Farouk Martins Aresa
Stealing began at home. We remember the days when Nigerians dare not steal from villages or towns because it is too close for comfort. These days most governors divert allocations of their local government into their pockets without paying salary. No conscience bank chiefs and civil servants embezzle funds, schools extort parents with exorbitant fees and text photo copies.
Why do Yoruba accept that they have vagabonds among them and others think they have Robin Hood, national cake and God-given right to the treasury? It is not that Yoruba are more honest than the other ethnic groups, yet the general notion is that Yoruba will expose their vagabonds before others even consider it. Others ethnic groups, in defense of their own looters, ask for all sort of affirmative defenses and rights they know have been abused through judicial system.
Poor Yoruba looters, they have no sanctuary at home. Yoruba masses are their worst enemies. They get pelted with pure water, hounded in the press and their families abused everywhere as if they are the only looters in town. The worst part of it, they felt, is that Yoruba encourage and join abuses from other ethnic groups on their sons. In short, Yoruba have very low tolerance for looters except in their immediate family. Even then, extended families pure scorn on the family.
The Yoruba are not perfect, but their tolerance for greed, corruption and vagabonds cannot be compared to the unbelievable excuses other ethnic groups mount in defense of their members. Unfortunately, we have moved from a time when Hausa man can be depended on for honesty, Igbo man for hard work and Yoruba man for fairness and tolerance; to this time where anything goes. People have thrown honesty and integrity out of the window, encouraging vagabonds.
Until other ethnic groups stop making up excuses for their looters whenever Nigerians start prosecuting them, we will never sort out the scourge of corruption. Nigerians are very good at pointing out others’ fault as long as it is not a member of their ethnic group. Most discussion on corruption are long and lively until the topic changes to a different looters with whom we have ethnic affinity. It becomes personal and degenerates to inappropriate insults.
One has to wonder why the masses that have nothing to gain, no chances of getting into the looters’ club, no way of becoming politician or ever getting connected to the rich and famous always jump to looters’ defense because they belong to the same ethnic group. On the other hand, politicians that empty our treasury have more in common to protect than their ethnic groups. They share humongous salaries and allowances, share allocations and contracts.
Yoruba are ready to condemn the former Speaker Bankole, Police Chief Tafa Balogun, Afolabi and Bank Thief Executive Akingbola among many. They condemn the judicial system that did not put them behind bars for life and their families and others suffer in these communities because of related names. They may not even know the thieves from Adamo.
Go anywhere in Yoruba land and mention that their sons and daughters stole money, most would curse and agree. The few that would disagree belong to the same party of members of looters’ families. In spite of Tinubu’s ACN alliance with Buhari to defeat Jonathan’s PDP, many Yoruba joined with their opponents in different parties to distance themselves from Tinubu. His fiercest critics are Yoruba from Lagos for commandeering Lagos State’s funds, not Federal.
Yet, other Yoruba see Tinubu as the bad boy and a necessary fire needed to put out fire against their interest in other parties. Tinubu would have been overwhelming accepted by other ethnic groups if he were one of their members. Even some of his Yoruba supporters have cast doubts on his long term benefit to their own interest since he would do anything for power.
The next Exposé is Tinubu/Fashola/Ambode Show! But as soon as we mention names of other ethnic groups, wahala starts O! Ethnic champions are ready to battle. They want evidence that will stand up in American and British courts. The rule of law, due process, innocent until proven guilty, the best lawyer money can buy and rights to appeal all the way to the Supreme Court. After all we want the same process if we are merely accused of any wrong doing, not convicted.
Nevertheless, if the same western courts convicted the member of their ethnic group, Nigerians switch to different defense. They want to know if others have been probe first, that their ethnic members are not the only ones stealing, and there are witch-hunting because they belonged to a certain group. There was even a new phrase in town: that stealing is not corruption. If nothing makes sense, some claimed with impunity – they cannot legally steal their own money!
It gets so bad, we start wondering if money is missing in the first place. If foreign account were opened and oil tankers diverted. It could be that people are just throwing accusations around only to find out a kobo never left the treasury or bank directors of their ethnic groups have been accused out of spite or for some political vendetta. The truth is who is fooling whom?
When politicians raise the anger of their masses as if they are being persecuted for stealing, we do not have to follow them blindly. It is very difficult to buck a trend dictated by the masses in fear of dear lives. A few of those that went against their masses have been ostracized and left to wallow outside their hometowns. They are targeted for abuses and sometimes jungle justice.
However, Buhari distractors claim that trust is relative, not absolute. IBB accused him of 2.8bn lost as OBJ Petroleum Commissioner. Later as Petroleum Trust Fund chief under Abacha. What is even more embarrassing was when Buhari gave them red meat: vouched that Abacha never stole! We just want corruption stopped even by a devil! Nigerians trust Buhari with treasury, oil dip, Boko Haram than any politician. It’s reflected in vigorous chase and EFCC North and South.