Thursday 17 December 2015

#MustRead: Dasukigate And The Hypocrisy Of Nigerians

by: Niran Adedokun

Recently, I had the privilege of the company of one of the most accomplished Nigerians I know. Now approaching 80, the man told a story, which I crave your indulgence to share.

According to him, decades back, he was in a position to influence the businesses of a lot of contractors. One particular Christmas season, a contractor gifted him with an item made of gold. He took this gift with all joy and went home on holiday. On the day that the company resumed early the next year, he went into the office of his European superior and they shared stories of their individual experiences while on vacation.

In the course of this discussion, the foreigner informed him that the same contractor had given him a gold wrist watch. He complained that it was irregular for the man to have presented such an expensive gift to him and that he could not accept it. He had decided to return it. And return it he did! Some days after this conversation, the giver-contractor reported the impossible behaviour of the European to his Nigerian colleague, wondering how anyone could reject such an expensive gift and the matter died.

So what happened to his own gift? He kept it! He said last week: “I was going to mention my gift to my superior in the course of our discussion but thank God he mentioned it first because if I mentioned it first, I would have been compelled to return mine too.”

I asked if he, at any time, felt there was anything wrong with the gift before his colleague mentioned it and he answered in the negative, just like I expected. So, why did he not see anything wrong in accepting what would obviously pass as an incentive to favour the benefactor?

In discussing this, we agreed that traditionally, we, as a people do not see anything wrong with accepting such gifts even if they impair our resolve to be fair. In addition to that, this wise man, while explaining that he was ready to open up on compromises that he engaged in in the course of his long career in the public and private sectors, volunteered his conviction that one of the things that give interminable life to corruption in Nigeria is the failure of all of us to concede to some level of complicity instead of seeing everyone but ourselves as culprits. How far can a country go when deception and self-righteousness tower over sincere acceptance of common guilt followed by penitence and a determination to collectively change our ways.

This is the light in which I see the global condemnation of the immediate past National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki (retd.) and some of those who have been accused of complicity in the misappropriation of monies allocated to his office while he served the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

I still cannot make much out of the current mob condemnation of Dasuki and his cohort. This opinion, which I have always held was strengthened when Justice Gabriel Kolawole reportedly expressed fears that the case against founder of DAAR Communications, Dr. Raymond Dokpesi, may not stand because necessary parties from the Office of the National Security Adviser who were directly involved in the alleged diversion of the N2.1bn were not joined as defendants.

Such oversight and slips bordering on lack of diligence have so frequently left prosecuting agencies in Nigeria confounded as accused people walk away. What has taken the attention of most of us for the past few weeks are media trials which in themselves amount to nothing. I have seen a lot of such drama evaporate and thin out like steam off hot water. Most of the time, the worst punishment those accused of such malfeasance get would be the premature condemnation of the emotional citizen, unless some tight evidence has been built against them. There is a reason why they say the law is an ass.

However, in the event that these cases are prosecuted diligently and everyone accused of corruption is eventually sent to jail or made to refund some of the huge sums that they have allegedly pilfered, would that be the end of Nigeria’s problem with widespread corruption?

The answer, to the best of my understanding, is no. The question to ask is, why has corruption become so much of a problem in Nigeria when leaders have been killed or jailed for allegedly corruptly enriching themselves from as far back as the First Republic. For instance, an almost endless list of politicians were sent to incredible number of years in jail, some of them losing their lives or vital body parts in the process at the crash of the Second Republic, yet Nigeria is still grappling with corruption . Isn’t there then the chance that there is some sociological explanation to Nigeria’s corruption debacle?

Is there anything totally unusual about the National Security Adviser disbursing funds for a variety of contingencies that are not patently security related? This is against the backdrop of the fact that this country has condoned the idea of a security vote for years.

From what I understand, the president of the country, governors of states and local government chairmen are entitled to some amount of money, usually decided by them with the tag “security vote.” The implication of this is that the man who deserves the security vote is entitled to use the money for any purpose without the prying eyes of his legislature, even if they were not as impotent as they have proved to be. We have for years, conceded the right to define what “security” is from time to time to these men and women. I therefore think it is hypocritical for us to be miffed at the revelations that the former NSA disbursed funds meant for security purposed for totally unrelated reasons when we have refused to query the system that allows such recklessness. I would also be shocked if anyone in an executive position is free of guilt on this front.

Another point of complicity for the average Nigerian is that the huge amount of monies invested on elections comes into our pockets. Do we ever ask questions about where politicians, whether they belong to the Peoples Democratic Party, which is now in the eye of the storm or the All Progressives Party, which currently pretends to be above board, get the money that they spend on elections from? Where did the loads of dollars said to have been distributed during the national conventions of these two parties come from? Did we ask or we just took the monies and pretended like nothing happened?

But I guess the answer to this mystery is what Bamidele Johnson, in a recent article titled, “Dokpesi’s N2.1b: kini big deal?” identifies as the refusal of the Nigerian to see anything “wrong in any activity-legal or otherwise-from which he/she benefits.” When we take up arms against it, we most likely have not gained from it but when we gain, we go all the way to defend it

While Dasuki and those who walk with him wait for the day of reckoning, Nigerians must decide what we want for this country. Today, we have created an oppressive society that is very fertile for corruption. Our religious bodies elevate people of questionable character to high places, we organise spiritual interventions for people who have dates with security agencies just so they escape the law. The courts and lawyers connive to frustrate the course of justice!

The corruption in us make us strive to build houses that we cannot maintain, drive cars that we cannot afford and send our children to schools just so to be even with our friends. A society where parents buy questions papers and results for their children cannot blame those who go into government for stealing because every little act of corruption is a deposit in the till that ultimately disturbs the country.

I cannot stop arguing that this nation must be responsible enough to make life easy for its people, but we also must tell ourselves that the right standing of a people is critical to their development.

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