Bode George: We deserve much more than this

by ‘Funmilayo Akinosi

Chief Olabode George did not ‘steal’ – at least, no one has proven that he has. Yet, social media is still warm from the fiery fumes of righteous anger burning from a large number of Nigerians. We are convinced that the former chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority was convicted for theft of public funds. We have then taken to Facebook and Twitter to share our disgust at the advertorials and live broadcast of politicians in aso-ebi and the hero’s welcome given to a ‘thief’. Of course, there is the ubiquitous warnings to #RSVP and choose wisely (read as ‘non-PDP’) during the April elections.

Ex-convicts should not be shunned and made pariahs merely because they made mistakes. It is perhaps prudent to rehabilitate former offenders and reintegrate them into society – or so theories go. Even so, despite our disdain for convictions and supercilious pretensions, ex-convicts have played significant roles in their post-jail lives. The revered Obafemi Awolowo was an ex-convict and any of the members of the pre-kidnap era MEND would fit his toes in Mandela’s shoes. The stigma isn’t as strong as we assume and it sometimes depends on who tells the story.

Chief George, along with five former members of the NPA board, was convicted in 2009 for ‘contract splitting’, abuse of office and disobedience of a wilful order. The charge of contract inflation was not proved as the prosecution failed to show a price list which would validate an unjustifiable increase. The honourable judge of the High Court of Lagos State held that the defendants deliberately and arbitrarily divvied up the contracts to bring them within limits that could be approved by the board. So, there were no allegations of wilful conversion or theft; ‘merely’ conspiracy to award contracts that shouldn’t have been awarded. The court held that these men were ‘responsible corporate officers’ who had a duty to scrutinise contracts before approving them. Therefore, they could not claim that they were board members who should not be responsible for actions carried out by their subordinates.

There lies the reason for our anger: public officers are responsible for their offices. They don’t even have to steal to get us mad about circumventing due process or abusing our trust. Public office holders are responsible to the public whose taxes (and rights to money received from natural resources) pay their salaries. They should not act in a manner that is prejudicial to public good.

We have a right to be mad at the aso-ebis that welcomed Chief George because some of them hold or aspire to hold public offices. We should be infuriated that abuse of public positions isn’t seen as despicable or dishonourable enough so that we avoid people who indulge it. We must be angry because it is enough to influence government contracts or act in an unlawful manner. We should throw our hands in the air and mourn the loss of the deterrence that the conviction brought in 2009 and the acceptability of abuse of public office.

Perhaps this has come from being accustomed to low expectations from our leaders. This is the time to move away from satisfaction at leaders that ‘do something’ to a demand for integrity, knowing that performance of one’s duty is to be taken for granted. It is important that we remember that public officers must act right. So that when we decide to #Select and #Vote, it would be because we expect – and deserve much, much more.

9 Comments

  • Beta Thenu says:

    Funmilayo Akinosi – you cannot write. Get back to your day job.

  • Chinzamza says:

    I am shocked at the vacuousness of the comments. This is by the far the best commentary on the matter I have read so far. The point is simple: a man does not have to be a thief to be derided for abuse of office. We should get the facts right, whilst channeling our anger properly. Ku ise.

  • Pantaphobious Daeve says:

    @writer What exactly are you saying? Utter gibberish!

  • Olamiposi says:

    What a disheartening story for this generation.Ex-convict Chief Olabode George,has done wrongful acts,lets call a spade a spade:a thief is a thief.Personally,i guess his celebation is political.PDP is the political evil of this century.God bless Nigeria.

  • wetinbethis? says:

    The author of this article blows hot and cold at the same time. You would think it's a problem of bad writing, but no it is not inadvertent, it's a conscious, manipulative strategy. The sum of the confusing, dizzying, meandering around the subject is found in the first sentence of the article. I wonder how stupid the author thinks the readers are. Nigerians have no right to be indignant about the shameless celebrations? Bode George is not a thief? Please give us the profile of a thief, 'Funmilayo Akinosi.

  • Yomi says:

    I think the spite for the George's for celebrating his return from Prison is unfair. Bode George has done the time for the crime. What more does one expect? How he and his family choose to celebrate is of no business to anyone? Prison is a big deal. That he went there and came out in good health is worthy of testimony. It's vital we see things from this perspective instead of just sitting down on computers and being bitter.

    • eMJOY Mayowa says:

      That's if it was just him and his family. but when the celebration is PDP party, and current govt officials sponsored, then Nigerians have reason to vex. JOY #NewNig

  • Sikelele says:

    I fail to see the point of this article or what the writer is trying to say.
    Al Capone was nailed for 'mere' tax evasion too.
    Perhaps that exonerated him from all the other crimes he was known to have committed.

    And to direct such scorn towards Nigerians who are rightly furious at the celebration makes less than zero sense.

    We witnessed a country clearly on the drift yesterday with what happened.
    How can anyone even compare that to the rehabilitation of ex convicts?

    How about the man who just finished a 15 year sentence for the murder of Alfred Rewane? Something which he has been proven to be innocent of?

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