By Morenike Taire
STEALING and government have become synonymous in this country. Fela was the one that made it all clichÃ©d, singing aboutÂ pen robbery and such like, until calamity became hidden in culture andÂ the consternation disappeared to be replaced by complacency, if notÂ outright acceptance.
But it is not clear at what point, exactly, that statecraft morphed into kleptocracy, to the extent that the only reason anti-graft government agencies are set up is to get rid, or keep in check, the enemies of the powers that be.
The general unspoken agreement has it as somewhere within the maze of our protracted military intervention(s) when, while literally holding a gun to our heads, the soldiers promoted themselves to the highest ranks possible without fighting a single warÂ and cleared out the evergreen treasury in the mean time.
Others maintain that while the military made pilfering the raison dâ€™etre of their endless interventions of those dark days, their pirate ships were by no means as heavy laden as those of the civilian politicians that were supposedly voted into power in order to protect the interests of their compatriots.
Who is not familiar with the folk tale we were all told as children, but have forgotten as adults tossed around in the perpetual tempest occasioned by the insatiable thirst for things personal; and material, which has become the predomoinant Nigerian culture: the one in which the dog and the tortoise went on a burglary expenditure, whereupon the modest dog took only what he can carry while the greedy tortoise was so overwhelmed by the number of yams he attempted to carry, that the farmer walked right in on him.
The rest of that story can be read in one of those books published by Literamed in their brave effort to hold together the tatters of our cultural sanity.
Moral of the long story: When a pirate carries too much, the ship is bound to sink, and the captain will be the first to go. Who would have dreamt that the PDP would be in the mess it is in so soon in the day, or that EFCC would ignore Fayose and spend such an inordinate amount of time chasing Ibori into hiding?
But then again, who would imagine that Babangida would one day boast that he is no thief, or that Danjuma would stretch the idea of benevolence to breaking point and make a bequest of the proceeds from the sale of some commonwealth property illegally given to him.
No doubt, all this is enabled to no small degree by our complacency about the rule of law, the laws guiding liberty and respect for natural law. It is for this reason that contemporary politicians have embraced the unwritten law: steal, but do something.
Questions about the kinds of individuals or bodies that are allowed to give donations to political aspirants of any level and to what extent, have either never been made quite clear in our polity, or have been ignored by both the elected and electing. One gets theÂ impression that general elections can and have been used for the purposes of money laundering for those who have been caught in the Swiss bank confidentiality rethink.
In the days when it had been possible to put your money in Western European banks and go to sleep, there had been no need for government pilferers past to go out of their way to be nice to anybody who might be on their way in. These days, it is safer to invest your hard money in a politician or political party with prospects than in international markets and futures which might, and have crashed. This way, returns are certain.
The Obasanjo genius of 2007 was to change the way politics will be played in Nigeria and money will be stolen by Nigerian politicians, for a long time to come. Hounding incumbents and even initiates about little somethings they might have to hide via Ribadu was not, as we all know, all the international community would have us believe it was. It was about anything but curbing graft.
Those who had something to stealÂ and they are in the vast majority, simply turned government into their personal businesses.
IBB, being advanced far beyond his time, must have been one of the progenitors of this non- theory. When people dip their hands into the treasury, it throws up clear accounting problems in a non-military administration. Not that the Accountant General himself would have a problem with that, as long as he is being settled. The trouble would be with political enemies, or successors who do not cooperate.
The vogue has become to work with fronts, and the more the merrier. More than ever before government has become about cronyism and jobs for the boys. The more money that is stolen, the brighter the chances of getting back into power, and then installing a successor, thereby reducing the chances of being brought before the law.
Acceptable as it seems to have become, using fronts to do business with the same government you are administering is a clear abuse of power goes against common sense and natural law and decency, and laws have to be put in place to seriously prosecute offenders. For real.