The Death of Conscience on the Battlefield of Impunity


Akinyinka Akinnola
Recent revelations with regards to the past goings on at the office of the National Security Advisor, though shocking, are only a light into the overriding thinking that participation in governance either by election or selection is an avenue for acquiring stupendous wealth. Over the years, corruption on a large scale has been allowed to flourish, thereby fuelling even greater and more brazen acts. We didn’t get here in one day.

Whilst tales of corruption are not new in Nigeria, even though the current scale, if proved correct is on a scale probably never seen before, what has unsettled most people is that it has transpired in one of the nation’s most revered institutions, and ultimately, one responsible for our security and defence. Nigerians, like most developing countries in Africa, the Middle East and, indeed, South America, have a long history of political intervention by the military for good or bad, but are enamoured by their discipline, courage and strength. The spit shine boots, the starched uniforms, the swagger and general “action man” syndrome; Nigerians generally respect their military institutions. It was with unease, thus, that most people watched the military leadership in the past dispensation with their designer watches, official luxury cars and physiques that may be considered “prejudicial to military discipline”. There is a need to restore the nation’s confidence in this institution. Our military has a lot of work to do.

Custodians of our commonwealth, as if in animated suspense, the power of their office took as licence. But none can escape posterity’s luminance, the sustained quest for recompense.
Putting aside the act and the scale, what is even more confounding is the way and manner things were done, going by reports. It is obvious that not only did most actors not consider that there could ever be checks or investigations in the future, caution was thrown to the wind. No bother to even “create” a paper trail. Procedure, documentation, evaluation, etc. Nothing. Just disbursements. Elder statesmen, senior party officials, government appointees, office minors etc. The visitors to the bazaar were as varied as they were shocking.

Payment for prayers to God must ascend, supplications on the mount of irreverence. Seeking Gods face, a spiritual reference, they must now offer prayers of penitence
It’s been said that Nigeria is one of the most religious nations on earth. Churches and mosques everywhere. When situations call for serious deliberation and action, leadership calls for prayers instead. With the trooping of religious leaders to the seat of government prior to the 2015 elections, one was tempted to appeal for the “separation of the church/mosque and state.” That anyone could enter “special prayers” into a voucher for disbursement, goes to show how thick skinned we as a nation have become as to what religion really is. The fact that some people actually believe that special prayers can be procured with money and then go as far as documenting it, as a valid expense item is simply mind-boggling. I can only imagine the halo around the head of the one who filled the voucher and the radiance of his face as he performed this great spiritual action for the intervention of the divine in the affairs of the nation. Thankfully, most of us know that God does not accept cash regardless of the currency.

The currency of greed, dollars and cents, alternating only for pounds and for pence. O mighty naira, how thou art fallen, your princes disdain you as mere tuppence
A former central bank governor had once decried the “dollarisation” of the economy. Highbrow luxury apartments were rented out and sold in dollars, restaurants and hotels were paid for by patrons in dollars as it was easy to carry around. The greatest source for dollarisation of the economy, however, was corruption. Unconfirmed revelations of dollars being given to people in cash by a sitting government and then converted back to naira bends the imagination. A high ranking elder statesman once accused of receiving NSA loot quickly chimed in defence that it was only a small amount of the total dollars that came to his own purse. That was his defence. Is it possible that a man who has held so many high offices does not know that the currency of exchange in Nigeria is the Naira? Such is the level of the dollarisation of the economy. Compensation for property lost and burnt, a loss adjuster our ministry of defence?

Purveyors of truth, guardians of the fourth estate, has your pen been sullied by lucre’s essence?
As laughable as the reasons postulated for the disbursement of funds are, they meet their match h in the various defences that have been put forward for the acceptance of funds. Of all these, none is as interesting as the claim that funds from the office of the national security advisor were for compensation for the losses incurred by fire etc of a private organisation. Had the various mosques and churches burnt and blown up known this, rather than plead with their congregations and outside help for funds for medical and funeral bills for their affected congregants and to rebuild their places of worship, they should have just approached the ONSA for compensation. It is sad to think that a newspaper publishers association in whatever guise or form accepted a payment of any sort for any reason from the federal government under such circumstances. Some have returned the funds, and thankfully, some have dissociated themselves from the entire exercise.

Funding of elections, the clear intent, millions and billions too bright, dim and dense. The stories are out on how it was spent, yet doesn’t matter, it won’t make sense. I recall that under the zero party option during the Ibrahim Babangida regime, government was to fund both parties equally as they vied for success at the polls. Somehow, this memo was never superseded in the minds of some as they seem to still operate within its parameters. The only thing is the fine detail of the source of funding, the amount and that it should be available to all parties seem to have been overlooked. How does one take money out of the purse of the federal government in such colossal sums and then hand it over to individuals (not even institutions) to pursue an election in a state for which the funds disbursed are far in excess of annual capital budget.

Pray tell, setting aside all morality or legality, what kind of requisition of electoral needs could have resulted in such figures, particularly, in states where a lot of citizens have never seen N1,000 in one place at once. The men in black call for a conference “let’s talk it over, no need to be tense.”

“Talk to us let it all make sense; we’d like to know where the money went hence.”
No matter how well trained the investigative officer, and the seriousness of the task at hand, it shall be difficult to keep a straight face when faced with some discoveries. In this age of technology, the money trail is never cold. It is clear that no one imagined an investigation like this could come to pass. Property all over the world, cash in accounts of spouses and direct relatives or companies in which their names were listed. Professional money launderers were put out of business. The morale of the story? If you must steal, do it professionally.
The searchlight is on, its beams intense, calls for the truth with insistence, through wig and gown, they build a fence, to delay the day of recompense.

It’s a good time to be a lawyer. Not only is there an abundance of high profile cases, with clients that have the capacity to pay, the observation of the “rule of law” ensures that this will go on for a while. CAVEAT EMPTOR- Fees paid may have to be returned, as they may be recalled due to questionable sources as “exhibit”.

Is this the time of our preference, when judgement is swift with a following sentence? Or will it be enveloped by indifference, the showing of “big men” great deference.