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…Before It Is Too Late! By Olumuyiwa Babatunde Amao

Worrisome is your recent pronouncement at the last Presidential media chat that what most Nigerians call corruption is ‘stealing’, and not corruption.

Dear President Jonathan, I have observed with keen interest the seemingly futile attempts of your government over the last five years to put an end to this reign of terror in Nigeria, and it seems obvious from the plethora of carnage and wanton destruction of innocent lives that your administration, lacks the wherewithal to put an end to this madness. Let me state for the avoidance of doubts, that I am neither a card carrying member of the opposition All Progressives Congress, (APC), nor am I associated with your ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). For me as an ordinary citizen, neither of the two parties represents the kind of change Nigeria deserves. As a matter of fact, the summation of the leadership and activities of both parties, as presently constituted, represents the single largest tragedy that has befallen the Nigerian state since its return to civil rule in 1999.

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Upon your ascension into office in May 2010, I, and other equally battered Nigerians did feel, that the country will be better off given your antecedence as an academic with a PhD degree. But given the events of the last 4 years (2010-2014), I am gradually being persuaded to believe (except if a miracle happens) that your tenure may go down in history as the most ‘negatively unforgettable administration’ Nigeria ever had. Before engaging this discourse any further, please permit me to place on record that your performance in office has not been without ‘positives’ as most of your associates and hangers-on have drummed into our ears. Most worthy of mention is the transformation of the country’s economy; however, as laudable as this achievement appears, I wish you would agree with me that the processes leading to this transformation have been set in motion, even before your assumption of office.

However, my major concern is not about this much touted economic transformation, rather, the other failings of your government as a collective. After all, a student’s success in an examination is not measured on the basis of his/her individual performance in a subject, but on the basis of his/her general performance in all the papers he/she sits for. Mr President, I therefore would like you in all honesty to situate your administrations’ performance within the context of your delivery in other areas of governance, particularly in the following sectors; education, job creation, health sector reform, anti-corruption and more importantly security. My task in this piece is not to present to your administration a score card, but to remind you that if this is the best you can offer to Nigerians, then it is definitely not good enough.

The shady, shameful, abominable, and inhumane recruitment fraud perpetuated by the Ministry of Interior, Abba Moro, and the unremitted $20 billion dollars of oil revenue by the NNPC, a parastatal under the auspices of another of your appointee, Diezani Allison-Madueke, are pointers to the fact that your administration if not corrupt, to borrow from the words of a leader of your party and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, ‘is romancing corruption’. More worrisome was/is your recent pronouncement at the last Presidential media chat that what most Nigerians call corruption is ‘stealing’, and not corruption.

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While many Nigerians were still battling to come to terms with what appears as your vote of confidence on public stealing, another of your appointee, and more painfully, the man in charge of the nations’ anti-corruption institution, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Mr Ekpo Nta, who ordinary should know ‘better’ came up to the defence of the “corruption is not stealing” hypothesis. As a student of English language and Politics, I find both theories rather disappointing, unfortunate and retrogressive. To consign this embarrassing postulation (stealing is not corruption) to the dustbin of history, I present forthwith a simple analogy. I am the son of my father, my name is stealing, and my father’s name is corruption. Regardless of the fact that we do not bear the same name, the simple truth remains that there can be no me without my dad. Therefore, there exists a biological relationship between us. The same way there is a biological and systemic relationship between stealing and corruption. To put it more concisely, it is corruption that breeds stealing; the same way my father’s action[s] gave rise to me (the son).

From the academic perspective, and according to the WordWeb, an online dictionary, Corruption refers to (1) the lack of integrity or honesty (especially susceptibility to bribery); (2) the use of a position of trust for dishonest gain, (3) a state of progressive putrefaction, (4) a decay of matter (either by rot or oxidation), and, lastly, (5) a moral perversion; impairment of virtue and moral principles. Stealing on the other hand has been defined as: “the act of taking something from someone unlawfully”. What these definitions suggest is that when an individual steals, he/she is charged to court for stealing and not for corruption, but when a man or a woman who occupies a position of trust or authority steals, such a character is said to be lacking in integrity or honesty and is therefore corrupt. The philosophical theory of ‘first cause’ applies here. The first cause of stealing is corruption, because without corruption, there will be no stealing. This issue is as simple as this Sir.

