Public office holders of the Religious Republic of Nigeria
By Abimbola Lagunju
Nigeria’s history cannot and should never be written without mention of monumental theft and corruption by its public officials and politicians. The history of the country should not be a simple narrative in which public officials, heads of private sector, religious and ethnic leaders are ever portrayed as heroes and their heinous financial and other crimes against the people of Nigeria are simply forgotten. Nigeria’s history should be a holistic and forensic one that takes into account the complete person, actions and services of all those who have at a point or the other been determiners or actors in the complicated political, economic, religious trajectory of this nation.
It is a painful aberration of justice that those who have driven and are driving this country aground and who escape justice while they are active or alive become heroes on quitting the scene. Roads, Estates, Buildings and other infrastructure are named after them to rub salt into the wound of injustice. In some instances, some political actors of questionable achievement name some landmarks after themselves. Those who should be excoriated for disservice to the nation become immortalized!
These malfeasant citizens, who should be ostracised, are the newsmakers in this country. And we, the common people have been numbed by their crimes into seeing them as role models. Their crimes against our country have become so commonplace that we have accepted it as a norm of governance. We have been made to accept that a goat eats and denudes the grass where it is tied. We have accepted that it is our fate that our officials have light fingers and there is nothing we can do about it. We can only register our disgust in beer parlours, in short postings on social media and those inclined to write, churn out articles that few bother to read. And when they read, their focus is on the messenger, not on the message. As a little digression, the confusion of the messenger with the message is a major disease in our country. Nigerians do not care about any message; it is the messengers that attract them. Look at the worship places; majority of Nigerians mark the worship attendance register either on Friday or Sunday, yet the country represents a textbook case of what a country endowed with so much should not be. Evidently, Nigerians both high and low are in permanent disconnect with the tenets of their religion. Expectedly, the Religious Republic of Nigeria is more dysfunctional than any godless nation.
Now, back to our thieves. That Nigeria has delayed or distorted development milestones is no news. That those charged with administering the country are responsible for the negative development dynamics is also old news. What is news in recent times are the outrageous ingenious strategies that our thieving officials adopt to hide their loot. Some open proxy accounts to which they are the sole signatory in the names of fictitious companies or individuals; some dispense with the bank and hide millions of dollars in their rooms; others cart the money abroad and some hide their loot in water tanks or septic tanks. A new loot storage invention was recently unveiled by a Nigerian official who claimed that a snake swallowed a large amount of money. The fact that our light-fingered public officials go to great lengths to hide their loot is an indication that they know that what they are doing is morally wrong. Why then do they feel obligated to steal? Where is their religiosity? What did they learn from the messages of their pastors, imams and marabouts?
Another new dimension to this orgy of national destruction is the ease with which these culprits slip out of the hands of the administrators of justice. In a way, it looks like the movie, “catch me if you can” but different in that while the authorities in the film were making genuine efforts to catch the thief, he was always a step ahead of them. In our case, we have the impression that our authorities oil their hands to catch fish in a muddy pond. And they call in the press to witness their efforts. And our press put all their focus on the effort, not on the result. So, we read daily reports of these dubious efforts and with time, no one remembers any longer what kind of fish they were looking for and for what reason. The “fishing” authorities soon jump into the pond of corruption and become fish themselves. And life goes on – good for the thieves and in unforgiving poverty for the people.
While still walking (as in alive or barely), a Nigerian political office holder is recycled by his governing mob or recycles himself in different parasitic forms. Recycling serves two purposes; first is the protection of the loot from previous appointment and the second one is continued primitive accumulation of loot in the new assignment. The rate of recycling is such that, but for governors who become senators and vice versa, we do not remember the chain of pastures which a current Nigerian official has denuded in his service to self. It is pure self-service. People do not matter as they do not exist.
Nigeria is what it is today because Nigerian peoples have always patiently looked on and in some instances looked away while a group of people, who call themselves leaders shamelessly set themselves to destroy the country. And these rulers sometimes marvel at the pliability and timidity of Nigerians. They now believe that they can say or do anything and get away with it. And they do get away with it! One military dictator, after he had assiduously looted and corrupted the economy of our country, famously said he was surprised that the economy of the country had not collapsed….! And this was under his watch!
Reason and justice (for which Nigeria is not known) demand that if we cannot bring these official scoundrels to justice while they are around, we should ensure that history exposes them for the crooks they were while active in service to the nation.
Unfortunately, Nigerians who engage in writing the political history of this country and its different actors whitewash these thieving officials either while in power or outside power for diverse reasons that vary from religious affiliation through ethnic bigotry or outright intellectual laziness. They invariably invent “respectable” epithets like “Uncle”, “Pa”, “Mama”, “Elder Statesman” for them even when they have been indicted or convicted of crimes against the people of Nigeria. These writers who seek to make heroes of villains are as guilty as those they whitewash. They are corrupt manipulators of Nigerian history and history will more unkind to them than to the thieving officials. They, with their pen, represent poison for the future of this country.
Thankfully, online existence of daily news of crimes committed against our nation and the availability of search engines have changed the game. In 20 or 50 or more years, we can have detailed pieces of history of malfeasance of each of our thieves. If they escape justice, their future generations will not escape the shame. And the time will come in this nation when the sins of the fathers will be visited on the sons….and daughters.