|Friday, September 28, 2018|
Nnewi, Anambra State, Nigeria
ecently, the already tensed Nigerian socio-political scene has watched the play out of events which have pulled together the attention of so many minds within the polity: so many arguments have been advanced for and against; camps and battle lines are drawn and in the recent happenings, one hears echoes of jubilation of the "victors" alongside the mourning moods of the "vanquished"; the most recent Nigerian atmosphere jitters with debate, political confrontations and propaganda, caricature of persons and characters, as well as the officially enthroned socio-political weapon - "whistleblowing".
The incessant reports of defection from one political party to another have rendered the constitutional assignment of the national assembly comatose: old enemies are beginning to find each other's smiles again; some parties' avowed "prodigal sons and daughters", who felt molested, ignored or neglected by their present owners, are making their ways back home after an apparent disappointment; many alienating voices that spitted venoms during the last elections are now beginning to lick back their spits; expressions of disappointment and betrayal are being heard against the present administration, alongside distributed camps that 'canonise' the same administration and are ready to spill even their blood to buy them another ticket; the "never-get-tired" old politicians are beginning again to align with each other with the language of coalition, being bent on breaking any jinx that would tend to exclude them in the coming elections; and so many other events. The Nigerian system and structure is a clouded matrix of socio-political vicissitudes. The present socio-political picture only shows that it is not yet "uhuru" - the Swahili word "uhuru" means "freedom" in English.
But amidst all this noise, the Nigeria Finance Minister, who for quite some time now, had to grapple with the unfortunate and negative concept of "nigerianism", which she may not have known or was never prepared to face, despite being temporarily domiciled in the country for some time now, got the shock of her life: an online medium - sponsored or independent - welded into her catalogue of documents to reveal to the world, that in the country called Nigeria, the Finance Minister is to be indicted for forgery, with regard to her Certificate of Exemption from the constitutional National Youth Service Corps programme (NYSC). The discovery, media reports and the recent case of resignation have met reactions and counter reactions, and has as well put Nigeria again in the limelight. The present writer seeks not just a moral justification for or against any camp, but to ask the relevant questions about Nigeria's approach to the rule of law in our general polity.
So many questions trailed my mind: Who are the other culprits in the present case of forgery, if the investigations should confirm the revelations? What official statement could be taken home from the constitutional institution or body, the document of which has been falsified? Who were those entrusted with responsibilities within the institution in question, when this "exhibit of forgery" was issued? Did Kemi make a formal request for this certificate in writing, to whom and can we trace the letter or email? Do we have information about what was paid for the certificate, to which institution or individual, in cash or by bank transfer, and if through bank, can we still not trace the transaction? Kemi indicated that there were, with regard to obtaining a certificate of exemption, "those I thought were trusted associates", and the question is, who are they and could they still explain how and where the certificate was obtained, or are we going to keep them anonymous and thwart the rule of law? What actually went wrong, that a document allegedly forged, has remained operational, after passing some screenings both in the state and national assembly? What triggered the special investigation - has Kemi stepped on toes, or did she unknowingly enter the den of the 'cabals'? I choose now to stop the questions and talk about facts.
In the present situation, one would only stand on the factual premise, that the alleged forgery remains deeply shrouded in the activities of so many players on the scene, whose episodes tell the same story of Nigeria and her bane with "nigerianism". It was my kinsman and a hero of foresight, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, who perfectly described what the concept should mean: - In the concept of Nigerianism, one finds unabated the pestilence of corruption and taking of bribes; inordinate love of money, ostentatious living and irresponsibility; squandermania amidst abject poverty; greed and insensitivity to the plight of the poor masses; money-mongers who amass wealth, impoverish their land and pile-stock away the loots in already developed economies, thereby inflicting constant grief to their own land in conjunction with some political and economic "parasites" in the international scenes; in Nigerianism, election into public office is the opportunity to loot and enrich oneself not to serve the people to whom power belongs, etc., (Chukwuemaka Odumegwu Ojukwu, "The Ahiara Declaration -The Principles of the Biafran Revolution - The General of the People, Ahiara Village, Biafra, 1st June, 1969). This prophetic indictment of Nigeria and her ways was echoed more that forty-nine (49) years ago, but the fact remains that after these long years, the story remains unchanged, the evils remain persistent and the perpetrators only change batons and continue their selfish spree. It is the parable of a wasted generation. Maybe we have to add immediately: In Nigerianism, there is no word like "resign" or "resignation", even when it has become clear that the masses have had enough of everything and have decided to evoke the 16th century principle: "Vox populi, vox Dei (vox aequitatis)" - the voice of the people is the voice of God (the voice of justice).
But the finance minister, Kemi Adeosun, has acted differently, explaining the fact that her background is different. As a matter of good conscience, this background should play a further role in assisting any further investigations, so that the evil would be nipped in the bud. The present administration must know that all eyes, both local and international, are watching to see, whether the Nigerianism in us plays out once more to sweep this crime against integrity under the carpet the Nigerian way, or that we avail ourselves the golden opportunity to prove that the slogan of "change", which the administration have claimed to be the 'mantra' of operation, is not empty and deceptive.
