Where Thieves Are Kings!

by Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

Maybe, one of these days, a keen and enterprising researcher or historian would assign to himself the really profound and very challenging task of determining when and how looting and plundering became the defining character of leadership in Nigeria, and most parts of Africa. It would be interesting to know whether this unwholesome preoccupation is part of the sterling legacies of colonialism, in fact, one of the poisonous items in the briefcase the whiteman deliberately forgot here when he enacted his reluctant exit more than four decades ago. Could it be that this desperation to steal the nation blind and stash the proceeds in European nations was wholly or partly plagiarized from the marauding British colonizers whose meticulous and transparent repatriation of resources they looted from here could not have escaped the keen eyes of the smart natives they were grooming to take over from them? When eventually these issues are clearly determined and properly articulated, it may throw up a new definition of imperialism and neo-colonialism in the twenty-first century. It may equally help the nation clear the lingering clouds over the strong suspicion that the British authorities deliberately looked the other way while Gov DSP Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa State jumped bail and scampered back to Nigeria last week. Maybe, the British may have reasoned: But this is our beloved Looter, in whom we are well pleased. Let’s assist him to escape!

Pity me. My country has been made to look like a well stuffed magnificent castle whose collapse appears very imminent, and so, everyone with a seared conscience who gets the slightest access to its rich vaults would battle to cart away to the safety of Europe and America (the unrepentant receivers of stolen goods) as much as he could before the great fall occurs. My worry everyday is: can the deep-rooted selfishness and greed that fire this unrestrained looting be ever extirpated from the core of those that aspire to positions of leadership in Nigeria? When will we begin to actually build this nation and allow it to become a place anyone will be proud to call home? Today, all that somebody needs to become overwhelmingly wealthy is merely to become the special assistant to the hairdresser of a minister or governor or even council chairman’s girlfriend. And before you know it, the fellow is already building mansions in his village, marrying new wives who may even be PhD holders, going abroad for medical treatment, and receiving chieftaincy titles from the ever ready and wayward traditional rulers, thereby providing justification for the deriding of better endowed and well-trained people from his community who may not be able to throw money about as he does because they are earning an honest living in this era of punitive and dubious reforms.

Many Nigerians had hoped that the Obasanjo Administration would reverse this pernicious trend, but instead of gratifying this sincere wish of the long deprived people of Nigeria, the present government took corruption to an unprecedented level. In its self-serving desperation to emasculate the National Assembly and run a civilian dictatorship, the Presidency, reportedly, massively deployed several naira-stuffed Ghana-must-Go bags to bribe Senators and House members to either “elect” leaders it dictated to them or remove the ones who resisted attempts to make the Legislature an appendage of the Executive. Thus having thoroughly passed through this unhealthy orientation, the Senators and House members began to take the malaise to the next level. That was how ministerial nominees began to pay money before they could emerge successful in the National Assembly screening exercise. And after borrowing so much to “purchase” a cabinet appointment, as it were, the minister would want to start looting immediately to quickly raise the funds to offset his debts, before he starts accumulating for himself. As the graft enterprise began to grow in size and sophistication, it became normal for government ministries and parastatals to pay bribe to Assembly members to have their allocations approved. This has thrived for a long time, but when the need arose to “prove” to the world that this government was “committed to the fight against corruption”, Prof Fabian Osuji, Prof Jude Njoku and Sen. Adolf Wabara were singled out and sacrificed. No tears for them, anyway.

Indeed, it would be unfair to conclude that there may not have been a couple of insolated instances of this unholy phenomenon before 1999. Far from it! What no sane being can deny is that it was from 1999 that it received an official stamp, became deregulated, transparent and open. The matter became so bad that ministries and departments of the same Administration had to bribe one another before any ministry or department could supply the material or services needed by the other to perform its functions!

