News report of the last few days makes me yearn for military coup d’etat. Not the half-measured coups that were commonplace in Nigeria in the 1960s through the 1980s, no; the one I long for is that which completely eliminates a class of people: the degenerates, the soulless thieves, and the money doublers, loan sharks and loan defaulters and their collaborators who have been steadily bleeding Nigeria, sucking her marrow. In the absence of a coup, a revolution would suffice. Not your run of the mill revolution, no; I mean the type that is capable of wiping out the oligarchy.
Whether Nigerians and the global community like it or not, the time for mass hanging has come. The time is ripe for the systemic elimination of twenty-five percent (or more) of Nigeria’s elite -- the group that has, for more than forty years, been raping, exploiting, and subjugating Nigerians. And more so since the coming of the Obasanjo/Atiku and Yar’Adua/Jonathan regimes, the country’s public treasury has become their private bank; the nation’s natural resource fields have become their private property. In effect, they are making a fool of the country’s constitution and institutions; making a mess of a once thriving state, and spitting on the people’s face.
That corrupt practices are eating deep into our shared moral fibers, and laying waste our human and infrastructural development is beyond debate. Nigeria has always had its rough edges: dirt here and there, miscreants here and there. Still, it was a functioning and a more caring society -- a society where reputation and dignity mattered. That is no longer the case. Religious and community leaders, school principals and headmasters, governors and ministers, presidents, and entire households -- are mired in shady and stomach-whirling ventures. Corruption and corrupt practices is now a religious rite. Amongst other factors, corruption --
1) increases transaction cost
2) discourages foreign direct investment
3) reduces overall growth of the formal economy
4) helps to weaken political institutions and the bureaucracy
5) encourages informality of the political and economic system
6) helps to personalize the rule of law
7) negatively impact the cultural and social space
8) does not allow for easy entry and exit of state activity,
9) encourages indolence, nepotism and an uneven playing field, and
10) those who are used to mediocrity and corrupt practices may find it difficult to compete in an atmosphere where superior intellect and decency is required to function
To be clear, corruption is present, in one shade or another in one degree or another, in all societies the world over. That’s to say there is not a single corruption-free society. But in Nigeria, what we have is an unusual strain of corruption taken to a new height: they are law and order-resistant, commonsense-resistant, ethics and morality-resistant, shame and embarrassment-resistant, and punishment-resistant. It is worse than cancer. In the last few days, media houses, in and outside of the country, became awash and aghast at the banking irregularity that may, in the end cost Nigeria far and above two hundred and fifty billion dollars.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), in an advertorial said: “Following the recent regulatory action of the Central Bank of Nigeria on the five (5) banks, it has become necessary to use this medium to request the following defaulting customers of the affected banks to pay without further delay their indebtedness, failing which the banks will take all appropriate legal actions to ensure repayment. These are the largest debtors and the CBN will continue to publish the list of defaulters on an on-going basis.”
Many keen and impartial observers of the Nigerian space believe that more than fifty percent of the amount owed will never be recovered. And indeed, very few of those involved in the shady deals will ever be prosecuted; and less than one percent of those prosecuted will ever be jailed. The fact is that high-end criminals rarely ever go to jail in Nigeria. Only the petty thieves get hanged or get burnt alive. In 2007 for instance, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) stated it was investigating, and may even prosecute people like Chimaroke Nnamani, Orji Kalu, Saminu Turaki, Boni Haruna, Abdullahi Adamu, Peter Odili, and Ahmed Tinubu. Nothing happened. They, along with their colleagues from the Nigerian Thieving Academy, are resting in Abuja.
And then there are the heavyweights: Tony Anenih, Ahmadu Ali, James Ibori, Olusegun Obasanjo, Abubakar Atiku, and three dozen others. Nothing “bad” ever happens to criminal bigwigs in Nigeria. In fact, the more you steal and mismanage, the better off you are. What’s the difference between the aforementioned and the notorious Oyenusi and Anini? While the political and economic class (high-end robbers) robbed with pens and legislative fiat, Oyenusi and Anini robbed with guns and or the threat of deadly force. In fact, the elites are more dangerous than the armed robbers. The use and or threat of force may cause an individual harm, the use of political office to steal and mismanage causes egregious damage to a country and abridges her prospects and possibilities.
In the end therefore, political thieves are more harmful to a nation’s psyche. They do more damage to Nigeria. Since armed robbers are executed by firing squad, there is no reason why political thieves should not be hanged high and dry. They should be hanged in the public square.
To right the wrongs associated with Nigeria -- and to discourage immediate and future crimes, and if Nigeria is to survive and thrive as a nation -- she must embark on unusual remedies. If Rawlingnization of the system is needed, fine; if the Idiagbon-Buhari method is what will set the country on the right path, I am all for it. Not even the China approach should be taken off the table. These three methods calls for the impartial probing of assets and investment portfolios and the forfeiture of assets that were dubiously acquired; the physical elimination of certain elements within the system; the revival and strengthening of institutions; the education, reeducation and sanitization of the people’s psyche; and the introduction of a new political and governing system.
Why do we execute armed robbers? Why do we execute those who commit murder? Why do we execute those who commit treason against the state? Simple: we do because their actions are heinous, are against our collective health, and are against our national security interest. An armed-robber steals $1,000.00 we execute him or send him to twenty years in prison; but when a politician steals $1,000,000.00 or $10,000,000.00 we turn blind eyes to his crime. Where is the justice? As drastic as some of the proposed measures may sound, they are entirely necessary if Nigeria is to free itself from the abyss. They are necessary if Nigeria wants a shot at glory. They are crucial if we care about our welfare and about the type of society we want to bestow future generations.
Because corrupt practices have become a way of life, most Nigerians are not even offended by it. There is almost no shame or dishonor attached to it. It is becoming normal to cheat and to lie. It is becoming normal and acceptable to beat the system. It is now customary to stick it to the government. Today some parents expect their children to defraud financial institutions and the public treasury. To do otherwise is to be considered a moron. If we continue on this path --- with no checks, sanctions and severe penalties -- we might as well say bye-bye to decency and to our nation. Who wants to live in a disorderly and predatory society?
If there are no penalties for crimes committed, especially those committed between 1999 and 2009, the Nigerian treasury will become an open sesame for all who wants to get rich by any and all means. This President and the Vice President and their spouses did not come to the table with clean hands. And even when Nigeria is burning, they find time to go on hunting and fishing trips. They go on leisure parades. They go sightseeing.
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