I have always averred, and still hold the argument, that fighting corruption is a lost cause in Nigeria. The reason for this position stems from the incontrovertible fact that even the very bodies instituted to do the fighting are themselves steeped in the muck.
The chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, was recently accused by the Nigerian Senate of looting trillions of naira recovered from people who feasted on our commonwealth. The Nigerian police is legendary for sleaze. And even the Nigerian judiciary is swimming in the putrid waters of malfeasance. The right approach in this all important battle against corruption is to discourage it because the fight has clearly been lost.
Let us go on a little excursion. Nigeria’s First Republic was truncated by the military on the excuse of corruption levelled against the likes of Nigeria’s first Finance Minister, Festus Okotie-Eboh in 1966. Chief Okotie-Eboh was killed in that military putsch and like his surviving cohorts in crime, escaped trial and punishment. Now had stringent punishment been meted out, they would have been reference points for others coming behind.
Imagine momentarily that had these early looters been tried, sentenced and either given life or death sentences, whether people like James Ibori, former governor of Delta State, ingloriously serving jail time in the UK for corruption, which by the way the courts in Nigeria absolved him of, would have had the gumption to indulge in the vile looting and criminality he perpetuated against his people who mandated him to better their lot, fully aware that if caught, prosecuted and found guilty, a life time in jail or death in the gallows would be his fate.
But because we live in a society that celebrates corruption through the conferment of chieftaincy titles and doctorate degrees to these people, the very act continues to live with us and has infested those acclaimed to be the leaders of tomorrow; a tomorrow that promises a continuity of our inglorious present and past.
On Tuesday, September 15, 2015, Nigeria’s self-acclaimed ‘most widely read newspaper’ reported the rather disturbing news of the budding or thriving, depending on how long this has been going on, corruption in the Obafemi Awolowo University Students Union Government. The ruling students’ body crafted a budget of slightly over N26 million anchored on a projected income of N15 million reflecting a deficit of eleven million Naira clearly intended to be handed over to the in-coming SUG. Is this any different from governors borrowing monies that would put their states perpetually in debt or instituting bonds that would be a yoke to be borne by future generations especially as these monies are frittered away on inanities?
To be clear, the budgeted amount or the deficit is not my grouse with the SUG of Obafemi Awolowo University. My gut-wrenching pain stem from the breakdown of expenditure the budgeted amount was intended for. The report showed that the Students Union leaders, both in the executive and legislative arms, earmarked N1, 837,550 for official telephone calls over a period of six months. One begins to wonder what kinds of official phone calls they make and to whom.
In an era where the mobile telecommunications outfits are facilitating Closed User Group, CUG, facilities which help drop costs drastically amongst high numbers of unit users, this is clearly bare-faced corruption or an exhibition of outright stupidity on the part of a generation that should be very digitally aware. But we all know which it is. Other incidentals include sums ranging between N250, 000 and N1, 250,000 for ‘long and short journey’ as well as for accommodation.
Now I am aware that the days of active students’ unionism have long passed. What we have today are kindergarten SUG leaders who have no influence even within their halls of residence. One therefore begins to wonder what kinds of meetings these sums are budgeted for and even when they do travel for these boys’ scouts meetings, the kinds of lodgings they use. It is annoying that student leaders who cannot hold governments at the different levels to account like was the case decades back, would have the audacity to enjoy five-star hotel lodgings in contradistinction with union leaders of yore who would lodge with host students in cramped hostel rooms and sometimes, their travelling vehicles.
I will not overburden this issue as it is under discourse in the public domain. What irks me, however, is the fact that even “the children who are the leaders of tomorrow” have been sucked deeply into this shameful and brazen act of corrupt enrichment more pathetically within our citadel of learning, and something has to be done to send a clear and unforgiving message that such acts will no longer be glossed over.
The school authorities should institute an investigative panel to look into this and mete out drastic and far reaching punishment on Omotayo Akande, the Students’ Representative Council chairman, Adebari Aare, the Speaker in council, and their co-travellers in crime to serve as a deterrent to others. A withdrawal of their student’s membership, prosecution and committal to jail will not be out of place. Except they prefer the death sentence as in China!
Like I said, had the likes of Festus Okotie-Eboh been tied to a stake and shot for corruption in the First Republic, our Second Republic would not have produced the likes of Umaru Dikko same way the New Republic would not have produced the likes of James Ibori. And until we apply sanctions like the Chinese did and still do, we can see clearly now the likes in the mould of Omotayo Akande and Adebari Aare that the Future Republic will produce.
Evidently, one approach attempts to tackle it after the event while the other does not even give it room to fester. One requires the deployment of scarce state resources to attempt to recover these stolen funds and often times fall short, again because of the compromised system, while the other ensures that state resources are readily available, untouched by filthy fingers, and used for the development of this society. The choice we have to make is clear and up to us as a collective. May God help this Federal Republic of Nigeria!
Culled from naij.com