Authority Stealing Pass Armed Robbery By Ogaga Ifowodo

Ogaga Ifowodo

I owe the title of this column to Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s classic song of outrage, and call to action, against the living evil of corruption threatening to throttle Nigeria to death.  If you do not own the LP  or  CD  of  Authority Stealing, and have no immediate access to it online, I suggest that you seek it out after reading this column. If you do, it is recommended that this essay be read to the accompaniment of that soundtrack of our wholesale dispossession through the mind-boggling thievery of top public officials. In my last column entitled “A Case for Punishing Corruption as Armed Robbery,” I pointed to the discrepant morality of the death penalty for armed robbery — irrespective of the amount stolen, be it one kobo or one million naira — as long as the robber used a “firearm” or any “offensive weapon,” and deeming billion-naira thieves severely punished if told to confess their sins, put whatever is in their back pocket on the table, and go home.

Thus, while staunchly opposed to the death penalty, I argued that it be applied in the true spirit of “deterrence” to anyone who steals public funds in the amount of one billion naira or more. A temporary and strategic stance, albeit, in honour of the fundamental principle of justice that insists like cases be treated alike. But that argument, I fear, does not wholly bare the stinking reality of the corruption-versus-armed-robbery distinction in our laws, based as it is almost entirely on interpretation; so I will today back up that call by pointing to the colossal social costs of corruption. Admittedly, there is something blood-curdling and menacing when a robber, armed with a gun, is breaking into your home or waylaying you on the road and dispossessing you of car or money. But how less menacing is the robber armed with a pen, who steals billions with a single stroke, thereby inflicting mortal injuries on the body-politic?

The consequences of pen robbery are far more lethal than those of armed robbery; to say this is not to minimise the material and psychological consequences of the latter. It is, rather, to adopt a global view that reveals the full ramifications of pen robbery; showing it, among other things, is in fact a principal cause of armed robbery. In any case, the choice of “weapon” has more to do with the class or social status of the robber than with the intent behind the crime itself. Consider the N32.8 stolen from the police pension fund and the N20 billion stolen by former Inspector-General of Police, Tafa Balogun. How many people do you think die due to the inability of a poorly trained, equipped and motivated police to prevent violent crimes? How many murdered in cold blood at checkpoints by hungry policemen traumatised by their bestial conditions of training and service (thanks, Channels Television) due to the theft of moneys allocated for their welfare?

And if we turn our gaze to other government agencies, are the casualties less in scale or number? Sadly, no. Not with the daily body count on the death traps called highways, despite the countless billions allocated for road reconstruction or repair but which end up in private pockets. Our hospitals? Simply put, more  “mortuaries” now than “consulting clinics,” to recall the words of the late tyrant and ace plunderer of the public treasury, General Sani Abacha (the Devil roast his soul) when justifying the coup of 31 December 1983 that hastened the country’s transformation into a robbers den. As for our educational institutions, the images we see now and then on television, in newspapers or online of primary school pupils huddled in the dust under a tree while their teachers pretend to be teaching them the alphabet or arithmetic tell the glorious story.

It is this palpable truth of pen robbery, aptly dubbed authority stealing,” that Fela intoned with characteristic clarity and forthrightness as far back as 1980. Fela highlights the costly class bias of the law that punishes pick-pockets (“Them fit put (jail) am for ten years” or “shoot am for armed robbery”) while not recognising the mighty thefts of “authority people” (You no go hear them shout / Thief! Thief! Thief! ... Robber! Robber!”). But why this dangerous duplicity? Because “authority man” steals in “civilised  style.” Civilised because being in charge of the money in the first place, he does not need a gun.  So  Fela sings: “Armed robber him need gun / Authority man him need pen / Authority man in charge of money / him no need gun him need pen / Pen get power gun no get / If gun steal eight thousand naira / Pen go steal two billion naira.”

