– Abdurrahman Onifade Bello
“In times of political unrest, visit history to resolve the mess; in times of political harmony, visit history to avoid the mess.” – Anonymous
These are trying times in Nigeria. The incessant killings, worsened by ineptitude and inaction of government, tell our conscience that all is not well with this nation. The ‘defeated’ Boko Haram insurgents still attack soft targets in the northeast. Herdsmen send many to early graves while security officials look on in reckless abandon. Benue has not been healed from its pathetic carnage; while Plateau still bleeds from the gruesome ethno-religious massacres of inhumane murderers. Many children have become orphans and many women become widows as killings continue in Ezzi (Ebonyi State) and Yala (Cross River State). In actual fact, many will never see their loved ones return to them again in Lagos; as they have lost the loved ones to flames of fuel tankers. All these are aside the brutal killings in Bodija, Ibadan, by men who are supposed to protect law-abiding citizens. The land that used to be green has become red; flowing with blood that some think could be used for political irrigation. No doubt, Nigeria is racing to become an epitome of the Hobbesian state where life is indeed ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.’
This writer does not mean to absolve the National Assembly (NASS) members of their many known sins. Nigerians know that many of these legisla-thieves have PhDs in budget padding, kick-boxing and theatre arts. I am sure many are expectant of another heart-warming comedy from that R & B artiste cum comedian who jumped out of police vehicle and landed in the hospital. Nigerians are quite aware that the NASS is peopled by individuals who inflate and incorporate constituency projects into budget; only to use the funds to buy N100 million worth of cars for their kits, kin, wives, concubines and sugar babies.
President Muhammadu Buhari signed the 2018 budget a few weeks ago amidst allegations of budget-cuts; casting aspersions at the NASS as the headquarters of corruption. This, he did to reaffirm our known enemies; but yet it worries to see how he portrays himself and the executives as being sanctimonious. In truth, many gullible Nigerians fell for the presidential accusations; forgetting that there are many issues begging for answers. Agreed, the NASS is corrupt; but the presidency and the whole of the executive arm, without exaggeration, are also enmeshed in monumental corruption. Therefore, it is palpable that all arms of government in Nigeria are partners in corruption. No saints, they are all sinners in crime.
While the NASS might have illegally altered the budget to play a smart one on the executive, its stand and points in its explanations to the presidential accusations need illuminations from the first accuser – the presidency. The president alleged, amidst other projects, that the construction of the Terminal Building at Enugu Airport was cut from N2 billion to N500 million. But is it a lie that the executive under President Muhammadu Buhari budgeted N2 billion in the 2018 fiscal year for a project – that N1.7 billion had already been released in the 2017 appropriation bill? Is that not corruption? Or could the accusation be a political strategy to appease those who gave him only 5% votes in the 2015 general elections?
In fact, there is an accusation online, although swallowed by the tragic occurrences across the nation, that the President will be using N86 million to cut his hair in the 2018 fiscal year. That means N235,616.44K will be used daily to cut the hair of a bald septuagenarian. Even those called head-world won’t cut their hair for a thousand naira. While that is yet to be debunked from the presidency, another alarming new broke out that members of the execu-thieves hijacked the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCEECC) railway engineering scholarships meant for all ordinary Nigerians. But because many youths are ‘unconnected’ with the big guns who pillage our resources; they could not submit applications, talk less of participating in the interviews. Some of those who hijacked these railways scholarships for their cronies are: the dis-honourable ministers for transportation; state for education; communications; state for power, works and housing; Jigawa state governor; deputy chief of staff at the presidential villa; and even that most dis-honourable one for youths and sports who properly ‘spended’ our money. Indeed, that is not corruption.
The execu-thieves at various levels, unlike their legisla-thieve colleagues, have often been vanguards of corruption. Their unhindered access to state funds emboldens their corrupt activities. For instance, a student leader whom I know once told us how a particular state governor in the southwest ordered that N2 million be given to students in one night; whereas workers in the state have been owed more than eight month salaries. That N2 million will pay one hundred and eleven (111) workers on the N18,000 minimum wage. And that was just one of the numerous visitors and praise-singers that met the governor that night. Who knows of others who could have been given higher denominations? For now, Nigerians have known members of the NASS receive N18.5 monthly as running cost. But how much exactly are the running costs of members of the executive – president, vice, secretary, state governors, etc? The revelation of their running costs may send some Nigerians to the Intensive Care Units of many hospitals.
However, it is apt to note that, unlike what the current political dispensation has always wanted us to chew, corruption is not a Nigerian. I have read and heard from many colleagues abroad how they have either been duped or swindled by other nationals in Lebanon, India, America, Egypt, Britain, to mention a few. Believe it or not, the white supremacists who also plundered our lands before handing over to the na-thieves bequeathed corruption to those who fought for independence. In his seminal work “Stealing is Not Corruption: A Discourse on the Languages of Corruption in Nigeria,” Raheem Oluwafunminiyi stated that “the British chose to close their eyes to the abuses committed by locals and traditional chiefs, they were swift in calling into question and openly the integrity of nationalists who criticised imperial rule. Herbert Macaulay, for instance, was called unprintable names while his ability to represent or lead the native African was questioned. It did not matter too that the British were also deeply involved in venal practices which Macaulay had once exposed.” He stated further that “The placid attitude of the British towards corruption within the traditional institutions and colonial bureaucracy before 1950, on the one hand, and its willing acceptance of the primitive accumulation of wealth by its foster Nigerian elites, on the other hand, helped to deepen government corruption in the closing and early stages of decolonisation and independence, respectively.”
Recently, Al-Jazeera English shot a video “Loaning artefacts to owners,” which brings to fore the corruption of the British government. In the video which can be found online, “Nigeria wants its rare bronze states back after they were stolen by British imperialists more than a century ago. But the British aren’t done looking at the statues, so they’ve offered the artifacts on loan to Nigeria. The artifacts are considered among Africa’s most valuable art pieces due to their intricate modeling. The oldest of the bronzes were cast in the 1500s.” How would you loan something you stole to the owners? That is nothing but beautified corruption from Nigeria’s colonialist.
Corruption, they say, is authority plus monopoly minus transparency. It is a global menace that cannot be fought with lip-services or blame-games. Rather than continue telling us what Nigerians know about the NASS, the President should devise new tactics of tackling the budgeting proposal process. It is all politics. The processes that brought him in were political and to sustain his policies favourably for Nigerians, the president and his team has to demonstrate a superior political prowess than the NASS. It is time to do away with these blames that have brought nothing to the masses but pervasive suffering and incessant killings.
PS: I sympathize with our compatriots who have been casualties of various tragic occurrences across the nation. There is no better time to overhaul the leadership of the nation’s security than now. Enough of sympathies and condolences the President should act. Now!