A couple of years ago, a young lady working at the JAMB office stunned the nation when she said the JAMB money in her possession was swallowed by a snake. It was such an incredulous admission that social media made a joke of it for quite a while. Even the regular, mainstream media made jocular comments.
I can maybe understand why. The admission was so beyond belief, so imbecile for an adult to make, that it had to be a joke. But if it was, then it was a bad joke.
And it said so much about the quality of people we entrust with public funds that a statement like that should come from a middle-level staff. It said so much about what we had become as a people that the whole thing was treated – and dismissed as a sick joke. I hope JAMB subsequently employed a snake charmer to force other snakes from their dark, slimy corners. But I doubt it because it is not in our character to clean out dark corners. Especially if entrenched snakes are still lurking.
Snakes are not the only culprits. Middle-level staffs are not the only culprits. Last month, we were treated to how billions of Naira were swallowed in NDDC. This time by the Commission’s uppermost echelon. A stunning 80 billion Naira was consumed for overseas travels alone during a worldwide lockdown.
The sitting MD was so overcome by the heat of the allegations and the seemingly claustrophobic nature of the NASS Chambers that he fainted. This led to the Speaker promising in compassion, that the fainting NDDC boss would no longer be subjected to such ‘a grueling’ interrogation. Again, we have made all kinds of jokes out of the incident. Meanwhile, our outrage did not boil over into the streets.
One notable activist who made his name- and his millions- by decrying and protesting the state of things in the Niger-Delta region even said what was stolen was peanuts. Shortly before this, a former boss of the same Commission and her supervising Minister fought dirty on issues ranging from insubordination to amorous advances.
Meanwhile, the elephant in the room, which was the control of the NDDC purse was studiously ignored. We all enjoyed the fight, the show of shame, but that seems to be all about it. At the NSITF, still under the same ministry, the innocent has been swept away with the guilty in an executive purge because some people feel they are being impeded in the quest to control the treasury.
All seems to be quiet on all these fronts. Neither the Minister who has ‘honourable’ attached to his title, nor the other indicted officials, has so far done the honourable thing which is to push for a holistic investigation to clear their names and to resign while this is going on. None has been forced by an outraged public, especially Niger-Deltans to do so. Even the President who once claimed a zero tolerance for corruption didn’t feel it necessary to have these people step aside while a high powered investigative is set up.
Last week, we sank into a new low when a well- known bank with a trusted and respected brand, claimed it mistakenly transferred a whopping five hundred million Naira into a Pastor’s account over four years ago.
The bank did not notice its error until the ‘anomaly’ was pointed out by an investigative panel. This kind of defense coming from a bank’s CEO is as imbecile as that of a snake swallowing money. Who really is fooling whom? Again, it raises the question of how many bank CEOs with ‘memory lapses’ are moving funds around and how many banks are engaged in unwholesome practices all over the place. Banking as an institution is about integrity and trust. In saner climes, something would be done quickly to preserve that integrity and trust by sanctioning this erring bank. But would that be in our character?
Speaking of character, a man of controversial character passed on last week. May his soul rest in peace. A two time Head of State in his tribute stated what we all know to be true about the vanity of life and what we are all made to believe about Judgment Day. In doing this, he referred to the deceased controversial past; how he used law and politics to escape justice but could not escape death.
Ordinarily, I would have shrugged and moved on even if I felt a man of his stature and age should have been more circumspect about his comments especially when death is so fresh and people are still grieving.
But it becomes petty and low when one realizes that this was a man he had worked with so closely to fight some of his political battles and subsequently commended and prayed openly for. So which do we believe?
His earlier commendation and prayers or his latter condemnation and curses? It was the same way he led us on about his former Vice President whom he condemned and then praised – both publicly. This kind of double-speak questions his character and our judgment in picking our leaders.
But this pales in comparison to the antics of an erstwhile Governor and party Chairman. Four years ago, during Edo State gubernatorial campaign, he was vociferous in condemning the opposition and generous in praising his candidate. Now, he is doing exactly the opposite – praising the man he lashed four years ago, and lashing the man he once praised as the lynchpin of his administration – without so much as missing a heartbeat. It was pathetic watching him kneel in apology before some Edo Chiefs. But the circle is too narrow.
He needs to apologize to the whole of the Edo people. He needs to apologize to the nation. Most importantly, he needs to apologize to the two contestants for years of serial abuse and libel. He said his successor is untrustworthy. He is the untrustworthy one. If he says it is raining, I would go out with an umbrella (no pun intended).
Any other man would have stayed in the shadows knowing what he said so copiously in public four years ago about the two contestants. Instead, he is the face of the campaign. Where is his honor? One can only hope the Edo people would not be fooled by his double-talk.
If I didn’t know the depth the nation has sunk to overtime, I would have said he was unworthy of the high offices he had held in the past as Labour Leader, Governor, and party Chairman. As it is, he fits the profile of present Nigeria. He typifies our new low.