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Courage to stand up and be counted

By Muyiwa Adetiba

Chief James Ibori, ex- governor of Delta State, ex-convict of Her Imperial Majesty had a welcome home thanksgiving last weekend. From all accounts, the attendance cut across societal spectrum—the high, the low, the political and a-political, the Lords spiritual and temporal. Before then, his home—country home to qualify it properly because he has many homes in Nigeria and abroad—had been a bee-hive of activities as people queued up to pay homage. In fact, according to a report, the handlers had to manage the crowd by giving out dates to those who wished to visit.

The greeting among the elite in the Delta region at some point might have been, ‘have you gone to pay your own homage?’ You would think, judging from the out pour of emotions that he went to the moon or did something exotic for humanity. Or, coming nearer home, that he paid some high price for the good of his community. He was instead incarcerated for bleeding his people, the same people that are coming out to pay homage.

If Ibori noticed that very little had changed for the better in the community he left years ago, he kept it to himself. If he noticed that the people looked gaunt and their dresses shabby, he didn’t let on. If he noticed that indeed, his last place of abode was cleaner and better managed than his home town, he is yet to voice that out. If he noticed that his people have long been spiritually and materially imprisoned by the wiles of the elite and that it is time they got out of jail and be liberated, he is yet to champion that noble cause.

What he did, instead of contriteness and a pledge to give back in service what he had taken from the community, was to use the hallowed walls of a church, where the Holy Ghost is supposed to be ever present, where Angels are supposed to be continuously ministering, to proclaim his innocence. This man who admitted his guilt in a court of law is sanctimoniously proclaiming his innocence in the court of God and by implication seemed to fear the judgement of man more than that of God.

The ministering ‘man of God,’ Archbishop Avwomakpa—his name must be mentioned—on his part, preferred to play to the gallery and fan emotive embers. He used revered names in the Bible, Christian’s Holy Book, to describe the prison returnee. You wonder if he followed the case in any shape or form. You wonder if he heard of Ibori’s earlier sojourn in Britain and the supermarket episode.

You wonder if he remembered that another James Ibori was created at a time. I am sure there must have been people in that church who probably felt queasy about what the house of God was turned into. Just as I believe there would be people in Ibori’s camp who might have felt uncomfortable with the whole homecoming arrangements. But none found their voice to speak against what seemed a strong tide. And that is the problem with Nigeria; good people keep quiet when they should cry out and fight from within.

Gradually, what should be an aberration becomes the norm; what should be ignoble becomes noble. The result is that the nation slowly loses values that should hold the moral fabric of the society together.

It is the same story with Andrew Yakubu, the former Managing Director of the NNPC who locked up almost ten million dollars in a safe. It is highly unlikely that he could have taken away that kind of money in cash without some senior officers being aware. It is also highly unlikely that he is the first MD to have helped himself with Corporation funds.

NNPC has become a sieve; leaking money into the hands of its bosses and Ministers. Yet there must be some good men in NNPC who know what is going on but lack the courage to cry out. And if, as it is alleged, that the top hierarchy of NNPC frustrates the refineries because of what it stands to gain through fuel importation and subsidy, then these good men are by their silence complicit in the decay of that rotten corporation.

There is currently the story of a former Airforce boss who got a monthly allocation of over five hundred million naira. Air Marshal Mohammed, the former Chief of Air Staff, could not have done it alone. And the fact that he recommended his Director of Finance Air Commodore Salisu Abdullahi to his successor shows that the looting baton passes from one Airforce supremo to the other.

Yet the remuneration among the rank and file in our Armed Forces is low and the yearly cry is that the budget allotted to the Armed Forces is insufficient to fund and modernise the forces. There are people in the forces who know what is going on. They know why the planes don’t fly. They know why the ships are not seaworthy. They know why ammunition and combat gears are in short supply. They know why the police cannot fund investigations. They must have the courage to cry out and save our institutions.

NEPA is the way it is today because it is a cash cow to be milked by our politicians and technocrats alike. Like our refineries, it is in the interest of some people that the country is not lit up. Until the nefarious stakeholders are exposed and the leakages stopped we will continue to sink money into the light project. Those who know what is going on should have the courage to stand up and be counted.

Corruption has eaten deep into our system. Yet there are people in the country who refuse to give or take bribe. There are people who don’t dip their hands into the coffers of state or corporations. They should not be made to look like fools. Let the churches and mosques lead the vanguard in standing up against unexplained wealth and ostentatious lifestyles.

Let the banks expose illegal funds that are stashed in their vaults. Let the people stop cheering on the Robin Hoods in their midst. Let the upright judges stand up to the corrupt judges who are tainting the judiciary and get rid of them. Let the government stop treating the symptoms and address the fundamental causes of corruption.

Finally, let all good men and women have the courage to say enough is enough to those who loot our money and lord it over us. The collapse of our infrastructure and standard of living can easily be traced to these people. We deserve better roads; better hospitals; better security; better leaders. In short, we deserve better.



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