Friday, November 16, 2018

Why Do Nigerians Celebrate Thieves?

*WHY DO NIGERIANS CELEBRATE THIEVES?*

By The People's Bishop Kenneth Obi

It is no longer news that corruption is the bane of Nigeria’s development, and that corruption is the canker worm which has eaten deep into the fabric of the Nigerian system. But we can also conclusively say that corruption is everywhere in Nigeria simply because “majority of Nigerians celebrate corruption.” The saddest part is that most Nigerians have failed to see the looming danger with this ‘abominable culture,’ as the same people who are impoverished go about singing the praises of the very people who impoverished them. It is like one using his own hands to dig his own grave without realizing it. We therefore believe it is about time to stop this celebration of known thieves of our dear country of Nigeria.

A ‘known thief’ is not only the man/woman who stole a goat, or the one who breaks into a house to steal, or the one who uses a gun to aid his stealing. As long as one takes what does not solely belong to one, or what belongs to others – such a person is simply a thief. No matter the scale or how small the size/quantity of what is stolen – a thief is a thief, and we should call them what they are – thieves. The political leaders across all levels who have one allegation or the other of any element of graft/stealing public funds, are even worse than known armed robbers. This is because with just a pen, a political leader can steal the entire collective fortunes/resources of a people – thereby sending all to perpetual poverty. Unlike a known armed robber who robs a bank or one’s house, a political leader can steal public funds for years unnoticed, with reckless abandonment and impunity. They steal, and steal, and steal the collective public wealth meant for development of Nigerian people, which ultimately pushes the population into abject poverty and deprivation, and the youth population into all kinds of crimes to earn a living.

Though, two wrongs cannot make a right, hence we are not in support of the idea of people going into crime because of hardship. This should not push anyone into committing crime. But what is even more of a crime and disposition that should be stopped by the majority of the populace – is the celebration and praise-singing of known political thieves. It is a known fact that the root cause of all the crimes we see today in the Nigeria society are caused by the political leaders who have developed this high insatiable appetite for stealing of public funds. So, all the killings and loss of lives in large scale that we see around us today are caused one way or the other by these corrupt politicians. As such, they might as well be called ‘armed robbers’. The truth is, if these political leaders have conscience, they will not be stealing public funds meant for the development of their own people.

As noted by Kenyan anti-corruption crusader, Prof. Patrick Loch Otieno (PLO) Lumumba, while advising African leaders in one of his well-circulated online interview videos, he said: “…If the population has been welded to the idea that corruption is a bad thing, then that is the beginning of the success of that battle… impunity is well and alive in Africa. And we the electorates, as I have said times without number, are in the business of celebrating thieves. We must stop this! We camouflaged theft, by giving it modernized English names like ‘money laundering’, ‘fraud’, ‘embezzlement’, and all those venial that makes them look as if it is some kind of nice game. Let us call these men and women by the right name, they are Thieves – stealing on an industrial scale. They are murderers. And once we begin to call them by that and mount it on their forehead, and we shun them…it has been done in other African countries…such as Tanzania they have been dealt with, in Rwanda they have been dealt with, in Mauritius they have been dealt with, in Botswana they have been dealt with. Once we begin to deal with them like this, then others that may want to behave like them may begin to take cue… That is the only way Africa will realize their potential.”

There are those politicians who deliberately prevent the development of their own place of birth, simply because they want to create and sustain ‘a safe haven’ where they can conveniently rig elections, and also carry out their illegal trades. There are countless of such communities in Nigeria. In fact, one of the easiest ways politicians are known to manipulate election results in their favour, is to inflate election results coming from the community areas at the State level, where International/Domestic Election Observers often do not reach or go to during elections. In other words, scarcely populated interior community areas are made to end up having unrealistic (populated) figures of voters. This situation where a remote rural area population is more than urban cities, but in reality, if you visit these remote villages you will not see up to thirty persons, but their official population is high. What do we call that? But if the communities are developed as the land urban areas, it becomes difficult to rig election in the remote areas. High insatiable greed and high taste for ill gotten wealth will not allow these political leaders to ask, demand or work for the development of their birth place. Is this not a clear case of the acts of wickedness?

The unfortunate part is that the locals are happy and do not see anything wrong with their so-called rich politicians cheating them and depriving them of development. They know if the rural villages are developed they will not be able to cook up high population figures or come up with their ‘imaginary’ rural communities that are not in existence. The question is, must they play their dirty politics to deprive their home villages of development?  For God sake, these politicians should allow development in their own villages so that their own people will have a taste of urban life in the villages. The locals themselves should stop allowing these politicians to shortchange them and mortgage their future. This show of shame and absurdity was displayed somewhere in Nigerian when a corrupt politician attended a traditional Marriage party. From the moment he entered the said venue of the Marriage ceremony, the entire, obviously ‘ignorant crowd,’ stood up in praises to usher him into the party venue. *When will Nigerians wise up and stop claiming ownership and praising thieves.* And we wonder why the looting of public funds meant for our development will not continue unhindered! As long as they keep respecting, praising, and honouring these public thieves, the public looting will never stop.

