ONE of my earliest articles in a Nigerian print media was published in the Nigerian Guardian of September 11 2001. It was titled Why Politicians Steal.
Nigerian politicians and public officials steal because they are all birds of the same feather, from the presidency to the last man in the local government. Their reason for joining politics was never to serve. The main reason is because they see politics as the shortest cut to wealth. It remains so because only a countable size of them have been punished and mildly too by the law enforcement agents and the short arm of the Nigerian law.
Nigeria is a very abnormal country in terms of the game of politics. No Nigerian author or critic can argue that corruption does not exist in other countries of the world. Instead what we have noted is that whereas glaring corruption is condemned in other places it is encouraged and rewarded in Nigeria.
It is also a power game in Nigeria. It depends so much not on any institution or department but on the individuals who have seized power either by rigged /manipulated ballots or violence through guns/uniform.
Dimeji Bankole for example could dare to steal so much as he has done because he may have someone like Ibrahim Babangida or David Mark or even Mrs. Patience Jonathan as his role models. No one can rule out the possibility of Bankole’s arrogance being hinged on the fallibility of Mrs. Waziri who has also been charged with corruption at different times. It’s as if all Nigerian government officials are thieves, but to different degrees.
Here was a young man to which much was given. He rubbed his family’s name in mud like there is no tomorrow. Yet he was given all the time he needed to resist arrest by the Nigerian Police and men of the SSS. His eventual arrest may have been catalyzed by the forthcoming visit of Dr. Jonathan to the US. Jonathan cannot leave Nigeria on a suspicion of aiding one of their own.
Going by his likely mentors, Dimeji could have thought this way: why would anyone worry about how much I steal if Babangida and his co-travellers are still living in Nigeria without giving account of the money that Nigeria made during the gulf war?
He may also have thought of the several things he got away with while serving as the big-mouthed speaker of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? Where should we start? The N2.3b he misappropriated or the N9b that tore the house apart resulting in a free for all fight exactly a year ago? He is even alleged to have kept allowances of some house members to himself.
How many cases of corruption and stolen funds by other thieves could have been reference points for Dimeji?
Was he possibly thinking of how Ribadu provided a shield for Mrs. Jonathan and her famous money laundering cases? Was he thinking of how Generals Obansanjo and Abdulsalam were never even interrogated for the Power Funds up to the tune of N16b?
What about the Atikus, the Anenihs and the whole loads and lots of them who have looted Nigeria over the years?
Was Dimeji thinking about the billions of dollars that have been awarded to monarchs to fix the Benin-Ore road without any progress or prosecution?
Was Dimeji thinking about Dora and how she got away with the NTA corruption saga? What about the money wasted on rebranding? We need to dig deeper perhaps? What was on the mind of the well-educated young man who decided to become Nigeria’s biggest thief?
He may be thinking about Bode George. Bode got 2 years and can now enjoy his loot forever more. Dimeji may be thinking of getting 6 months like Tafa Balogun or even a plea bargain like Igbinedion.
In 2010 Dr. Jonathan wasted over N20b on celebrating 50 years of failure. Most of the funds were never accounted for. Was Dimeji hoping that his N10b loan was a chicken change considering the prodigal spending of Dr. Jonathan that has depleted the external reserves and plunge Nigeria into debt?
The young man is now talking. He said they shared the money. A bunch of thieves who called themselves legislators, who are already the highest paid politicians in the world, having the guts to add N10b on their already over bloated sums while more than 100m Nigerians live desperately on less than 1 dollar a day.
In an outburst of anger one of my facebook friends quickly recommended death sentences for all corrupt Nigerian politicians. It was an outburst emanating from a frustrated Nigerian student who sees a bleak future ahead of him as men and women entrusted with our national wealth continue to siphon billions of dollars into their private accounts and wasteful expenditures.
The arrest of Dimeji Bankole is a good effort but I can’t give it up for EFCC yet. Let him be taken before the prosecutors as soon as possible so that he can be proven guilty or innocent before the law. I am not satisfied with the arrest of Dimeji without corresponding hunts for all the living barawos in Nigeria.
I don’t like an EFCC built on individual ego. I want to see an institution that could, if necessary, try its own boss and bring him or her down for acts related to corruption. For example if Ribadu or Waziri are both guilty of acts of corruption then they have no business pretending to be serving Nigeria.
Why was Dimeji arrested when there are thousands of thieves and looters walking free in Nigeria? What about the governors who have lost their immunities? Are thieves and looters free because they are friends of the Jonathans?
Are looters free because they stole in the 1980s or 1990s?
Nigerian politicians will continue to steal and loot because the fight against corruption is too limited and selective. They will also continue to steal because they have not been severely punished. Dimeji for example, if found guilty, should be looking ahead to 20 years imprisonment or more but in Nigeria he may even be unlucky to get 2 years. Usually they get plea bargaining or 6months.
Worse still they keep a substantial part of the money, huge enough to launch another political campaign or a new political party in the future.
My tolerance to looting is zero. My opinion on immunity clause is that it has no role to play in a society where democracy, probity and accountability will thrive. Dimeji should have been removed since the N2.3b saga if there was no immunity clause. In a sane society, he and his co-thieves would not have survived the N9b saga that tore the House apart in June 2010.
He would not have had the possibility to loot further.
Nigerian politicians will continue to steal, loot and bribe their ways ahead because even members of the society think that these are normal things. Politicians have families and friends who see government jobs as an opportunity to loot the national cake. It’s an aberration but we see it in good light and accept it as the way to go.
Politics must be made what it is-a way to serve mankind. In Nigeria it is a way to get rich with the huge salary and excessive inexplicable take-home remunerations plus all the loop holes that make it possible to inflate, manipulate and forge contracts across all tiers of governance.
What I wrote about in 2002 is still true today. There are no genuine anti-corruption agencies to wipe out corruption fairly and squarely. I learnt since 1984 that nearly does not catch a bird and that what was worth doing at all is worth doing well. These are my takes on the fight against corruption.