PUBLIC SQUARE BY MUHAMMAD AL-GHAZALI

 

Elite Trials And Ekweremandu's Dress Code

ghazalism@gmail.com

 

 

 

“Nigerians as a group, frankly, are marvellous scammers. I mean, it is in their natural culture.” - General Collin Powell

 

The poor slobs who toil in vast swathes of our countryside each day, the genuine rural dwellers, that is, who also produce more than 70 percent of the food consumed by millions of Nigerians, inclusive of our urban elite, may not know it; they may also never make the dubious national honours list every year, but they are the most honest Nigerians alive today. Their outstanding contribution to the national GDP goes unrecognized and seemingly unappreciated each year. Our value system also has neither the template to document their economic contributions to the healthy growth and development of the nation, nor even the framework to recognize their worth in the socio-cultural fabric of the nation.    

He may also not know it, but when the erstwhile American Secretary of State, Colin Powell famously listed Nigerians among the most rabidly dishonest people in the world about a decade ago today, he was, in essence, referring to the tiny percentage of Nigerian elite regardless of their class and creed who maintain a stranglehold on the levers of power in the economic, social and political realms.

The same goes for the outgoing British Prime Minister David Cameron who literally fell on his own sword last week in the vain effort to keep Britain in Europe last week. He may, have astounded the world that Nigerians were fantastically corrupt a few months ago; but if his remarks were to be put to test, it will be discovered that they refer to only a tiny percentage of Nigerians with a disproportional control on the levers of power in the social, economic and political realms. Cameron’s sweeping generalization cannot withstand proper scrutiny.

Since our independence, a tiny cabal of Nigerians that cut across the various ethnic groups, religions and regions in our diverse nation, have arrogated onto themselves the sole prerogative to determine our destiny or put more appropriately on account of their antecedents and sorry track records – to ruin it. They continue to hold the nation by its jugular, and also insist that it remains prostrate like the proverbial cow destined to be milked to death, or to be kept alive long enough to nourish their sadistic greed.

You get to appreciate that a nation is on the wrong trajectory in its quest for effective development when a hardworking farmer could be speedily convicted for stealing a bag of fertilizer, while the same system contrives to ensure that a pot-bellied politician or bureaucrat who diverted billions of Naira in public funds for his personal to escape the cold embrace of the law.

And in Nigeria the same scenario has played out far too frequently to be deny with any sense of honesty. It has now become an integral part of our national culture. When the richest and most influential members of our society are required to account for their serial crimes, the law suddenly becomes the proverbial ass. The system eternally procrastinates. They hire ‘elite’ lawyers with the dubious title of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN).

Being rich and influential, coupled with the capacity to hire the best lawyers is a virtue in any part of the world except in Nigeria. Indeed, until a few months ago, millions of Nigerians may have been tempted to believe that our SAN’s are the super lawyers they all claimed. We thought they possessed the ability to determine even the most brazenly indictive cases in favour of their clients. Sadly,  we now know better.

With the indictment of some SAN’s and judges over their unholy romance on the cases brought before them, it became abundantly clear that even the bench, or the noble profession of law, has not escaped the pervasive clutches of corruption. We have been scammed all this while. Justice, especially of the favourable hue, has become the exclusive preserve of the rich.

It is therefore no surprise that there has been a corresponding rise in the cases crimes especially the serial looting of the Nigerian treasury by our criminal elite. It took the election of President Muhammadu Buhari for Nigerians to realize for once that even the rich can also cry in this nation. It took the election of President Buhari for our anti-corruption agencies especially the EFCC to realize that the extant money laundering law is ineffective and could be abused with reckless impunity. Mercifully, the public procurement law has now come to the rescue.

This discourse will not be complete without another flashback at Colin Powell’s hypotheses on the character of Nigerians. When serial looters of our treasury, who manifested no previous health challenges, suddenly appear in court in wheel chairs, are they not being dishonest? When the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremandu, who shunned the traditional Igbo  regalia even during his swearing into the exalted office, what are we to make of his dress code at his appearance before the Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday on allegations of forgery?

How do we describe his choice of dressing beyond the elaborate scam that it was to whip up ethnic sentiments in an already volatile nation? Powell’s comments may be offensive and even undiplomatic, but the only thing we can disagree with was his sweeping generalization! For someone who routinely appeared in immaculate suites at most of his public engagements, yesterday’s court appearance in full Igbo regalia was somewhat curious.

Was it another pathetic attempt to hoodwink Nigerians like the wheelchair bound serial felons? Was it an attempt to divert the attention of Nigerians from the essential details of the allegations of forgery against him and the Senate President Bukola Saraki? Time will definitely tell, but the last time I checked, it was Ike Ekweremandu, and not the entire Igbo nation, that is on trial in this case. But the raw symbolism and implications of his gesture cannot be ignored.

The Igbo people I know are very industrious and hardworking people. They have excelled in all fields of human endeavor all over the world. Their pedigree and uncommon accomplishments need not be undermined or mixed up with the travails of a single individual alleged to have offended our laws. The Igbo nation is bigger than Ekweremandu.

Unfortunately, the trend suggests that that is very much the case at this point. Already some traditional rulers and elders from the Southeast have alleged that their son is being persecuted. If it is true that our elites have frustrated the collective aspirations of Nigerians at cohesive national development over time, it can only be because of the criminal complicity of the latter.

Our people are docile and highly gullible, and our politicians inclusive of the kleptomaniac and randy legislators presently on the prowl know this. They know they can escape justice the moment they play identity politics. In a nation where hundreds of thousands have perished due to ethno-religious riots, and other elite-inspired conflagrations, Ekweremadu’s dress code yesterday provides conclusive proof as to why very few have ever faced justice for their crimes.

As the crisis engineered by their crude exploitation of base sentiments becomes evident, our guilty elite simply melt into crowd in the ensuing confusion. No nation can develop that way.