Why Politicians Steal

By Adeola Aderounmu

(The Guardian, 9-11-2002) 

THE problems in Nigeria are becoming too numerous to elucidate and an encounter with a typical Nigerian shows that many have resigned to fate for the solution to Nigeria’s problem if it will ever come. I have not stopped telling people that we can pray for now till eternity and Nigeria will get worse. We can have more churches than the Vatican city and more mosques than the Kingdom of Arabia and the standard of our lives will continue to drop and our worries multiply. It is not enough to pray, nay, but to act and take positive steps that will show that we are serious to help ourselves as a people and then heaven will help those who help themselves. Perhaps we are yet to realise that religion is one of our weaknesses, not because of upheavals attached to it, but because we always turn to God for help rather than demand our rights and privileges from those who rule us unjustly either by force or by deceiving us to get our votes. They are aware that we will not ask them, so they always take us for a ride. Despite all that has been over-flogged on the issue of corruption, is it not amazing that there are still sacred cows in the past and present dispensations?

One of the things that has constantly exposed us to the politicians and ex-military public office holders who constantly parade themselves around the corridors of power to loot and steal, is the inability of a neutral and genuine regulatory body to expose corruption and probe such when they are in or our of office. As a matter of fact, in advanced countries and in places where democracy is conventional (not home-grown), it is a matter of honour for a man or woman to resign or serve suspension when faced with speculations or allegations of impropriety in whatever form. The subsequent inquiry will make or mar such a soul. His image is dented forever. The immediate past President of America knows what it is to walk around with the life-long stigma of his former intern.

In Nigeria and maybe in our part of the world, people steal from us, we know it and they still come back to steal again. Hardly does anyone quit office even in the face of alleged or obvious financial misappropriation of funds and exaggeration of estacodes. This baffles me. Is there no way we can arraign all the former military and civilian public officers to come and give an account of their stewardship in office? Is it too late? Could there be so much silence and cover-ups because everybody who goes there steals? Is it a way to keep Nigeria one at the expense of the suffering masses? Is there no law against stealing, self-enrichment through public funds and corruption? Are there no provisions for these in our constitution? Those who are the custodians of our constitution owe us an explanation if we are not to take them as accomplices. Besides, because we have refused to ask them, some have summoned the courage to stage a return to our lives. Someone looted for eight years and even refused till date to tell us where the windfall of the gulf war is. Almost invariably, these rogues don’t act alone, they use our money to confuse a few accomplices who clear the terrain for them when the need arises. Some of us directly and indirectly are beneficiaries of these looted funds and therefore prefer to keep mute and act as if everything is in order.

If we must discourage looting of public funds or tax-payer’s money, then offenders should not only be removed or impeached from offices but also be made to refund until the last kobo and serve appropriate jail terms as dictated by the constitution. Some people should not be above the law. If the policemen involved in the Otokoto saga could face judgement, what happens to those who did worse things while in power? Are some human beings in Nigeria more equal than the others? Whatever happened to the funds recently recovered from the family of a former dictator, maybe it also ended in a new private account: who knows? Such money should have been dedicated to obvious public utility for posterity to see. The unarguable reality on ground is that the path to glory for Nigeria would mean a collective fight on all frontiers of our lives. We cannot afford to leave any stone unturned all in the name of national reconciliation; this will be a license to continuous looting of our treasury be it at the local or national level.

The handwriting on the wall is very legible right now with the hustling and race to government houses in the forthcoming elections. We have seen councillors who built houses in the last three years, we know those who used the present opportunity to travel to holy lands using taxpayers money. We have lost count of the numbers of cars that some politicians own. A House of representatives member bought GSM phones for the “powers that be” in his ward. Before now, he had disappeared and was out of reach of the people who voted for him.

