Sunday, 22 October 2006

Authority Stealing in Nigeria

Inured to it all, I suppose

Strangely, none of the Nigerian blogs I visit daily seemed to have picked up on this issue that Nigerian leaders have ‘stolen’ $380 billion cumulatively since independence with the worst atrocities in the 80s and 90s.

This leaves me a bit uncomfortable because it would imply that this is no news or people are so inured to that fact that they cannot be bothered to express any outrage.

Whilst the word stolen is qualified as either wastage or outright kleptomania, I would plumb for the least desirable definition of the word.

Basically, good leadership and stewardship of Nigeria’s resources and means should have ensured that any moneys spent were properly accounted for and whoever dipped into the treasury should have been able to declare in clear terms what for, why and what is to be achieved.

If they have been remiss in ensuring the proper management of resources then not only should those leaders be ethically sanctioned, they should indicted on possible treasonable offences for not serving the best interests of Nigeria.

Those military kleptomaniacs

The 80s and 90s had 3.5 years of democratic leadership and 16.5 years of military leadership. Whilst we can lament the dubious electioneering of the civilians, we really should stand up to those to forcefully imposed themselves on Nigerians in military dictatorship and then plundered the treasury without moving Nigeria forward in any appreciable way.

The selfsame rotten miscreants are now parading themselves as possible presidential candidates in the 2007 elections, this really should not be so.

What has happened is these people have looted the treasury years ago and are seemingly going straight and presenting themselves as gentlemanly and respectable people, however, it is important that the provenance of their wealth be probed to the last kobo (lowest denomination of the Nigerian Naira).

How much would a military dictator have been earning per year and how much more would have come his way through corrupt patronage?

Then what business interests were fronting for them as they passed moneys from the Nigerian treasury that they had turned into personal cheque accounts?

Name, Blame, and Shame them all

It is not enough for the chairman of the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) to highlight the fact of waste and theft; he should have a crack team questioning how any senior military official who appears to be living beyond the means of their remunerations came about their good fortune or largess.

Also, if the chairman is indicating that we should reject corrupt leaders, he should help us better by telling us who they are first and then he should have them first indicted and then arraigned into detention till every source of wealth is accounted for and tallied to the dot.

But then where does he make this statement? At the 60th birthday celebration of one of those leaders which included many of the ex-military leaders – this could have been bare-faced cheek or the usual annoyance of patronage that confers credibility on people of suspect integrity.

Once upon a time

The greater ill here is that there are many of us in Diaspora who most probably would have stayed in Nigeria if our resources were better managed, as I was growing up in the 70s, it appeared there was much to look forward to in Nigeria – you never thought your parents had to speak to some Mandarin to get you into the right school, you got there on merit.

The salaries people were paid meant they could easily afford a life of Western tastes, the middle classes thrived and help the promise of a better future for their children and grand-children.

In the early 80s, all I had to do was walk into the Student’s Union office having obtained a Nigerian passport a week before and book a flight to anywhere in the world, visas and documents arranged without much fuss.

The Naira had a value that was almost at par with the pound, students going for summer in the UK or the US were not a rare thing.

By the time the 80s came to a close, not only had these easy things gone, the Naira was devalued to less than 5% of its value in 1980, anyone who by happenstance was born abroad in the 60s was leaving and many others who had the opportunity left seeking good fortune elsewhere.

The destruction of the middle classes

The plundering of our resources destroyed the fabric of a cohesive and thriving society and it was used to polarize the nation along tribal, religious and moneyed lines as both violent crime and white collar crime literally went unsanctioned.

There are more people who probably left for their safety and security than for anything else, it is not helped by the fact that recently some people who have aspired for office have been expired by murderers probably on contract to eliminate opposition.

Ban them all

However, this really should be the radical change to our constitution, any military or civilian person who has been in leadership in Nigeria in the 80s and 90s covering the Head of State, the cabinet, the permanent secretaries, CEOs of major companies, leaders of military divisions, former governors, their deputies and their cabinets should be barred from contesting office ever again.

If they were not involved in the looting and wasting of our resources, they cannot have been ignorant of those activities and they could have raised a groundswell of revolt against the corruption of those days.

Also, they should all be at risk of losing their freedom if they are found to be politicking by trying to influence selections or elections, they should be under duress to prove that they have not been interfering with the system.

Accountable leadership beckons

We definitely need a new crop of leaders who would be subject to the scrutiny of the EFCC which should have a head that is appointed independent of the presidency and of the status of probably the deputy chief justice of the federation.

The rape of Nigeria should and must not go unpunished; we should be outraged and demand that they all be swept out the history of Nigeria into black books of shame from which they would only be able to extricate themselves once they can prove the untainted provenance of their wealth.

We cannot continue to condone as Fela did say – Vagabonds In Power/Authority Stealing and that was 1979 – could the outgoing President Obasanjo who was had of State then be indicted on a few counts of plundering too?

References

The Politics of Implementing the Structural Adjustment Program in Nigeria

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