By Rotimi Faan

YOU’VE no doubt seen it by now. Perhaps you’ve turned the names over and over again in your mind and have finally committed them to memory. And you sure should, and even consider yourself privileged to have seen this day in which you were given a sneak preview, just a peep really, at the faces of Nigeria’s problem children.

Don’t be led to believe that is all there is to the story: The list is anything but exhaustive. It is, I dare say, certainly nothing more than a tiny tip of the proverbial iceberg. A lot more filth lies beneath the surface. Which is to say that there are very many more Nigerians whose names, either by default or design, have been left out of the scandalous list of debtors responsible for the rot in at least five of Nigeria’s leading banks.

The list reads like a chapter off a typical Yellow Page, a who-is-who in Nigeria’s business sector, if not the country itself. Which brings me close to where I’m going, the crux of the matter, to wit: That the problem with Nigeria is with her elite- business, political, etc, proving Chinua Achebe’s thesis, that the trouble with Nigeria is her leadership.

While the details of Achebe’s conclusion might be debatable, he was and is still right with the basics that our problem really is caused by our leadership, the men and women who claim to lead in our name. The very people that have the responsibility to protect our economy, those who own the leading companies and private concerns that purportedly provide jobs for millions of Nigerians, have taken to routinely abusing the trust the people have in them.

These are Nigeria’s richest people, the very ones you see where the ruling party and leading politicians are launching ghost-written books boldly stamped with personal imprint and names, or setting up foundations that are in fact avenues to feather personal nests or manage slush funds. When they feel like it, you hear them making loud donations of hundreds of Naira for so-called public and other philanthropic causes.

But these donations we all knew in our guts were stolen from us in the first instance, in the classical fashion of what the Yoruba will describe as entertaining Abu with Abu’s own money. Our gut feelings are now being confirmed before our very eyes.

Sometimes you wonder if Nigeria’s elite are really Nigerians when you measure the level of mischief they can, at the slightest opportunity and without the least scruple, wreak on a country that made many of them some of the world’s richest people. Well, sometimes, we also hear that some of this people are either Godogodo from Chad, Niger or some far-flung clime with no name on the map.

On second thought, there should be no cause for wonder when you realise, too, that most of what the Nigerian elite steal from Nigerians are taken abroad for the good of foreigners- their kith and kin across the Atlantic or the Sahara Desert.

The hard working people of this country, the very ones who are at Kosofe or Nyanya Market before dawn to buy vegetables, peppers and various  groceries to be vended and/or distributed for sale around our towns and cities in return for profits that can hardly cover the cost of transportation; the regular men and women without regular jobs but who have (God have mercy!) the regular task of putting food on the table and paying their children’s fees- these groups of Nigerians are made to look like idiots when they stand by their no-good compatriots, the fat cats and executive thieves who have perfected the sinister art of sucking the people, as Fela would have put it, dry.

The terrible thing here is that our thieving elite are born quislings, cowards without the gumption to rob like the village square robber- that is with regular weapon. Rather, they’re content to engage in the sleight of hand of pen and keyboard robbery. Worse yet, they are too spineless to own up to their own crime.

They are no sooner taken into detention than they start reeling out a litany of rich people’s ailments that require round-the-clock medical attention for which reason they must not be detained.

At other times, they simply deny knowledge of their crime- witness the speed with which many of the accused debtors have come out to deny owing what has been attributed to them even while making frantic effort to pay back part of their loot before the expiry of the deadline given them to pay up by- wait for this- (another surprise of our wonderful country) the EFCC! Not the banks from which they took the funds turned non-performing “loans”.

The point here is that this people knew what they did was wrong but the culture of impunity that allows Nigeria’s rich to live in borrowed plumes also allows them to borrow what they had no intention to repay.

And who is there to bring them to account? Who are the regulators or gatekeepers of our commonwealth? Is it the CBN, the CIBN, SEC or the NSE, etc, whose leaders are themselves covered in the heavy tang of suspicion and/or complicity?

The best one can hope and ask for is that everyone under investigation should be assumed innocent until guilt is proven. And no one should have their rights denied or dignity compromised. The CBN too should, as much as possible, ensure transparency in its conduct at this time.

Nigerians don’t know who to trust or believe and cannot be sure if the present investigation is yet another smokescreen for something else. We shall, however, keep our eyes open and hope all that started well will end well.

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