent times. Our country still suffers a lot of poverty in the midst of plenty and it seems to me that only something as radical as the total annihilation of corrupt people can save us.
Yesterday, I was driving around Abuja’s sleek streets with a friend’s friend, Puffy Tee. He it was who was the brains behind Olu Maintain’s Yahoozee, that hit track that had people like Colin Powell shuffling around the stage at the ThisDay musical festival several years ago like a hip hop fan. Puffy Tee told me that he got his name from eating too much kpoff-kpoff and washing it down with tea. As we drove along one of Abuja’s longest streets, the Ibrahim Babangida, several thoughts were on my mind as the music in the car boomed. Ordinarily, I would have asked him to reduce the volume but this time I let him be. I was already used to the glittering streets, the flashy cars flashing by and the cosmopolitan razzmatazz of the city of Abuja.
Suddenly Puffy began to talk like a machine gun in rapid fire. ‘See these fine cars, these fine buildings and clean roads and pavements. All of these are in the hands of a few people in this city. Not every one can afford to live in these fine buildings and drive these sleek cars. Why are our leaders stealing all the monies for themselves and their families and not using our money for everyone?’ he fumed.
I listened and remained as motionless as the Sphinx of Gizeh. I listened because the Puffy Tee I know is a musician, the happy-go-lucky type who appeared unlikely to give a hoot concerning the happenings in his immediate environment. And then he continued: when these public officials are ready to assume office, I think they should be made to take that oath before the gods in their villages!’ At this point, my nosey instincts came alive. I began to ask questions and the following dialogue ensued:
Me: Public officials to take their oaths of office in front of a juju shrine? Are you joking or what, Puffy?
Puffy: I am not joking. They should take their oaths of office at their village shrines!
Me: What effect would that really have on what is going on in the country?
Puffy: You don’t know what will happen? Well, I will tell you. As soon as they begin to pilfer or temper with public funds, they will either fall dead or begin to go crazy.
Me: Ha! Ha!! Ha!!! You don’t understand these public officials. They have their methods of stealing these funds. They no longer do it the old school way.
Puffy: How do they steal public funds then?
Me: See, let’s say a certain ministry has N100million to spend. In most cases, some don’t expend all of that cash. If that happens in that ministry or parastatal, it would be required to make a refund. Now if they did that, their next allocation will definitely not be up to N100million. So for them to ensure that they keep getting their N100million, they device all kinds of ways and means to spend the money?
Puffy: Spend the money? How?
Me: Well, they spend the money on specific projects like foreign trips abroad, staff training programmes, welfare packages for their wives and hotel accommodation for their concubines and girlfriends.
Puffy: You call that spending? I still say that’s why they should take their oaths before wicked shrines.
Me: But they always take their oaths with the Bible and Koran don’t they?
Puffy: You call that an oath? Give me a break! The God of the Bible and Allah of the Koran are gentlemen. They are slow to anger and are very long suffering. The others are their exact opposites – if you take an oath in front of them and contravene they dispatch you to the great beyond instantly.
Me: And you think this is going to work?
Puffy: It’s worth the try if the problem of corruption in public office continues.