Talking Point

October 21, 2015

What makes Nigerian leadership a haven of thieves?

What makes Nigerian leadership a haven of thieves?

By Rotimi Fasan
IT may sound too sweeping a statement to make but it is true to say that most people who find their way into leadership positions in Nigeria deep their hands in the coffers. Most of our so-called leaders have criminal tendencies and they have no greater purpose for seeking public office than to help themselves to and keep in perpetuity what belongs to all.

A cursory look at the number of Nigerians who leave office with allegations of corruption swirling around them, to say nothing of those confirmed to have stolen outright mindboggling amounts of public funds proves this claim. No parent prays to be violated by their own children. On the other hand, no natural child violates their own parents. But that is not the case with Nigerian leaders who violate the country with no sense of proportion and stand by to boast about their wanton acts of mass destruction.

Nigerian leaders are the worst violators of the laws of the land. They offend against the very law that they had sworn to uphold upon taking office. They do this without any sense that something is not being done right. And these violations begin right from when they assume public office. Which goes to show that it was both premeditated and, perhaps, was the single reason such persons presented themselves for public office in the first instance- simply to have access not just to more than their fair share but to far more than they would ever need.

Should it not be cause for great worry that an increasing number of our leaders leave office and instantly become fugitives from the law for crimes committed while supposedly serving the people? Is it not a thing of despicable shame that the chase after our leaders for crimes that should be on the same scale as those against humanity, given the horror of their severity and extent- should everything not make us cringe in ignominy that the call for restitution for crimes committed by people who swore to serve us should come from foreign countries and their leaders?

Why should a Nigerian governor or minister who has stolen tens of billions of public funds in foreign currencies be more afraid of being arrested and brought to account abroad than at home? What part of our individual and corporate constitution as Nigerians or members of the different ethnic groups that make up the country (for those who may see Nigeria as a mere ‘geographical expression’ for which they lack emotional attachment), permit us to condone public stealing at the scale we see these days?

What would make a public officer steal amounts of money, public funds that rightfully belong to the country, what would make one individual want to keep such amounts of money in billions of Dollars/Pounds for themselves while hundreds of millions of their own country men and women, old and young, have no sense of where their next meal would come from? What makes our leaders so lacking in empathy and concern for the public good that they would without pangs of conscience pauperize their country and its people by stealing far more money than could be expected of thinking beings? What would they need all of that money for?

In the last few weeks since Mohammadu Buhari became president a number of former public office holders have been clearly shown to have serious cases of criminal pilfering to answer even when they continue to pretend that the matter is all political. While not admitting to these crimes these persons are being shown to have properties and huge accounts of money traced to them. And our laws seem impotent to take care of them.

The drama of accusation is fast taking the front seat while actual prosecution is continually postponed. Past offenders are gradually showing their face even among those fighting today’s anti-corruption war? What do Nigerians hear now of Sule Lamido after he and his children were sent to a few days in detention and he dramatically asked if he had become a prisoner? What is the situation now with Murtala Nyako? How much of what he was accused of taking illegally has he returned to the people of Adamawa? Or was the whole allegation political?

A minister who was never reported ill while in office and who is alleged to have cornered for herself billions of public funds now seeks the prayers of Nigerians without for once admitting to any of the allegations against her. Yet millions of Nigerians have died in unmarked graves unsung as a direct or indirect consequence of the kinds of acts that this minister is being accused of. Even when she has been held by a foreign government she continues to claim she is guilty of nothing and is asking for prayers. If the Nigerian government from which she is allegedly trying to reach a settlement is being political in its accusation, is the British government also being political? What do the British stand to gain from prosecuting her?

Offenders or criminals are human beings, and they don’t have to be demonised forever. Once they admit to their crime and take corrective steps (even when they don’t), they are not less human or loved by their own people and others. The primary thing is that before they can seek the support of the very people they have so severely violated, they should be seen to have made amends for their crime.

It is an act of further violation and provocation bordering on emotional blackmail to demand spiritual or physical support from an abused people. Nobody seeks the death of another or should derive joy from their pain. But people like our public office holders or so-called leaders who have never thought twice before stealing from, pauperizing and, as a consequence, sending many to their early grave cannot and should not seek reprieve from the law or whine at being asked to return what they have illegally taken.

It is ironic that the people who have suffered the most sometimes cannot recognise their own complicity in the process of their subjugation. Otherwise, they would not in the name of some nebulous sense of ethnic solidarity be canonizing common thieves and seeking their rehabilitation through paid spokespersons,  while accusing others of enslaving them (the people) and denying them access to their own resources.

Like Nigeria that is being raped on a grand scale by our own leaders, none of these ordinary people in whose name some people defend common public thieves had a share in the reward of the thieves’ crime.  We should learn to show love but be committed to reject the blackmailing antics of those masquerading as leaders even when these happen to be people from our end of the street.