I wish I could provide an answer to Nigeria’s ailing health or wish that we could come together as citizens and find a solution to this puzzling illness. No matter how we look at it, this is an infection that is at the moment confusing or at best perplexing. We can only imagine the wonderment and bewilderment at which the world watches.
Take my friend Sola Amosu for example, it is not that I believe what is being reported in the news media that he went into government to loot and steal. I think it is rather strange and absurd that anyone would think that a friend who I have know since my early 20s would, when exposed to power and prestige, become compromised by greed. But what could be stranger than if it were actually true that he did these things that are alleged.
I would rather vouch for my friend on his honour and integrity and that he carried out his duties to the best of his ability. But when I look at the environment from which he sprang, I can only surmise that anyone could become contaminated by greed.
First, official stealing is not only rooted in Nigeria, but it is encouraged in government. There is a culture of “silent consent” and “rotational greed” among our governing class, such that gluttonous misappropriation of government contracts is common and cyclical. The understanding is that it is okay to do these things because my turn shall soon come. Second, Nigerians generally do not share a sense of national loyalty or allegiance to the cause – what cause? Third and lastly, we are not connected to our country at a deep emotional level, where we take ownership in the success or failure of Nigeria or, have faith in its leadership and purpose.
I could consume one burger and remain full but I’d rather ingest five burgers in paralysing greed. I neither do not need this much food in my sac nor do I want to cause myself stomach discomfort, lest I become as immobile as a newly fed python. Of what use is a fed python when it can’t even defend itself.
￼So I watch a soccer game between two dueling champions – China and Nigeria, and you know who I root for. Nigeria wins, I jubilate and scream hurray! Good job strikers, excellent job, our defence squad. But is that win or even a loss sufficient to bring about national zeal? Does hollering at the top of my lungs on the streets of Lagos or Abuja celebrate our victory and transform my hallowed pride into Nigeria mania? Is that pride connected on a deeper level to being honest and followed through by a sense of goodwill towards Nigeria? Put differently, does the victory translate into a passionate fervour for Nigeria’s betterment and advancement? The answer of course, is a resounding No!
Many of us call Nigeria our fatherland. That sounds a little unkind and sarcastic only because it is, but a heavy declaration… an audacious testimony. The question is which father are we talking about here, of which father do we think we belong and of what value is that father to us? Is it the fathers’ that have been looting our country over the past several years, and continue to do so? Or, are they our hapless biological parents who though famished, scrape for a living to raise their offspring while living in the land of plenty?
If we can answer these questions, then we can begin to understand and maybe even come to realise that we have been digging a hole for ourselves for a long time and we need to climb out of that hole and collaborate. I am not talking about “collaborative banditry” in government wherein individuals and agencies greedily cooperate with a perpetual rat race to loot the treasury.
Nigeria is a country where good people – men, women, religious leaders encourage stealing. Nigeria has many good people but, we are not good citizens. We all have criminal thoughts and intentions – just as any human being on the planet… only more so. Our loyalty resides at the very base of our human condition – greed. Any pastor at a mega church would willingly accept these alleged stolen funds without a care as to its source or origins, or, even when the knowledge is made clear that this is stolen money. They will accept these “30 shekels of Judas” into their church and betray their church, cheat and deceive Nigeria. But Judas is a better man; he became remorseful and wept, tossed the 30 shekels and as Matthew wrote, he “hanged himself.” Our religious leaders have no regret, conscience, or worry. They relish in wickedness and wallow in deceit. Where is the morality in such behaviour? Where is the character, where is the goodness in this evil greed?
It brings America to mind, with the highest number of incarcerated persons in the entire world. Ask an inmate what his or her crime was. The ready answer is “I didn’t do it”. No one has ever done it in Nigeria as well. Not Diezani, not Bode George and certainly not Dasuki. It is alleged that when Bode George was jailed for official malfeasance, to spend four years in lockup, he spent most weekends in the comfort of his home. But at the end of his prison term, rather than shame and dishonour, he was welcomed back home with great pomp, and, a very groovy celebration.
I hope it is not out of bitterness and envy that many of us are angry at Sola Amosu. I hope that Alex Badeh is not being castigated by the Nigerian lot because he didn’t get away with it, and I certainly hope that it is not because people didn’t get a chance to take, but Sola Amosu allegedly did and now that he is caught, we crucify him. Dishonesty permeates our government and our people. Would it shock me if I learned that EFCC actually unraveled three million dollars at Sola ￼Amosu’s residence yet, only reported the alleged one million dollars? Nope!
Could an observer arrive at the conclusion that anti-change peddlers are upset because their turn is tilting out of orbit? Maybe! If so, how can anyone then have allegiance or faith in this country when it has never been proven or shown to us? So if we cannot hold our past leaders responsible, how is it that we rebuke Sola Amosu and Alex Badeh? Isn’t it what our leaders had been practicing for years? Not that it makes it right, but if Sola Amosu is to be indicted, should we all Nigerians not be indicted as well? Isn’t Sola Amosu a product of the environment from which he sprang? All Nigerians, including my humble self, should, therefore, be indicted, shamed and flogged in the public square. We can neither both indict Amosu or Alex Badeh and leave Nigeria and our past leaders out of it. Sola Amosu and Alex Badeh are both not a national disgrace. Nigeria is. We can start by taking collective ownership of this shame.
Take the State of Illinois for example. Sentenced in 2011, Governor Blagojevich who for years proclaimed he was innocent of federal corruption charges, but later apologised for his crimes, is in the fifth year of a 14 year sentence. He was convicted of attempting to sell President Obama’s State senate seat after Obama became president. Blagojevich’s conviction becomes unusual, almost an anomaly indeed.
This kind of behavior is the norm in Nigeria. Or else’s, how is it even possible that Nigeria’s top commanders who are prosecuting an insurgency would rather shoot themselves in the foot, allegedly buy ill-equipped military hardware and not want to win a war? This is totally contrarian. Why would a team member attack his own team, ruin that team, and score against itself? That defies logic. Aren’t military commanders noted and acclaimed for strategy, gallantry and victory in fighting a battle to win the war? How is it so vastly different in Nigeria?
What is even more bizarre is how does a Commander-in-Chief not know that the alleged equipment that was supposed to be procured was not acquired, (double take) and is missing in its arsenal? Isn’t the Commander-in-Chief – the top military commander in the land, briefed on a daily basis with battle plans, order of battle, etc.? Isn’t he continuously updated throughout the day by his National Security Adviser? Isn’t this briefing verified by military commanders in the war room? Many could ask if the Commander-in-Chief was a double agent and wasn’t doing Nigeria’s biding. But then how could the National Security Adviser brief the president when he is a bona fide treasury unto himself and is consumed with the busy habit of dispensing funds?
The notion of an alleged non-procurement of approved military equipment in the midst of a bloody insurgency is absurd; that Jonathan could be kept in the dark is as perplexing as it is bewildering.
Finally, I do not believe that Nigeria has much value to us Nigerians. And I certainly do not believe that jingle that spits out the vomit that “Nigeria na our country and we must do better for am” It seems to me that we are in Nigeria for what we can get out of it, not what we can do for her. Nigeria is a “thing” to be exploited by many, not an “emotion” to care for. Do we live and breathe Nigeria? Mba! I do not see these people shedding a tear for Nigeria. There is no allegiance here. We all need to go through a process of self-recrimination and reproach. A good place to start is for each and every one of us to accept the national shame and ignominy.
Olu Richard Sole writes from The Cultural Diplomacy Institute, Washington D.C.