In the past few weeks of our continuous interrogation of Nigeria’s warped sociopolitical development, the discourse has shifted to the arena of graft in which most of the dramatis personae that contributed to the many failures that dot our landscape fret muscles over who was a bigger thief within the plundering band of Nigeria’s thieving elite. It is, indeed, ludicrous that while those who pilfer what we call ‘chicken change” in the local parlance here sometimes commit suicide to escape public odium in saner climes, Nigeria’s privileged pillagers of our national treasury are out there on the pages of our newspapers, audaciously beating their chests, celebrating the clinical dexterity with which the multi-level heist and other manipulations were carried out. Unlike in the past where the kleptomaniacs had a modicum of decency to hide their loot away from the prying eyes of a deprived populace, these modern-day looters flaunt theirs ever so impudently – daring us to go take a dive in the Lagos lagoon if we can’t stomach their despicable profligacy. It is that pitiably laughable.
On a serious note, I personally see no sense in the ‘list of looters’ recently released by the Federal Government to justify why the opposition Peoples Democratic Party should not be allowed to hoodwink Nigerians into voting its candidates back into power in 2019. The reason for this is simple: the All Progressives Congress-led government is yet to show us that it is not a significant, active participant in the deceit called governance in Nigeria. Come to think of it, we are in the 21st century and politicians here still employ outdated propaganda to con a docile population to buy into their treachery. If that tactical blunder culminated in the untimely exit of the President Goodluck Jonathan government in 2015, what gives the APC the assurances that this silly prank would not spell doom for it in 2019 with the shambolic and glaringly partisan way it has been fighting endemic corruption since inception?
You ask: what was the government hoping to achieve by bandying an updated list of treasury looters containing selected names of recalcitrant members of the opposition party? Was it just to name and shame, with the aim of silencing them? That’s utter balderdash if you ask me. And that is where the APC is getting it all wrong. No serious-minded government wins the battle against corruption on the political ideology of ‘my graft cases are significantly lower than yours.’ In less than three years in office, the APC has shown that its members are not immune to the alluring temptations of corrosive corruption. It is not a jab below the belt but the irritating truth! And the least of all these graft-related cases is that of the dropped Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal. I’m sure discerning minds would have known by now that the word ‘recalcitrant’ was used with utmost caution. Truth be told, the way the APC cleanses every defector to the broom side with the perfume of innocence confounds sane minds. It is not my responsibility to start pointing accusing fingers or listing some popular names that have quietly become pampered saints immediately they publicly defect to the ruling party. Even the brains behind the Guinness Book of World Records would marvel at the alacrity with which the pending graft cases against such persons have been consigned to the dustbin of history.
Come to think of it, what could be responsible for the clear omission of the names of Nigeria’s past presidents from the list as updated? We must be lucky that our leaders, especially former presidents and Commander-In-Chiefs who are still living, are rarely linked to cases of humongous graft except the ones we peddle in beer parlours and burukutujoints. By the way, were the compilers of the list unaware of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s frustrating outburst the other day that a particular big man watched with glee as he superintended over the withdrawal and frittering of N100bn and $295m ‘in one single transaction” by officials of his party to procure electoral victory in the 2015 election? Did they know that the wife of this same man is presently battling to lay her hands on the millions of dollars allegedly linked to her in various banks and suspected to be stolen from the national treasury? Of course, they couldn’t have forgotten that some former governors who are currently engaged in the business of making laws for our collective good are facing various graft cases at the courts. How come the names of these persons were missing on the list including that of a leading man of law in the Red Chamber who allegedly doctored his Asset Declaration Form with the Code of Conduct Bureau? Why did they opt to buffet us with the names of petty thieves when the real cabal that has shred this nation to pieces is probably waiting for another kill as 2019 approaches?
Unfortunately, the PDP is hitting the APC right where it hurts by asking it to remove the huge log in its eyes before talking about the specks in others. They are saying that, as plunderers of the national wealth part of which, they alleged, was used to herald the APC to power, they are at liberty to wail at the raving looters who only had the good fortune of crossing to the other side at the right time.
Now, see how shamelessness has become a national virtue where common criminals flaunt their hollow triumphalism with psychedelic panache. No matter how you want to rationalise it, nothing justifies the tragic comedies on display by both parties unless, of course, both are taking all of us for a rude, whimsical ride. Where one had expected the ruling government to look itself in the mirror and hammer some home truth into its clogging brain, it is sickening that it has chosen to dance naked in the market square with the PDP, a party whose laughable public show of remorse is offered on the altar of deceit. Or how else can one justify the acceptance of blind looting even if most of the cases at the courts are moving at an annoyingly slow pace?
The irony in all this is that those (the people) who should ask the tough questions are becoming part of the problem. Some said they would like to see a complete “liberalisation of the corruption sector” so that everyone can benefit—that the crumbs can trickle down after the big men had taken theirs in lump sum. They forget easily that that is how we got to this crazy bend where greed rules. It is this kind of thinking that gives the present actors at the federal, state and local government levels to steal us blind and even justify it. When we begin to mete out the right punishment to the killers of our dreams and abhor venerating them with all manners of chieftaincy titles; when we start insisting on them living within their constitutionally approved emoluments accruable to them after rendering quality service; when we stop playing the ostrich as our collective patrimony is being raided by a privileged few; and when we begin to take the ruling government to task about pursuing justice with blindfolded eyes, that is when all the nonsense of toying with our intelligence will stop. How long would we continue to wink in the dark and living with the deceit that things will get better without taking the right measures?
This ambience of rationalising the plundering of a nation’s wealth on the altar of “our looters are more humane than yours” is a sure recipe for failure. It is one thing to preach change and it is another to be a witness to a change that breeds a medley of motionlessness—a movement without motion. Sadly, this is not how nations progress. It is only a compass towards sure retrogression and further underdevelopment of a consistently and deliberately over-plundered and underdeveloped nation. But do the charlatans on both sides of the divide understand this inglorious attribute of a failed governance process? Do they see the shame that others see in us as we display our ignorance to the outside world in an anti- corruption fight that in itself is corruption-laden? Do they?