Bribery and Corruption with Impunity
Last week, the much expected rain started to fall in the chambers of the Senate. And, to borrow Senator Sarki Tafida’s inimitable parlance of bribe takers, this rain did not fall on every household in the Senate. The massive bribery that started last Thursday through Friday – and will doubtless continue this week – has not been seen in the history of corruption in Nigeria. If Transparency International (TI) with which the Nigerian president is associated is not taking note, then it is not worth its global name. President Obasanjo has turned Nigeria into a laughing stock among nations. He has elevated sleaze to a new level. No one expected someone who calls himself a leader to be associated with that level of crookedness. It is a disgrace.
We have a megalomaniac president who has lied to the whole world that his regime is doing its best to curtail corruption, while at home he is sharing bribes, as much as N50 million to every senator, in order to further commit the crime of elongating his most inept and rotten regime. And, as has now become public knowledge, this is only part payment of the total bribe sum of N100 million per senator. Obasanjo is doing this at a time pensioners have not been paid for several months and children die daily for lack of essential medicines in government hospitals. These days, the Obasanjo presidency does not even bother to conduct its stealing business behind closed doors. The president disdains Nigerians so much that he thinks he can commit any crime, even dance naked in the market square in the afternoon, and nothing untoward would come to him. What now remains for the president and his boys to do is start collecting receipts from those they give bribes. I have not heard of this level of lawless leadership
Last week, the whole world knew bribes of N50 million were being offered senators at the Wuse Zone 4 branch of First Inland Bank Plc. Everybody in Abuja knew. Schoolboys and taxi drivers discussed it openly.
This is the time that the EFCC, the ICPC and the SSS should show their mettle. I am not so naďve as to suggest that they arrest the bribe givers. Or even the bribe takers. For now, they are beyond arrest. They are armed robbers still in operation and you do not arrest an armed robber when he is still pointing a gun at your temple. The time to arrest the thieves will come very soon and they shall be paraded before Nigerians and the international community like common thieves. The EFCC, ICPC and SSS must work ahead, so that when the free fall starts they will not be lumped together with the crooks.
The source of this bribe money is clear. It certainly did not come from Corporate Nigeria. Ndidi Okereke-Onyiuke has been hustling to be rewarded by the president for all the not-too-straight electoral deals she did for him in 2003. She is only an opportunist that is jostling to be noticed. She does not have the capacity to generate that kind of money. It also could not have been from the proceeds of the sales of Heinekens and Gulder beer in Nigeria. Nigerians are not such gifted drunkards. Besides, Festus Odimegwu would have been long sacked and jailed by his more serious Dutch partners if he attempted that. Aliko Dangote is too much of a darn good investor to not see a bad investment. He might have invested heavily in Obasanjo in the 2003 elections. He won’t take that silly chance with third term. Dangote could not have given his money. The money came directly from the public till, that is, public funds that would have been used to better the lives of Nigerians. More people would have had better potable water and more lives would have been saved if some of it had been deployed to purchase drugs for our hospitals and even repair Nigeria’s obsolescent refineries. Instead, the funds are being used to bribe legislators to extend the tenure of a president who, we are told, has done so well that we risk collapse as a nation if we let him go. Nigerians are bemused, stupefied and outraged at the conduct of a crass leader who many wish would end up worse than Nebuchadnezzar.
I hear one of the strategies to cover their tracks would be to say that even the anti-third term senators collected their own share of the bribes in foreign currencies. But that only shows that they are short of new ideas. Nigerians shall identify the bribe takers by the way they vote on the third term issue and they will take note for future action.
Wherever General Sani Abacha is today, he must be having a good laugh at Obasanjo. And at all of us, too. Obasanjo coined the term “Abacha loot”. Nigerians have already coined their own favourite term, “the Obasanjo loot”. Compared with Obasanjo, Abacha is already looking like a candidate for sainthood. At least Abacha didn’t deceive himself and never bribed anyone to extend his stay in office. He vacated office via a cardiac coup. Nigerians are praying that Obasanjo does not get that lucky. They want him to remain alive for a very long time to come, even though he has made up his mind to die in office.
The crime that the third termers have been committing since Thursday is manifold. Apart from stealing money from the Nigerian people, they are also guilty of a grave economic malfeasance. By their act, the CBN will have to deploy all its arsenal to start managing inflation in Abuja. The little gains the apex bank has recorded in strengthening the naira against other currencies in the past few days would come to nought by the time the president is done with the NASS members. The president’s men are also guilty of suborning the National Assembly and of interfering with the sacrosanct process of law-making. These are all very serious charges.
Since Obasanjo came to power in 1999, he has destroyed everything on his path. The democracy that was handed over to him on a platter of gold by General Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd) has been destroyed. In its place, we now have the dictatorship of one man that is worse than any military dictatorship Nigeria has ever known. He and his boys have destroyed the judiciary and now he is trying hard to do same with the National Assembly. Electric power supply is worse than he met it. Our refineries still don’t work and security of life and property is akin to a civil war situation.
And, in terms of corruption, Obasanjo has not fared badly either. The list is long: serial misappropriation of budgets, Presidential Library Project, forgery of Electoral Law, Abuja Stadium Complex, Vincent Azie’s report, misappropriation of excess crude proceeds, Transcorp, election 2003, NNPC, NNPC, and NNPC. By now, even the president’s ardent admirers must admit that Abacha has ceded place as the most corrupt leader this country has ever had.
It is dangerous to continue to have Obasanjo at the helm of the nation’s affairs. The current mindless orgy of bribery and corruption going on should frighten all of us. He is now the greatest security risk that this nation currently faces. This president must be persuaded to leave power on schedule and, if persuasion fails, he must be helped out!