What do you do or say to your dad when you know he is a thief? You know it, just as most Nigerians, that your dad is robbing the treasury. You know he is a damn thief; you know that he and his posse all dip their fingers into cookie jars that do not belong to them. He buys, inflates and resells contracts. He pays contractors who underperformed and even pay those who did not carry out the terms of their obligations. Gosh, you know it: you know he is a boldface thief who also abuses his office and engage in domestic exploitation and subjugation of his fellow Nigerians. You know his actions and inactions contribute to the bastardization of our society. What do you do, what do you say?
Ok, may be it is not your father who is the thieving criminal. It could your uncle, your aunt, your brother or sister. It could be any member of your family. Either way, what do you do or say to a member or members of your immediate family, whom you know are criminals. Most of us would be ashamed to know we have prostitutes, street urchins, or armed robbers in our family. Yet, when it comes to white-collar crimes committed by family members against our country, most of us keep quiet; we go along and partake in the benefits. We act as though there is nothing illegal about the illegal earnings.
Let me make a confession at this point: this essay came about because I am kind of “jealous” of some of the Nigerians I have come across in recent years. There are a lot of them, but two illustrations will do: (1) there was this gal in Ohio who junketed in and out of the country 2-4 times a year, drove expensive cars and allowed her friends to live free with her in her three-bedroom house; her graduate school tuition were usually paid at the beginning of each year. One would think she held three jobs to be able to afford all the amenities at her disposal. Oh no, she was daddy’s gal with dollars raining from heaven.
There was this friend of a friend of a friend who, when asked, would help fellow Nigerians with their school fees, rent, credit card bills, and other miscellaneous items. Sure, one could say he was a very generous fellow; or one could think of him as helping to spread his father’s loot. Year after year after year, if the mother or the father is not visiting from Nigeria, then the sisters, brothers, and aunts would (from the UK). His parents, along with their house helps, were the only ones still living in Nigeria. Oh well, may be his mistresses, too. You know how it is with Nigerian big-men, don’t you?
Ok, but seriously, what would you do or say to your dad knowing he is a thief? I am not even sure of what advise to give, i.e. should you disown him, reject the cars and roundtrip tickets he buys for you; or move out of the palatial home you call home, and refuse his offer of finding you a difficult-to-land job; or call in the cops and the EFCC fellow? Perhaps you should just keep your mouth shut and enjoy the ride while it lasts — helping to spend as much of the money as you can.
It is possible to argue that the way one’s father, aunt, mother or uncle acquired their money is none of the beneficiary’s business (assuming the beneficiary did not partake in the original looting and mismanagement). In the end though, the idea that one’s father is or could be a bloody thief is very disconcerting. A thief? Oh my goodness! Still, what would you do or say knowing your father is a thief? If we can find a solution to this puzzle, we may be able to discourage or contain thievery and criminality in Nigeria. But, why bother when there are no possibility of probe, prosecution and imprisonment?