by Soni Daniel
“For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the Cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.”-Philippians 3.19
There could be no better analogy to describe the current situation in Nigeria where a majority of the citizens see corruption as the only route to stardom, good life and influence. A typical Nigerian’s penchant for profligacy is as legendary as the one painted above by Paul, the apostle, when he chastised the Philippians, during his missionary journeys to put things right among the Christian converts.
Nigerians have already acquired the notoriety of being at the forefront of graft at home and abroad, and have earned the angst of the rest of the world in the process, without being fully aware of the consequences of that survival misbehaviour.
They seem to have built a very sturdy defense mechanism around themselves once they commit an act of sleaze as a strategy to get away easily with the loot. And, because the government has often worshipped and rewarded highly corrupt personalities in Nigeria with the biggest national titles in the land, oil blocks and other pricey assets instead of sending them to jail, sleaze has come to be accepted as a culture while their masters are adored as deities.
Such persons, who have also bulldozed themselves into the inner temples of worship centres around the country, influence the tones of preaching in most of the churches, mosques and shrines in their favour while they also exert undue influence on the judiciary and the security agencies, whose duty it is to go after these vile elements.
In a way, the most corrupt individuals and organisations in Nigeria have acquired the status of ‘the untouchables’ and almost above the law since they can buy anyone and anything that seems to obstruct their way.
Nigerians are just about to watch helplessly as these evil men are stridently fighting to kill the report of the oil subsidy probe, which hard-fighting lawmaker, Farouk Lawan, managed to turn in after desperate moves by the subsidy cabal in the country to block the report, failed.
For once, the brief man from Kano with a feminine voice and ageless mien deserves all the accolades he has so far been showered with by right-thinking and conscionable Nigerians and I think he deserves it for rising above partisan interest in the discharge of that national assignment.
As I have said before Lawan has written his name in the golden book of Nigeria and when the time for heroes and villains of this country to be named, he would be on the side of the former. That is why it does not matter much at this point in time whether Mr. President will summon enough political will to punish all those named as culprits in the subsidy scam since most of the characters either belong to his cabinet or his party.
The fear is that since these party faithful share the same philosophy with Mr. President that their party must rule Nigeria indefinitely despite the misfortune it has exposed the nation to in its 13 years of leadership, he would not be willing to wield the sledgehammer against the oil thieves.
The fear has heightened because of the very crude and puerile method adopted by those indicted by the report to fight back and in a very dirty way.
First, just as the report was laid on the table, no fewer than 18 oil marketers, who had shunned the invitation of the panel to answer queries why they collected huge hard currency for oil importation but did not buy even a drop, threatened through Mike Ozekhome, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, to sue the House of Representatives for N100 billion for daring to mention their names.
As far as they are concerned, it was their birthright to collect taxpayers’ funds under false pretense and smile to their banks. I am sure Ozekhome will have a rethink and ditch them so as not to dent his image in a matter that runs foul of all that is good and fair to society and his high calling as a human rights activist. Or, is he not one?
As if that was not enough, all other persons and institutions indicted by the report have taken conspicuous space in the media to lampoon Lawan and his members, in many cases using incendiary language to express their disgust with the panelists.
But I do not think that their responses, which are nothing but an afterthought, should worry any Nigeria, who has been following events of this nature anywhere in the world. President Nixon, the only American president to be forced out of office because of the Watergate Scandal, fought back seriously to kill the report prepared by the committee raised to examine the scandal.
Apart from refusing to cooperate and turn in evidence of illegal wiretapped information, the former president asked the attorney general to sack Archibald Cox, on Oct. 20, 1973 in what became known as the Saturday Night Massacre.
Even after Cox had been fired, the hope of the case rested with a relentless and upright Supreme Court, which stood on the side of the people and ordered Nixon to produce the tapes he had earlier declined to turn in for the investigation. That evidence is what eventually led to the pressure on Nixon to quit.
But, the irony of our situation is that all the agencies of government charged with the statutory function of investigating graft and other infractions against society, first and foremost pander to the dictates of the president, ministers, governors and other top government officials and above all want a piece of the loot.
That explains why series of their so-called investigations by the lame duck anti-graft agencies in the country are most often muddled up to free the suspects of high level economic and financial crimes.
If the investigation is not deliberately muddled to give the suspect a clean bill of health, the court becomes the settlement ground and the corrupt official quickly returns to the church for thanksgiving for being saved from ‘politically-motivated trial’.
Many examples of these pre-meditated trial and acquittal abound in Nigeria, the latest, being that of James Ibori, who had been consistently cleared of all wrongdoings by the courts in Nigeria until he was trapped and caged in London.
The same clearance was given to Otunba Gbenga Daniel, former Ogun State governor, Erastus Akingbola, former Intercontinental Bank MD, and of course, Dimeji Bankole, the former speaker of House of Representatives as well as the lawmakers involved in the looting of the Rural Electrification Agency, REA.
Till date, we are yet to see anyone punished for looting the billions of dollars that the former administration of Olusegun Obasanjo wasted in the name of power projects that have not added a single watt to the national grid.
But as is usual, Mr. President has promised not to spare anyone indicated by the report. That is good news but we seem to have lost some grounds already.
It is painful that we shamelessly allowed this subsidy mess to utterly taint our nation’s psyche this way and claim its first major casualty in the person of Dr. Okonjo-Iweala before we decided to put on our thinking cap.
Let it be known to all Nigerians that if not for the stench from the subsidy probe, the billion Naira pension fraud and other scams that have fouled the air around Nigeria and beyond, the country would have earned more respect from those who interviewed the renowned economist and she would have clinched the World Bank top post, given her intimidating credentials, good conscience and unalloyed dedication to duty.
But it was unfortunate for an outstanding woman of her calibre to come from a country that has been dented by corruption and held in contempt by those who grilled her in New York.
My thinking is that if we have never learnt any lesson in this country before now, the rejection of Okonjo-Iweala by the board of the global apex bank last week and the furore that attended Mr. President’s failure to clinch the AU leadership earlier this year, should humble us to learn to play by the rule by toeing the path that launched other nations to greatness.
But if we behave as usual by dumping this subsidy mess in the trashcan because of the persons indicted, history will be very harsh on us now and forever.
This piece was originally published in Leadership Newspapers.