Reading through the resignation letter presented, one can unequivocally pin down the feelings, pains and emotions running through the well-chosen words and phrases. I did not just read in-between the lines, I read "in-the-between" of the lines and the deepest feelings of betrayal and shame running through. One may need no further difficulty to understand the expression "to become privy", knowing that the suspect herself took up a position capable of making her prey to the evils of Nigerian politics. Indeed, she has become privy to the dare political and socio-economic devils of a polity she is foreign to. It only took the time-frame they allotted the dispensation of her office before they struck.
To the millions of us other Nigerians, who were born and bred in the unfortunate system, the situation has regrettably added again to the experiences of the helpless masses, who have been pushed and pressed deep into the echelon of misery by political and socio-economic inhumanity, being perpetrated by chains of administrative maladies, which repeat their turns in the general polity. We keep watching the "do or die" affairs in the system of Nigerian politics, where politicians embrace occultism in other to secure political positions at their own vested interests; we are all not privy to, but rather we are witnesses to the robbery of our human rights, freedom and dignity in broad daylight. The Nigerian political posts and positions have become the scarce resources and in the scramble for them, people kill and maim. The most recent victim is the finance minister. If she should be indicted, the law is no respecter of persons, but she must have shown the first and right step by doing the honourable thing - resignation. If she should be proved innocent - Be our Hero, Kemi.
The finance minister was privy to the fact, that in spite of her right steps and approaches to those she "thought were trusted associates", the invincible "Brutus and his betrayal" waited to strike at the right time. Millions of us other Nigerians know we are living in a conglomerated jungle, where the survival is for the fittest; where honesty has become a game of luck; where authenticity is cajoled and forgery canonised as smartness; where many of us are ready to sacrifice integrity just for a piece of "fiscal-porridge"; where your friend or family can betray you just for wishful gains. It is a broad daylight robbery of our freedom and integrity, if we live, at present, in a system that imprison non-violent agitators and revolutionists, declaring them terrorists, while at the same time sympathising and condoning "killer-herdsmen" who are on the loose committing murder, rape and hooliganism. The Finance Minister is not alone in the jungle experience. The anomalies in our government and social institutions and parastatals, those responsible for the issuance of documents and certification of same, hold so many of us Nigerians as potential suspects in both local and international communities. On a general level, one sees as well the menace of internet scams and the abuse of computer literacy, which ravage the entire world in general and in particular, the Nigeria society.
Perhaps, fate and the grace of God I believe in has it that way that I did not go to prison. It was 10:00 am on that fateful day at the premises of "Verkehrsamt" - the Road Traffic Licensing Department, where one finds the agency for the issuance of European Driver's Licence. As a student on further studies at the University of Vienna, Austria, time came for me to transcribe my Nigerian driver's licence and make it readable and acceptable in the European society where I have my temporary domicile. My documents and the driver's licence in question were accepted for further correspondences with them, since I made my application within the expected time. As it is their practice in Austria, I was informed that my submissions would receive the corresponding "Ermittlungsverfahren" - Investigation. I agreed proudly and gave my consent to their practices, after all, this is a document I carried about in Nigeria, paying and renewing the document as and when due, as a responsible citizen. Seven months later, I was still waiting to receive the outcome of the investigation. By the tenth month, I ran out of patience and had to book another appointment to enquire about the causes of the delay. I was told to still be patient since they felt that my case would take a longer time. But I never wanted to waste further time since I had a target with the driver's licence. I simply gave them instruction to stop any further moves, while I take an alternative option available, which was to drop the Nigerian driver's licence and register afresh with an Austrian driving school. That I did, but my case just began.
Some months passed and I had to receive a letter and invitation from the criminal police alleging that I submitted to a constitutional agency in a foreign land a forged document and exhibit. At first, I felt insulted like a proud Nigerian and an Igbo man, but I refused to rush into the conclusion that it was yet another plight of an African in a Western world. I later honoured the invitation and faced the panel of enquiry I met. I was determined, with the minimal German language and vocabularies I had learnt, to put up the argument, that the fact that our Nigerian driver's licence receives no outright acceptance in Europe does not make it inauthentic or a forged document. I fought my way through, while they watched patiently my battle with the German language and arguments. Perhaps impressed with my efforts and struggles to put my mind across, they opened their wealth of experiences to me and showed me documents and their encounters. They showed me scientific computer analysis, print-outs and reports of the Nigerian driver's licence I submitted, which they have begun to do but with no indication, that the document and the number exist anywhere. With their knowledge and telephone confirmation that I had been enrolled into a certified driving school in Austria, my case file was taken by the side and suspended, but the accusation and suspicion must remain pending against me for a period of one year, with the mandate that the "Anklage" - accusation, would only be dropped and erased with two demands on me which I must meet, namely: 1. The completion and passing of the driving programme; 2. That I do not commit any offense within the year that my accusation was pending. I met the demands and I was cleared.