Unless we check the abusive use of public money and privileges, politicians in this country will never know what it means to serve the people. It is about time the judiciary took its rightful diligent place in the present dispensation and a well-oriented police force will be a useful tool in this regard. The essence of our lives is being eroded, it must stop and we must start from somewhere.

aderounmu@gmail.com

Stockholm, Sweden

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Obasanjo, can you stop talking?

Adeola Aderounmu.

Since the elections that took place in April 2007, Obasanjo has been talking like a senseless adult and that is not the common way of elders in Nigeria. He openly accepted the failures and shortcomings of the elections. So, the question is: why did he fail in something he spent 4 years to prepare for? Does he know how much money and resources that he had wasted on INEC to conduct failed elections?

He wants Nigerians to accept his failures and indeed Nigerians will accept; it is a way of life in Nigeria to “always move on”. I have never seen a people so resilient my whole life! I am Nigerian and we are all collectively guilty of accepting failed leaders and therefore we have a failed system. This means poverty for over 100 million people!!!

Obasanjo does not want to use European standards to measure election in Nigeria. What does he want to use then? It is so ridiculous how people talk or think sometimes and yet they are leading others. It is a shame to Africa and Nigeria that someone like Obasanjo speaks in public. Obasanjo wants us to use failures to measure our National progress.

I have heard some thoughtless Nigerians argue that we should give our democracy some time to grow and evolve. For heaven sake, how much time do we need? Even countries that became independent or separated in recent years conduct better elections. What happened in Nigeria on April 14 and 21 2007 are not close to elections. Gansterism was on display on those 2 dates. Every decent person must condemn the acts and atrocities of the do-or-die people destroying people (PDP) party.

If Obasanjo is too old to accept his failures, at least he should be sensible enough to keep quiet. This is a man, like many before him, who cannot bend his head in shame. He predicted a do-or-die battle for his people and it came to pass. What a leader, lacking in vision and mission? Yes, we have external reserves thanks to Obasanjo. But what about the basic things of life, like food on the table, good roads, functional education and health systems, working transportation (rail, road and air)? Why was 8 years not enough to bring hope and eagerness into the suffering masses? What is the significance of the funds wasted on NEPA and then PHCN?

One thing that is apparent from recent events actually is that the opposition leaders, who I don’t see as better beings anyway, have nothing against the victory of Yar Adua. But they do not appreciate the manner in which he has been chosen and no one should appreciate or accept that. We need to start doing things the right way and we should start now. The future starts today and it is here with us. It will be wonderful to see the scrapping of INEC and the Obasanjo regime by whichever means possible. I insist that it is possible to conduct free and fair elections in Nigeria in 2007. We have men of honour who can deliver. They live in Nigeria and they are Nigerians.

WHY NIGERIA WILL NOT BE GREAT SOON

by Adeola Aderounmu.

Nigeria calls herself the giant of Africa. Please can someone tell Nigeria and Nigerians to wake up! Giant of where? Nigerians are giants only in their homes. They live under an illusion of pre-independence glory. They count on the dense population as a criterion to pronounce giant as a title. The events that have played out recently in Nigeria have precipitated the country to the lowest level of pity. Indeed, no one can take away the influence that Nigeria cast on the Africa continent or worldwide, but those influences will never be counted as greatness. Never!

In great countries and in giant nations, election time represents the voice of the people. It is a time to keep fate with a performing government or seek a change when necessary. Public offices are designed as positions for servants who must be ready to give account of their performance at any point in time during or after serving. In great countries with functional democracies, the arms of government are functional and independent.  Simply, the executives perform its duties, the senate makes laws and judiciary interprets the law and constitution. The people of a great country know their rights and they demand for it.

