By James Abang
When Imo, a Keke driver from Uruan concluded the price for hiring of his Keke with a neat looking bearded gentleman who introduced himself as Mr. Afia, he was grateful to God. The price was too good. He had quickly topped his Keke with extra 5 liters of Petrol at black market rate of 400 per liter.
Imo sometimes chat with his passengers but this one appeared important so he drove him quietly and taking instructions to branch wherever he was told to branch. After about 2 hours of going round and round Uyo, his passenger hasn’t seemed to drop at any place in particular nor has he spoken with anybody; not even on phone.
Imo became worried and as they negotiated back into Abak road towards Secretariat from Ekong Iman Junction, Imo asked the inevitable. “Where exactly are you going sir? I have run out of petrol can I have part of my money to top up?”
“Which money?” Afia asked him. “You are very stupid” he continued. “I told you to drive slowly but you kept speeding. Because of your over speeding breeze has blown off all the money in my pocket. Just take me back to all the routes we’ve taken let me go look for my money”.
Surprised at the response, Imo parked the Keke, and then turned to confront his passenger. Jesus the Christ! What he saw unnerved him. Imo immediately abandoned his Keke and shouted for help. God, why didn’t he notice this when the man priced him N10,000 just to hire Keke for a few hours within Uyo metropolis?
As people heard him they rallied round and followed him back to his Keke only for everybody to scamper away to safety. Imo’s passenger (Mr. Afia) was 100% insane, eyes rolled-in and snarling like a hyena.
But Afia hadn’t always been mad. Before 2015 he was a big time supplier of food items to oil rigs. But he secured a huge supply contract from one of the federal government institutions. He raised money from everywhere added to what he had and executed the job only for the board of the institution to be dissolved by the current administration. The new interim administration informed Afia that his contract award did not follow due process and in fact the job wasn’t listed in the budget for the year it was awarded. Afia head knocked instantly. He is a victim of corruption.
But at least he is alive. Many Nigerians have not been so lucky. Edet Ibotong retired after 35 years of meritorious service but could not receive his entitlement because he had no money to “grease people’s palms for his file to move” from table to table. After 4 years he gave up and became so deprived he couldn’t take care of his hypertensive drugs. Shortly after he died. Killed by corruption. There are many like him.
It is only in Nigeria that someone could arrest you with police for being his neighbor and you would never leave the police station except you “shake body” in spite of the absurdity of the cause of arrest. Please note that police don’t collect money from anybody. You may “appreciate” the officer with January (1k) May (5k) or 2 Octobers (20k) or December (12k) as the case may be. Notice that there is no mention of money but months in the calendar. So don’t try to implicate anybody.
Corruption is a landlord without any identified building of his own in Nigeria. But a landlord all the same. Like Ruben Abati puts it, petty corruption is encountered in ordinary places on a daily basis, grand corruption has also badly affected Nigeria as a state, country, and nation…
But the challenge of corruption is not just about grand corruption:
– the big money that is stolen,
– the mad men and women who turn elections into opportunities for theft and primitive accumulation,
– the greedy officials who manipulate the books big time and run away with the national patrimony, or,
– the civil servants who help to cook the books and later play holier-than-tho u;
… it is certainly not about one particular administration, it is not about making examples and demonizing some people while bigger thieves prosper within and outside the system. It goes beyond that.
No wonder, British PM David Cameron described Nigeria as “fantastically corrupt” in a pretended private conversation with the queen which “leaked” ahead of the anti-corruption summit organized by the UK Government recently.
But it was the response of the president that attracted this piece from this writer. Mr. President was most honest and profound to admit that indeed Nigerians are “fantastically corrupt” and that Cameron is right. Who wouldn’t? This is a country where fund released for the defense of the country and protection of lives was shared like cake. No one could fault the honesty of Mr. President as far as his response to Cameron’s assertion was concerned.
Except that the answer given by Mr. President was wrong though honest.
Mrs. Uye got a painting sub-contract recently from a contractor to one of the universities. She was given an amount to buy paints for the job based on what she quoted. But on buying the paints she discovered that some prices turned out to be far lower than what she quoted. After buying the paints she returned the excess to the contractor much to his surprise. Mrs. Uye is a Nigerian.
Alh Aliko Dangotte remained the richest man in Africa but he’s a Nigerian. He hasn’t been implicated in any shady deal in spite of his years of operation and success in Nigeria. There are many Nigerians like him though not so rich but rich in integrity. They are either working or doing business all over the world, dedicated, honest and with proven integrity. They deserve to be protected to continue with their works.
Mr. President could have said “yes I agree with Mr. Cameron “some Nigerians” are corrupt but there are some that go about their businesses with high sense of honesty and integrity. In fact I have the support of many of my countrymen in my effort to flush out the bad eggs”. This answer would have satisfied his host who set him up, while giving credit and protection to hardworking Nigerians all over the world (and we know of many). This would have also reduced the rate at which the international community’s treat Nigerians with “extreme caution” which is bad for business as well as other engagements. The fact is that Nigerians are not all corrupt. Like Mr. President himself (though his statement didn’t exempt him) I believe he is not corrupt otherwise he would have no credibility to fight corruption.
There is something called international diplomacy. Its tenets have kept and protected countries against each other’s intrigues for generations. That was why Mr. Cameron did not disclose that the same holy Britain is the destination of most of the world’s stolen funds. That doesn’t make Mr. Cameron less honest than Mr. Buhari. It only shows the difference of their understanding of the tenets of diplomacy. A leader cannot be too honest to ignore the survival of his country in terms of international perception. No right thinking father would (in order to demonstrate honesty) announce to the world that all his daughters are prostitutes with HIV positive status and expect prospective suitors to come for those of his daughters that are not prostitutes, have sound HIV status and have lived with high sense of decency. Such blanket pronouncement would amount to disservice to the good ones and harmful. Yet Nigerians have praised Mr. President for this harm. It’s his time.
I have always believed there is something called blessing from God. When God has blessed you with something it shows in all that you do whether you are right or wrong. President Buhari is extremely blessed in this age with something called “blind followership”. If he were to stand in the streets of Abuja and urinates, there are a number of his followers that would applaud him for having done well and brook no criticism of his actions. Take the oil subsidy removal for instance. Nigerians are solidly behind him. But recall that previous administrations have tried same unsuccessfully because of resistance from Nigerians. Blind followership? Buhari has it. It’s a gift from God. But he should use it wisely and fast because blind followership is always for a season. It’s temporary. Jonathan had it after his “no-shoe” claim. It faded in due season. Same with President Obama after his “yes we can” slogan and many others. Buhari is still enjoying his “change” mantra and the usual temporary blindness that goes with it. Temporary blindness can be a result of love, sympathy, complacence, stupidity or tiredness with the status quo. It has a time limit. It can be dangerous when the reason for the blind eye is eventually not met and the people reopened their eyes. Mr. President should therefore not lose sight of this possibility. We wish him all the best while it last. We call on all Nigerians to continue to support him hoping it would not get to a situation when the people have to re-shine their eyes.
James Abang Writes From Atte-Okiuso Village, Urueoffong/ Oruko LGA