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Weep, Fellow Countrymen

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DASUKI-ILLUSTRATION-19-12-15-copyI AM prepared to wager that no Nigerian would be prepared to confess, in public or the privacy of his home, that he does not find Dasukigate shocking. All of us do. None of us was prepared for the unsightliness of what is flowing out of the newly opened sluice gates in a nation hostage to its many sluice gates. Col. Sambo Dasuki’s ‘confessions’ so far could still be the tip of the iceberg. The big masquerades are yet to make an appearance in the market square. It is painful that once more the world celebrates Nigeria for its consumptious corruption. It could not be sadder for a country struggling to walk with the other nations along the narrow path of moral rectitude. Other nations find our nation’s smell repellent. I can’t blame them.

This latest overwhelming evidence of perfidy in high places befuddles the mind. Our reactions to it are confined to the traditional manner – an outpouring of outrage and disappointment. When evil surfaces on the placid waters of a nation that delights in living a lie it throws up a mini tsunami. We thought we were being properly governed by men who cared for the verdict of history; we thought our welfare was being properly taken care of by men who cared more for the future of the country than the servicing of their own greed and venality at public expense. We were deceived, apparently.

While state governments could not pay the salaries of their civil servants; and while primary school teachers in most of the 36 states were on strike for most of the year because they could not be paid; and while the nation could not fix its energy problems or its roads or even respond determinedly to its cocktail of security challenges, few men were living in the laps of luxury, mocking us

While state governments could not pay the salaries of their civil servants; and while primary school teachers in most of the 36 states were on strike for most of the year because they could not be paid; and while the nation could not fix its energy problems or its roads or even respond determinedly to its cocktail of security challenges, few men were living in the laps of luxury, mocking us. No one reckons with millionaires any more. The new big league for the big boys is the billionaire club. Only the smart men and women make it. No work, no sweat; just connection or luck or both.

The quantity of ink poured on the condemnation of those smart men who made themselves wealthier and our nation poorer fiscally and morally points to one inescapable fact: we still have tears to shed for our beloved but cynically raped nation. That may not be an exact definition of patriotism, a la Nigeria, but it shows we still have the good heart to spare some pity for our nation. It counts for something.

Yet, despite the shock, the outrage and the disappointment that greeted this latest evidence of the power of the big men and its criminal misuse thereof by them, I am prepared to argue that there is nothing particularly new about Dasukigate. It is the way Nigeria has been governed, at least, since the five majors put a bloody end to the First Republic. Those who believe in quartering the former national security adviser and the disburser-in-chief of largess in the Jonathan Administration, would do well to remember that Dasukigate is merely an old face of corruption renewed.

The scale and the degree of Dasukigate are clearly larger than what had happened before, but this is only a matter of degree, not its newness. Perhaps, what is new is that no administrations before that of President Goodluck Jonathan had been this generous in dashing money to all those who knocked at the door and asked. Those men wisely followed the biblical advice: ask and thou shalt receive.

One, how to curb the immense power of the President and the state governors over public funds. Who polices what they do with public funds? Our financial regulations and practices are in the dustbin. No president or governor feels bound by them. So, in defiance of the law, they spend not money appropriated by the legislature

Perhaps, the administrations before Jonathan’s gave less because they had less to give. His gave more because it had more to give. I am not aware that we have ever frowned at the generosity of presidents, governors, minister, commissioners and even local government chairmen who dash people money. We live off them because in a perverse way, we think we are entitled to a portion of what they steal from the public coffers. We have never prayed for men and women with araldite hands in public offices. We welcome those who chop and remember to help others chop too. If all Nigerians were to be dragged before Okija shrine to swear to not having received a dash from their state governors or ministers from their states, I am sure our country would instantly lose the claim to being the most populous country in Africa.

The generous dishing out of public funds to lucky men and women who are either in the corridors of power or have well-heeled friends and benefactors in the corridors of power throws a new light on the many faces of corruption and corrupt practices in our country. I am not sure it throws up new challenges in the generally scrappy record of the war against corruption. However, I am sure it points to this: this nation is at the mercy of big men who, because of their exalted positions, do not feel bound by the elementary practices of decency and honesty. Where greed and venality are the rule, it seems patently foolish to make virtue an exception.

When the shock and the disappointment and the anger wear down, we would confront these sticky points:

One, how to curb the immense power of the President and the state governors over public funds. Who polices what they do with public funds? Our financial regulations and practices are in the dustbin. No president or governor feels bound by them. So, in defiance of the law, they spend not money appropriated by the legislature.

Two, the President and the governors being the custodians of our national wealth, claim the divine right of rulership to do with public funds as they deem fit. However, they waste our common wealth is merely in the exercise of their prerogatives of power and in the public interest, of course.

Three, how much of the $2.1 billion and the $322 million, the latter from the Abacha loot, remains in the coffers of the NSA? Did he spend it all?

This might feel like pouring cold waters on our hopes but the past tells me that like all national scandals before it, Dasukigate too would eventually blow in the wind. Incompetent prosecution by EFCC would botch its prosecution of the alleged offenders; crooked judges and crooked lawyers would take their cut of the loot and make the laws serve the looters rather than the nation. Still, it is good to know that Jonathan was a generous President and perhaps the biggest the maker of billionaires and millionaires in the country so far. It makes you want to root for another president who wore no shoes as a boy.


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