One of the most-oft talked about issues in Nigeria is corruption. Everybody talks about it. Everybody condemns it. Yet everybody , almost, is guilty of it. No doubt, Nigerians are damn intelligent people. The down side of that virtue is that more often, the intelligence is deployed to undoing the system. Many of the 5-star practitioners of the act f corruption have so mastered the game so much that they ply the trade with a breezy ease. They know how not to be caught. They know who to settle, who to see, how to move and when to move. Some corruption activists have elevated the ignoble act to the level of a career. They serve as undertakers. All you need do is hire their services and your deal is as good as done.
When you are awarded a contract in a federal or state ministry, even when you did not participate in the bid process, all you need to is know somebody who knows the Permanent Secretary, one who can speak not only his language, but also speak the idiolect of corruption. They will tell you how to circumvent the system. How to get certificate of job completion without ever knowing where the site of the project was supposed to be. They will tell you how to process your papers for payment, even with a VIP speed. It is all about knowing who is who. And then next year, that undone-but-paid-for- project gets back to the budget. And the circle begins all over again. At the end of the day, you wonder how such humongous sum (our federal budgets are now in Trillions, Yes, Trillions!!!) fail to transform our cities, towns and villages, year-in-year-out.
You hardly know that the big man, big woman around the corner, have cornered the collective fortune of the people.
Yet, the irony is that young men in the universities see these odious “Big men”, as the symbol of successful entrepreneurs who must come deliver the key note address at their campus seminars, at their church cell groups, at their NGO Annual General Meetings, and even at the Civil Society events. And then the crooks mount the rostrums to make proclamations on probity, equity, sanity and all such neo-liberal ethos. And the innocent hapless people will clap for them, without knowing that many of them are the very cankerworms eating away their commonwealth.
They act and speak with oracular certitude, knowing that the system knows them as much as they know the system. But if for any reason of game variation, they get caught by the same familiar system, they do not fret. They know the required steps and procedures that will free them from the noose. They know what lawyers in town handle “jipiti” cases. They know what Court judges grant horrible injunctions . They know the price tag of such judges skilled on how to kill a case, by making it run in the court till Jesus Christ returns.
And if all that does not work, the “experts” know how to cook up stories, dramatise scenarios that will generally make them slip off the noose.
We remember Cecelia Ibru, who after raping the treasury of defunct Oceanic Bank, was jailed, but suddenly took ill, and rushed to an executive hospital ensconced in the prized Victoria Island neighbourhood, so much that we do not know when the jail term started and ended. More recently too, a certain Big man, Dr Wale Babalakin, the Chairman of Bi-Courteny who was accused of money laundering crime, suddenly took ill and got ensconced in Lagos University Teaching Hospital for weeks. Nobody knows what he was suffering from. But from his so-called sick bed, he was pulling all the legal strings, all to evade arrest and prosecution. That is the Nigerian skill.
And when eventually, he got nabbed, he soon got “administrative bail”—a new euphemism for sending a case into coma. We may never know the hereafter of the case from this point. That is the way it goes in Nigeria. How many suspects granted the so-called “administrative bail”, have been prosecuted and punished for their crimes? Where are all the governors in the Class of 1999?
Didn’t many of them become senators, kingmakers, and Chairmen of federal parastatals even as they remained under the administrative bail? Is that not why many people blame former Delta State governor, James Onanefe Ibori for moving out of the country? The argument is that if had stayed back in Nigeria, the two-week media-feasting on his crime, if arrested, would have soon given way to an “administrative bail” that would have forever opened the gateway to his political kingship in the country. Apart from Lucky Igbinedion, former governor of Edo State, which other governor has been prosecuted and jailed for robbing his state treasury blind?
Have we forgotten our friend, Hon Farouk Lawan, who since June last year, has been on administrative Bail? Even after he admitted “receiving money not bribe” of $620,000, from Forte Oil Boss, Femi Otedola, our Police are still scratching their heads, on how to arraign a man who had confessed to a crime. Only in Nigeria do such legal faux pas take place. And nobody shudders. Since then till now, Lawan has been enjoying administrative bail. And it may be eternally so.
Yet, we make loud claims of fighting corruption. The man called Ibrahim Lamorde, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been at the helms for over one year now. I cannot quite remember any case he has diligently prosecuted and got the suspect jailed. And this is someone who has been in the commission. As the head of the organization, Lamorde has not shown zeal or spark in dealing with the many financial crooks in town. If the EFCC has weak prosecutorial team, it should change them.
There are fiery lawyers all around town. It is either he is incompetent or he is an accomplice to the rougish raid of the nation’s treasury. It takes either of the options for an anti-corruption czar to be this complacent with the status quo. I shall focus on his acts in the near future.
I believe that the Transparency International is pretty charitable to place us where we are in the scale of global corruption. For a people who act as if fraud is an integral part of their DNA, it will take much more than mouthing a campaign to chase the monster away from us. It is our collective responsibility; even the petrol attendant at the filling station has got a role to play.
Welcome to Year 2013
Laast week, I did not write this column. I had meant to review the Year 2012 odyssey. But it has come and gone now. Here is Year 2013! A fresh year, sparkling with hope and inspiration. At least, we did not start this year protesting one injustice or the other. This time last year, the “Freedom Park” at Ojota, Lagos knew all was not well with Nigeria. Even Aso Rocks know there was a problem.
This is the same 2013, they treated like Year 2000—the year every government mouthed will be a year of magical transformation--- You heard them say then: Water for all by Year 2000, Education for all by Year 2000, Health for all by Year 2000 etc etc. This is thirteen years after. Water, health, education, employments etc “for all” is anything but for all. They have remained a mirage.
But President Goodluck Jonathan had assured that in this year, we would love him. That all his critics will repent and begin to clap for him. That our complaints would end. That all the foundations for the radical transformation he has been planning for us will begin to manifest this year.
The Information minister has said power generation will peak at 7,000 megawatts this year. We are looking forward to this with bated breath.
Our infrastructure, they say, will be revamped this year. We cannot wait. The 2012 budget performed poorly last year. We only hope this year will be radically different.
But all said, budget, good life, smooth roads etc. are only for the living. And that is why I must also congratulate you for making it to this year. As you witnessed January, so shall you also witness December 2013. Together, we shall celebrate another New Year. So let me wish you a productive and peaceful Happy New Year.