Two developments that happened in Nigeria this past week serve as pointers that the amber lights of corruption are still aglow even in the face of the onslaught against corruption by the present regime. The marriage of former Military Head of State (though he prefers to be addressed as President) Ibrahim Babangida’s daughter and the launching of Dino Melaye’s book, Antidotes for Corruption, provided a fillip for corrupt Nigerians to come together and share camaraderie among their ilk. Both developments stand out in their attempts to rally the wellheads of corruption and stage an audacious national outing at a time the country is still bleeding from the deep gashes corruption inflicted on it. There is no doubt that in both outings, there were deliberate attempts to serve the Buhari regime and Nigerians a scathing notice that corruption is alive and kicking. There was no doubt that the sidekicks of corruption were served good notice to tarry awhile and stay awake for the re-launching of corruption.
To be sure, no one is begrudging Babangida on the wedding of his daughter. No one is questioning his right to treat his daughter with a lavish nuptial, even as he abridged the rights of millions of Nigerians to decent living by his many vile and corrupt acts and policies whose negative fallouts still resonate decades after his blistering reign. What one finds nauseating is the indecent display of filthy lucre and wealth which attended the wedding. From all seeming indices, it looks like there were deliberate efforts to serve a shell-shocked nation, still smarting from the bruises of corruption, that indeed, corruption is alive and kicking.
Several Nigerian news reports of the Babangida wedding were filled with raunchy, salacious tales of displays of wealth, power, and aplomb. The highlight of the wedding reports was the presence of so many private aircraft in Minna for the wedding. Nigerian media space, so steeped in vanity, reported the presence of 35 to 52 aircraft in Minna for the wedding! What a banality at a time when Nigeria is going through an asphyxiating economic situation. Nigerian economic woes were occasioned by the kind of profligacy, impunity and mendacious brazenness that was on display in Minna.
Senator Dino Melaye, on his part, has come off as a jester whose penchant for buffoonery is beyond compare. Here is a character that strayed upon the national space with a dubious history trying to prescribe antidotes to the same corruption that has dogged his many controversial outings in the Nigerian political space. That the writing of the book is coming soon after Dino Melaye himself was coming out of a blistering academic inquest that leaves very big and embarrassing question marks on his educational claims reveals that the book itself was another effort in revelry, as it connotes a paradox, an irony and indeed a contradiction to antidotes of corruption. Melaye and his cohorts were only mocking the fight against corruption and displaying brazen guffaws on the fight against corruption, and this formed the main theme of their display at the launching venue.
If the intent of Melaye’s Antidotes for Corruption is questionable, the launching itself removed all doubts that indeed, it was a grand parody organized to ridicule and cast aspersions on the anti-corruption battle. It was obvious that rather than whatever the contents of the book were, the main point was to use the launching to provide a platform from which to mount a desperate battle against the anti-corruption war. Simply, it was another case of corruption fighting back. Bukola Saraki, a man dogged with so many corrupt charges in various courts was so conspicuous as the Chief Launcher while Patience Jonathan, the wife of the immediate past president who is facing various corruption charges, was present as the Special Guest of Honor. The launching venue was brimming full with top deck corrupt politicians who designed the show as a rallying point to take free and unsparing darts on the present anti-corruption fight. These were not accidents but deliberate and well-orchestrated efforts to gather corrupt politicians to strategize and fight the against the quest to cleanse Nigeria of corruption.
Saraki, all tainted and soiled, didn't waste time to punch freely on the anti-corruption program of the present regime, dismissing it as a circus show (understandably for its inability so far to nab and jail him for multifarious cases of corruption). His cohorts in corruption took turns to tow his line. In all, the launch of Melaye’s book served its main purpose of providing a stage for the fight back of the audaciously corrupt against the fight on corruption. I don't think Melaye fooled himself into thinking that any serious Nigerian would look up to him for antidotes to corruption. I don't think Melaye imagined himself making sense with the same Nigerians that mauled him ceaselessly during his recent putrid academic inquest. He was merely providing a platform for his ilk, whom he unabashedly gathered at his launch, to take free aims at the Buhari anti-corruption war.