Your Excellency, I was therefore appalled by your attempt to create a distinction between this rather ‘symbiotic parasites’ during the media chat. If you ask me Sir, utterances like this and   the now infamous (1) “Boko Haram members have infiltrated my cabinet” which you very recently corrected as “Boko Haram members are in the three arms of government” (2) “50 billion dollars cannot miss, It is ridiculous, because even the USA will know if it is missing, it is their money" (3) "I pray and believe that the Chibok kidnapping will not be like the missing Malaysian plane with over 200 passengers. It has not been found even with the best technology at work" and (4) “If I even go near that [Borno] state they will just kill me for nothing”--are statements (with all due respect to your person and office) that are unbefitting of the office of the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

What such statements further do is to lend credence to the editorials of tabloids like the “New York Times” and Media houses such as the Cable News Network (CNN) and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); all of which have previously described your government as “clueless, corrupt and incompetent”. Your Excellency, your embarrassment is a national embarrassment to all Nigerians, and should your aides not be telling you the truth, Nigeria, over the last couple of months have graduated from its erstwhile position of a “moderately ridiculed nation” to one of the most internationally ridiculed in the world. As a matter of fact, things have gone so bad, that Nigeria is now being compared to failing or failed states such as Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. Even your Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku, was quick to compare Nigeria along these lines in an interview he granted to Channels Television on Monday, 19 May, 2014.

A number of factors have been adduced as responsible for this bastardization: first is the issue of corruption, most prominent of which is your administration’s admittance that it could not account for (at least) $20 billion dollars of oil revenue it earned over a period of 18 months; second, is the issue of chronic poverty which Nigerians have been so blessed with despite its superfluity of natural resources. Even the gains, achieved courtesy of the recent rebasing of the economy, have been simultaneously eroded by the unenviable top position in terms of the ‘country with the worst leadership in social welfare and opportunities for its citizens’ which Nigeria occupies. With the World Bank, arguing very recently, that over 70% of us (helpless and hopeless Nigerians) virtually lives from ‘hand to mouth ‘and on less than $2 (US dollars) a day.

However, in what appears as a sharp rebuttal of this claim, you argued very recently in January 2014at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that Nigeria is not a poor nation. Sir, in justifying your position, you mentioned that a mere count of the numbers of private jets parked at the nation’s airports and an enumeration of the multitude of Nigerians travelling out of the country on a daily basis are tell-tale indicators that Nigeria and Nigerians are indeed rich. I agree with you completely on these two illustrations you cited, but where I disagree, is your administration’s obvious denial of the reality as it applies to these scenarios. First, and I stand to be corrected Sir, while it is true that Nigerians are among the best of customers of  private jet manufactures across the globe, the reality however is that 90% of these Nigerians, are part of the same cabal and enemies of the Nigerian state who have continually robbed and denied ordinary Nigerians like me of: sound and affordable health care, quality social and infrastructural amenities, quality education, meaningful employment, and access to social security through unbridled corruption, and ‘stealing’ of public funds—our collective sovereign and commonwealth.   

Your Excellency, on the second defence you put up in Davos, again it is true that many Nigerians on a daily basis frequent the nations’ international airports enroute different destinations. However, the reality is that most of these Nigerians are citizens who have been frustrated by a country that has failed to offer them a platform to enjoy a decent life in their own country. They are Nigerians who went to the University and other tertiary institutions with the hope of getting liveable jobs after graduation, but ended up in misery even with their first class certificates. Sir, they are Nigerians who no longer feel safe in the ‘discomfort’ of their homes because of the ‘fear of the unknown’ and, because the Nigerian state has failed in its basic responsibility to protect them from armed robbers, kidnappers, ritual killers, and the devils’ advocates—Boko Haram.

Your Excellency, should your aides be shying in their constitutional responsibilities totell you the truth, Nigeria in 2014 has recently been adjudged as one of the countries with the highest occurrence of high sea piracy in the world. Again, Nigeria, as at the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014, have unfortunately surpassed Mexico in kidnapping; recording in the process, one of the  cruellest, and second highest single abduction cases recorded in human history with the ‘stealing’ of over 230 young girls, from Federal Government Girls School, in Chibok, Borno State.

Again Sir, between the end of 2013 and the first quarter of 2014, Nigeria has been reported as having surpassed Libya, Iraq and Central African Republic, (CAR), as the country where the worst and most deadly acts of terrorism and sectarian violence has occurred in modern time. Indeed, only Syria runs shoulder to shoulder with our country in this regard. I know your aides will tell you that these facts are baseless because they were not substantiated, but I have chosen very deliberately not to do their jobs for them. And I challenge any one of them to a public debate on the veracity of my claims. Let them find out these statistics by themselves, that is why they are been paid and called Senior Special Assistants and Advisers.

Sir, it may interest you to know that even your friend, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, in his response to the state of his nation, Uganda, did not just tell the world how proud and stable his government and country is, he also used the opportunity to cast aspersions on your leadership. Here was what he said: “I have never called the United Nations to guard your [Uganda’s] security. Me, Yoweri Museveni, to say that I have failed to protect my people and I call in the UN? I would rather hang myself! We [in Uganda] prioritized national security by developing a strong army; otherwise our Uganda would be like Democratic Republic of Congo, (DRC), South Sudan, Somalia or Nigeria where militias have disappeared with school children”. “It would be a vote of no confidence in our country and citizens if we cannot guarantee our [peoples’] security? What kind of persons would we be”?

