t is heartening to see the response of Nigerians to the plight of Ikeja Police College and the reaction of the president when he visited on his way to Abidjan. I still remember the college very well. In the early 80s when I lived in Lagos, I visited it a couple of times. It is important to realise that there are other police colleges and other institutions in Nigeria which are at the same, if not worse, state of decay. Police College Ikeja is in fact, the real face of Nigeria, a country that has undergone shameful decay because those who were supposed to look after it became corrupt, lost their values and misused the money for its development. For the police force, the result for Nigeria has been a very ineffective, under resourced, ill-trained, ill-equipped, and corrupt police force that has attracted people with ulterior motives; unable to maintain the peace: investigate crimes and bring criminals to justice. A police force that engages in extortion, indiscriminate abuse of its powers, summary execution of criminals and sometimes colludes with criminals for gains. The consequences are the menaces of kidnapping, armed robbery, Boko Haram, break down of law and order and the gradual disintegration of Nigeria.
It is also important to ask why this has happened. It is a fact that every year since the independence of Nigeria, considerable amounts have been budgeted for the up keep and running of police college Ikeja and many similar institutions. We must now ask what happened to the money. Well, we know. Successive IGs of police, many senior police officers, state governors, presidents, Ministers, commissioners etc., whose duties and responsibilities included to maintain, nurture and develop policing and other institutions in Nigeria, embezzled the money and used it to become millionaires. If 50% of what Balogun, one time IG of police stole from the Nigeria police force is recovered, Nigeria can build three state of the arts police colleges. What happened to him? A slap on the wrist and he is free enjoying his loot, while the police force he was supposed to develop lies in ruin. The president, who anchored the deal that secured his loot, probably because they share the same ethnic group, has the audacity to lecture Nigerians on corruption and walk about as an elder statesman.
What has happened to the many state governors who stole their states dry, and ministers who pocketed billions earmarked for roads, schools and other necessary infrastructures? What has the government done about the ex-governor whose wife sits in the supreme Court and who secured permanent immunity from prosecution for corruption, something unheard of anywhere in the world? One of the presidential spokespersons is a man whose company was awarded a contract for roads in his state. His company collected the money but did not do the work. Our dear saintly president does not see anything wrong in making such a person one of his spokespersons. Of course his own benefactor is an ex- governor convicted for monumental corruption when our dear president was his deputy. In President Goodluck Jonathan’s state of Origin Bayelsa are many illegal oil refineries which have created the worst environmental disaster in the world. The president has been unable to close these illegal oil bunkering sites and the rot continues. Today oil bunkering is an organised crime in Nigeria and the government has done nothing concrete to address it. No people can adopt the attitude Nigerian leaders adopt towards crimes and develop. When will president Good Luck Jonathan bring all those who have looted and continue to loot Nigeria to Justice to save Nigeria from oblivion?
My point is that a fire brigade and emotionally laden response, intended to shower up popularity for political gain, will not bring the deserved result; if the root cause of the problem is not tackled. I have gown cynical of a government that knows what to do, but refuses to do it, and at the same time; works hard to be seen as different: when all it offers is more of the same. Nigerians and the government must deal with a culture of corruption, criminality and impunity which are at the heart of our problems. Anything else is simply self-deception. There is no point refurbishing a ship with a gaping hole in its hull. It will go down. The corruption that created the dilapidated Ikeja police college is still present and waxing stronger, in Abuja and all states capitals in Nigeria. Our transformation president did well to visit police college Ikeja. However, he can do better by leading by example in the war against corruption. The few things he can do are:
- Publicly declaring his own assets and letting Nigerians know how he acquired them.
- Reducing the cost of government. At 80% of the recurrent expenditure it is simply criminal for lack of a better word. No country can spend 80% of its GDP on government and survive.
- Do something about the exorbitant and shylock interest rate in Nigeria. No nation can grow their economy on the current interest rate in Nigeria. The Banks are simply making its money by keeping stolen monies by politicians. It is impossible to borrow money for investment at the current interest rate and make profit. The government has to get real with the economy.
- Empower EFCC to do its work without interference by making it an independent agency like FBI.
- Stop protecting corrupt politicians.
- Demonstrate by the way he and his wife conduct themselves and the companies they keep that they abhor corruption. He is yet to see anything wrong with his wife being appointed permanent secretary in Bayelsa state when she is holding an office supported by government budget as First lady. If this is not corruption, then corruption must have different and peculiar meaning in Nigeria. Only a leader prepared to lead by example and not by precept, can lead Nigeria out of this mess.
- Send bills to the national assembly outlining the necessary reforms in the civil service and judiciary that would make corruption very difficult to get away with. The continued politicisation of the civil service and increasing power of governors to sack civil servants are death nails to the coffins of Nigeria as a viable nation which a good government most remove to save her. We either nurture a culture of democracy, accountability, due process and the rule law by standing up to arbitrariness, impunity and corruption no matter the person involved; or watch helplessly while self-appointed, morally depraved and corrupt leaders destroy our future as a country and a people.
