By Muyiwa Adetiba
I found an older friend watching African Magic when I called at his place. I joined him out of sheer respect and civility, although the channel is nowhere near one of my preferred channels. But as always, there is some good and some lesson in everything.
The film was essentially about two young men who left the village to try and make good in the city. In the course of their wanderings, they met Sugar Mummies who took care of them. They soon grew a large appetite and gradually began to dupe these women — the fingers that were feeding and clothing them. Then they wanted one big haul that would set them up for life and didn’t care if that could cripple their Sugar Mummies. They succeeded in fleecing these women and headed for the village.
They probably would have gotten away with it if they had not taken so much from their benefactors or if they had lived wisely and invested the money in some slow yielding but long lasting venture. No. They envied the fast, flamboyant lifestyle and wanted it all. They threw parties and caroused young girls.
As it now happens everywhere in our society, the village elders saw money and threw principles and traditions to the wind. They made these young men chiefs and elders and accorded undeserved respect to them. Those who protested were loudly shouted down.
Meanwhile, the Sugar Mummies felt embittered by the money they had lost and the manner they lost it and vowed to pursue their toy boys. Unfortunately, the lavish lifestyle of the two young men gave them away easily and they were caught. The story ended when they were being led disgraced and in handcuffs, into a waiting Police vehicle.
For me, the story depicts so much of what is happening in our society today. From the morally depraved Sugar Mummies – one of whom was in her husband’s house – to the morally depraved village elders who now had eggs thrown on their faces, to the thieving, greedy young men who would now spend time behind bars.
Except of course there probably would be a twist in real life if they still have some money left. With money in our society, they probably would settle the Police who would declare shamelessly, that they had escaped along the way, or failing that, the Magistrate who would find a technical ground to free them. Some society.
A society where those who were supposed to investigate NEPA and fuel subsidy allocations turned out to also need investigators because they had soiled their hands; where those to administer pension funds became daylight robbers; where justice is becoming cash and carry; and where people of low character have ascended high judicial offices preferring to support rather than admonish criminals( the likes of Dr T. Elias must be turning in their graves); where high profile thieves are given Presidential pardon; where our word is no longer our bond.
A society where oil, which is supposed to be a blessing either in its crude or refined form, seems to stain everybody it touches in Nigeria. And it has touched a lot people including ministers we thought would make some difference on account of age, education and exposure but have turned out to be as bad, if not worse than their predecessors.
The conclusion seems to be inescapable that what we have as leaders – in politics, business and the civil service – are common thieves in high places.
The rot is so deep that it is now in the family system, in the religious system; even in friendly, social clubs. Everybody is looking for somebody else to steal from.
And we wonder why PHCN can not give light; why the rail way is still in planning stages several years after; why contracts award is the most interesting duty of our executives( both in public and private); why partnerships don’t work; why businesses don’t outlive their founders; why brothers fight brothers over properties they didn’t work for. Its all for this thing called money. And what do we do with the money we maim and kill for?
Someone I know came for holidays after a long stay in Canada and was feted by his close friend. When he saw me after the outing, he exclaimed ‘you people are mad in this country. Imagine a bottle of champagne costing 150,000 naira. You people are mad’. He repeated. I didn’t have the heart to tell him there are more expensive bottles at some clubs. I just smiled and said ‘that is part of where the stolen money goes’
Yes. We steal so we can buy exotic cars and liquor; so we can buy houses we don’t need and keep some for grandchildren who are yet to be born.
We steal, so we can celebrate anniversaries with millions of naira and give our sons and daughters away with more millions, throwing parties that don’t make sense to any rational person in a rational country. We don’t steal to impact lives or set up industries. Oh no. Instead, we steal to indulge. Sometimes, I think we steal just because its there to be stolen.
The day our leaders decide they don’t need James Ibori’s kind of wealth or Cecilia Ibru’s kind of property acquisition, that a good name is better than material acquisition; and that leadership at the end of the day, is about people and leaving a place better than you met it, is the day Nigeria will begin a positive walk into sanity and propriety.
Until then, we are just a nation of common thieves.