Sir, with all due respect, I do like to remind your office that just around the same time the abduction of the Chibok school girls took place, Precisely, on the 16th of April 2014, a ferry, code-named ‘MV Sewol’, sank in South Korea, causing the death of over 280 secondary school children. The South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won, in his response to this tragedy, resigned on the 27th of April 2014, stating that:

"The right thing for me to do is to take responsibility and resign as a person in charge of the cabinet; the cries of the families of those missing still keep me up at night".

Sir, my take home from this episode, can be summed up in this simple question; can the same be said of my country, Nigeria? As a concerned citizen, I have asked myself, many times over, how we suddenly got to this stage as a country? How and why our leaders have suddenly become Professors of blood-letting? How and why a once peaceful and prosperous country could suddenly turn into a theatre of war and the absurd? And more importantly, why God has decided to bless Nigeria with Bad leadership? Your Excellency, I am counting on you through your actions over the next few months to give me the right answers to these soliloquys. It is obvious that this homily would not be complete without a mention of my take on the Boko Haram ‘madness’. Unlike many of your critics, I will not blame you for the mindless attacks on innocent Nigerians by these blood sucking animals, but I do blame you in toto for not having been able to solve this ‘riddle’ before it got to this stage.

A number of reasons have been adduced by various commentators as responsible for the continuing convivial environment within which these terror groups thrive. Such reasons have included the radicalization and internalization of the sect; others have placed it on the door step of endemic corruption in all strata of the Nigerian society, most notably, your government and military institutions; others have said Boko Haram is simply political, and it remains a creation of the Northern elites, and that all these attacks are been calculated to further make the Nigerian state ungovernable for you because you are from the South. I have even listened to prominent leaders from the Northern part of the country, advocating for ‘amnesty’ in the ’Niger Delta way’ and ‘prisoners swap’ for Boko Haram members and their detained families respectively. Your Excellency, I have even heard you during your last President chat arguing that there is a difference between the Niger-Delta militants and Boko Haram.

While I have no problems with all these suggestions and quite unfortunate opinions, I do however have a problem with your office as an institution for not been decisive enough. For the records, please permit to state unequivocally my position on both groups (Boko Haram and the Niger-Delta Militants). They are both enemies of the Nigerian state, having been previously and currently guilty of crimes against our collective national heritage--our resources and territory. As a result, I see no reason why your government should tolerate both excesses, and this explains why I will argue that you certainly need to step up your game if your administration intends to win the war against terrorism. And in doing so, you must have it at the back of your mind (as I believe you already do) that there are sacrifices to be made, and by sacrifices, I meant every bit of that word Sir!

Your Excellency, the following represents my simple suggestions on how to restore back our pride as a nation, and our security as a people. My submission in this epistle will be two pronged; Human Security and Military solutions. By Human security, I mean your administration must as a matter of urgency see to the de-radicalization of the youthful Northern population that has suddenly become veritable tools in the hands of these marauders. How can you achieve this sir? Set up small scale business for as many as possible of them, assist them with subsidies for their small and large scale cattle rearing and farming, assist the women with small loans through your Ministry of Women Affairs, and you may have to set up the required machinery to monitor these ventures so that they do not go down the drain courtesy of the systemic corruption, your administration has been too slow and seemingly unwillingly to confront.

May I say at this juncture that these initiatives should not just be domiciled in the North alone, it needs to be replicated across the six geo-political zones to prevent a repeat of this insurrection in other parts of the country. After all, it has been reported that Boko Haram spends an average of $3000 on every recruit, if you ask me Your Excellency; you may have to meaningfully spend more than this on every unemployed youth in this country, if Nigeria is to ever win this war of insurgency. Finally, and with regards to the military solution, I will try and make my advice as succinct as possible, and I will argue for a full Martial law to be declared in these troubled states, sack the governors, where inevitable, replace them with soldiers with full powers, and give them the order to mobilize about 50000 troops towards Sambisa forest, use aerial means to level the entire forest, mobilize tractors and caterpillars to clear the rubbles, close Nigeria’s borders with all these uncooperative neighbours, and announce to the Nigerian state that the nation has gone to war. And lastly, liaise with the Federal Legislature on how to make terrorism an offence punishable by death, because, the last time I checked, the offence is at the very maximum, only punishable by life imprisonment. After all, murder, where successfully proven and convincingly established is punishable by death under our 1999 constitution.   

If this is the only achievement you can record in your remaining months in office, I am sure posterity will always recognize you, as a man who came, who saw, and who conquered. And if you decide not to also borrow a cue from this way forward, the same posterity will remember you as a president who had the opportunity to make Nigeria a better place, but instead, made it worse than he met it. I know some people will disagree with these positions, they will argue that you lack the constitutional right to do all these, but the truth is that you know deep down within you Sir, that as the President and Command in Chief of over 168 million Nigerians, you certainly have the power to do more than this. But the real question is: are you sincerely willing to go this far Mr President?

Olumuyiwa Babatunde Amao, [email protected]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

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