By Tabia Princewill
SURVIVING life in Nigeria is about gradual desensitisation to all things which ordinarily would make most people in any other country scream.
Humour becomes our refuge and our immediate defence mechanism, a quick and easy way to make sure we don’t all lose our minds when faced with the avalanche of crazy allegations and revelations plaguing our national life.
The numerous jokes in regards to whistle-blowers (e.g. “If I lived in Ikoyi, I would monitor all my neighbour’s movements” or “If that rich man or woman refuses to help you, blow the whistle!”) point to our complete and total endorsement or acceptance of corruption as a way of life.
Without the element of greed, the promise of receiving a percentage of any recovered funds, very few people would readily speak out against corruption. “Whistle-blowing” is a short-term enticement which fundamentally will not change the moral fabric of our society.
Unfortunately, too many things would have to happen for such a consequence to occur. After all, despite all the talk in living rooms or in the media, where are the successful convictions?
The system is resilient, the accused protect each other, calling on the rest of the society to make excuses for them based on ethnicity or religion. So, each new scandal raises the stakes, kills a bit more of our already blackened souls and deadens any real belief (or desire) for change.
Can you imagine the equivalent of N13 billion sitting in a flat in London, New York or Paris? We treat these events with levity without seeming to realise their momentous significance. We don’t have a country. What we have is an ATM where only a few rogues know the PIN. The rest of us are simply slaves who applaud or excuse their malfeasance on demand. They make us all look like fools.
Why work, why get an education? The amounts that have left the coffers of this country are greater than this year’s budget. Yet, we will accept indebtedness and foreign loans rather than insist the proceeds of corruption are recovered, accounted for and put to good use.
We make a lot of noise about democracy and the rule of law, only when it serves to protect our enemies, people who hate Nigeria and don’t want to see its people prosper. Magu, no matter what anyone’s personal feelings about him might be, is not the enemy, not if you’ve seen the pictures of what N13 billion, casually “resting” in an apartment looks like.
How much more money is in Maitama, Ikoyi, Lekki and other such areas around the country? The enemies of Nigeria are laughing at us while we tweet and pass on jokes about the matter on WhatsApp. They are laughing at us while we too laugh at each other. So, who is really the fool here?
We are trapped and by our own doing. Does the Senate really want to fight corruption? Do the courts? Virtually every institution which should protect Nigerians from grand larceny is compromised. Who do we turn to?
The bill for special courts to try corruption cases is allegedly languishing somewhere in the National Assembly, along with our dreams of a better country.
Think about it. Why would a lawbreaker assist the hangman in preparing the noose to condemn it?
Why would judges and lawyers who have connived with these same lawbreakers, made billions and lived large by protecting their interests, suddenly want to preside over a fair process which ultimately could lead them straight to jail? How do you deal with people, consider their so-called “human rights” (which in truth amounts to a laissez-faire attitude to injustice) when these individuals have no qualms about watching the rest of Nigeria die?
A “fall guy” is yet to be designated for most of the current scams and scandals. As the story usually goes in Nigeria, someone low on the pecking order, someone the real owners of the money can do without, is designated to take the fall for the others, the trial is mediatised; we all pat ourselves on the back, then repeat from step one which is to brazenly steal and deprive the rest of the society from even the most basic rights. It is ironic, as I have said many times in this column, that the corrupt partners plan their heist together, irrespective of religion or ethnicity.
Yet, their defence always features one if not both of those two arguments: tricking Nigerians into hating each other or arguing about “restructuring” the country (which would still amount to giving more power and freedom to loot to corrupt elements of society) rather than banding together. We are being held hostage.
Outsourcing of justice
Perhaps the best the President can do at this stage is to hand over all the cases to the International Criminal Court where both the funds and the know-how are available to prosecute and obtain convictions using the evidence available both locally and internationally.
The ICC won’t be compromised, unlike our local agencies where everyone owes someone something and greed is common currency. Outsourcing justice is far from ideal but it might just be the only way forward, because truly, how much more can we take? How much more money can leave the system without this country collapsing?
How much more trauma can the Nigerian psyche take before we are completely reduced to the rank of animals, a grade lower than the savagery and inhumanity already exhibited?
Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan
WHAT exactly did he know and when? What did he know about Malabu, what did he know about the billions allegedly paid to INEC officials to influence the outcome of the 2015 elections? What did he know about the arms deal, etc?
The time has come to get answers to these questions and to do so without sentiment. After all, former Presidents, CEOs, etc. are investigated in other climes and the heavens don’t fall.
The fear in Nigeria is that too many people are involved in illicit activities and that investigating or prosecuting one person could mean the collapse of the entire system. It’s a ridiculous excuse, prepared and promoted by those with something to hide.
What about all those who have died, been murdered, displaced, or simply disappeared? Why is it sentimental to seek justice for them, or to seek reparation for people whose lives have been cut short by corruption, but “unfair” to question the actions of those who might have supervised or ignored what was happening under their watch?
How much more can Nigerians take?
The poor, downtrodden, those who starve day in, day out, whether Nigeria is in a recession or not, those for whom times are always bad, how long do we believe they will be content with their lot in life?
WE do not have what it takes to face up to international corporations. Now that leaked emails have established that Shell’s top officials knew they were paying huge bribes to representatives of the Nigerian government, what will happen?
Will this go the way of the Siemens and Halliburton cases whereby no convictions were obtained on Nigerian soil and few benefits accrued to the Nigerian people? In the Shell case, Nigeria lost $1.1 billion.
Imagine what this money could have done, or don’t, because it’s too painful. You probably shouldn’t think about the fact that an international company like Shell was dealing with convicted money launderers appointed by the Nigerian state to represent us, the Nigerian people. We’ve sunk much too low to fully appreciate the enormity of what is happening, of what keeps happening in Nigeria.
The International Criminal Court, any other global agency untainted by our local ethnic politics and primitive greed should be given the green light to fully uncover the dirt and prosecute. Then, we as a people must not welcome these individuals back into our midst when they have completed their jail time, allowing them to pretend that nothing happened. This second part of the equation is the hardest.