WE ARE THE VICTIMS OF CORRUPTION
By Rev. Fr. Ojaje Idoko
There is no doubt that Nigerians are a resilient people. We can adjust to any situation; political, academic, religious, economic and social. It is difficult to break a Nigerian spirit. We can accommodate so much that our memory card became full a long time ago. That is why we forget history quickly. We forget the atrocities of past governments immediately there is a change of government and we begin the talk show of the seeming inadequacies of the government in power. We did it after Shagari’s government was overthrown by the coupists on the last day of 1983. We danced and hailed the government of Buhari but not long, we forgot the pains of the NPN government. We did it when Buhari was overthrown by Ibrahim Babangida, we danced when Buhari left shortly after that we started longing for Buhari. We did it when IBB overstayed and Abacha took over. We started judging Abacha and wished the humane government of IBB stayed. Then Abacha died and the short stay of Abdulsalam didn’t allow for much judgment. Obasanjo came and we said nobody understands Nigeria like Obasanjo. It just took a year before the trouble started. By the time Obasanjo left in 2007, Nigerian could barely wait for him to handover. Then Yar’Adua’s regimes came and it was too slow for us. We wanted a government of action style of Obasanjo. Baba Too Slow” was the name we game him. Then President Jonathan came and it we described his government as one long night of armed robbery. We wanted Yar’Adua back. He was not a thief and was a good man. Nigerians earnestly yearned for a change. Sai Baba rented the air! Now, everyone talks of the good old days of President Jonathan. “Bring back our corruption” some are shouting. Truly our memory card is full.
Our successive leaders understand this much of us Nigerians that is why every one of them treats Nigerians as a thrash. President Olusegun Obasanjo would say of Nigerians, “Na dem toro” “I de Kampe”. He also told us after the attempt at the tenure elongation process failed to sail through in the National Assembly that if he wanted, he would have got the third tenure. President Goodluck Jonathan would tell Nigerians when asked if he would not declare his assets as required by the enabling laws of code of conduct bureau, “I don’t give a damn”. He eventually told us that Nigerians will only appreciate him after he had left the office. They all know that we shall only talk against them when they are in government and that immediately they leave office, we shall forget their misdeeds and begin to idolize them. We are a forgiving and forgetting people who concentrate only in the now. We think not of the past nor the future, but the now. If not for that national amnesia many of the people who are complaining of witch hunt today should be walking into the prison by themselves after returning what they took from us. See the facts.
General Sani Abacha was head of state for five years. The ferocity of his itchy fingers in the nation’s coffers we are told was legendry. They are still recovering what has come to be known as the “Abacha loot” from Bank volts overseas and countries where Nigerian’s liquid cash were stashed. There was a plea bargain (whoever came up with that concept must be sued) and his son, the heir to the looted funds was forgiven. What that means is that accept that yes I know I have stolen money from government. Yes I need to bring this money back. Yes, we can go on forever in the courts dragging this case before corrupt judges, (oh not again!). Let us agree that I keep some of the money and return the rest so that we can move on with our lives. Lawyers, I hope I am corrupt, sorry correct? I even heard that the younger Abacha tried becoming governor of Kano state at the last election. Ibrahim Babangida’s cases are no go areas. Who dares the godfather? His Excellency, Governor James Ibori of Delta state was given a clean bill of corruption health by all the Nigerian courts. He relocated to Dubai from where he was to live and oversee his business concerns all over the world. His family was already comfortably settled in abroad, where they had fresh air, clean and steady water supply, nice environment, well stocked health facilities, good roads, steady electricity power supply, good public transportation system, adequate security provided by the government with the complements of whatever life can offer. Someone in the United Kingdom said something was not right in the Ibori case. The Metropolitan police in UK took it up. The case went back to the courts in UK where the judges were not political appointees and James Ibori has been a prisoner since then. It was Delta State people’s money that was stolen but the people seem not to understand that they have right to the stolen money. Some people in his community protested his arrest saying their son was innocent.
