The Osborne Affair And The Tragedy Of Nigeria
Like I have recounted numerous times in the past on this platform, the litany of socio-political developments in the country in the past two decades has considerably lowered the capacity of Nigerians to experience genuine shock at the many scandals, and reported cases of graft, that has earned the nation the dubious title of the corruption capital of the world. The developments that have trailed the recovery of approximately 13 billion Naira in foreign and local currencies from a flat located within the prestigious Osborne estate in Ikoyi served only to add credence to my hypothesis.
A cursory examination of most public commentaries that trailed the discovery revealed not an iota of disbelief, or even embarrassment, that such a massive cache of money-which could have instantly transformed the lives of many rural communities in our nation - was discovered to be idling away in the apartment. Why? Well, the discovery was followed others in the recent past. We have seen it all before.
In the days leading to the 2015 Presidential elections, a private plane which allegedly belonged to a high-profile Nigerian clergyman, was detained in South Africa, with more than nine million dollars belonging to the national treasury on board it. Few Nigerians can tell whether that particular scandal was resolved to a logical conclusion. Similarly an Airforce General was discovered to have stashed a barrel of dollars in his toilet’s suck-away pit!
A search conducted on the residences of senior judges also unearthed billions of Naira in hard and local currencies, along with the hundreds of millions seized from high profile lawyers, who claimed to be Senior Advocates of Nigeria. Over nine million dollars was also retrieved from a Kaduna slum which allegedly belonged to a former Group Managing Director of the NNPC! We have also been told to await further astonishing discoveries of huge sums from remote farms and cemeteries across Nigeria.
We can all figure it all out for ourselves if we dare to do so. Just contemplate the following: a high profile flat. A suck-way pit. A nondescript detached bungalow located in a sprawling Kaduna slum. A clergyman. An army General. A top government technocrat. A senior judge and an equally senior lawyer all linked one way or the other with the proceeds of graft! I am tempted to believe it could only happen in Nigeria.
Any wonder then that the collective reaction of Nigerians has become rather mute compared to what one would expected from other parts of the world faced with similar provocative acts of corruption? It is equally too obvious that what I wrote last week on why corruption thrives in Nigeria and how it is not the enigma it seems in other climes is very apt.
So far, the reaction of Nigerians to the Osborne affair has followed a familiar pattern. It has not been one of surprise but tragic trepidation. They are aware that in Nigeria the corrupt seem to possess ‘safe houses’ that enhances their trade and longevity. They are painfully aware that no matter what they think, or believe, corruption has always found a way to outlast them.
The corrupt elite have perfected the art of fleecing our national treasury as suits them. On extremely rare occasions, they can expect a few slaps on the wrist, but the corrupt always returned to haunt us over, and over again, either as senators, Senate Presidents, Speakers of the House, Chairmen of Commissions and Corporations, etc. Like the chameleons many of them happen to be, Nigeria also provides them with the veritable platform to rapidly transform themselves whenever they risked going out of circulation to our collective chagrin.
Like vultures, they have perfected the art of feasting mercilessly on the dead meat that Nigeria, in its present firmament, has provided them. Nigeria is among the few countries in the world were convicted criminals are celebrated by their religious brethren, ethnic groups, professional bodies and even associations.
When I wrote that corruption and the corrupt possessed ‘safe-houses’ in Nigeria, that is precisely what I meant. In Nigeria, the corrupt know that they can clean out our treasury today and be immune from prosecution tomorrow because their ethnic, religious or social groups will raise in unison to defend them no matter what the gravity or credibility of the vases against them.
That is why, even as damning as the current case appears to be, it will certainly not be the last. We must brace ourselves for other Osborne-like revelations in the nearest future. That is also why the reaction of Nigerians to the Osborne billions has been pensive, rather than of utter shock. We have travelled that famished road before. There is even a better chance that the recovered money would be stolen over again than the chance to bring anyone to justice.
In the past several months the integrity of judges has been questioned. We trust our senior lawyers even less. Both could easily be ‘trustees’ of the ‘safe-houses’ I alluded to earlier by manner of their associations and unashamedly so.
Already, the predictable trio of Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose, the Rivers State Governor Nyelsom Wike, along with the apparent errand boy Femi Fani-Kayode, are doing all they can to politicize the investigation of the Osborne cash.
They have called into question the integrity of the anti-graft agencies with their pre-determined agenda. Without providing any solid proof they have claimed that cash were proceeds from part of the funds looted from the Rivers State government by the former governor Rotimi Amaechi.
In other climes such nauseating behaviour – even when instigations into the incident were yet to commence or be concluded – would be considered wholesomely reprehensible. But Nigeria is different case.
Here, the system contrives to enable the guilty escape justice. Presently, Wike and Foyose, are doing their best to ensure that it will not be the last time that happens on our shores. It is the tragedy we have to live with until Nigerians collectively summon the courage to reform themselves.
For Nigeria to survive the cancer of corruption will require more than the incorruptibility of President Buhari, or the best efforts of our anti-graft agencies put together. To cleanse the nation, and reposition it on the part of sustainable growth, and development, Nigerians must collectively purge themselves of the impulses that sustain the antics of those who hide behind religion, ethnicity, creed or sectionalism to perpetrate various acts of corruption.
Those are the pillars that sustain corruption in our dear nation. They also, quite inevitably, combine to mock the strict application of the rule of law in both the resolution of proven cases of corruption, like we experienced when a posse of brainless soldiers ambushed our infant democracy in 1966.
The singular action, and the refusal of our first military government to prosecute the perpetrators of that unfortunate coup, precipitated a crises from which the nation is yet recover up till today. The biggest worry is that there is no indication yet of our collective inclination to draw useful lessons from that epoch.