Nigeria is one of the largest oil producers in the world. It has been said that if Nigeria stops producing oil, countries like the US will be worst hit. Does anyone know that Nigeria has no functional refinery to make the oil available for her use? How can anyone explain that Nigerians import oil to use in their own country? How can you as a right thinking person correlate this to the status of a great country or self-acclaimed giant?  Nigeria is not a giant! Let her sit down somewhere and weep. People die regularly in Nigeria because of pipeline explosions. They try to steal or scoop oil because someone is not doing his job. There are many other reasons why people die prematurely in Nigeria; diseases, lack of basic health infrastructure, religious violence, road accidents, collapse buildings, armed robbery and so on. Nigeria has one the highest child and pregnancy-related maternal mortalities in the world. There is polio is Nigeria and malaria related morbidity and mortality is high.

But I will not want to lose track of the essence of this piece. It is about the essence of public service and it’s relevant to the greatness of a country. Public servants are accountable to the people and are liable under the laws. This is not so in Nigeria. You are not accountable to anyone! As a public servant or politician in Nigeria, your primary duty is to become rich. The other thing you need to ensure is that you award contracts with favour and get your returns in your bank accounts spread all over the world. If you leave office as a politician and you are poor or your condition remains the same, the people will laugh at you. They will ask you what you were doing when your counterparts are cutting from the National cake. They expect you to save money for yourself and your unborn generations. They will give you the examples of Awolowo, Azikwe, IBB, Abacha, Shagari, Buhari, Obasanjo, Tinubu, and thousands of others. They will ask you if you think such families will ever be poor again! Pardon me for the names that appear here, I don’t know who among them was self made or self-enriched. It is also not clear to me who among them saved money or positions for their generations. But it is a common saying in Nigeria that once they appeared in public life, their generations are rich forever.

There may be a few honest men in Nigeria and there may have been a few dividends of democracy but in general, there is mass poverty. The implications of civilian rule in the last 8 years from 1999 to 2007 are catastrophic. The indelible marks of military regime before then were similarly catastrophic. Austerity measures and Structural adjustments of the 80s were suicidal. This is why it is still very annoying that some things never changed in Nigeria. For example, why is it impossible for the people to demand accountability from the elected politicians? Why is it impossible to imprison corrupt politicians and other persons? Why are the politicians stealing money and saving them for their future and family? Why are idiots been elected or selected to rule Nigeria? Why are the people disenfranchised during elections? Why do politicians use thugs as security officers? Why is it not possible to have a revolt in Nigeria and bring men of honour to power? Why do people expect politicians to be richer than they were after service? Why does the will of a few men in Nigeria take pre-eminence over the will of the many suffering masses? Why do a few men give Nigeria such a bad and unpalatable image abroad? Why is it impossible to have a government that will use the vast human and natural resources in the country to achieve greatness?

One can go on and on to ask many questions why the country that has produced the likes of Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka and Emeagwali still remains in the doldrums despite proclaiming independence in 1960.  Indeed, Nigeria has what it takes to be great but Nigeria is not great yet. The politicians have made a mess of the country. There is no functional electricity, the roads are bad, the schools are poorly equipped (many Nigerian academic live abroad), the hospitals are bad (Nigerian doctors and nurses prefer to work abroad), the unemployment rate is very high (with no plans for graduating students), lawlessness abound, clean water are sold to the people and insecurity is a major problem as armed robbers and militants operate freely.

Despite all these problems and hopelessness, it was still impossible for Nigerians to take their future in their hands in the last elections (April 14 and 21 2007). On the eve of the presidential election, Nigerians were informed that voting materials are arriving from South Africa. So, who is the giant? Is it a country that cannot print ordinary electoral papers? Nigeria imports almost everything under the surface of the sun including refined petrol! Wake up sleeping “giant”! The just concluded “elections” are nothing short of a farce. It is a slap on the face of the intelligent minds that abound in Nigeria. Nigeria has just set a very bad example to other African countries and it is a big shame. It appears to me that Nigeria has not made any progress democratically despite the mistakes and shortcomings of the past. We repeat history and never learn from them.  It is useless to let the election results stand in the name of civilian to civilian transition. The significance of this election is not in the transfer of power; it is in the meaning of our lives. The significance is in the wish of the people, the need for a proper and appropriate change and the hope for a greater tomorrow. 

