By Tabia Princewill
Did the often quoted, often returned yet never accounted for “Abacha loot” only become public knowledge because the former military head of state, General Sani Abacha, is dead?
Is the only reason we know about said “Abacha loot” connected to the fact that Abacha isn’t around to claim, like many after him, that he is being “witch hunted” or “persecuted”? He seems to be the only Nigerian with fraudulently acquired “loot” which is publically acknowledged, strange for a country where corruption has been endemic since the 70s and 80s.
We have a long history, in this country, of selective understanding of what exactly constitutes corruption and of how corruption has destroyed Nigeria, ravaging everything from its physical infrastructure (roads, airports, schools, hospitals etc.) to the Nigerian mentality which is now so quick to defend evil and in doing so, so happy to self-harm.
Before I go any further, I’d like to thank those of you readers (thank you for your contributions via email, Twitter etc.) who love Nigeria so much that you’re ready to see the truth rather than endorsing ethno-religious or tribal alliances which have yielded no benefits, beyond spreading and justifying corruption, while accepting that the fate of the masses is death.
Justice and equality
To those who believe in justice and equality in Nigeria, who believe that every Nigerian child no matter where he or she is from, deserves happiness and economic opportunity just as much as the children of the business and political elite, there can be no other means of achieving such a state than by probing past Nigerian leaders, starting with former President Jonathan.
Lula Da Silva, the former Brazilian President (2003-2011) and his wife were investigated last year by federal prosecutors and will stand trial for corruption and money laundering, relating to conclusive investigations at Petrobras, the state oil company. Brazil is still standing.
It’s democracy, the pact which ensures people receive opportunity and development, rather than occasional handouts, will in fact, come out stronger. Lula’s successor, Dilma Rousseff was impeached, for much the same reasons which Lula was investigated: corruption.
We must get to a point, in Nigeria, where leaders are not so comforted by decades of impunity and by the idea that their ethnic group or persons of their religious faith will manifest to keep them in power. The North, like the Niger Delta, both have a right to be disappointed in Buhari and Jonathan. It’s not enough to speak the same language or to attend the same places of worship and to defend leaders for these reasons alone: where is the economic development for the common man?
Immunity for public officials (the President, governors namely) does not extend to their time out of office. Former French President Sarkozy was investigated for corruption relating to electoral funds. Some of his closest allies were tried and found guilty, in fact, the former leader of his party, Jean-François Copé, stepped down during the investigation.
Unless we believe there is something about the Nigerian or African psyche which is fundamentally incompatible with justice, there must come a time where similarly, leaders are probed and made to account for their actions.
There is nothing political in maintaining that if there is evidence of wrong-doing, then a leader should be probed. When Sarkozy lost the French presidential election to Hollande, there was nothing special about him conceding defeat. When in Nigeria will abiding by truth, justice and the rule of law become the norm, rather than something to exclaim about?
A Pastor, Kallamu Ali Dikwa, claims he was offered a bribe to keep quiet about Presidential payments made to CAN to campaign for Jonathan in the 2015 elections. Religious organisations are unfortunately rarely neutral in Nigeria, and a probe of the source of many clerics wealth is long overdue, in a country where their congregations can barely clothe and feed themselves. Pastor Dikwa claims he was tortured by the DSS for speaking out. These are very serious allegations which cannot be defended or brushed away simply by alleging a “witch-hunt” or a “conspiracy” against the opposition.
Why can Hilary Clinton, Sarkozy, Lula etc. accept investigation (despite it obviously not being in their interest) yet we the Nigerian people are in the business of creating “sacred cows”? I’m sure all of the above leaders would have preferred to be Nigerians: who wouldn’t want to know that no matter what one does, one will go scott free or that one can sponsor a protest and ask poor, misguided individuals to carry placards saying “live (insert politicians name) alone”!
It is all our faults as Nigerians, if no one is ever jailed or punished for corruption. Nigerian politicians are emboldened by our naiveté. They believe they are dealing with a docile, easily manipulated population, people who’ll work against their own interests by shielding and defending those responsible for chaos.
Anyone protesting for Dasuki’s release, while knowing how many soldiers and civilians have so far died in the North-East, while knowing about the famine in that region, much like the pipeline vandals and militants who support leaders whose corruption aided the destruction of the Niger-Delta, cannot be acting in the true interests of the people.
Many Niger-Deltan governors and politicians, aided successive military regimes and International Oil Companies (IOCs) to plunder and destroy the region. We cannot continue to walk on our heads by defending the wrong people.
Squabbling and pettiness
As investigations continue, Nigerians must appeal to the leaders of the EFCC, the DSS and the Attorney General, to put their rumoured differences aside, in the interest of the nation. We cannot allow those suspected of heinous crimes against the people to escape due to technicalities or botched investigations.
On their side, billions of dollars which rightfully belong to the Nigerian people, will be used to hire lawyers who know how to cheat the system, versus, on Nigeria’s side, squabbling and pettiness. For such an outwardly religious nation, we seem to forget that “the wages of sin is death”.
In a country where state governors can allegedly spend 2 billion naira on sweets, rice and chicken for guests, and record such, in all seriousness, we cannot but all, irrespective of religious or ethnic affiliation, massively call for a real probe of past leaders. Justice can only be delayed; it can never be shelved entirely.
HE allegedly told the EFCC that he gave billions of naira to Governor Fayose and Senator Omisore, as well as several millions of dollars in cash, allegedly delivered to the governor of Ekiti state. We shouldn’t waste time deliberating the truthfulness of these allegations. The Presidency has been talking about special courts to try corruption and terrorism cases (both are in fact linked).
Let every interested party make their case in court and let us restore sanity to our system. It is near impossible to withdraw thousands of dollars in cash in the US without setting off alarm bells. In Nigeria, a system where judges, politicians and other persons with access to state resources can allegedly walk around with millions in foreign currency, is one whose state of crisis isn’t up for debate. Nigeria needs decisive action in form of judgements and convictions for those proven guilty of corruption.
The former FCT minister was apparently arrested by the EFCC over a N1 trillion Abuja land swap deal whereby land was ceded to some well-connected individuals who build housing estates etc.
Rumours of such practices have circulated since the tenure of Nasir El-Rufai who was alleged to have told a Senate hearing, who accused him of ceding land only to his friends something along the lines of “let me see who will help their enemies”. How brave will this government or any government, be in its fight against corruption? How ready are we, the people, to uncover the dirty secrets which could link some of our brightest and finest to impoverishing Nigeria and its people? Are we ready for the truth?