Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah is Nigeria’s most prolific public intellectual. He is our most capped lecturer on civics and good governance. A nagging citizen, apt to speak to the self-sabotaging giant.
He soiled his bishopric when he undertook, as spokesman of the National Peace Committee, to announce a beatitude that is phenomenally incongruent with his bona fides.
After the visit of General Abdusalami Abubukar-led group to President Muhammadu Buhari, Kukah reported that they had given Buhari the recipe for peace. They had counseled Buhari to deep-six the probe of the runaway plunder that characterized his predecessor’s administration.
‘’ There is no such thing as probe in a democratic setting like ours. What obtains is investigation, and once people lead and things are not right, investigation becomes necessary.
‘’However, in doing that, we must never be distracted from the spectacular actions undertaken by former President Jonathan. He is an individual. I think this whole thing about probe can be ascertained once investigations are concluded. But we are saying that a lot of talks and speculation about this probe are the distractions nobody needs.
‘’So, the most important thing is that we need a stable country first, before we can talk about these things. And they will have happened down the line.’’
I am tempted to laugh at the hairsplitting. Investigations and probes. The delineation amuses like former President Jonathan’s ‘’stealing is not corruption.’’ The checking irony, though, is that this hairsplitting is the offshoot of the consequences of the other hairsplitting.
For a start, the National Peace committee is trespassing. The members did a good job of getting the frontline candidates to publicly commit to violence-free polls. As far as symbolisms go, they helped allay fears of an imminent bloodbath. But they are trying to parley that role into an authority to interrupt the President.
They, certainly, have rights as individuals and as a collective to present their misgivings about the probe or any other policy that agitates them. That’s the farthest all citizens are allowed. They cannot turn their stated aim of “building peace before and after the general elections” into a mandate to parade as supreme enforcers of national tranquility.
And even when you look past their ego trip, their objection to the probe is empty of merit. They proffered no convincing rationale. They seemed to be satisfied that invoking PEACE would suffice to nobble us.
They read us right.
We are a vulnerable market. We are all supposed to ingest the THOU SHALL NOT PROBE commandment because it has peace warranty. We are desperate for the cessation of the orgy of bloodshed within our borders.
Surely, we would try any canned concoction or suggestion touted as an answer of peace. We want to lead quiet lives. We want freedom from fear.
They read us right. Just like the feisty First Lady who rebranded herself ‘’Mama Peace’’ for the campaign season!
But they misconstrued peace.
In their imaginings, peace is a precious ointment that trickles down from the top of the pyramid. It starts with the corrupt political class and courses down to the large base of their victims. It falls down from the privileged table like breadcrumbs.
Their peace is a spillover of the ease of the topmost caste. If we broached the subject of interrogation, they would feel affronted. They would be obligated to detonate a crisis. They would scotch the earth and inflict on us losses over and above what we hope to gain from recovering part of their loot. And we would wind up wishing we had not coveted the goods they stole from us.
Without doubt, this is an advocacy for genuflection to criminality. A campaign for surrender to the capacity of the thieves for mischief. A campaign for a cowardly state.
The overarching fallacy is that probes and national stability are mutually exclusive. Probes would shatter the brittleness of national peace. National peace abhors inquisition.
Contrary to their thinking, we need to confront the relevance of the past to today’s distress to have a lasting relief. The probe is a step towards peace. Positive peace that gives everybody no less than their due and allows nobody no more than the exact recompense for their labor.
Our indulgence has only served to encourage the violators. Our tireless effort at appeasing them has ensured the metastasizing of their impudence – looting progressively from thousands, millions, billions, trillions. Our willingness to remain martyrs to their banditry makes us complicit collaborators.
The road not taken is disrupting the system. Meting an equal opportunity disincentive to treasury looters. Making pain and regret the aftermath of every verified act of stealing.
The logic,’’ we need a stable country first, before we can talk about these things’’, is one of order. Order as the correct sequence of the things and order as a state of normalcy. The peacemakers concede that we might need to discuss a probe but not now. The discourse has to hold at a point in the future. For now, the stability of the country takes precedence.
Which constrains you to ask when that time will come. Next year? Two years into Buhari’s tenure? On the eve of another presidential elections? Long after the looters would have tucked the last pilfered billion into an unfathomable blackhole?
Perhaps the right time to probe will be when the peace psychologists have ascertained that no Nigerian feels threatened by an opportunity to be vindicated. After we have all evolved to embrace probes as a means of deconstructing our fiscal confusion.
Of course, that time is likely to come sooner than when one herbalist in my village would have found the cure for cancer and won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for the feat!
It’s very difficult to make sense of this gushing sensitivity to malevolent thieves. Is it amazing grace or unconditional love? This doting on adults who can answer for themselves.
This putative quest for peace makes no allowance for the affirmation of the robbed. It doesn’t feature their right to justice in the scheme of things. It’s all about protecting the pride of the looters, saving them from the portent of disgrace.
Their anti-probe protest is the reiteration of robbery. It is the misappropriation of empathy. Denying the victim and romancing the violator. Validating the dignity of the looting class and insulting the endurance of the impoverished masses.
The peacemakers force the image of a seesaw: Few looters on one side, the impoverished multitude on the other side and a segregating Live and Let Live fulcrum between them!
In the name of peace, the peace vanguard convicts Buhari of ingratitude. He is letting slip from his memory ‘’the spectacular actions of former President Jonathan’’. In order words, he is forgetting that he is the creation of Jonathan’s concession.
That one minute telephone call is more equal than the thievery that so flagrantly undergirded Jonathan’s six years long regime. The ‘’spectacular actions’’ of conceding and vacating the Villa qualify him and his aides for eternal peace.
For good measure, they advised that the probe would ‘’distract’’ Buhari. He needs to make a success of his own tenure. Not to dredge up the failures of his predecessor.
And that’s where it gets very ridiculous. Because the interlopers purporting to help Buhari laser-focus on his job are the distraction. The meddlers so concentrated on swaying the President off course are the distraction.
One of our commonest tropes is ‘’moving the nation forward’’. By mouthing that cliché, we wish to infuse the cripple with speed. But our history continues to be a mere tally of stolen yesterdays.
Funny enough, the peacemakers are preaching that we will attain escape velocity by freezing accounting. We will force an innocent dawn to emerge from this generation of pillage by the practice of forgiving and forgetting corruption. Hurling deliberate amnesia and amnesty at the jinx.
The necessity of probes is a no-brainer. Nigeria’s bane is the default of government as stealing. To remedy the situation requires the prioritization of the demolition of the infrastructure that makes government a conspiracy of thieves. It is the fundamental reform that cannot wait; a necessary prologue to progress.
Our lived experience tells us that a thoroughgoing corruption system will ruin the most promising policy. The greatest urgency for Nigeria is not a new set of government programs. It is destroying the cankerworm that has infiltrated our social metabolism and colonized it.
The alternative to delaying this reformation, as the peacemakers recommend, is untenable. The longer we delay the war against communal robbery, the more our country will plunge deeper into decadence.
It’s in our best interest to insist that the probe exposes the guilty. That the Buhari administration goes beyond indictment to exact punishment. Dock the crooks. Strip them of their filthy acquisition. Quarantine them in jail.
We just have to break this cycle of impunity. It’s the single most important threat to the survival of Nigeria and the prosperity of her people. We won’t win by creating a beatitude for thieves…
Blessed are the treasury looters…
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu
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