“Our enemies are the political profiteers, the swindlers, the men in high and low places that seek bribes and demand 10 percent; those that seek to keep the country divided permanently so that they can remain in office as ministers or VIPs at least, the tribalists, the nepotists, those that make the country look big for nothing before international circles, those that have corrupted our society and put the Nigerian political calendar back by their words and deeds. ” Major Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, 15 January 1966
Thus said the late Major Kaduna Nzeogwu (one of the first casualties of our descent into oblivion and desperation) 45 years ago, almost half a century ago, and my countrymen and women, everything he spoke about then still happens today, in fact, has gotten worse and has eaten deep into the fabrics of our nation Nigeria, the so-called Giant of Africa. More like the “Corruption Cesspool of the World” to me!
Politicians, especially the Nigerian species, are an intriguing and confounding breed. I like to hope and think of them as a breed that will soon become extinct, like the dinosaurs, but unfortunately for the people the have chosen to visit their irresponsibility and corruption on, these breed of conscienceless charlatans seem to be breeding more and waxing stronger, at the great expense of their people.. This is probably due to some genetic aberration from their fathers, or predecessors who have passed on to them the hardy genes of survival. I hope not, or else, there will not be any hope left for these battered and raped people called Nigerians.
It is tempting to think of these politicians and pseudo-leaders as pathological liars and absolutely corrupt breed with an appetite for destruction, not construction. As devious, scheming minds, so desperate for power and personal aggrandisement that they are willing to risk the reputations and livelihoods of all around them, they are ready to kill and loot and rape. Of course if you are liar, you will be corrupt, and if you are corrupt you are likely to kill to cover up your corruption. But one thing, which comes out of these corrupt, pathological and murderous liars, is that they are mostly cowards. Yes, these people are mostly COWARDS.
Perhaps there is also something appealing about these people, almost always male, so seemingly daring that women flock to them because of the power, wealth and devil-may care gung-ho they seem to exude.
Compatriots, I have always maintained that the problem of Nigeria is not that of religious or tribal diversities. We can co-exist peacefully together in one nation, if only we have the right, honest, sincere leaders, and followers of different mind-set, too, mind you! Corruption is the main problem, and corruption is usually fuelled and nurtured by bad leadership and aided and abetted by an indifferent followership. So bad and corrupt leaders will use every means, including religious and tribal differences, to maintain their grip on wealth and power
At any rate, this article is written because a friend and patriot, Comrade Ephraim Adinlofu, directed my attention to an interview, granted the Sun Newspapers by a former Minister during the military government of Babangida, Mr Tony Momoh. This is an excerpt from the Interview with The Sun Newspaper (Wednesday 14 Sept 2011)
“Sun: But some people accuse ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo as the problem of PDP
Tony Momoh: No. Obasanjo is not the problem of PDP. I see Obasanjo with due respect as a very strong leader, a strong leader, but highly arbitrary. He was the problem of Nigeria, not just PDP. Obasanjo had all the opportunities to grow this country, restructure this country.
Because of the manipulated support they had in the National Assembly and all the state Assemblies, they would have changed the constitution to decongest the political space, and then empower the regions, and let people move at their own pace. In other words, go back to the regional system because our presidential system does not seem to be working. And working for Nigeria is more of a business than service. Obasanjo was in a position to do it. I even wrote to him to do it.
That, ought to be his mission.”
After reading this interview, I just sat down and started what I call a deep intellectual and spiritual reflection on Nigeria: the critical question is and has always been: What is wrong with our leaders? Is there genetic dimension to their inability to perform? Listening and reading Tony Momoh, I was amused. Just as I laugh anytime I read about Atiku's commentaries on Obasanjo. These people have no honour at all. Even among thieves, there is honour, but in Nigeria, there is none. Just hearing and reading Babangida, Atiku, Richard Akinjide (another spoiler of Nigeria) Momoh and their ilk moaning, I feel sick. Momoh was, once a Minister under Babangida. I cannot remember him rebuking Babangida for annulling the June 12, 1993 election. I cannot really! Even if it means leaving the country and making the condemnation from outside the shores of Nigeria; he never did.
