“Corruption is the thief of economic and social development; stealing the opportunities of ordinary people to progress and to prosper,” said UNODC Chief, Yury Fedotov, in 2013. “Without corruption and bribery, millions of women, children and men cannot be trafficked as slaves; thousands of small arms cannot reach their violent destinations; and tons of illicit drugs cannot reach their consumers… .”
He might have added that without corruption, the oil producing areas of Nigeria would have been tourist delights, instead of the prehistoric subhuman enclaves that they have remained. The World Bank estimates that every year, between $20 and $40 billion is lost from developing countries due to corruption and bribery. The people suffer. The environment also suffers. As at 2019, the princely sum of N769 billion had passed through the gravy train called the Niger-Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
In the 20 years of democratic rule, N8.66 trillion (more than $22 billion) derivation fund has been paid to oil producing areas. Extreme poverty still defines the people’s existence. Eminent sons and daughters of the soil have reached a consensus to deepen the misery of their own people by sharing whatever is meant for the commonwealth among a few prominent thieves, condemning their people to subhuman existence.
As obtains in the rest of Nigeria, poverty is weaponised by the Niger-Delta political elite to flog the people into the long queue of beggars and supplicants. See how philanthropist Didier Drogba was recently rejected by the same Ivorian football establishment he was trying to elevate. A-f-r-i-c-a! Thus, it is virtually impossible to rouse the people from their slumber in the face of the massive rape of their resources. Their attitude is one of total acquiescence. Some slaves are absolutely in love with their chains!
They would say, “If the man is a thief, it is our money he stole. That is none of your business. What about people from other places who have stolen money too? What have you done to the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Umar Farouk, who allegedly spent N600 billion on school feeding and N250 billion on palliatives during the COVID-19 lockdown? What about the stealing going on in the North East Development Commission? Please leave our son alone!” The brood of young men and women who stormed the National Assembly carrying placards in support of the Minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio, during the last public hearing at the Assembly, have demonstrated that the younger generation are only awaiting their own chance to loot. Woe to the country which has uncommon liars and thieves as leaders. I had warned last year that Nigerian politicians might soon start showing up in caskets to keep their date in court. They had started coming in wheel chairs, stretchers or swooning inside the dock. Last week’s drama at the House — at which Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei ‘fainted’ and had to be escorted out without answering critical questions on how billions of Naira were dispensed has gone down in history as one of the saddest days in our national life.
This current political system whose lifeblood is sleaze, savage kleptomania and ruthless coverups, will be the death of this country. With increase in the level of misery in the land, the people may soon become disillusioned and resort to self-help. Then shall the prophecy of Peter Tosh be fulfilled: “Downpressor man, where you gonna run to? You gonna run to the sea, but the sea will be boiling… You gonna run to the rocks, the rocks will be melting… You can run but you can’t hide… .”
There was nothing honourable in the way the Ministers of Niger Delta and Labour and Productivity respectively conducted themselves at the national assembly last week. Both men have descended to the gutter level of area boys in trying to bluff their way out of tight corners. With men like those in charge of important ministries, is there any wonder that things are the way they are? Although national assembly members had, in the past, become notorious for blackmailing members of the executive for sundry bribes, this time around, the members were within their rights in trying to unearth how over N40 billion was spent even within the COVID-19 induced lockdown. How did the NDDC officials manage to quarantine all that money?
The NDDC should be removed from the influence of the ministry. Also, the NSITF should be removed from the control of the Minister of Labour. Then, Heads must roll. Let the president decide what to do with his farcical feigning fainters and their ilk.
Meanwhile, we continue to feign normalcy as if denial of empirically verifiable reality is enough to vaporise objective reality. All correct, sir! Niger Deltans are worse off today than they were ten years ago. True? Boko Haram and bandits are controlling large swathes of territory and killing our troops at will. False? Politicians have made a farcical bazaar of our collective patrimony in their quest to load up a fat war chest for the 2023 elections. Correct? Electricity supply is becoming more unreliable by the day. Lie? Nepotism has become our ‘new normal’. Really? Panic stealing is Nigeria’s own pandemic. Haba!
Deceive yourself if you like; most Nigerians quit self-deception long ago.
We meet to part and we part to meet. After nine years writing for this medium, this column takes a bow today, to resume on another platform. It’s been an exciting journey. Thank you for your company over the years. Adios!