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All Loot and No Work Makes Me a Rich Man


Akintokunbo A Adejumo

“The last official act of any government is to loot the treasury” has been a popular quotation on many websites since the global financial crisis of 2008. The quotation is usually attributed to George Washington (1732-1799), but there is no evidence that he ever said it.

Dear reader, please pardon me if it appears that you are being suffused with another entrée on corruption in our notoriously corrupt country. But don’t you just have enough of day-to-day corruption scandals on the pages of our newspapers and in beer parlours, with no sign of abating? And there doesn’t appear to be anything done about the scandals? What would it take for us to do to arrest the situation?

My late English Literature teacher and former governor of Oyo State, Lamidi Adesina, fondly known as Lam Ade (may his soul continue to rest in peace), used to scare the hell out of us when he wants to punish us by saying “you are sitting on a keg of gunpowder, which is about to explode” or “you are tottering on the edge of a precipice, and you are about to fall inside” or “you are walking at the edge of a razor blade, and you will be severely cut”. In those days, those warning phrases used to strike terror into our simple hearts, because what they mean was that the offending student was nearing expulsion from the school.

For decades now, that is what Nigeria has been; sitting on a keg of gunpowder, or tottering at the edge of an abyss. In fact I always shake my head in wonder that a total collapse of the polity, the economy, the society and the fragile thread holding the country together has not been achieved. But then, it appears that this non-collapse into anarchy and bloody revolution has been due more to the lack of courage, meek and cowardly acceptance of the followers to the indignities and oppression heaped upon them by their rulers and indifference to their plight than the resilience of a beaten, degraded and downtrodden people.

I have always been one to defend my people, even when some of us averred in many essays that we are cowards, fools, “munmuns” and ignorant people. The reason being that as part of those same people, I cannot accept that I am in that denigrating category and neither are 160 million people.

Unfortunately for me, when one of our rulers, Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State recently blamed Nigerians for the level of corruption in the country, saying that political office holders loot the treasury because they have not been stoned by the masses, it was time to put on my thinking cap and look at things from his perspective.

“Kleptocracy, alternatively cleptocracy or kleptarchy, (from Greek: κλέπτης – kleptēs, “thief” and κράτος – kratos, “power, rule”, hence “rule by thieves”) is a form of political and government corruption where the government exists to increase the personal wealth and political power of its officials and the ruling class at the expense of the wider population, often with pretence of honest service. This type of government corruption is often achieved by the embezzlement of state funds. Raubwirtschaft (German for “plunder economy,” “robber economy,” or “rapine”) is a form of economy where the goal is to plunder the wealth and resources of a country or geographical area. Referring to Russia, Daniel Kimmage used the terms: “kerdocracy” (“rule based on the desire for material gain”) or “khrematisamenocracy” (“rule by those who transact business for their own profit”)” (Source: Wikipedia)

If it is any consolation, it means kleptocracy is not unique to Nigeria; but I will not rejoice in that knowledge, as some people will be quick to point out to me. Is there, or has there ever been, any country in the world ruled officially by thieves? I have looked at my history books and have not come across any, but then thievery has never been legally recognised officially. Nigeria will soon set another world record by becoming the first unilaterally, officially recognised Kleptocracy in the world. Trust me, the way we a re going.

According to some research articles, “the effects of a kleptocratic regime or government on a nation are typically adverse in regards to the faring of the state’s economy, political affairs and civil rights. Kleptocracy in government often vitiates prospects of foreign investment and drastically weakens the domestic market and cross-border trade. As the kleptocracy normally embezzles money from its citizens by misusing funds derived from tax payments, natural resources, internally and externally generated revenues or money laundering schemes, a kleptocratically structured political system tends to degrade nearly everyone’s quality of life.

In addition, the money that kleptocrats steal is often taken from funds that were earmarked for public amenities, such as the building of hospitals, schools, roads, parks and the like – which has further adverse effects on the quality of life of the citizens living under a kleptocracy.[3] The quasi-oligarchy that results from a kleptocratic elite also subverts democracy (or any other political format the state is ostensibly under)” (Source: “National Strategy Against High-Level Corruption: Coordinating International Efforts to Combat Kleptocracy” Fact Sheet, Bureau Public Affairs, Washington, DC, August 10, 2006)

In “Kleptocracy and Divide-and-Rule: A Model of Personal Rule” Daron Acemoglu, James A. Robinson, Thierry Verdier. NBER Working Paper No. 10136 (National Bureau of Economic Research) Issued in December 2003, “Many developing countries have suffered under the personal rule of kleptocrats’, who implement highly inefficient economic policies, expropriate the wealth of their citizens, and use the proceeds for their own glorification or consumption. We argue that the success of kleptocrats rests, in part, on their ability to use a divide-and-rule’ strategy, made possible by weaknesses in the institutions in these societies. Members of society need to cooperate in order to depose a kleptocrat, yet such cooperation may be defused by imposing punitive rates of taxation on any citizen who proposes such a move, and redistributing the benefits to those who need to agree to it. Thus the collective action problem can be intensified by threats which remain off the equilibrium path. In equilibrium, all are exploited and no one challenges the kleptocrat. Kleptocratic policies are more likely when foreign aid and rents from natural resources provide rulers with substantial resources to buy off opponents; when opposition groups are short-sighted; when the average productivity in the economy is low; and when there is greater inequality between producer groups (because more productive groups are more difficult to buy off)”.

