In the last few months, each day we wake up to revelations upon revelations of huge amounts of public money that's been pilfered in the season of mindless orgy of looting that characterized the Jonathan government. It was truly a free-for-all bazaar!
But, pointedly and interestingly, we all now can see the face of corruption (or stealing as President Jonathan would have us distinguish) in its starkest nakedness. It is a detribalized face that cuts across all ethnic origins or religious affiliations. In a manner we have never seen before, there's no recriminatory finger-pointing at any one ethnic group as the ones who have done nothing but busy themselves robbing our country blind. For no sooner had some fellows of one group began sniggering at a released list full of names of folks from some part than the sneer disappeared in the face of yet another list full of their own people.
The country was truly engulfed in complete madness. No group, no religion, no vocation, no profession is exempt. Haba! As we hear of Alhaji this, comes Pastor that, followed by Dr this and Professor that; talk less of the traditional dens of corruption like the Civil Service, Customs, Police, etc.
The saddest part for me is how totally immersed our military officers were in the mire of rottenness, throwing all that fine phrase "an officer and a gentleman" out of the window. Reading of some names and the amount of loot to their discredit gives me the jitters. In times past, the Air Force and Navy were considered a notch more refined folks than the Army. Must be myth as it turns out, seeing how unreservedly these erstwhile models of integrity and decency have striven to out-steal the other! How, when, and where did we lose it so badly?
Sampler from one of the dailies during the week:
“The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has recovered N84m from the immediate past Director of Finance and Budget of the Nigerian Air Force, Air Commodore O. O. Gbadebo, …investigations revealed that the money was diverted from the account of the Air Force. The source said the money was part of the money budgeted for the procurement of weapons.” It went further, “Last week, the commission seized houses belonging to Gbadebo; the immediate past Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Adesola Amosu (retd.); and the Chief of Accounts and Budgeting of the Nigerian Air Force, Air Vice Marshal J.B. Adigun, all worth about N5bn.”
Another headline said: “the immediate past Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh (retd.), was detained by the anti-graft agency.” And on and on!
I can imagine how President Buhari and a host of other decent officers of the past must feel about their once proud calling. The rogues have democracy to thank, otherwise they'd by now be a fine spectacle at the Bar Beach strung to stakes in a line as long as the eye can see!
Still there are moments one has to pinch oneself wondering if the figures we are being regaled with could be real. I mean most of them are in scores if not hundreds of billions! C’mon, what makes a billion? I ask myself. A thousand million? Are these people crazy? As a rightly perplexed President Buhari asked, "how much money does one man need in a lifetime?" Nay, even in ten lifetimes?
The way it is going - and there are still so many other sectors, departments, agencies, yet to be touched or exposed, as the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed himself said: “The truth is that what we have revealed so far is nothing but the tip of the iceberg. Nigerians should stay tuned for more shocking revelations in the days ahead.” - I doubt if we will be able to compute all these figures to get close to the actual size of our stolen patrimony. Trillion-trillions? Or as kids would say in their game of outnumbering one another, "zillion-zillions-to infinity!"
There is, therefore, a sense in which one would despair and suggest that perhaps we should just leave this loot-chasing business ojare and move on lest the country is lost entirely in the wilderness, with the economy stultified and progress stunted. This line of thinking provides ammunition to the naysayers and army of corruption warriors whose livelihood depend on “corruption as usual!”
Mr. Lai Mohammed asserts: "This Administration will neither be distracted nor intimidated by anyone into abandoning or weakening the fight against corruption, which is a war of survival for our nation. No amount of media or other attacks will stop the fight. The pseudo-analysts and hack writers will labour in vain in their quest to stop the train of this anti-corruption fight."
I agree, we can't do that; we shouldn’t abandon the tooth-combing and exposure of the past sleaze no matter how long it takes. Not only would it be unfair on those already exposed and pilloried, the amounts yet to be discovered far exceeds what has so far been found or revealed. If these figures are true and could be recovered soon enough, the economy will get the fillip it badly needs. More than that, the common man who has for so long been oppressed and reduced to wretchedness needs to have a psychological restitution, some moral exaltation; such that comes with seeing those brigand oppressors dispossessed of their illegally owned mansions, businesses, unimaginable fleet of state-of-the-art automobiles, and released back to the public!
Nevertheless, the job is Buhari's to find the middle ground of continuing in the loot-chase - perhaps by quickly pushing for the passing of a bill empowering the setting up of special Anti-corruption Courts with powers to override the rigmarole process of regular courts - whilst also directing energy at restructuring the polity and the system for a more sustainable development. What obtains right now won't work. It's indeed silly, the presidential system is. But that's talk for another day.
Let's return to the brotherhood of looters. Their commonality reminds one of the lines in the good old, but discarded, National Anthem: "Though tribe and tongue may defer/ in brotherhood we (they) stand..." The moral fabric of the nation is in tatters and calls for urgent steps at values reclamation from babyhood to manhood, from followership to leadership, if this whole exercise would not unfortunately turn into our "Rock of Sisyphus"!
And that's saying it the way it is!