These political thieves and their fronts and those professional praise singers who are also good orators that deliver public papers, should not be given any respect by community locals and the Nigerian people because they do not mean well for them. These ‘Political thieves’ are in every State of the Federation. But majority of the Nigerian people are shielding them from being facing justice because, rather than shame, expose and disgrace these political thieves, they deliberately/ignorantly celebrate and praise them. As noted again by Prof. Lumumba in another of his speech: “The culture in many African countries is that if a thief is from your tribe, you say yes, we know he’s a thief, but he’s our thief; this must stop. This ownership of thieves, because they come from our ethnic group, or they come from our religious circle; is one of the things that undermines the fight against corruption in many parts of Africa. We must therefore, create an environment, where those who engage in graft do not have places of refuge in their ethnic groups. We must not create an environment where, when we punish people because they have engaged in graft, we then give them protection because they come from our tribe. It is a problem that is going to persist in a country such as Nigeria. But it is only through the legislature, which comprises of people from all parts of Nigeria, that we can ensure that these thieves are not given oxygen to breath, so that they can suffocate through their iniquities.”

That culture of claiming ownership of political thieves should stop. We should shun them with their ill-gotten wealth. They are worse than armed robbers. They are wicked and cruel. They push those youths who cannot resist temptation into crimes like prostitution, armed robbery, kidnapping, etc. So why giving these political thieves respect? Why give them any sort of award, title, or honour? The traditional monarchs in our society are not helping matters because they give them all kinds of multiple recognition and Chieftaincy titles.

We also believe that the Celebration of Corrupt persons is also Corruption, and should be seen and treated as such. To that end, the act of celebrating corrupt persons should be punishable as well, just the same way the confirmed corrupt persons are punished. It is obvious that those celebrating these thieves are doing so because for the sole purpose of gaining/taking from such illegally acquired loot. Those people, involved or observed to be celebrating corrupt persons, be they academicians, traditional rulers, etc., should be in this category. For instance, it has come to that point where giving a Chieftaincy title to someone confirmed to be corrupt, or someone having corruption cases hanging on their neck; should be seen as aiding, abating and encouraging corruption in our society. As such, those giving such Chieftaincy titles should equally face the wrath of the law.

Even if it means to enact laws to address this, so be it. And it is easy to know those persons confirmed to be corrupt because, when the official incomes of political office holders are seen to be not enough to justify their numerous estates, choice of cars and lavish lifestyles, then such persons (whether they have been indicted or not), should be viewed with the lens of corruption. We do not need a microscope to identify them. They are very glaring to see because once the salaries and allowances of those said to be corrupt cannot justify their current state of financial worth, then something is wrong somewhere. How much is the salary of a State Governor for instance to warrant him owing more than his entire savings can afford? These are ways to identify and easily know those whose acquired wealth is illegitimate.

It also appears the different cultures in Nigeria encourages corruption to thrive through different channels. We see this in most Nigerian lavish Marriage ceremonies, birthday parties, wedding anniversaries, burial ceremonies, etc. there are too many wastages in our social gatherings, which are also avenues for these political thieves to show-off and receive public praises. All of these are just to boast people’s egos and pride, that they have arrived. What will one person be doing with a fleet of exotic and expensive cars that are not even driven for months, but usually parked and covered in carports. All they do is to warm them every morning without driving. Is that not crazy. If such vehicles are official working vehicles used by staff to operate one’s business, we do not mind. But such official cars should be seen used by workers to run errands, and not just parking them in carports to decorate a beautiful mansion. All these are stupidities and ignorance of the highest order. What will such demonstration of pride, ego and status symbol do for anybody? Will it address the overwhelming poverty level, unemployment and insecurity situation in the country? Of course nothing!

All those “I am this, and I am that” – showcasing stolen wealth, will not take anyone anywhere neither will it guarantee you security or immune to the impoverishment in the land steering all of us daily in our environment. Even if one legally acquires his/her wealth, one should not spend it on useless activities just to show off. What will a Pastor for instance, be doing with a fleet of private jets? They say they are for evangelism. But how many times do they travel for evangelism? If even they travel by air, can’t they take First class in commercial flights to any city of the world? There are regular flights to all the cities they are travelling to. For us, all these are vanity. If the money is too much for them and they no longer know what to spend it on, why can’t they divert it for charity purpose as it is done by Bill Gate and his wife, to better the lives of the less privileged persons in the society?

The bottom line is that the culture of celebrating known-political thieves should stop. If the people know that these people they clap for and sing praises about, are the ones responsible for their deprivation, poverty and underdevelopment, then they should start seeing them ‘as the real enemies of the state’, and they should ensure that they are shamed. If not, this public stealing of our collective wealth will not stop. We know there are Nigerians who earn their wealth legally, and we respect such persons. But such public display of pride and ego as a result of one’s wealth and status should stop.

Come to think of it, how many rooms can they live in? how many beds can they sleep in? How many cars can they enter and drive in at a time? The answer to all is just one! They cannot wear more than a pair of shoes at a time. Humility is key and the principle thing in life, which makes us have empathy for others wellbeing. Ego and pride are nothing but foolishness. Ego, pride and greed are what makes many people not to be contented with what they have. They are never satisfied; hence they keep on accumulating money that they do not really need. For a man to be attending a social gathering with over Fifty (50) hefty men just sitting down behind him or standing outside hanging around the venue of the event, is totally misplaced and uncalled for. They should invest the money in businesses that will employ these young men trouping after them as politicians, instead of having them always hanging around and begging for peanuts. The time to stop all these celebrations of thieves in Nigeria is now!

Christian Alert Group, Nigeria Rise Initiative in conjunction with Citizens for Righteousness and Social Justice is the Best way to Go Raising Anti Corruption Crusaders fighting Injustices in a Violent and Immoral Society of Nigeria for a Better Nigeria come 2019.

For more information: 08038276188, 08033376734, 08038754069 & 07034463316. USA contacts: 4047323549, 4044686563 & 2149005848.

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The People's Bishop Kenneth Obi *Anti* -Corruption Crusader and *Advocate* of Humanity and Social Justice.