The above accurately defines Nigeria. A societal observation of the wealth of Nigerian politicians and civil servants showed that despite their relatively low incomes, a significant number had amassed personal wealth sometimes amounting to sums exceeding several million, both in Naira, US Dollars and Pound Sterling. We always wonder how such colossal sums could be stolen, but we now know that corruption is built into the Nigerian system, accountability is non-existent, and with a weak and corrupt judiciary, totally besmirched crime-fighting agencies, an unresponsive and irresponsible government, and, throw in, a totally befuddled and indifferent society, it is easy, at least for those who have the access, to walk into the treasury and take what they want.

We are already living in a KLEPTOCRATIC society in Nigeria – run exclusively by kleptocrats! And we the munmun citizens sit down as if nothing is happening, some of us taking sides because of misplaced political partisanship, religious affiliation, ethnic loyalty and a dumbfounding refusal to speak, see and accept the truth.

Challenging Nigerians to hold their leaders accountable, Amaechi said, “If you see a thief and you allow him to be stealing, what have you done? You have stoned nobody; that is why we are stealing. Who have you stoned? They came out and started dancing oil subsidy, oil subsidy. They told you that they stole N2.3trn, what did you do? “Instead you are protesting ‘bring more oil subsidy’; the oil subsidy that is not reaching the poor. A few individuals are going away with the money and you have done nothing. You are mourning Madiba, who lived up to 95, and he was very angry with Nigeria when he died. You’ve heard that $50bn is missing and you have done nothing about it. In some countries people will go on the street until they return that money. It is N8trn, it can change Nigeria”

So back to the discourse, “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely” (especially made worse in a corrupt society) I have never heard of any democratic country where an appointed employee of the government will obtain an injunction against the legislative arm of government to stop them from probing them. This is exactly what the all-powerful, untouchable Minister for Oil, Mrs Diezani Allison-Madueke just achieved. Yes, if she feels her rights are being infringed upon, all she has to do is defend herself. She forgets that as an appointed Minister, ALL her actions should be accountable to the people, irrespective of what she feels her rights are. Earlier, several years ago, ex-governor of Rivers State, Dr Peter Odili, obtained a similar injunction and for eight years now, nobody dared touch him and he is still laughing at the people of Nigeria. Again, recently, former Governor of the Central bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido obtained another injunction, but this time to prevent arrest. A very bad precedent has been laid. Nigerians have managed to turn democracy on its head and turned to “demo-crazy”. Other nations use the court to fight corruption and recover stolen national wealth; but we use the court to retain and promote corruption.

When will someone or some people sensible in the polity stop this display of impunity being brought upon us? The oil minister had the audacity to approach the court to obtain an injunction to stop citizens’ representatives from questioning her on issues relating to bad governance and, adding ‘salt to injury’ the court granted such injunction? Who is going to save this country? Should we expect the heavily compromised labour unions, heavily baggage civil liberties groups, the Nigerian Bar Association and other relevant establishments to step in?

There is a form of government called ANARCHISM (Anarchy refers to a society without a publicly enforced government, which implies political disorder or lawlessness within a society). Why don’t we just adopt that and stop living this lie called democracy?

Another flaw or problem with our politics and demo-crazy is that appointees, mostly square pegs in round holes, into governments owe allegiance ONLY to those who appointed them (President and Governors) and NOT to the service of the people whose very existence is the reason for their appointments. In fact it seems these mediocre appointees are deliberately appointed to keep oiling the machinery of corruption. These appointees not only loot the treasury to further their own political careers or businesses, but “donate” a lot of the stolen funds to fight elections for their masters.

Till 2015, the year of the General Election, most, if not all government ministries, departments and agencies of government will remain paralyzed and non-functional; while the civil servants will be loitering about looking for easy money to loot and share. And their “ogas” will be looting and forced to divert looted funds to sponsor elections.

That is what happens every time an election is near. That is why you hear billions are missing every time. Nobody to supervise and a vast amount of money are lying around waiting to be looted.

Maybe one day, we shall get out of our self-imposed slavery and oppression….but don’t fold your hand for too long…you and I. You hear? 2015 is coming. We have to do something to reverse the downward spiral. Forget the National Conference coming up with instruments of salvation. If they don’t end up in fisticuffs by the end of an exercise in futility and wastefulness, I will be surprised.

If we continue to do things the way we have been doing for the past fifty-four years, we will consistently be getting the wrong results that we deserve. It means, continue to put the wrong people in power, and we will continue to get bad and evil governments of kleptocrats. Simple! A holistic approach to Nigeria’s problems is needed not jaw-jawing and double-speak.

And what bearing does the title of this article “All Loot and no Work makes Me a Rich Man” has to do with the content? None at all, but read between the lines. It is axiomatic of our predicament.

Election is coming in 2015; use your vote to get better leaders, and hence, better lives. It is the least we can do for our children, even if it is too late for us.

The Truth shall be told always.

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