Who Said Our Leaders Are Corrupt? By Fola Ojo
Ladoke Akintola was a one-time premier of the then Western Region of Nigeria. Smooth-talking, loquacious master of jabberwocky, Akintola was often accused by his many opponents of crass corruption. His sarcastic response sickened many both in his party and outside. The line is memorable. “I didn’t eat the money, I spent it, whose grandfather can swallow a penny?” he had said. The premier, in a manner of a stand-up comedian, trivialised the behemoth called corruption, and today, the monstrous Godzilla is still very much around sinking Nigeria deep into thraldom and towering tribulations. Friends, this is the fungus among us.
To date, our leaders determinedly continue to trivialise the madness of financial misappropriation and the long-term harm and hurt it unleashes on the destiny of Nigeria. This wildfire menace and monstrous cascade continue unhindered. The loose behaviours of some dare-devils in power now have become dangerous dance steps on a free way to a volcanic conflagration threatening to gulp up the beautiful but beleaguered country and spit it out down the abyss of history .
I have decided in my small corner to stop calling those leaders who steal from the nation’s treasury “corrupt”. Because when you do, it seems the culprits perceive it is as a deserved adornment of a chieftaincy title. So, they glee, and glow, and gyrate over the nomenclature. And unfortunately, the attendant historical punitive consequences meted out to “corrupt” Nigerian government officials are nothing but a replica of the sham and shame that take place in a shanty courthouse. All of them always get away.
It was both amusing and amazing when we learnt that the government is now on a massive manhunt for the person responsible for revealing the frenzy, frightful, shopping spree of exotic armoured cars for the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, that cost taxpayers $1.6m. A man who should be celebrated and honoured publicly is now the criminal. That is the state of things now in our land where the celebrity becomes the culprit.
Also recently, the “New Peoples Democratic Party” threw a challenge in the face of the PDP-run government that it made $1.05bn in July 2013, and wanted to know what happened to the dough. The platoons in the “New PDP” should know what they are talking about. The “New PDP” and the ancient PDP used to be conjoined twins until they were separated by the surgical scissors of ambition, power, money and control. Together, they used to fight common enemies, together they took orders under the same commander; they both know what ammunition are used for what squabble, they both know where the ammunition are kept, they know how the ammunition were procured, and they still have the template and blueprint of operations in their possession. When they allege that money is missing, the “New PDP” must know what they are talking about.
Home and abroad, money is missing in stacks and stashes. Home and abroad, our vaults are vanishing in batches. Government recently admitted that between August and September 2013, Nigeria’s external reserves dropped by $1.33bn — from $47bn to $45.67bn. Money is missing, projects are neither completed nor executed, external reserves are on a free-fall, and we are not fighting any wars!
In my own thought, to call our leaders “corrupt” is a musical alto and tenor in their ears. To call them “corrupt” is an attempt to embellish the act, dress the behaviour in angelic robe and toga, and sandblast the feisty festivals of banditry and criminality that are going on in government. To call them “corrupt” is to make the vice appear meek and mild, because it no longer carries any correctional weight. Who said our leaders are corrupt? What is going on is no longer corruption; government at all levels has become grim gulags and concentration camps of heinous crime against humanity, and a bromide and banal affront to divinity.
It has shown through recent developments that these people don’t care if you call them “corrupt”. What follows an uncovered case of corruption is usually a coronation of the perpetrator. They are applauded and hailed as if they just scored a winning goal in a World Cup final match. They either become chiefs in their village, an Igwe in their clan, pastors in their churches, Imams in their mosques, and Jeep-driving, jet-flying celebrity among us.
A “corrupt” official is either sent to jail for a few hours or sent home to enjoy the loot and they live to loot again. When corruption destroys an airline for example, the government withdraws the licence after a gory accident and then re-issues the licence with an upgrade when dust and noise seem to have settled down on the outrage. To label anyone corrupt in Nigeria today spurs an award-winning, honour-bestowing wining and dining event.
There is an uncanny incarceration of the guy who stole N100, while the “oga at the top”, the untouchable ogre who scooped in billons is slumbering easy in his state-of-the-art mansion. Back in the day when you heard screams of “thieves” on any Nigerian street, justice immediately rolled down like waters. Many of our leaders are THIEVES! Who said they are corrupt? A former governor who stole $55m while in office is corrupt? Another ex-governor who siphoned an estimated US$250m of state funds is corrupt? Secretary of the Police Pension Fund who stole over N5bn and you label him, “corrupt”? Nigerian civil servants who President Goodluck Jonathan said not too long ago “own more houses than Dangote” are not corrupt. The malodorous mire and madness is not corruption. These people are THIEVES, and they are ruining us all!
They are profusely profligate perfectionists of pilferage who persistently pound their chests in a disgraceful dare of the people. “What are they going to do”? They seem to tell us. They are elite members of certified criminal country-clubs of the Mephistopheles. They control the levers of who-and-who get immunity from the impunity. While the people are crying, they are laughing, while the people are agonising, they are aggrandising. While the people are in pain, they are painting the whole world red with parties and festivities from Paris to Puerto Rico, Bahrain to the Bahamas, Denver to Dubai. When their children are getting married, money is wasted like water, and many lives to whom the frittered money belong in Nigeria are dying daily from hunger and hopelessness on the streets of the “Giant of Africa”. The fungus among us has become a calcified bone in the spine of the Nigerian nation, and it seems as if these people are not going anywhere, and with stern obduracy, they are not changing habits.
Into corruption, they are giving birth to triplets; in thievery, they are raising them. And the offspring don’t know any better but what Daddy and Mummy have taught them, so corruption becomes a baton that is passed from one generation to the other. They live in mansions and palaces built with sand of thieving and gravel of deceiving. But houses built on sand cannot stand. One day, and not too long, they will groan over their grabs and choke on their grubs. Could they deceive God as they deceive a mere mortal? The answer is No! Those who plow evil and those who sow trouble do reap it. Be not deceived, God is not mocked; whatsoever a man sows, that he shall reap, the Holy Book says.
I don’t know when, and I don’t know how, but all I know is that this craze will soon stop in Nigeria! The minority cannot muzzle the majority for too long, and thank God we are more than them. We will wriggle, thread and tread through the knotty, corrosive and catatonic crinkum-crankum that has been our story for a long time in Nigeria, and launch into an autarky where all of our thirst will be quenched, our hunger satisfied, and the dreaded, slow-killer corruption confined into the leper’s colony far away from us. And then, civility will reign. From the presidential palace to the governor’s quarters civility will reign. From the senators’ mansion to the ministers’ drive, civility will reign. From the church to the mosque, from my house to yours, and then in all of our hearts, civility will reign. Did I have some kind of Island of Patmos experience? No, I can just feel it inside of me, and I am not alone.
•Dr. Ojo, a US-based communication specialist, wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org
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