By Tabia Princewill
TO use a popular Nigerian expression, the PDP must really believe it has its thumb firmly stuck on Nigerians’ “mumu button”. Its trite apology is nothing compared to the death, destruction or wasted lives and opportunities which have resulted from its lack of good governance and accountability.
I’m often asked why I always seem to mention corruption in one form or another during my public engagements and my answer is always the same: if not for corruption, Nigeria which started off as a richer, more prosperous nation than Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore or any of the East Asian “miracles”, would not subject its people to poverty and underdevelopment.
If women still die in childbirth in Nigeria, if basic education and healthcare are still a luxury in many parts of the country, it is simply because corruption has robbed us of everything modern nations hold dear.
We are surrounded by hypocritical statements, many of us can no longer tell when we’re being manipulated and a number of us are quite comfortable with lies so long as they conform to the fixed ideas we’ve set our minds on.
“We made mistakes. On behalf of my colleagues and members of this party, I apologise to Nigerians. We have learnt from our mistakes. It was all part of our evolution process.
“Without it, there can be no maturity. I believe that PDP is more matured, to provide the best for this country” The National Chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondus recently said.
We really haven’t come very far if gross malfeasance, economic mismanagement and the “disappearance” of trillions of naira can be swept away as a lack of “maturity” and part of an “evolution process”. Evolution to where? To ruin?
Another PDP stalwart, Senator Ibrahim Mantu, confessed to rigging elections. Nigeria is truly operating in the twilight zone. Imagine what would happen in the US, the UK, France or any other major democracy if a prominent member of one of the two largest political parties confessed to rigging on camera.
Are you imagining Armageddon? Well, not in Nigeria, a country where tapes of senators sexcapades surface or of members of the House accepting bribes, or alleged audio tapes of ministers and army chiefs planning how to rig elections etc., without any apparent resolution, conviction or punishment to act as a deterrent to future offenders. What a country. Senator Mantu’s explanation is just as puzzling as Mr. Secondus’ banal, disingenuous apology.
These are hypocritical statements, poorly constructed public relations manoeuvres which can neither erase nor repair the harm done to Nigerians. Senator Mantu says he “confessed” because he is “tired of poverty in the midst of plenty. You see people coming to you every day, my wife has given birth, my relation is in the hospital. But if everybody has enough to take care of his or herself, they won’t come bothering you saying give me this, give me that.
We have the resources for people to live decent lives without being beggars. Good governance can only be provided by good people, good people who are truly repentant, who are actually there to serve the people, who are concerned about the well-being of the people. If we have such leaders, then I can tell you they would judiciously and prudently use our resources for the common good of everybody.”
This idea of applying the religious notion of “repentance” to such huge crimes as those alleged to have been committed is frankly baffling. Are Nigerians simply expected to “forgive and forget” while many still wallow in poverty and those responsible continue to enjoy their loot? Corruption has killed as many Nigerians as any genocide or ethnic cleansing: many of those who are still alive have no future, no prospects and no hope as they attempt to survive in the villages and hinterlands of Nigeria, living a life reminiscent of what one would imagine obtained centuries ago, without any of the modern comforts of electricity or clean water. How can Nigerians forgive that?
It is understandable that repentance is popular in a nation where churches outnumber businesses and get more loans than SMEs. In a society where logic has been totally turned upside down, such statements can freely exist, in a realm of confusion and dishonesty, where those who attempt to speak the truth are shunned, and those who do their best to oppress and manipulate the masses with disingenuous statements are kings.
All our society respects is money, and nobody ever shuns individuals who are caught doing wrong. As you read this, the latter-day apologists are probably still being hailed in one corner of Nigeria or another, or excused despite their admissions of failure and unresolved allegations of criminality.
At this rate, because there are so many cases to prosecute and investigate, the Federal Government would do well to heavily rely on foreign partners so as not to overstretch the EFCC which might not have the capacity to handle all the “confessions” and “apologies” which are a mere distraction from the reality of the suffering caused.
Atmosphere of impunity
As Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) put it: “a former governor of Cross River State, Mr. Donald Duke, had actually given a more vivid account of how elections are manipulated in Nigeria. Furthermore, the National Human Rights Commission had also done a compilation of those who participated actively in the rigging of the 2011 elections and the government hasn’t done anything about it.
“I don’t think the Buhari regime will really follow-up on this revelation because we operate in an atmosphere of impunity. The country is run on the basis of official impunity. But clearly, there is no statute of limitation with respect to serious criminal offences, but I am so convinced that this will not be followed up.”
How sad that a government which raised all our hopes has now been reduced to this perception of ineffectual management and virtual camaraderie or solidarity not with the oppressed but with the oppressors. So, what next? Will alleged looters and “riggers” continue to get away with their crimes? One thing is for sure, repentance means nothing without justice. The same way no one makes excuses for war criminals or says they’ve “repented” and should be excused, is the same way Nigerians mustn’t be fooled by these half-hearted apologies which are too little, too late.
THE Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, asked young Nigerians to “take ownership of the war against corruption”. It’s necessary but not realistic.
Sadly, what is the incentive for doing the right thing in a country where impunity assures wealth and success? Change can’t come from the bottom up at this point.
A small group of enlightened individuals has to infiltrate every level of government and force change from within the system then rally the rest of society around them with a strong communications strategy based on their performance.
But to think anyone will simply decide to abandon an easy, profitable, albeit corrupt, way of doing things, just because it’s the “right” thing to do, is naïve. Without punishment for wrong doing, first and foremost, we are going nowhere fast, all the rest is semantics.
AS Christ is risen Nigeria will also rise”, so read the former President’s Easter goodwill message. Beyond preaching, when will we have generalised, universal understanding (and then of course punishment, i.e. legal sentencing) rather than denial, of the horrors that went on under GEJ’s watch?
Demanding the truth doesn’t mean one says Buhari is perfect or that he shouldn’t be criticised, but the way Nigerians defend one party or the other to the death despite evidence of wrong doing is dangerous.
We love our leaders more than we love ourselves or each other. We have come to think exploitation and injustice are normal or acceptable, and there is no consensus in Nigeria as to who is corrupt and who isn’t. That is a big part of the problem.
Tabia Princewill is a strategic communications consultant and public policy analyst. She is also the co-host and executive producer of a talk show, WALK THE TALK which airs on Channels TV.