Recent revelations about powerful individuals appropriating what is supposed to be for the protection of all of us, specifically money supposedly earmarked to fight the Boko Haram insurgency and allegedly shared by individuals, reminds me of one of those tales by moonlight. The story was told about there being a famine on earth and some birds deciding to fly to heaven to get some food. Of course they had a friend in (who else?) the tortoise who begged them to take him along. The tortoise could not fly so all the birds had to carry him in turns. Before their departure, the tortoise informed everyone that he learnt that one goes by one’s middle name in heaven, so each person was to adopt a name before going. Tortoise’s middle name was “Everybody.” On getting to heaven they were served a meal in a large bowl and the tortoise asked whose meal it was and the answer was “everybody.” Same thing at lunch-time and at supper-time. So, the tortoise ended up being the only one that ate during the trip. Of course, since his middle name was “Everybody!” The birds later had a meeting where they resolved not to fly the tortoise back to earth, and they left him behind. The end result? The tortoise crash-landed which accounted for his shell breaking into pieces, and which were put back in place by some wise men. Hence, till this day, the tortoise has the marks of broken shells!
It is not a recent phenomenon for greedy people to exploit other people. One of the reasons why the bible makes for interesting reading is because there seems to be nothing happening now that has not happened before, going by biblical accounts. King Saul’s lineage lost the throne forever because of greed. There would have not been such rules in the Ten Commandments like: “Thou shall not steal” if such a thing has not been happening. One could only imagine what would have been left of Nigeria if the last administration had not been voted out of power. Everything under the sun was done to make sure the 2015 general polls did not hold, hence some cooked up excuses of why the presidential election was shifted, until there was no more wiggle room. Now, the hens are coming home to roost.
Reading the Naira sign preceding a figure whose last word starts with an “m” or a “b” no longer has any meaning. Nothing seems to shock anyone any longer. Where individuals seem to be richer than ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) or even states is, for lack of any defining adjective, incredulous. And especially when the money is made through no other source than the stealing of public funds. Logic is being turned on its head by “leaders” sharing these monies and claiming not to know it was from the office of the former National Security Adviser. In any case, like the tortoise, each of those beneficiaries’ middle name is a collective pronoun. Falae claimed to have collected on behalf of his party, SDP; Yankassi supposedly collected on behalf of Northern elders; Ladoja collected on behalf of the Accord Party, etc. Like the tortoise, and with a new king that does not know Joseph, their smooth shells are being broken because they are now crash-landing. The only available cushions are the ethnic chauvinism, religious bigotry and bogus party affiliation meanings being read into the revelations. Except for Governor Fayose, no one seems to disbelieve that the sharing of money took place – even those who took slices of the pie are not denying this. The rhetoric has been about the source.
Many of us were not there when they were sharing the loot, and many people’s concern is about how to retrieve the loot. Believing in the deployment of ethnic, religious or party colouration should be the last thing on anyone’s mind. Rich people, no matter their religious beliefs, ethnic groups or party affiliations find ways to meet, as attested to by the current scandalous subject on the national burner. It is the poor people, and uneducated ones among us that they use as their cannon fodder. Things seem to work well in the developed world, where we always like to compare Nigeria with, because no one is above the law – no matter how rich or powerful. Not that cronyism or the “old boy syndrome” is totally absent, but at least, you see the semblance of people following the rules. Just try imagining Susan Rice, President Obama’s security advisor calling the US Federal Reserve chairman Janet Yellen to ask for some money…,what could that ever be for?! It is unimaginable. The present disclosures indicate that we are at least starting somewhere. I hope these would be followed to the logical conclusion. That is what the lesson of deterrence would be all about – teaching people coming behind that a king who does not know Joseph might mount the throne; and that the reason why the tortoise has a crooked back was because he replaced everyone’s name with a collective pronoun, as some people have been doing in our beloved country.
Jide Omotinugbon (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes from Louisville, KY, USA.