That the robber’s weapon is determined by his circumstances and need is underscored by a recent report in Vanguard (6 February 2013). After stealing N2 million from a Calabar politician’s car without having to fire a bullet, the robbers abandoned their AK 47 rifles! Listen to Fela’s cri decoeur and his anguished wail, a projection of the collective despair over corruption, will pluck at your own heartstrings: “Authority stealing pass armed robbery / We Africans must do something about this nonsense.” By law, we still hang armed robbers or execute them by firing squad. Well, then, let us punish billion-naira thieves like the armed robbers they are!



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Authority stealing

Ogaga's piece holds one spell-bound. The piece is very revealing. There is no better way to couch the Nigerian situation- with particular reference to the lexicon used in qualifying the looting carried out by the supposed "authority" and the "taking" done by the depraved ones on the street. To the former, they have the backing of their godfathers and cohorts; but the latter, they face the wrath of the law because they (law) have been made to pursue them (the poor).
Without excusing either scenarios, the truth remains that the supposed leaders loot the nation (our common patrimony) to its bone marrow thereby deepening the suffering of the body-polity while the segment that constitutes the "taking" are often after individuals who are their last target as a result of the condition they are placed by the former.
The analogy can go on and on. The nation is indeed bleeding- it's been plundered,raped and maimed. Where do we go from here?

Reverse is the case.

Now if we have to turn the table it will still be same size and shape.
Nigerian politicians, or anyone who is eligible and liable to any authority always has a password to steal. Infact I believe we are cursed. I mean imagine just common marketer of a company gulping an account up to millions of naira, even in our schools are not left out. Then I now ask where do we start from. Whether we start from top or below which ofcourse will depend on what kind of penality it is.
Corruption is all over the world, is just that Nigeria situation is just one of the kind incredible scenario. My advice is China treatment, Period!!, no more no less.
But nothwithstanding, no man has a right to kill anyone for a crime just from a hearsay, like Apo killing, which is uncall for. Due to reckless security guards of Nigerian securities agencies, everyone now is police.
A new reform needs to be in place to curb this inhuman act "Corruption", but not from the evil; "PDP".

Apples India & Co

General Sani Abacha (may the Devil roast his evil soul)

In sane climes, a city corner or garden will never be named after him talkles of a stadium.

It would be just like naming a stadium after Hitler.

But this is Nigeria.

Authority Stealing

Thief, thief thief!
Rogue, rogue, rogue!
Robber, robber!
You no go hear them shout
You no go hear them shout at all
You no go hear them say
You no go hear them say response at all
Na different way be them way
Na civilize style be them style...

Yes, yes, yes, yes!
"Oh yes, of course, contract, have some money back in hand, ha ha"
Hear the words them dey take deceive the people:
Make I remember another one wey them dey use
Public inquiry
Authority stealing pass armed robbery
We Africans we must do something about this nonsense
We say we must do something about this nonsense
I repeat, we Africans we must do something about this nonsense
Because now authority stealing pass armed robbery
Authority man him go dey steal
Public contribute plenty money...

Authority stealing!

RE: Authority Stealing

Nice piece.There is no clear case of trial and commensurate punishment been meted out to culprits of pen robbery hence its continued re-occurrence. Those saddled with the responsibility or that even are supposed to come up with the structure/framework to fight corruption in whatever form are sorry to say neck deep in corrupt and other sharp practices. The question now as it were... Is who will bell the cat?


Fela was a prophet we never recognized or listened to. When he said years ago that "soldiers don put everybody for reverse," we didn't know what he was saying. The country has been driving backwards (in reverse)long ago. That is why people who steal one thousand naira go to jail and those who steal billions get national honours.

Authority Stealing

Who will move the motion?
Who will pass the law?
Who will read vote it?
Who will approve it?

Authority Stealing

Thats Nigeria for you.A country where a government official that steal millions is called a DUMMY and one that steals billions is the SMART GUY.


Commendable analogy, more feather to your cap

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