I am beginning to fear that the matter has gone beyond recovery. It does seem that the vile stigma hitherto associated with stealing has since vanished. In fact the real stigma now rests on those who have distanced themselves from the free-for-all robbery in high and low places. Indeed, Nigerians these days readily and openly call their rulers thieves and looters with fierce contempt, and this neither bothers nor deters them. Even such qualifications have sometimes been echoed from official quarters. Not too long ago, the Minister of State for Finance, Mrs. Nenadi Usman, had practically asserted that once the state governors got their monthly allocations, the next thing would be to jump into the next Europe or America-bound aircraft to stash the whole thing away. Even President Olusegun Obasanjo has consistently hauled this same allegation at the governors, but the Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, has also looked the President straight in the face and told him in unmistakable terms that the governors are merely trying to learn a game he himself has since perfected. In fact, Kalu has not minced words in saying that the real and boundless stealing thrives in the Presidency, and that the president wages his corruption battle with soiled hands. The most outrageous, perhaps, is the case of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) headed by a young, bright professor, who many thought had some reputation to protect. But ever so often, official reports have indicated that the apex bank was unable to account for some monies it collected on behalf of some departments, and not one word of refutation had come from the CBN. To be fair to the CBN, it is not the only body guilty of this clearly disgusting preference. And we ask: what then has happened to our sense of shame and scruples? When did crime become flashy and fashionable?

Wives and children are no longer ashamed to read reports that the heads

of their homes are common thieves. Things have degenerated so badly in this nation that thieving and plundering is gradually being taken for granted as normal, day-to-day preoccupation of public officials. In fact, those who fail to indulge in it are looked at as foolish or even insane.

We must be willing to admit then that this is exactly the very repelling situation that threw up reprehensible characters like Mr. DSP Alamieyeseigha. About two weeks ago, this fellow dragged all of us down with him to the most putrid and slimy gutter where he already had a very comfortable abode. He was standing trial for money laundering offences in London, but he, reportedly, disguised himself as a woman, and with forged travel documents, escaped to Nigeria like a common criminal. The mere fact that he is running from trial has clearly underlined his guilt in the grievous charges against him. As we hide our faces in shame, we must also be asking ourselves how come we allowed such low creatures and scum to rule us!

The Ijaw nation have responsibility to disown Alami without delay. To keep telling the world that a man steeped in such grievous moral crises is their “Governor-General” does untold damage to their image. They should be asking themselves why Alami’s children and relations are swimming in indescribable opulence and luxury abroad while majority of them cannot afford a meal a day. They should seek to know why Alami is indiscriminately purchasing choice mansions in Europe and America while many of them live in shanties in Bayelsa. To help Alami escape justice is to rob themselves of their prized patrimony. If indeed, Alami truly loves them, why would he have the mind to clear off the funds meant for their welfare? What beats me, dear reader, is why Nigerian masses always appear willing to put their lives on the line to defend the very men that cruelly enslave and impoverish them. The youths that marched in support of Alami in Yenogoa there other day, how many of them stopped to ask where Alami’s children were while they risked their lives to save their father?

No one doubts that the current hounding of Alami is selective. But the big question remains: is Alami guilty as charged? How did he acquire the ten million pounds worth of assets (in the UK alone) clearly identified and declared frozen by the British authorities recently? What of other numerous mansions in choice areas in the US? How much is Alami’s monthly salary as Governor?

Unfortunately, Alami lacks the capacity to appreciate the amount of mud and slime he has splashed on us. We will now be all forced to carry his shame like a burden and stigma as the disdain for our green passport grows in several world capitals. That is why we must all stand up as a nation and insist that we cannot suffer any humiliations due to Alami’s sins. We cannot allow him to give the world the impression that Nigeria is a very safe haven for thieves and fugitives running from justice. We as a nation can rise up and show clearly that we are sick and disgusted with him his likes, and insist that he be immediately handed back to the British court for trial.

We must then resolve as a people that we will from henceforth prevent thieves from being kings in Nigeria any more.

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1 comment

Dr. Fadal December 9, 2005 - 1:39 pm

Great piece. Thank you for your thoughtful analysis. There is more to situations. Being variedly disingenuous seem to be accepted now in Nigeria at all levels. Quite sad.


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