A visit to Nigeria immediately after the experience, I approached the Road Safety Commission office in Lagos. First, to present the data I have from my former driver's licence which I have been dispossessed of, since the criminal police ceased it as an exhibit. It was further disappointing and embarrassing that information about a driver's licence that I paid for, renewed as and when due and was using to ply the Nigerian roads; a document that was being checked often and on by the constituted institution and personnel - had no traceable information and registration anywhere. The questions that occupied my mind, remembering the information I had in the data page are: What went wrong in the local government area and State where it was issued? Who was responsible? Whose signature would be seen identifiable in the document? Where was the licence printed and with what code? What should we see as the connection between the constitutional institutions entrusted with issuance of documents in the Nigerian context and the later development that gave birth to the word "agents" (or in my own words "conscripted helpless touts"), who move about searching out for their victims with the full knowledge of the "Oga at the top"? It is really quite unfortunate. It remains the persistent problem of Nigerianism.
One continues to wonder why the "qualified" remain deficient in our political economy. The recent development and defamatory saga answers the question and exposes the recklessness with which Nigeria disrespects and devalues her human ecology. It shows further the hijack of the general polity and the reign of the cabals. And one of the most powerful strategy of Cabal-Regimes is to pull down all forms of intellectual, personnel and institutional machinations capable of the sustenance of development and freedom, while on the other hand embracing mediocrity and callousness. One asks the question: What prospects of sustainability await us and the future generation in a country that haunts developers, expels innovators and kills talents? The recent development and political feud involving the finance minister, Kemi Adeosun, is yet another exhibit, by commission or omission, of a young innovator, who may have culpably or misguidedly, lost the chance of giving her country a sustainable innovating service. Of course her words may have signalled to many, that it is no more business as usual; her decisions and actions must have struck the chord of distaste for both friends and foes. Who knows? But it remains the bane of our political economy. The whole socio-political events since Nigeria's independence portray a near culture of expelling the "qualified" and embracing mediocrity in leadership skins. And because we do not appreciate what we have, we remain condemned to read the progressive history of other nations, in contrast to the inferiority complex we have built for ourselves in the international community. The average Nigerian taken to be a failure at home, embraces a culture that offers him or her the needed prospects and opportunities, and the same person writes history.
As you make your bed, so you would lie on it. The extremism existent in the constant feud over political posts and portfolios has robbed the country of so many brains and innovators, coupled with the dart with which our general approach degenerates into feelings tied on ethnic lines. The structure is and remains a designed problem and demands re-structuring, but the trend of events in the country gives Nigeria away as a hijacked concept. As a young man at a younger age who bought a car out of the money he put so much effort to raise and save, I marvelled at a Nigerian mentality, which as well plays itself out in so many facets of our existence as a polity. I was mocked and cajoled when some of my colleagues heard my decision to purchase a plate-number for the car with data from my own Local Government and State, Anambra. I was rather pressured to get for such a flashy and pleasure car, a plate-number with Lagos or Abuja data. I could not reconcile the connection between a person living and working in Anambra State and the purchase of vehicle identification data from a place where the vehicle rarely plies. Some of the empty arguments were: "Lagos numbers are more respected; plate numbers from Lagos look more dignifying; it sounds better to read AA-----------JJJ than to read AN-------------NNE", which represents the true district and Local Government Area where I come from. I found the whole discussion and argument childish. Of course, I did what was right. Conversely as well, there abound evidences about the disdain which people experience when they use their local vehicle numbers to ply these metropolitan areas, how they are being constantly subjected to unnecessary and sometimes excruciating scrutiny, which often ends in extortion. It is really an outright intimidation and a strategized misplacement of values.
As an inference, one sees in the Nigerian structure, the same culture of hate, disregard and abuse of what one has and has the duty to protect and propagate. To maintain the looting-spree within a corrupt system of governance - Nigeria on focus, "…the political profiteers, the swindlers, the men in high and low places that seek bribes and demand 10 percent…."* - the same word heard 52 years ago during the first executed and later aborted military coup within the structure called Nigeria; they that still fit into that description up to our present dispensation, always keep vigil with the "Sword of Damocles", waiting to unleash it on any soul that stands on their way. The finance minister may have been a victim, but she is not the only one and may not be the last until our collective political will is resuscitated to do the right thing.
If the finance minister was a victim of ill-advice or betrayal or that she herself was culpably conscious of this misdeed, the rule of law applies in either way. But as the investigation lasts, let us not forget that those who make their mark in history remain only those visionaries who stand their ground to do the right thing, applying the ethics of conviction and responsibility. In such ethics, conviction about what is just, right and noble must inform decisions and actions, and those who live with those convictions may have nothing to fear when called upon to take responsibility for their actions. A convinced and humane former Governor of my State, Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, had it during his tenure of office not only as a slogan but as a conviction: "The society we help them abuse today would take its revenge on our tomorrow". When the political structure of Nigeria continues to repeat mistakes, exile talents and witch-hunt innovators unjustly, then the general polity must know that our political redemption stays in limbo. My take is simple: Until all the right steps are taken to restructure this polity and reform institutions and policies - it is not yet "Uhuru".