These are some of the things any serious, honest and sincere leader, administration or government faced with a situation like Nigeria, with institutionalised corruption would do. The big question is why has successive Nigerian government failed to apply the simple remedies that are known to work in situations like Nigeria? Why has the government continued to allow crime to pay in Nigeria? Why has the government refused to give impetus to institutions that are set up to deal with corruption in the country? Why has the government refused to make the needed and necessary reforms in our judicial and civil service necessary to stem corruption? One must also ask loudly why successive Nigerian governments have shied away from implementing institutional reforms which is the most effective way of addressing institutionalised corruption.
The Nigerian situation is both precarious and unique. It is perhaps the first time in modern times that criminals are actually in government and good men are outside it. The simple fact is that the worst of Nigerians are in power and nothing can be achieved until honest, civilised and right thinking Nigerians regain power and once again begin to use it to make life better for the ordinary Nigerians. Olusegun Obasanjo, ex-president recently said that our legislative houses are full of criminals and our own president has said that an ex-convict is his benefactor. May be, because of the endemicity of corruption the revulsion of Nigerians towards it has blunted and we no longer see how evil and repulsive it is. Corruption is the biggest blot in our image and the fact that we have a government that seems to defer to criminals and refuses to address corruption head on, is a tragedy. If one can draw a parallel with America in the days of the mobs, it is the AL capons that are in state houses and sit in our parliament. If not, how can a normal right thinking person entrusted with power to make his state better, misappropriate 6.45 billion Naira and buy 48 houses in four years? This is the governor of the state with the worst environmental disaster in form of oil pollution in the world. His crime is a record in stealing government funds. It is indeed a crime against humanity considering the level of poverty amongst the people he stole from. I am unable to fathom out why the federal government of Nigeria is not addressing the simple question of why is it so easy to steal government founds. A good government would quickly discover the weakest link and fix it to start with. We cannot succeed with our current attitude to corruption. We can pray, fast as long as we want, visit Rome, Mecca and Jerusalem, if the government does not change its current attitude to corruption, Nigeria has no future. We need the change which will bring development, accountability and swift , certain retribution for crimes and ensure that no one, no matter his position, title or connections benefits from corruption. At this point, Nigeria is indeed a criminal’s paradise.
Until the government makes sure that those who commit crimes against Nigerians are brought to justice and ensure that they do not benefit from their crimes, Nigeria will continue to be seen as a place where crime pays. Certainly the many corrupt politicians, who are living in their hill top houses driving their bullet proof cars and flying in their private jets, are evidence that Nigeria is not serious about fighting corruption. The many unsolved murders of innocent Nigerians which the government has refused to investigate and unearth the truth because of those involved, will continue to hunt Nigeria and show the world the type of leadership Nigeria has. Nigerian leaders should get serious, the deceit is over, it is time to perform and uphold the constitution or step aside. The wasted generation has grown impatient and without immediate change, kidnapping, armed robbery, Boko and Fulani herdsmen terrorisms will get worse.
Police College Ikeja is a true microcosm of the state of Nigeria. The east of Nigeria is full of roads whose contracts were awarded to companies like Hardel & Enic which collected the money and did not do the work. A town like Aba has no pipe borne water and sewage system. Lack of good roads and menace of kidnapping has destroyed the economy. The contracts for these necessary infrastructures have been awarded many times but never executed. The government is busy running rackets that channel rates into private pockets in the name of privatisation. The owners of Hardel & Enic walk the corridors of Aso Rock and head the PDP in their states. In my own state, Abia, aka ‘Gods own state’, which seems to be perpetually in devils own hands, no single real development has taken place since it was created. The current governor, who came from prison to assume power has yet to demonstrate that he understand what the people expect from him.
Successive governments in Abia state from the time of Ogbonnaya Onu have simply stolen from the state. Today, Ogbonnaya Onu lives a comfortable life from money he stole while he was governor of Abia state. Orji Uzor Kalu, the man who held court with his mother in Abia state for 8 years is busy plotting to return to political prominence without any evidence of what he achieved as a governor. Charges against him for corruption are still pending as those of all other ex-governors who looted the treasury. These men who parade themselves as Igbo leaders are no better than common criminals. I suppose they need to give account of their previous stewardship before asking for the people’s mandate to lead them again. They all , with very little exemption, stole so much that the average commissioner stole enough to buy a house in London, a mansions in Abuja, Umuahia and their villages. They are all millionaires simply because at a point in their life, they had the privilege to serve their people and betrayed them. If we continue to do the same thing, we will get the same result. It is time to think and act differently, if we want to save Nigeria from certain death.
This is how deep and pervasive corruption has ravaged the fabrics of Nigeria. Abia state government has not built a single school in twenty years and there is no plan to address the real cause of the endemic kidnapping and acquisitive crimes in the state which is lack of social investment and stimulation of economy that can create jobs. The least I can do is to shout about it and this I will continue to do. This is not a time to be diplomatic about corruption or keep quite because the criminal is one’s kinsman. It is a time to call corruption by its rightful names and force the perpetrators out and put them where they belong. Without it, we have no future. I will continue to focus on corruption and hope that soon Nigerians will become as sensitised about it as the Indians have become and come together to tell the politicians that enough is enough. In a time of crisis, to do nothing, is to do something positively wrong.
Please have a look at the picture of Nigeria the world see.
Link: http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2013/01/nigerians-illegal-oil-refineries/100439/ (via shareaholic.com)