By Donu Kogbara
Since the great Gani Fawehinmi passed away, the pages of newspapers have been filled to the brim with complimentary comments about his impressive personality, his lofty principles, his formidable intellect and his considerable achievements.
Some of the individuals who have lavished these much-deserved plaudits on Gani The Great are sincere moralists who share Ganiâ€™s commitment to public probity.
But a whole heap of well-known crooks have added their voices to the pro-Gani chorus, in the hope that their extremely tarnished reputations will be enhanced if they claim to admire a gentleman activist who was as good as they are bad.
These power-abusers have gone out of their way to undermine this country and to subvert the values that Gani so uncompromisingly stood for. They have totally messed up the suffering masses of Nigeria with their allergy to ethical conduct.
And Gani never got tired of focusing on their penchant for unpatriotic behaviour.
Make no mistake about it: These fraudulent praise-singers feared Ganiâ€™s courage, couldnâ€™t understand his profound concern for the welfare of the underdog and frequently wished that he didnâ€™t exist. And it both angers and amuses me that they are now jumping on his posthumous bandwagon and trying to insult our intelligence.
Do these fake fans expect anyone with half a brain to conveniently forget about their appalling track records and believe that they are jolly decent fellows who are glad that Gani Fawehinmi dedicated his learned life to the pursuit of justice?!
I donâ€™t know how such blatant hypocrites and useless renegades can keep their faces straight when they are shedding crocodile tears and joining those who are genuinely mourning Ganiâ€™s demise. Some folks simply lack any sense of shame.
Exceptions to the rule
The other day, a niece who stays with me in Abuja told me that someone had purloined some clothes from her wardrobe. She suspected the domestic staff, but the missing items were not found when we searched their living quarters.
Later on that very same day, my driver told me that a wallet he had accidentally left in the car, while it was parked in my compound unlocked, had been stolen. He bitterly blamed his co-workers; and I was compelled, yet again, to play detective and try to identify the culprit. Unfortunately and for the umpteenth time, I failed.
Such incidents are, sadly, commonplace in many Nigerian households. Various sums of money and countless personal possessions have mysteriously vanished from my handbag, bedroom, study, etc, since I moved to Nigeria. And I frequently discover that substantial amounts of food have been slyly removed from my kitchen.
Most of my friends and relatives have had similar experiences and some have gotten into the habit of locking their bedrooms and perpetually monitoring the contents of their pots, their fridges and their stores. I canâ€™t bring myself to be so vigilant. I donâ€™t want to become an obsessive bean-counter.
I loathe the idea of transforming my house into a fortress. But I do wearily take some precautionary measures, such as never leaving my handbag unattended when Iâ€™m at home.
Meanwhile, lots of Nigerians who own companies regularly have to cope with thieving office staff. Iâ€™ve had to seek police intervention on numerous occasions. You canâ€™t even necessarily rely on security guards. Trust is in very short supply within this environment. One is often saddened by the widespread dishonesty.
It was not always thus. When I was based in England, I employed European cleaners, nannies and personal assistants. Some of them lived in my house. All of them were regularly exposed to major temptations. But they never once stole from me. They displayed no interest at all in things that didnâ€™t belong to them.
I guess itâ€™s hardly surprising that theft is so normal on a micro level in Nigeria, given that so many of our leaders provide us with such bad examples on a macro level. When ordinary folks who donâ€™t earn much see â€“ or hear about – big ogas and madams looting billions of naira from government coffers â€“ and getting away with it – why shouldnâ€™t they adopt a nonchalant attitude towards financial crimes?
Fortunately, there are almost always exceptions to every rule. And Iâ€™ll never forget a heart-warming incident that I personally witnessed a couple of years ago.
I was working with a Nigerian VIP when another member of the VIPâ€™s team â€“ a consultant – (letâ€™s call him X to protect his familyâ€™s privacy) – died unexpectedly.
Shortly after Xâ€™s burial â€“ he was a Muslim, so the burial took place within 24 hours – the VIP received a visit, out of the blue, from a complete strangerâ€¦a fellow Nigerian. The stranger told the VIP that he was trying to locate Xâ€™s widow.
When the VIP asked the stranger who he was, he said something along the lines of: â€œJust before he died, X gave me money to invest in a business deal. The business deal has now been completed and I want to give his widow her share of the profits, but I donâ€™t have a clue where to send the cheque to because X never invited me to his home when he was alive.
We always met in hotels, so I donâ€™t know his wife or where she lives or what her phone number is. And I recall him talking about the work he was doing for you and hope that you will know how I can reach Mrs X.â€
The VIP was in a state of shock and so was I and everyone else who heard the story. That man could so easily have kept profits nobody except him and X knew about. But he chose to be honourable and reminded us that there are some outstandingly honest Nigerians.
May God bless such people and give them a chance to have more of an impact on a nation that desperately needs a moral revival.
Readers can contact me via email@example.comS.uk or via (text only) 08027476458