The twin efforts within a week to revive the seemingly rested flanks of corruption and re-mount it on the eminent pedestal it was before the coming of the present government, should not be lost on the Buhari government. The audacity on display at the two events should provide a new vista of courage to the anti-corruption agencies that the adder of corruption has been merely scorched and not killed. The nefarious intents in the two gatherings should inform the anti-corruption agencies and, of course, the Buhari government, of the need to retool to take Nigeria from the corrupt tendencies that are battling for the soul of the country. The Melaye and Babangida shows and the display by such vile characters like Saraki should inform the present anti-corruption agencies that the task ahead is huge and nothing but going for the necks of the fat cows that mount the present audacious display will assuage the quest of Nigerians for a clean break from the past.
Let’s be clear: Babangida’s putrid mess landed Nigeria in its present quagmire, for he provided the philosophical grounding for the kind of egregious plundering he supervised, as well as the grotesque Abacha carnage, the Obasanjo ogre, and, of course, the grandiloquent Jonathan wreckage. Babangida institutionalized and legalized corruption, leading to a systemic destruction of the existing value systems that prop Nigeria’s ethical backbone. He made Nigeria so attractive to corrupt practices and influences and played a central role in the corrupt empowerment of most of the czars that always patronize his many shows of vanity, as his daughter’s wedding was. So long as Nigerians find grounds to solidarize with such compromised and rusty characters like Babangida, so long will the country remain mired in deep morass and serious economic crisis.
Dino Melaye’s case is even more complex. Melaye is a jester, a parodist, a reveler, a masker and a clown rolled into one. His intent in writing Antidotes for Corruption, while being mischievous, is neither meant to convince Nigerians but to play up the flagging wings of corruption. Here is a character that celebrates and deifies self-vanity in an obvious effort to cover a deep-layered personality defect and who deigns no scruple celebrating unrooted, unmerited and unexplained wealth at the drop of a hat. Melaye is a tragic character who struggles to justify multiple faces at the same time; he canonizes himself as an anti-corruption warrior yet displays obscene and indecent wealth with no verifiable source. Here is a character who does not mind sharing the dual faces of a saint and a robber. Here is a character whose life history is strewn with many unfilled gaps and yawning Here is a fellow trolled by serious academic doubts who does not mind laying claim to spurious academic records he neither earned nor merited. Here is a janus-faced poetaster who defies all norms in a bid to claim hallowed seats in the hall of fame where he is an outlaw.
That Dino Melaye can prescribe the antidotes to corruption amounts to a terrible rebuke to anti-corruption itself. His amounts to a blasphemy to decency and he knows it. He knows that Nigerians will treat his antidotes to corruption with contempt and scorn but then, he has a clear mission to play up corruption. That Dino Melaye, with his doubtful academic credentials, can even pen Antidotes for Corruption shows that the country’s moral fiber is seriously bleeding. His, while being an attempt to belittle probity and accountability, was a grand effort to ridicule and diminish anti-corruption.
All said it is obvious that the dual developments were meant to score a huge psychological victory against the war on corruption. It must not be allowed to be so. It is certain that the twin developments amounted to a daring audacity of the corrupt, which is why the authorities must redouble the fight against corruption. It behooves the present government and its anti-corruption agencies to see the huge presence of corrupt politicians at Babangida’s daughter’s wedding and the launching of Dino Melaye’s laughable Antidotes for Corruption as signals that the battle to retake Nigeria from the corrupt is still a long and winding war. It must be fought to a standstill. The necessary tools to fight this battle must be acquired, and the resetting of our national moral code must be embarked on. The anti-corruption war cannot accommodate such hideous shows on display at the two events.
Peter Claver Oparah writes from Lagos. You can reach him at [email protected].