Fighting or celebrating corruption?
This country as it is presently organised does not hold any future, whatsoever, for our children. Never in the history of mankind has so much been owed so many by so few. Even though we were ignorant of it, the battle-line was drawn, ab initio, between the only two quasi-political parties I could distinguish in Nigeria: The very rich versus the poor masses, the leadership as against the people, the Bourgeoisie lined up against the Proletariat. Whether as members of the Armed Forces or the business moguls or the politicians, leadership at once becomes a melting pot of sorts. At the very top, there is no tribe, no religion, no profession, and no division. The rest of us: Police, Army, Air Force, Navy, all other Nigerian workers – public/civil servants, artisans, drivers, petty traders and what not, must rise from our slumber and seek to change and redirect the course of governance for the benefit of our children.
What successive governments have done in Nigeria, including the present Muhammadu Buhari leadership, is to celebrate, rather than fight corruption. The issue of corruption in Nigeria is more fundamental than just inundating the pages of our national dailies and plaguing the air waves with individual cases of brazen misappropriation or looting of public funds. The leadership is only playing to the gallery.
Corruption has become like an alternative source of energy in Nigeria. My friend used to complain a lot about the noise pollution and the attendant fumes of his neighbour’s generating set, but that was until he was able to buy his own generator. Today, my friend’s generator is on, almost right round the clock, regardless of what his neighbours are passing through. That is the case of leadership and corruption in Nigeria. Now former President Olusegun Obasanjo doubled as the President and the Minister of Petroleum: There was then no Nigerian, good or trustworthy enough, to fit into that position. Probably because this continued throughout his eight years in office, our own Buhari, the darling and toast of The Fourth Estate of The Realm, has unwittingly stepped into the same unwieldy shoes. But can two wrongs ever make a right?
Corruption is corruption: Any time or anywhere. When we sacrifice competence and meritocracy at the altar of mediocrity and/or federal character/quota system, it is corruption: Pure and simple. Nigeria is basically designed to fail, from the beginning. No team can ever win a match if it refuses to field its best players.
Have we ever paused to ask ourselves why the Nigerian leadership could not give us a constitution, even up until now? Ever wondered why two former lecturers-turned politicians could not solve the problem of ASUU, even as Presidents of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? Fellow Nigerians: It is all about the system which has entrenched corruption and impunity.
Election rigging, political thuggery and snatching of ballot boxes, and various forms of ritual killings so as to win elections, would all cease, as soon as we get it right. Check out any system (and it could be peculiar to Nigeria, alone) that refuses to pay any salary or allowances (except sitting allowance of course) to members of the National Assembly, and see what great sanity and transparency there would be in the law-making process.
Just look at the composition of our National Assembly: Ex-governors for maximum eight years, seemingly life senators and like honourable members. Are they all there to serve Nigeria, or to be served by Nigerians? Your guess and/or answer is as good as mine. From the Senate President to the Speaker, House of Representatives, down to all others: Senators and honourable members, I can assure you, do not need all the bogus, over-bloated allowances they collect annually. Yet you want to convince me that CHANGE begins with me, as an ordinary Nigerian worker. What a farce! Or perhaps until when the meagre N18,000.00 stipend or minimum wage is further reduced, then the average Nigerian would have made enough sacrifice. The government should beam a soul-searching light on itself, instead of blaming the economic recession on the ever-increasing wage bill of the Nigerian workers.
To be honest, if we actually have true statesmen and women in Nigeria, then – much more than ever before – this is the right time to give back to Nigeria. From our N18,000.00 minimum wage, we send our children to school, transport ourselves to and fro our various offices, and feed our families; still the present crop of leadership that we have had since after independence would not leave us or let us be until we have all been hounded to our early graves.
During the colonial era, only the ‘Whites’ were able to obtain complete education. Now, 56 years after independence, it is daily becoming apparent that the average Nigerian worker cannot send his children to school, any longer. Before long, only the very rich can afford to educate their children anywhere in the world. Is this not Neo-Colonialism? Nigerian masses: Arise from your slumber.
Tam David West once alleged that the NNPC is a monumental fraud? Who are the real owners of the oil wells in Nigeria? Why is Nigeria still exporting crude oil after over 60 years since discovering oil in the country? Should Nigerians continue to die in poverty in the face of so much wealth?
A faulty system cannot produce any form of prosperity in our dear country, Nigeria. Steal a cup of garri, and risk being burnt alive by an irate mob; however, steal billions of Dollars of state fund and you would be celebrated by the ever-unsuspecting Nigerian masses: What a pity!
Make no mistake about it. Corruption and impunity have combined to become a monster threatening to beat Nigeria to pulp. From North to South, from East to West, Nigerians must come together to ensure good governance.
Finally, I may not have read Dostoyevsky’s Crime And Punishment, yet every punishment should be a form of deterrent. Just imagine for one moment that the Nigerian Constitution would prescribe death penalty for any misappropriation or looting of public funds, and consider what would become of many of our leaders, past and present. The only reason they vie for leadership positions is for self-enrichment. They then become tin gods and we the masses drift to and fro – hungry, battered and beggarly – in-between their giant strides. O gullible Nigerian masses: When are we ever going to take our destiny in both of our hands?
An average Nigerian councillor earns much more than a university Professor. A local government sole administrator sits on the allocation of the council, just as the governor becomes the owner of every state funds. They do not want to be accountable to us, but we must seek to enforce accountability by whatever means.
• Ejikeme lives in Lagos.
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