I have always wondered why Nigerians are surprised at the monumental financial scandal that trailed the last administration in the country, especially the $2.1b arms scandal that has landed the former National Security Adviser, NSA, Col Sambo Dasuki, in his present travail. Is it that Nigerians under value the wealth of this country and did not realize that the wealth was concentrated in few hands, both legitimately and illegitimately.
Today, the present administration is crying foul because of the economic situation in the country- dwindling oil revenue and general economic downturn which has touched practically every part of the world and also due to the person of the president, who is known to shun corrupt tendencies. If this had not been the case, Nigerians would still have continued in this blissful ignorance, unaware of the constant rape of the treasury by leaders, both elected and unelected, to preserve, multiply and use the wealth to better the country.
As at 2012, Nigeria is estimated to have lost over $400 billion to corruption since independence. This is just a conservative figure. From time immemorial, Nigerian leaders have always raped the country’s treasury, spending the collective patrimony as if it were personal wealth. To them, there is not much difference between personal income/wealth and the nation’s treasury, all monies are meant for their pleasure, to be spent and frittered away as they deem fit with no thought of tomorrow. Not only do they spend the money recklessly, they also rob the country with reckless abandon, taking more than they can ever spend in their lifetime and putting these in foreign accounts. There has only been one exception to the treasury looting, with no accusing finger pointed and this was during the short military administration of the present president. The Buhari/Idiagbon military interregnum. That administration fought corruption in all its ramifications and today, nobody can say the treasury was looted during the period.Yes, Nigerians would say the duo led with draconian decrees, but would the country not have been better served today if that administration had been allowed to continue? It is the same Buhari that has come back to wage war on corruption and once again opened our eyes to the leadership fraud that purports to serve us, but preferred to rape us to death.
The evidence are there. Let’s take a few recent examples. General Ibrahim Babangida took over in 1985 when the Buhari/Idiagbon administration was ousted. Though that administration initially came with laudable programmes that were expected to turn the country around in terms of infrastructural development and orientation such as the Directorate of Roads and Rural Infrastructure, DFRRI, Mass Mobilization for Self Reliance, Social Justice, and Economic Recovery (MAMSER), Better Life for Rural Women championed by his late wife, Maryam and the National Directorate of Employment, NDE. But in spite of the good intention at the time, it was not long that the administration derailed from its good intention and allegations of sleaze started oozing out. Some were quick to say that corruption was institutionalized under the Babangida administration. One of the albatross around the neck of that administration still remains the $12b Gulf oil windfall alleged to have disappeared from the treasury. Repeated denials by the former military president has not stopped the accusation that the money was stolen by the leadership at the time. Agencies such as the DFRRI, MAMSER, NDE were believed to be conduit for siphoning money from the treasury into foreign accounts, whether rightly or wrongly. Wikipedia report described the administration thus, “During IBB’s tenure, corruption was elevated to the policy of state. Vehicles and cash gifts were routinely disbursed by the President irregularly to the rank and file to earn loyalty, and the discipline of the military force eroded. The term “IBB Boys” emerged, and was synonymous to fronts for the head of state in business realm”.
Late General Sani Abacha took over from Babangida ( forget about the short lived Ernest Shonekan administration). Indeed, the Babangida administration would win award for sainthood when compared with the Abacha administration. Abacha period witnessed an unprecedented looting of the treasury and mindless stealing. In spite of efforts to recover all that was stolen by that administration by the civilian administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo, more monies are still being recovered till date.
“In 2000, two years after his death, a swiss banking commission report indicted Swiss banks for failing to follow compliance process in allowing family and friends of Abacha access to accounts and depositing amounts totaling $600 million US dollars into the accounts. The same year, a total of more than $1 billion US dollars were found in various accounts throughout Europe”, was how Wikipedia puts it.
Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar administration that took over after Abacha’s sudden death also had whiffs of financial scandals trailing it despite its short period of transition. The giant strides made by the Obasanjo administration was also colored by corruption scandals. Wikipedia reports,
“Some other acts of corruption tied to Olusegun Obasanjo included the Transcorp shares scandal that violated the code of conduct standards for public officers, and the presidential library donations at the eve of his exit from power that pressured associates to donate. Obasanjo was also said to widely facilitate his failed campaign to alter the constitution to get a third term by actively bribing the legislature, further deepening corruption at the highest levels”. It goes on and on and no administration is exempted. Those are just at the federal level, the states are still there with the different levels of rapine still ongoing.
Many have opined that such mindless stealing is due to the extravagant life style that has become the norm in the country especially at governmental levels. Not only that, it has also been said that corruption thrives because of fear of tomorrow. Hardly would you see an individual going into government today without the mindset that it would be an avenue to make money rather than serve the people.
The solution. It is important for the citizenry to realize that no matter what, their tomorrow is assured. It is when such assurance is there that there would be a reduction and who better to give this assurance if not the government which should put structures that would ensure this in place. Jobs should be created. Instances of pensioners queuing endlessly for pittance encourage corruption. Strategies must be in place to take care of such social issue. Governmental institutions must be strengthened to perform their statutory duties in the society. The weight of the law should descend on anybody found to have engaged in corruption practices. There should also be a new attempt at orientation. Most importantly, leaders must live by example, practicing what they preach. There is enough wealth in this country, inspite of the global economic problem, to take care of the country’s needs, if prudently managed.