By John O Kalu
Whenever we discuss the citadel of corruption called Nigeria I’ve readily taken the position that it is a structural problem and virtually everyone in govt is involved. As the Arunma Oteh’s case raged, I pointed out that she was an excellent servant while working abroad but was compelled by the Nigerian system, then represented by the House of Rep, to conform and give N30m to Hembe. She was forced into corrupt practice by our system and she was rubbished by our system for daring to reveal a ‘normal’ practice called bribery/corruption. Of course the system got rid of her and maintained the status quo.
Anyone who think Farouk Lawal is alone is deceiving himself. Every oversight activity of the legislative arm of govt involves corrupt practices. Of course the executive arm know they are worse than robbers so accommodation is made for the “oversighters” and a win-win situation is entrenched in our system as normal. Farouk’s real crime includes pretentiousness. From the day he removed Obasanjo’s babe, Etteh, he was a marked man. The system knew he was as corrupt as Etteh but pretended otherwise. His colleagues also knew he was corrupt. The response of one of them to his fall is very apt here. “”The crisis affecting Lawan should not have happened, it is unfortunate that it happened . However, as a House, we will refuse to be blackmailed by the resort to security agencies just to score a point . The manner in which the security agencies were used in a sting operation suggested desperation on the part of the executive in its bid to rubbish the legislature” – Hon Sam Osagie. The sum total of this representative’s presentation is that the executives have no right to use such an elaborate means to expose what both sides have been indulging in. Even the Speaker of HOR towed similar line. “We must NEVER repeat NEVER be cowed or intimidated by any form or colour of antics that may be fashioned with intent to dampen our spirits and or break our resolve. It remains for me to say that, when the army suffers casualties of a few officers and men at the battlefront, it beats no retreat except it does not intend to win the battle.”
For the executhieves and the legislathieves it is now a matter of “you dey steal, I dey steal, why you expose me”. In this mode, ordinary Nigerians should benefit from mutually destructive revelations from the warring thieves. But I doubt if it will happen. A plea bargain or political settlement process is already ongoing. Farouk will get 6 months in jail for pleading guilty, he will be pardoned in 2014 and then the involvement of other officers of the HOR will be covered up. Of course some of the companies “indicted” in the subsidy probe will still be “prosecuted” to appease Nigerians and redeem the image of the HOR. Companies will be blacklisted and made to refund some money. May be someone will get one year jail term and Nigerians will clap. But the promoters of the subsidy stealing companies will be allowed to register new companies that will still get lucrative contracts from the government to compensate for the refunded money. The jailed individuals will be given Bode George treatment when they emerge from jail. Life goes on.
The problem of corruption in Nigeria is structural and then cultural. It also cuts across all tribes and tongues, religions and age groupings. The seeming uneven tribal distribution is because those who have captured political power at the centre tend to control the instruments of corruption, hence their tribesmen have benefited more from the filthy lucre of corruption. The average Nigerian expects his brother or friend in govt to become super rich from his participation in govt. In fact once you acquire power, those around you will attend thanksgiving services because they know their lives have been transformed with your new status. They expect you to Farouk yourself if you are in the legislature or Bode up if in the executive. Even high ranking judicial officers give bribes to be appointed into electoral tribunals. How many Judges that were Chairmen of electoral tribunals are still struggling in Nigeria?
Nigeria as a country endorses corruption. We field over aged players in age group competitions and everyone celebrates their successes. Who in this country does not know that our census figures are fake? Why will we alter census figures other than to have advantage in sharing and looting Federal revenue? Can anyone from Katsina stand strong and swear to me that there are at least 8 million Nigerians living in that semi-desert state? As long as there is N10b monthly Federal revenue to share, all is well. What about our voters register? Abeg make I stop before someone will remember to Farouk me. Am not sure I will reject $3m free money for just hitting the gavel on the wood or shouting the “ayes have it”. My own video will even show where I stuffed the money in my underwear with my ass bulging like a woman’s.
In Nigeria, you are permitted to be an anti-corruption crusader until you join govt or have access to public funds. The saints are those who are outside the power structure. But once they acquire power, they will fall in line. Otherwise they won’t survive. Arunma Oteh was a decent public servant while she served abroad. But once appointed in Nigeria, the system compelled her to conform. When she dared to expose that system, she was promptly shoved aside. She may have acquired all the first class degrees in the world, it doesn’t matter as long as she has no first class in “chop I chop”.
I will never weep for Nigeria. Not me please. If you are looking for someone to join in the crocodile tears game, look next door. I’ve seen enough to know that even those who are shouting today will be worse if given access to power. In this country, political leaders are asking the government to dialogue with a terrorist organization called Boko Haram. But the same people are asking the Federal government not to organize a national dialogue. We cannot talk to ourselves to correct the structural defects that stunt our growth and give rise to corruption and terrorism but we can talk to the terrorists killing our brothers and sisters? If Boko Haram leaders should ask the Federal government for a “bribe” of $1b to end the violence, I can bet that it will be given within 24 hours. But if ordinary law abiding citizens ask for “bribe” of $1b to fix PH-Enugu highway, it will be ignored. Nakwa echeki!
Let the drama continue. Someone should help launch the Lawan video and entertain us for at least one week. We deserve to partake in some way in the drama of absurdity called a country. It is our money that was used in producing the Lawan video and we should be allowed to watch the movie free of charge.