I do not want to dabble into the murky water of corruption charges being prosecuted by EFCC. But what stands out clearly is the fact that the nation has been milked dry by those entrusted with the care of our common funds. They have misappropriated the resources and they are comfortable because they know that we shall always come to their defense when charges such as we are witnessing now are being pressed against them. Nigerians have always suspected that something fishy has been going on with the way the judges have been handling cases, especially, election matters. There was a story of governor who wanted to return for second tenure. When the results were being collated and it was not going in his favor, he knelt down, begged electoral officers to please declare him winner. The facts were clear and they told him so. He told them not to worry that he would be able to handle the courts if ever it went there. Of course the case went to the tribunal and to the courts. He was declared winner on technical grounds and he served his tenure. But the state went through hell under him in that second tenure. By the time he left, the state workers were being owed eight months salary and schools were closed down for one and half years of his four year tenure.
We have always suspected that something is definitely not correct with the way judgments are delivered. Ex parte injunctions and orders are given even in the night. We still remember the Police Pension Scam that broke out in 2012. By 2013, one of the accused was sentenced to two years imprisonment with an option of N250,000 after he pleaded guilty to stealing over one billion Naira. He was to forfeit 325 Million Naira traced to him. Of course he promptly paid from his brief case and he went off a free man. Nothing happened to the judge who gave out such a ridiculous judgment that was described as a congratulation rather of a punishment.
Some foreign currencies and huge amount of money were said to have been discovered in the homes of some of the judges that were arrested recently by the security operatives. Many arguments have been put forward by those for and those against the action of the Department of Security Services (DSS). Some learned men of the Bar have argued that DSS should have no role to play in the corruption fight because they are to fight crime and do investigations. Please let every Nigerian get it clear. Nigeria is in economic recession because of activities of financial criminals. If someone is involved in such electoral fraud that renders the people’s mandate useless, nothing is more criminal than that. In fact, even if it takes the village vigilante group to arrest them, go ahead let us have sanity for once. If judges are suspected to have been involved in such an act that denies the people the power of expression at the electoral poll, what do we do call that? What were the judges doing with such amount of money in their homes? Some have argued that such monies were planted by the DSS. Okay, let them take such cash to the common fund. The fact remains that the search light should be beamed on the judiciary before what we call the last hope of the common man is totally lost.
The whole case is worrisome because in all these we are the victims. Our infrastructures are in decay. Electricity is still epileptic. Our roads a getting worse as new ones are not constructed and the existing ones are not maintained. Our cities are getting darker in the night as the street lights are off. There is unemployment and hunger in the land. Industries are folding up, graduates are not getting employed and companies are laying off those in their employment for lack of patronage. The cost of living is rising daily, and traders are not selling their wares. It is difficult doing business because the foreign exchange regime has become unimaginable. In this present situation in Nigeria somebody is telling us that the stolen wealth that led us to this situation should not be investigated? I would imagine that ordinary Nigerians who are suffering all these havoc would come to their senses and say, enough is enough. For how long shall one country continue to be raped economically like this? Can we survive it for long? We have reached a stage in Nigeria where every case of corruption should be treated as a case of public enemy that should not be tolerated and given tribal, regional or party coloration. When did we descend to the level of defending thieves of such magnitude? Oh! One of the judges is implicating Minister Rotimi Amaechi? Good. Amaechi too has a case to answer, but is the judge guilty? Accusing Amaechi does not exonerate a judge of corruption. What I hear many Nigerians saying is that, those being tried are not the only ones that are corrupt. Shouldn’t we start from somewhere? Imagine that every government is able to prosecute all corrupt people who we term their enemies, something would have been happening. And I would beg which ever government that comes after Buhari to please thoroughly probe Buhari’s regime. It is the paddy paddy kind of transition that harms our economy and nation. We are the victims of all these.
In conclusion, we should allow everyone who is accused of corruption to be properly tried, both in law courts and while the courts of public opinion is going on. What will harm this nation more is when corruption begins to wear tribal Agbada and given the toga of ethnic sentiments. Nigerians are the victims of all these and we should be unanimous when someone is picking them up one by one. It is not possible to pick all at the same time.
Rev. Fr. Ojaje Idoko
(Director of Pastoral Affairs, Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria)