NewsReel 22/11/13 - The Outrageous Reason for Dearth of Outrage in Nigeria

[ Masterweb Reports: Chidera Ukozor Nwogbo reports ] - The exasperating thing about the systemic rot in Nigeria is that at heart, almost every Nigerian is a potential looter of public treasury; they literally pray for a chance to get their hands on public funds. The practice is so embedded and imbibed that any officeholder, no matter how insignificant the office, regards himself as “blessed” with the opportunity to embezzle or to extract as much graft as possible from the public he is supposed to serve. The wimpy fuss over the $1.6m “spent” for two armored cars by Ms. Stella Oduah and her NCAA cohorts is one. The “inconclusive” Anambra State’s gubernatorial election is another. The kicker, it would seem, is the fake outrage of one side when the other side gets an upper hand in this their unending gamesmanship.
     The sad thing though is that some serious minded individuals in the Diaspora really believe that the unthinkable has been perpetrated each time the public is treated to one of these ugly specters. But are these nice people still at the stage of not knowing that that’s what goes on all the time? Why do you think that some Nigerians kill and maim others to get into office, or to get appointed into one? If you are still thinking about it, think about this: Presidents Clinton and the two Bushes live in regular, non-descript houses that are not worth more than $.6m in America’s mindlessly inflated real estate market, while Babangida and Obasanjo live in magnificent hill-top mansions. The only people who are fabulously rich in Nigeria are politicians who have “served” or are “serving” in office, and those who are close to them. Why is there no outrage? Why are Nigerians not in the streets demanding a change? The sad reason for this dearth of outrage is that everyone is bidding his or her own time, waiting for his own turn to loot this bottomless treasury.   
     A couple of years back, I was in Boston, Massachusetts on a visit, and my host took me along to a meeting of PDP Boston Branch. The membership of this PDP Chapter comprised of what I expected would be the composition of such a meeting in a city like Boston. The membership ran the gamut from the very well educated to the marginally educated, from the professionals who have made their marks in their chosen fields to the lowly clerks and security guards, from the high flying business executives to the cab drivers. But a common thread surprisingly ran through the demeanor and motives of all the members of this political party chapter in this far away Boston vis-à-vis Nigeria – they seemed to be competing for who would be the loudest megaphone for the “accomplishments” of their parent political party back home in Nigeria. At first I wondered if the meeting had always been that boisterous and ludicrous with it’s lavish of encomiums on a political party that had been in government for close to sixteen years and spent billions of dollars, with little to show for it. But on our way back to his house, my host informed me that there had been a representative from Aso Rock at the meeting. This representative, I was informed, had come with the news that a cabinet reshuffle was imminent in the presidency, and that the President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, had intimated to his close associates that he intended to name the next Finance Minister from amongst the Boston PDP Chapter members.
     The spectacle I beheld that day would be akin to a park of starving dogs fighting for a lone milk-bone thrown into their midst. My shock was palpable given that my host, an accomplished attorney of note, a man whom I knew to be intelligent and very articulate, was among those competing to outdo each other for the benefit of the messenger from Aso Rock. I looked on in horror, my mouth agape, as my host shouted himself hoarse as he concocted tales after another of the Utopia that the PDP-ran government in Nigeria had brought upon the citizenry of Nigeria. I didn’t have to wonder why he had engaged in such absurdity after he told me the mission of the guy from Abuja. My friend wanted to be Nigeria’s next Finance Minister.
     That evening, after dinner, my mind was still churning from the spectacle I beheld at the venue of the political party meeting. Up until attending that meeting, I never knew that my friend wanted to serve in government. Sure we discussed the situation in Nigeria all the time, but he hadn’t struck me as the type that would sacrifice his established law practice in lieu of service in government. So I asked him why he would want to give up his comfortable life for the unknown in Nigeria. For an answer, he acquired this far away look in his eyes and then informed me that he had dreamt of building an apartment complex of at least 60 units, and a couple of five-star hotels to boot, in cities in Southeast of Nigeria. At first, I didn’t see the connection between my question and his desire to build an apartment complex and two five-star hotels. Then it dawned on me that my friend’s plan was to embezzle money from the government if he was appointed into office in order to accomplish his real estate ambitions. Suffice it to say that he never got the chance to embezzle money from the government for the purpose of achieving his desire because he was never appointed to any position. As a matter of fact, nobody from the Boston Chapter of the PDP was appointed to anything as far as I know.
     All these were brought back to me on the recent report that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) procured two BMW cars at the cost of $1.6m (N255m) for the Aviation Minister’s use. This would mean that each car was purchased at the cost of about $800,000.00. Give me a break! Even with the added cost of rendering the two vehicles bulletproof, their cost would still insult the intelligence of an imbecile. Having thought about it, I suppose that the money that would transform my friend into a real estate mogul would come from such purchases, had he been appointed a Finance Minister. But let’s face it; this kind of scarcely disguised robbery is not new to government appointees in Nigeria. Such tales are commonplace. I bet that nothing is going to become of this NCAA/Aviation Minister’s blatant heist of public fund. More people will go on stealing public funds in Nigeria while the masses that had nowhere to turn would turn on each other. Some members of the aggrieved masses would turn to armed robbery. Some would turn to kidnapping. Some of them would become assassinations for hire. And some others amongst them would turn to duping the gullible and hapless from both within and outside Nigeria. And the aim of these citizens-turned-criminals would be to measure up to these thieving office holders. The vicious cycle will continue, culminating in native-foreigners like me not moving back home or even visiting for fear of what may befall them.
     But what is disturbing is that Nigerians who are educated in America, lives in America, and work within the law and orderliness of the American system could not wait to go back home to Nigeria – not to show examples of what products of a saner society they are – but to join the looting of their home country’s treasury; for their individual gain.
     “What has being upright or being of good behavior gotten us?” an architect of Nigerian extraction known to this writer and who had been awarded the building of noteworthy structures in a city in America’s eastern seaboard asked. “The last time I went home,” he said, “a couple of dumb-asses I used to know have erected tall buildings all over the places. During our secondary school days, these roughnecks were known for their brutishness, and I was known for being smart. I learned that one of them served as a local council chairman’s bodyguard, the other served as the same guy’s campaign manager. From there, they moved on to ‘more fertile grounds.’ Now they are both stinking rich. What has book-smartness and uprightness gotten me?”
     So it would seem that Nigerians both at home and in the Diaspora are of the same mind concerning the looting of Nigeria’s public treasury? Fine! But what about the minority of us who just want to live a quiet life devoid of molestation? What about those of us who would like to move back to Nigeria? These minority of individuals do not wish to go back to seek for appointments in government. They do not wish to go back to look for jobs of any kind. “Heck,” said another acquaintance of mine, “such undertaking would be akin to snatching food from a year old child on the ludicrous claim that one is hungrier than the child.” What this acquaintance meant to say was that there is no job to be had in Nigeria; that if there is a few to be found, such few should be left for those who live there.
     The minority of Nigerians I speak of who want to move back home to Nigeria are going back to start businesses of their own. They want to start businesses that would provide jobs for the teaming jobless youths. But alas, they can’t go
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