Sunday, 18 October 2009

Corruption: Death Penalty The Answer

By Sammie Adetiloye 
(Nigerian Affairs)

My conviction is so strong that the application of death penalty to deal with corrupt public office holders is what we badly need to begin to level axe to the root of corruption in Nigeria. Those driven by raw patriotic ardour to serve their people sincerely have nothing to fear.

When we go to the polls to choose our representatives, we do so with great enthusiasm and high hopes. We vote with the expectation that the dawn of a new era will see our country on the road to economic progress and political stability.

This expectation often persuades the common man, who labours from morning to night, whose children are in rags, who lives in sub-human conditions, to make it to the polling station to cast his vote. But the leaders who always emerge are of doubtful reputation, and are hell bent on rendering asunder his hope and expectation. They have nothing to offer the common man in return for his toil other than a frightful spectacle of poverty and mismanagement. And the common man has no right to ask why his country has become a den of iniquity with a cocktail of corruption and ineptitude – the malignant cells in the body politic of Nigeria.

I went to Nigeria last September for the first time in 16 years. Immediately I got off the plane, the wind of corruption started blowing across my face from the airport. As soon as I left the baggage collection point, I was stopped on my way out by a young woman in mufti with a badge of her department on her chest. She said: “You are welcome! Find me something before I let you go!” Lo and behold, I was forced to part with the only £5 note in my wallet. I had already sent the bulk of my money home through the Western Union. And when I was giving her the money, she asked me to give it to her tout sitting next to her. After doing that I looked around for any CCTV camera, and I saw one sitting overhead. But the lady and her tout couldn’t be bothered. The same was the case at the departure hall on my way back to the UK.

While in the country, I visited my home town, Ise-Ekiti, the headquarters of the Orun/Ise Ekiti Local Government in Ekiti State. Except that the town is now numerous in people, there is nothing to show that the local politicians there have any human sagacity to improve the socio-economic prosperity of their people. I was told that the King of the town, the Arinjale of Ise-Ekiti, who is so angry at the insensitivity of the politicians to the sufferings of his people, had vowed to fight those who engage in political pornography in his domain with the spiritual resources of his forefathers.

I also visited Suleja, a town near Abuja. When I entered the town, my optical nerves were disturbed by the sight of the poor environment people are living in. Gulley erosion is eating deep into many houses. The area is foul with dirt of years which threatens the article of water people drink with pollution. Examples of human suffering are ubiquitous.
Sadly, Nigeria revenue from crude oil is just enough to meet the voracity of the country’s politicians and Army Generals who believe that Nigeria is just for them alone.
Money is readily available to send their children abroad to study, and treat them with all manner of luxurious indulgence. At home they can afford to shut down our universities and colleges for months.

Nothing is available to build basic infrastructure for people in the area where the oil is coming from. Nothing is left to construct good intercity roads to reduce motor accidents on our roads. Police are found wanting. They can no longer curb the enormous array of crime in our towns and cities. The ordinary man in our country today feels that his future is not secure in his fatherland. He feels that the future of his children has lost all semblance of clarity. No Nigerian abroad can feel confident that the watchful eye of his country will protect him against injustice and abuse.

Yet our leaders cannot be bothered. Their actions, pronouncements and decisions on what it takes to commit them to the need to improve the quality of life of their people are inimical to rationalism. I think the time is now to wrestle our country back from the leaders who are hollow, shallow and empty in knowledge of good governance. They are just out there feeding their grasping greed. Their inability to shake off their love affairs with corruption is permanent in duration.

One of many notorious examples is Chief Olabode George who was convicted and sentenced to two years in gaol on October 26, 2009 by Justice Olubunmi Oyewole of the Ikeja High Court on 35 out of the 68-count charge bordering on contract splitting, inflation, abuse of office and disobedience to lawful order. There are many others like him, still enjoying their swag, but yet to be brought to demanding justice, which is why we cannot call for celebrations, or be tempted to think that Nigeria has started launching a new crackdown on corruption. What happened to Bode George and Tafa Balogun, a former police IG, is what we often see whenever any of the ‘big men’ steps on toes of more powerful members of his clique.

The kid-glove treatment – two years in prison – of Bode George for his role in the N85 billion frauds, and the fact that he is allowed in prison to hold political meetings from morning to night is like adding insult to injury. When finally his conviction is confirmed by all appeal courts, the representatives of the press must keep an eye on him. We might witness a situation where he is smuggled home in cassock at night to sleep with his family and returned to prison before the break of day.

Such is the level to which our leaders can go to frustrate our system and render it ineffective. In our country, judges are constantly under undue pressure. The EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes commission) is still bound in fetters. Its officials are at the mercy of political crude idols who can remove them upon grounds of private interest and personal feeling.

How do we then wriggle Nigeria free? I must say that we need to secure the invigorating alliances of all Nigerians both home and abroad in support of death penalty for guilty corrupt officials. Some western countries may make noise. Damn it! Anything short of that will not diminish our permanent state of worry and nervousness about the future and the greatness of our common country. Nigeria will survive.

Sammie Adetiloye wrote in from UK

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