By Bola Bolawole
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“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into the abyss, the abyss will gaze back at you” – Friedrich Nietzsche.
Comrade Yinka Odumakin wrote a book with the above title in which he lambasted former President Oluseegun Obasanjo as the hunter who became the hunted. Ironically, Obasanjo, whose administration (1999 – 2007) birthed both the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) on 29 September, 2000 and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on 12 December, 2002, later became the butt of cruel jokes as far as corruption malfeasance, including the corrupting influence of absolute power, were concerned. He has, however, neither been tried nor found guilty of corruption charges.
Such sundry allegations remain, therefore, in the realm of conjectures, on social media tirades, and what is referred to here as “pepper-soup joint” gossip. This includes the allegation that the former president worked at subverting the country’s Constitution to have a third term in office (the Constitution allows only a maximum of two terms of four years each in office), an allegation he has roundly denied, despite the “physical cash evidence” reportedly brought forward by some, thus making the peddlers of the allegations to refer to the former president as “the father of corruption” in Nigeria, an unbefitting title that Obasanjo has vigorously rejected.
It is trite in law that an accused person is deemed innocent until he has been proved otherwise by a court of competent jurisdiction. You must have had your day in court and be pronounced guilty as charged before allegations of corruption can stick on you. Thus, even if the allegations are “known” to everyone and they are so humongous that the ocean would be incapable of washing them away, as my Grandma would say, or as the scripture records in Isaiah 1: 18 – “though your sins be as scarlet (or) be red like crimson” – you will remain “as white as snow” and be made to look as inviolate “as wool” until you have had your day in court, as they say. That is the position of the law; public opinion, however, is a different kettle of fish! There are many very big and powerful Nigerians who walk the street free today who, ordinarily, should be in prison if public opinion is anything to go by or, better still, if the cases of corruption hanging around their neck are diligently prosecuted. Not only do they walk around free as air, an uncountable number of them occupy positions of power and, just imagine, bear rule over the people and continue in that position not only to suppress their Day Of Judgment but to also continue in their act of depravity, feeding fatter still on the common till and shoving their impunity down our throat!
The EFCC, since inception, has particularly been notorious with its helmsman – and woman – going down on charges/allegations of corruption and or abuse of power/office. So, here, corruption-cum-abuse of power/office is not gender free! As we speak, the immediate past substantive head of the EFCC has been removed from office and is undergoing investigation. We await the outcome!It is bad when the hunter becomes the hunted but what of when the hunter gets captured by the “game” which, in this case, is corruption itself!
“The hunter gets captured by the game” is a 1966 song written by Smokey Robinson and which became a hit single in 1967 for the American girl group, The Marvelettes, for the Motown label, from their self-styled album of the same year; it is the story of a lady who talks about how she had been stalking her lover, having to learn his “ways and habits” so she could catch him. However, “certain things re-arranged” and she found herself falling head-in-love with the supposed game! I am sure you know that “certain things re-arrange” here once people get into power! Even those you could place your neck on the chopping block for when they are not yet in power transform radically once they taste power and you begin to wonder whether you ever knew them! The reasons for this must be many, some of which are to be found outside of the “game”. Societal expectations and pressure contribute a lot.
Have you bothered to find out the actual salaries and emoluments of those in positions of authority? They are usually nothing to write home about. Yet, once a man gets into office, even if it is the unenviable and daunting office of catching thieves or drug addicts, everyone starts to congratulate and mill around them. They begin to drum it into his or her ears that “this is your turn” as well as the “turn” of those of them privileged to be close to him! Their “turn” to do what, if I may ask!“Everyone we know is touched by corruption”, says actress Jennifer Lawrence. Until everyone, including the corrupt, knows this, the fight against corruption will be a wild goose chase.
Nobel Prize Laureate, Rigoberta Menchu, says: “Without strong watchdog institutions, impunity becomes the very foundation upon which systems of corruption are built. And if impunity is not demolished, all efforts to bring an end to corruption are in vain” Do we not enthrone impunity when the corrupt are those in power and calling the shots everywhere? Who, then, will bell the cat?
In my view, Delia Ferreira spoke pointedly to Nigerians when she said: “People’s indifference is the best breeding ground for corruption to grow” We are more than indifferent to corruption here; we, in fact, wait patiently and pray fervently for our own turn to come! It must not tarry; but even if it does, let it surely come! (Habakkuk 2:3). I like Pope Francis’s take on corruption: “Corruption is paid for by the poor!” And the same poor are the ones who fight-to-the-death for, and defend, their oppressors.
Above all, I love the immediate past president, Muhammadu Buhari’s quotation on corruption:”If we (Nigerians) do not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria” Perhaps, then, that is one good service corruption will do Nigeria; the final solution, if we must quote Adolf Hitler, to the Nigerian nightmare!Nigeria already suffers what is called “state capture” by corruption. Corrupt men and women hold the levers of power and, to perpetuate themselves, they breed their own kind and bar good men and women from gaining access. No arm of government is spared. No tier of government is spared. No Ministry, Agency or Parastatal of the government is spared. The private sector is not spared. Religious leaders are not spared, their vainglorious pontification notwithstanding. And everyone appears overwhelmed.
We are resigned to our fate! Otherwise, why are we not moved by the humongous cases of corruption that ooze out of the nooks and crannies of government offices on a daily basis? It would appear as if our lethargy is second to none! Yesterday, I saw on social media the spectacle of a limousine slowly screeching to a halt with security aides running alongside it on both sides. I told myself, “Oh! that must be a visiting head of state” but my heart sank when it was Godswill Akpabio, the Senate President, that emerged from the car! Common Number Three man!
What, then, should we expect from the president and vice-president and the 36 governors in their respective “fiefdoms” all over the country? Why do we allow persons who are supposed to serve us this level of opulence when we ourselves wallow in abject penury and lack? Is that not why they think N8000 is all we need as palliatives?
Cassius, then, is right: “Men at some time are masters of their fate: The fault, O Caesar, is not in our stars but in ourselves, that we are underlings”! Those wasting their time crying unto God or expecting Him to intervene should hold their peace! God has done His bit; it is now left unto us to do ours! As my people will say, mother Chameleon has done her bit by giving birth to her child; if the child does not know how to dance, it is its fault, not mother Chameleon’s!
Has it not been said that a people deserve the government they get? Says Thomas Jefferson, 3rd US president: “The government you elect is the government you deserve” Joseph de Maistre concurs by saying: “Every nation gets the government it deserves” Videos of the rot in three critical agencies of the Federal Government that have trended in recent times without any (known) action taken by the new administration beggars belief.
The watchdog organisations are the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). The cans of worms opened by insiders in the three organisations must not be swept under the carpets.
A surgical operation is needed. Competent men and women of integrity should be drafted on rescue missions to these very critical institutions without delay.
Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.