After May 29th, I will be really disappointed if the likes of Obasanjo, Atiku, Iwu and the others who have contributed to the demeaning of Nigeria in the last 8 years are not placed on trial. We need to take control of our lives, our destinies and our future. It must start from someone, from somewhere and this is another opportunity. If we don’t probe and try the outgoing administration and its key players, we will be setting a pace for the new administration that we are not destined for greatness. I have nothing against still having the like of IBB or Buhari on trial. They are living burglars. We need to stop thieves in high and low places and put everybody on alert for national revamping. Making Nigeria great is not going to be a day’s job. It will be a collective duty on virtually on frontiers of our lives. But Nigeria will never be great if we don’t resolve to take the first step. Many more generations will be wasted and people will continue to wallow in poverty despite the wealth of the nation. My heart bleeds for Nigeria, a rich country where values are not placed on human existence and where sycophants are glorified. 

THE NIGERIAN SENATE: A FINAL CALL TO DUTY!

Adeola Aderounmu. 

At some point in the history of great nations, the people made collective decisions/wills to end tyranny, dictatorship or whatever way oppressions can be described. In many instances, the people bade farewell to poverty and diseases using the Never Again syndrome. In 2007 and after the shoddy rituals called elections that were staged managed by some idiots called INEC officials and supervised by a fool called Iwu, Nigerians in my opinion have a very golden opportunity to bid farewell to gangsterism as exemplified since 1960 by the likes of Obasanjo and his cohorts.

What a big chance indeed!It is possible to look at the election of April 14th from different perspectives and it is also possible to give an analysis that would be enough to write a book on Political Science. But summarily, we can raise a few questions or make certain generalizations. Sometimes when an intellectual mind writes on issues relating to Nigeria and you relate that to what obtains in some other countries in Africa and the Western world especially; one begins to wonder if Nigeria has emerged into the 21st century.

What happened in Nigeria on the 14th of April should not be called election. Election means something totally different from what took place that day. On April 14th 2007, some determined Nigerians went to war with a merciless regime headed by Obasanjo. The regime used the instrument of governance to oppress and suppress its own people. It slashed their throat to make sure that their voices were not heard and should never be heard again. The activities of Obasanjo, INEC, its officials with Mr.  Iwu as the leader deserve total condemnation. After May 29, Obasanjo should be put on trial to defend his actions that have led to the untimely death of many Nigerians in the last 8 years of his administration. People have died through pipeline explosions, hunger, assassinations, state induced murder, diseases due to lack of good health and most recently through an arrangements on April 14th to force his will on over 140 million people.  

Those who participated in the regime in the last 8 years should be made to give account of their stewardship in office.In the meantime, the present senate would have to stand up to a national duty. One that will save and preserve our democracy forever. One last action that will bring reason to the fore front of national issues. Let the senate immediately declare void the activity of INEC regarding April 14th. Iwu should be arrested and tried for trying to lead the nation into anarchy. His accomplices should all be fished out and dealt with according to the laws of the land. The judiciary has shown that it has some dignity. They would need the unflinching support of the police to achieve this. It seems like an impossible mission, but this is the best time to make a U-turn for the good of Nigeria.If we fail to use this golden opportunity to achieve greatness for Nigeria, Nigeria will never be great again, at least not in the lifetime of the two outgoing wasted generations.

This is a time to show the world that there are honest people in Nigeria who can conduct free and fair elections.  We can conduct elections in Nigeria without losing a soul, I believe it is possible.

NIGERIA AT CHRISTMAS 2006

Adeola Aderounmu.

I visited Nigeria after 3 years of absence. My plan was to stay with my Nigerian family and friends for one month or thereabout. Unfortunately, I didn’t stay more than 2 weeks in Lagos Nigeria. I arrived at the near peak of the fuel scarcity on 15th December. It was also during this period that armed robbers went on the rampage. What I’d read online before embarking on this trip didn’t deter me anyway. Nigeria is my country of birth and I’d lived there 29 years before I opted out.