The fact is that if you escape your responsibility by not doing the right thing when you are in power, or be critical when you are a Minister, you should not moan when your inactions begins to haunt you years after you have left the scene and have blown away your opportunity to make a big difference.. Tony Momoh, IBB, Atiku and OBJ, and even Buhari, had every opportunity given to them on the platter of sometimes gold to make our institutions and country strong, but they never did. Today, they are all moaning, spewing out nattering nabobs. If they had done that or help to do that, today, they will not be shouting to high heavens that PDP rigged the election or that Jonathan should not have been the presidential candidate of the PDP. With the exception of the June 12, 1993 election, all subsequent elections have always been rigged.
So what effort did they make whilst in power to make sure that the electoral, police and the judicial institutions were made independent and strong before they left the power scene, what effort? You see how people get their recompense! They think they can - after they have left office and from their bedroom - mould the future of Nigeria to their fancy at any time. If IBB had allowed June 12 election to stand, I have the strongest feeling that by now, Nigeria would have overtaken South Africa. The West knew what Nigeria is capable of, but does the West have the genuine progress and interest of Nigeria at heart? No, they are after their interest but, who do you blame? Comprador Nigerian bourgeoisies and their military counterparts.
Another punch: during the "Save Nigeria March" of late Yar ‘Adua's era, Pastor Tunde Bakare, the vice-presidential candidate to Buhari, thundered, (and this was carried by virtually as front page burner in most Nigerian daily papers): "I wish Nzeogwu’s coup had succeeded"! I thought he was joking then. And had then asked myself another question: Why did Pastor Bakare make that declaration? What must have crossed his mind at that point in Nigeria's history for him (Pastor Bakare) to make such a sensitive deposition?
One of those who countered that coup, a celebrated "hero" in the Nigeria contextual game of ethnic and religious chicanery, told Nigerians to their face that he made a huge profit in the sale of his crude oil bloc located in the Niger-Delta; that after paying tax, - and perhaps sharing some of the huge gain to his children, - he was still left with more than US$500 million! You know who I am talking about, don't you? (In fact I wrote an article about this – “Pseudo-Leaders And Nigerian Politics” Nigeria Village Square, 23 March 2008. http://www.nigeriavillagesquare.com/index.php?option=com_content&am... ) We now know why he participated in that counter coup of July 1966. Opportunists and profiteers are never in short supply in Nigeria! So, why should we still continue to blame the international community, specifically Britain and the USA, in the underdevelopment of Nigeria? Not at all! I no longer blame them. We have got ourselves to blame after 51 years of Independence.
That is another of our problems as a people. Instead of accepting blames and mistakes and working collectively for solutions, we dismiss the mistakes; pass the blame to others and trying to find individual solutions to collective problems. A very good example of this is the way we deal with electricity problem in Nigeria. We all rush to but generators, but we never confront the Federal Government of Nigeria, the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, and their respective officials and take them to task, and ask for their heads, for their failure to supply us with electricity in this 21st Century.
To be frank, what Tony Momoh said is true, but considering he was part of the problems of Nigeria, it should not be coming from him, as explained above. There is yet to be a Nigerian leader who had the ability, the strength, the resources, the force, the power, etc to make Nigeria better than Obasanjo.
God was even on his side. I will never understand how he managed to throw this chance to become a true Statesman in the mould of Mandela and Kennedy away to become a much ridiculed man, accused of corruption and vilified everywhere. He had the best chance more than any other leader, military or civilian, but he blew it. God will not forgive him, because God gave him two chances, even three, such as He had hardly given to any man in the history of the whole world.
But greed at his age made him throw it away. Yes, Tony Momoh was right. But he was part of Nigeria’s problem, so it behoves him to offer solutions.
And you know what? Another leader who could have done Nigeria right was Babangida, although to a much lesser extent. It would have given Babangida an opportunity to redeem himself in the eyes of God and Man. He threw it away too, and after so many years, he tried to seek redemption, but due to the fact that a horse will always die a horse, and a leopard can never change its spots, Babangida could not escape his fate and his reputation for corruption, immorality, deceit and chicanery, but unfortunately for him, he could not accept that fact, and instead continued to ridicule himself while trying by all means to outdo his former boss, Obasanjo by trying a comeback to power every time. I think that has finally been laid to rest now, having attained the age of 70. Or maybe not!
What a waste!
Acknowledgement: I am ever so grateful to my friend, brother, colleague and co-writer, Comrade Ephraim Adinlofu for giving me almost 100% germ of the idea and materials to write this article. Comrade, it is mostly your ideas that always inspire me to write despite my sometimes lethargy and pessimism about our country.