by Farouk Martins Aresa
Only in Nigeria would looters have the nerve, bold enough and stand up with impunity to define sneaking billions into budget padding, stealing, embezzlement, diverting salaries, diverting local government allocation into personal pockets for safe keeping, false declaration and extravagant spending on self could be excused as not corruption. In the same country if a hungry man dared steal food from the market, he would face jungle justice. Where is jungle justice for our looters?
Until Babangida and Abacha made corruption official, there were voluntary tips or “dash” and then “ten percent”. One declared corruption as some family allowance, while the other made the country’s treasury his personal property. Actually, there was a coup partly because of “ten percenters” as corruption by young Army officers that took over. Little did they realize that their leaders in the Armed Forces would turn to “militricians” to compete in looting the treasury dry.
We have people in high places as President of the Senate, his Deputy President and the Speaker of the House seating tight after being accused. Even when some of them have been charged to courts; colleagues abandoned their duties to appear in shameful solidarity, to intimidate the Court. The Senate President had more lawyers than witnesses, including foreign counsel, Senior Advocates of Nigeria and Queens Counsel. All expenses paid from the same purse they looted.
The country has metamorphosed from rouges and vagabonds that could not get a decent lady to marry for fear of soiling lady family’s name to the most sought after bridegroom. As society degenerates, nobody cares again about corrupting the children and the next generation. They have become lost in their haste to get rich by any means possible. But then if they steal enough, they figure they could live anywhere in the world forsaking the country they leeched to death.
Senators and Representatives pad up constituency allowance for special projects at hometowns. They are the ones that give out the contract, supervise them and approve all as done: making them the bidder and the executioner of fake projects that never existed in the first place. The President and the Governors have security votes they spend anyway they want. In short, there are some many ways to abuse the treasury legally apart from other illegal contracts.
All it takes in any case is to attract foreign buyers or partner, either corporations or individuals that can deliver foreign money into their accounts that can be spent in the foreign countries. Africans patronize other countries more that they patronize one another. The products made in African are not attractive enough and not worth spending their time and foreign currencies on.
It has been said that even countries that are corrupt, still make substantial progress than most countries in Africa. While those countries spend their loot and create jobs at home, Africans spend and create jobs outside. It is an ingrained mentality that the greatest pursuit of pleasure or happiness for many Africans is to be recognized outside. Even if it means they have to sell other Africans out into penury. So we are willing to sell one another like our old chiefs sold out the slaves and eventually themselves when they ran out of slaves.
Therefore, in spite of all the awards and degrees earned, accumulated or bestowed on Africans by foreign universities and international bodies, our continent continues to wallow in dismal failure because no matter how much we try, we cannot be like Europeans or Americans; at most we can only remain second best. No international body would give an award to an African that does not gratify them, we know they are not that stupid to give us more than they get.
So no matter how much out looters accumulate, they find it convenient to invest most of it where they do not belong because they and their children can only be tolerated for a while at best, discriminated against and humiliated at worst. If Africans want to be respected, we could have achieved more in our countries that would attract other countries we run to. In short, until Africans showcase Africa’s ingenuity to the world, no black man will be respected.
At some point we have to examine the integrity of the people we elect as politicians and if money is the sole attraction to politics, look for way to discourage it. The only problem is that men of integrity, when elected turn to vagabonds. In cases where majority are willing to pay whatever the consequences for corruption, people of known good character would rather join them if they cannot fight them. A good example is Kongi Senator turned into thug and abuser.
The major reason politicians steal is to have money they can convert to foreign currency and spend like a drunken sailor on luxury houses, cars and imported sussies. Indeed, Nigerians are known in foreign markets for their expensive tastes. Since champagne is their people’s drink, the most expensive Scotch whiskies are sold to Nigerians. Lately heard they have special chef that makes cakes costing thousand of pounds or dollars which is millions at home: for a cake!
When some people create a burning desire to be so rich that they can ignore their home for foreign land, you know the country they come from must be bleeding. This desire must be curbed before we can make any progress at home. They are running out of places to hide their loot at home. Cash in foreign and local currencies have been discovered in water tanks, sewage tanks, buried in their farms at home and sometimes in the local accounts of house helps.
The goal of cashless transactions has been defeated. They have stopped putting their money in the banks of foreign countries that would expose them. Some of the small Caribbean islands have been invaded as sanctuaries for their loots. The law asking them to declare their asserts before assuming office is violated by many if not all.
As one loophole is closed, more are opened. It does not help if the basis for alliance of political parties to form a majority government is by negotiating never to prosecute some well-known vagabonds. The rest of the country can wail, as much as they want, those will not be probed.
If we were really sincere about corruption to discourage padding or stealing, we would luck up those saying either one was not corruption. Probe them based on the difference between their salaries, saving or inheritance compared to the way they lived. Anyone that cannot explain why they live above their means has a case to answer. Impunity and ostentatiousness would be rare. No one can live above his means without attracting neighbors in the democracy we emulate.