My experiences were not palatable. Once I spent 4 hours on the queue to buy petrol at a gas station. It didn’t help that I woke up at 6am. Many nights, we slept in the dark; power outage was still a regular phenomenon. We couldn’t even use the generator most of the time because there was lack of fuel anyway.The cost of living has risen sharply. Bottled water, cold drinks and other things that help in the heat of the sun are sold expensively. People now pay more for everything including food.  On the contrary, the standard of living has continued on a sharp decline. The roads are dirtier; the walls of houses are unkempt. Play grounds have become breeding grounds for young cultists. A lot of young people now smoke and drink dangerously. I couldn’t believe my eyes with all that I saw. What I saw in festac town was an eyesore of unimaginable magnitude. It depicted the larger society and how hopelessness has crept into the existence of many.People live now like there is no governance in Nigeria. They have gradually lost faith in the system that should protect and care for them.

We must not forget that the present day 419ers in Nigeria have resorted to self help to avoid hunger, poverty and unnecessary hardship. It is not a preferred solution but where are the better options?  No plan to solve the unemployment situation, no social security, no hope in sight and no one expresses care or any feelings to the plight of the less than average Nigerian.Imagine how horrified I became to wake up one morning and learn that perhaps more than 500 people may have died from a pipeline explosion. I was in Lagos at this time and the news actually reached me from my family in Sweden. We had not had electricity to be able to follow the news and the idea of buying newspaper didn’t cross my mind. I was not expecting any disaster! People were scooping petrol illegally, there have been past deadly incidents, they know the risk but they also thought scooping was worth dying for. This is the level that the value of the Nigerian life has depreciated to. Almost meaningless. Else, how can you explain corpses by the road side daily?  

There is a big question on my mind. In Nigeria, who is taking care of what? In less than 2 weeks, I began to wonder if this is the same place that I’d been educated and lived for 29 years until 2002. Of course, life has not been a bed of roses for me. It was very hard to get through school financial wise. It was not easy either getting food on the table. Mine has always been a life of hard struggle but I’d never imagined that it will not get better for us as a country.We thought the military was the problem, but after 8 years of the Obasanjo-Atiku civilian regime, I have come to realize that it is not a question of military or civilian rule in Nigeria. It boils down to attitude. There is both greed and corruption in every aspect of our lives and quite unconventionally, there is absence of common good. Majority suffers in the process. A typical public office holder in Nigeria cares for his own selfish interest first. He or she is foremost interested in acquisition of wealth that will be enough for a life time. Typically, Nigerian politicians and public servants amass wealth for their unborn generation.

We live in a society where we worship money and riches. It doesn’t matter to us how people get rich, just that they are! Over the years, this attitude has begotten crime, murder, pen robbery, physical robbery and the irreparable consequences of the meaning of life under the modern day Nigeria. That the people are generally resilient or tolerant in the face of obvious public office abuse and that no solid voice or voices have form coercion against the juntas that have not diminished in intent and purpose since 1960 calls for a re-evaluation of our common intelligence. 

I left Nigeria on December 29 leaving behind again my beloved country, friends and family. I’d wished that Nigeria provides me with the opportunity to give back into the system fully as I’d dreamt as a child. It was not to be. I lived in fear and darkness for 2 weeks; I became ill drinking some bottled water. I travelled out again because I had a choice. What will be the fate of over 100million people living desperately below the poverty line?

This article has been re-written and updated in the following posts:

1. Christmas in Hell: http://www.nigeriavillagesquare.com/articles/guest-articles/christmas-in-hell.html

2. Why I prefer a white christmas, http://www.nigeriavillagesquare.com/articles/adeola-aderounmu/why-i-prefer-a-white-christmas.html

aderounmu@gmail.com