A mere three days after President Goodluck Jonathan erected a Police checkpoint and extorted money from governors who were starving civil servants in yuletide, he quipped that Nigeria suffered from lack of a sense of shame!
President Jonathan spoke to veteran actors who had come to sell him their pet project, a Hall of Fame. Jonathan proposed that the country needed the very antithesis of what the actors wanted: Nigeria needed a Hall of Shame ‘’ where the names of criminals would be written”. Such museum of anathemas ‘’will serve as deterrent to those who may want to indulge in criminal activities, as they would not want to soil their family names’’.
Truly, Nigerian needs rapprochement with the sense of shame. Our value system has experienced deteriorative evolution. We used to have ostracism as bulwark against pronounced crimes. Those who appeared with money that had no roots in dignified labor were ridiculed. They were held up as negative models. They spent the rest of their lives under the punishment of stigma and derision.
We have since transitioned. From a society that abominates stealing of any kind to one that celebrates the most atrocious in-your-face heists. Hundreds of adults hire themselves out for protests in support of public officials who prey on the treasury. We have become so self-hating that we trump fans of Barabbas. We wield placards and march under the burning sun, campaigning for those who pocket money earmarked for development of infrastructure and citizen welfare. We style them as victims persecuted because they belong to the wrong party or tribe. So the thieves increase like a plague of locusts. And they commit iniquities with ostentatious arrogance.
There is a need to roll back the escalating temerity with which they taunt the law and good sense. We need to humble them and relocate them to their due place in infamy.
But the idea that crimes can be checked by engraving the names of criminals on tablets of stone while the bearers of the name, walk about freely, licensed to continue their trade, is ludicrous. We see many big people make banner headlines for acts of corruption. The appearance of their names on the front page of newspapers circulated round the country and on the internet has not dissuaded others from ‘’soiling their family name’’. So how can transferring the name of a criminal from newsprint to fossil prevent crime? This is tawdry ingenuity!
No country has ever tried to conquer criminality by building a beautiful monument. Serious countries make good use of their prisons. And they don’t pack their prisons full with pickpockets. They send the big thieves to jail too.
President Jonathan would have us believe that he is allergic to criminals. But he has proved time and again that he has Patience for a good number of them. His fashion is to wax his ears when a wrongdoing of great cost leaks. He would rock the chair of inaction and let the fire of public outrage burn out.
There is a certain Stella Oduah. She was the Minister of Aviation. She procured two bulletproof BMW cars at the inflated rate of 225 million naira. The House of Representatives investigated the transaction and indicted Oduah for breaching the 2013 Appropriation Act. The President set up a committee to review the same purchase. The committee turned in a report that established that Oduah had committed an actionable offence.
President Jonathan kept her on the job until the last incensed voice petered out. He waited till the scam was long forgotten before letting Oduah go. The President could not afford to offend the lady. Or to feed her to the ravenous mob who were calling for her head. He let her to go nicely. The grateful Jonathan remembered Oduah helped bring him to power through her Neighbor to Neighbor campaign platform.
There is one Abdulrasheed Maina. He was Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team. He wrought the most horrendous theft of pensioners’ savings in Nigerian history. Maina roamed around Abuja like a ritual animal. Sacred and untouchable. The police declared him wanted. But nobody touched him. Maina is now living it up in a safe haven in the Middle East. The President didn’t embarrass him. Maina was a friend of the Villa.
There is one Mohammed Abacha. Son of former dictator, Sani Abacha. He was actively involved in an orgy of looting that spanned the length of father’s stay in power. The Federal Government of Nigeria dropped the 446.3 billion naira theft charge it was prosecuting against him. The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, explained that the withdrawal of the case was done in the best interest of the country.
What’s the national interest in discontinuing effort to recover the country’s stolen money? We soon found out it was President Jonathan’s re-election. He needs to win the votes of the populous state of Kano. He cut a covenant with Abacha. He would grant Abacha freedom to enjoy his loot. And Abacha would campaign for Jonathan. Win-win, scratch-my-back-and-I-scratch-yours mutualism!
Presently, Jonathan harbors two characters that speak eloquently to his capacity to enjoy the presence of very disgusting characters. He is a loyal person who will not be pressured into relieving himself of the irreplaceable joy of their company.
First is Dieziani Allison-Madueke. She is the Minister of Petroleum. She blew 10 billion naira hiring private jets for her junkets. When the figure came to light, people screamed at the prodigality gone mad. I imagined that the amount arranged into a stack of 1000 naira bills would be taller than Dieziani herself. But President Jonathan concentrated on weightier matters of state. He would have acted if some billions far more significant than that had been lost.
Wastage of 10 billion naira constitutes two thousand and fourteen positive opportunity costs. But one can be easily ascertained by tapping the calculator. Nigeria pays the minimum wage earner in Federal civil service 18,000 per month. The 10 billion that Madueke gave wings to could have settled the one year salary of 46,296 minimum wage earners.
Even the evaporation of an amount reported to range between $49.8 billion to $20 billion from the coffers of NNPC didn’t make the President bestir himself. Madueke is the apple of President Jonathan’s eyes. She remains on her perch till this day.
There is one Abba Moro. He is the face of the biggest state sponsored job scam in the world. He defrauded applicants and orchestrated a bogus recruitment exercise that saw various stadiums across the country running over with people. There were no arrangements for crowd control. Chaos and desperation caused stampedes. People were trampled. The job seekers found death.
Jonathan should have been scandalized. He should sacked Moro and instructed that he answer for the bloodshed. Moro deserves the dingiest cell of the maximum prison. But President Jonathan has kept Moro on in the position of Minister of Internal Affairs, a portfolio that gives the scam merchant the responsibility of overseeing Nigerian prisons. The irony is the most eligible Nigerian for prison tenancy is superintending the prisons.
Under Moro’s watch, Nigeria has witnessed a pandemic of jail breaks, unprecedented in spread and frequency. The blood of the murdered applicants should have been sufficient grounds. But even when it’s added to Moro’s incompetence, President Jonathan still finds Moro a good Minister to keep.
Jonathan is not a selfish man. That’s why he wants shame distributed abroad while he goes without any portion. He surely believes the criminals who are most deserving of pillory are those who are not his cronies. But if Jonathan would look in the mirror, he will see the one who deserves the lion’s share of shame. Though, you can be sure that his concept of shame is different.
President Jonathan has a dictionary that jars with the one the rest of mankind is familiar with. He has a malleable lexicon. A lexicon that can be hammered into any shape to suit expediency. In his book, corruption is anything but stealing. And he runs Nigeria on the basis of rigged meanings.
When he hosted a fundraiser that violated the explicit provisions guiding donations to a political campaign, he acted like one without any understanding to shame. When he grabbed dirty money and stuffed his campaign purse with it, he showed that he was a hostage of avarice. When he took money from governors that placed civil servants in Akwa Ibom, Benue, Cross River, and Plateau on interminable fasting, he showed that he needed a sense of shame more than a huge war chest.
Since that night, President Jonathan has shown no contrition. He has refused to return the filthy lucre. He would only bother to rationalize that the money went to his campaign and not his private pocket.
Last time, President Jonathan ran without shoes. This time, he will run on the theme of another lack: Lack of a sense of shame!
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu
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