OPINION: How do you shame the shameless?
LONG time ago in the course of this dispensation, a fairly prominent player in politics said one of the frustrating things to do was engaging with a person who has no sense of self restraint. The situation is usually compounded when that other person is also without shame. And as we count down to the February 25th presidential and national assembly elections, it has become increasingly clear and obvious that we have a preponderance of shameless people.
Make no mistake about it: Nigerians without self restraint and shame can be found in every strata of our national life. You have them among politicians; you have them among political office holders; they can be found among those jostling for elective political offices; Sponsors of office seekers are not spared; They abound in the midst of god fathers and god mothers; and they are aplenty among supporters of the 18 political parties and candidates seeking to be elected to various offices in February and March.
It’s the absence of self restraint and shame that, in my opinion, accounts for the tension, rowdiness, violence and killings that have preceded the elections. The field for every elective office is crowded because our country has contrived not to have a clear and generally accepted leadership recruitment process.
There are virtually only two requirements to seek for elective office in our country- one is enshrined in law while the other is not. The legal requirement is the law prescribing a minimum age for various offices especially that of the president and governor.
This other can be circumvented and had routinely been breached by aspirants who forge their age. In this republic we have had one Salisu Buhari who was elected into the House of Representatives and indeed became its speaker. He was later found to have jerked up his age to qualify to contest and he also forged a certificate for a university in Canada which he never attended.
He was forced to resign and then arrested, handcuffed, arraigned in court, tried and convicted. Buhari was jailed but was later granted pardon by President Olusegun Obasanjo. The other requirement to be eligible to contest for any elective political office here is money. Tons of money. To be sure, you need money, a lot of it to vie for office in virtually all political jurisdictions in the world. So this is not peculiar to Nigeria. The difference here is that the way we deploy money in election is absurd, weird, vulgar and corrosive.
For instance, to merely express interest to contest for president and be taken seriously, you have to fork out between N40 and N100 million as was the case in the middle of last year for the tickets of the so-called major political parties- the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] and the All Progressives Congress [APC]. The sickening aspect is that many paid these huge sums and were excluded while some others did not even bother to contest.
The fees were non- refundable. As with almost everything Nigeria,many of the aspirants claimed then that their forms were procured for them by individual supporters and groups. An enduring tragedy of that primary election season was Mr. Godwin Emefiele, governor of Nigeria’s central bank. He procured the nomination and expression of interest forms of the ruling APC, or the forms were procured for him, to contest the presidency. But there was outrage. And road block. Emefiele went to court to affirm his legal rights to contest for the presidency and to prove that he was a bonafide card-carrying member of the APC. The gamble ended the way it ended. Emefiele, a political hack who has no self restraint and shame, is still in office as central bank governor.
He issues monetary policies that are tainted and which are viewed with or from partisan political prisms. He suffers from irrecoverable trust deficits- from his fellow partisan politicians and the general public. That perhaps explains why many Nigerians were indifferent when the Nigerian secret police were repeatedly reported to be hounding him for arrest and prosecution on alleged terrorism funding. A man who printed and doled out almost N3 trillion as loans to the federal government in what has been alleged to be a clear breach of Nigeria’s Constitution has no self restraint.
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And he is shameless. And a potential law breaker. Could it be that Emefiele sought the presidency to cover his tracks? But the Mother of the lack of self restraint and shamelessness is right now playing out in our political space. Even the most gifted and intuitive pundits did not see it coming. Indeed, in June of 2022, American-based news organization, Bloomberg, said that neither PDP’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar nor his APC rival, Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu, would dwell on the issue corruption in their respective campaigns in spite of the fact that combating corruption had been the core of presidential campaigns for decades. Bloomberg analysts wrote that “the history of graft allegations surrounding the two main candidates means neither is likely to raise it in the run-up to February’s vote”.
They said that Tinubu was being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC] as recently as June 2021 and that “Three decades ago he [Tinubu] fought a law suit in which the US government accused him of laundering the proceeds of heroin trafficking and eventually reached a settlement”. Part of the settlement was for Tinubu to forfeit $460,000 to the American internal revenue service. In his own case, Bloomberg said Abubakar “brought tens of millions of dollars of ‘suspect funds’ into the US when he was Nigeria’s vice president in the 2000s”. It further said that according to a US senate report, Abubakar was implicated in a bribery case that resulted in the imprisonment of an American congressman. Neither episodes resulted in charges against Abubakar”.
Those who predicted that the issue of corruption will not feature in the campaigns of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar [PDP] and Bola Tinubu [APC] have turned out to be so wrong. They thought they were talking about politicians in saner climes. They ignored the established fact that neither Atiku nor Tinubu have self restraints and harbour any shame. And their supporters are not different. They are blinded by religion, ethnicity, sundry affiliations, opportunism and filthy lucre. Contrary to predictions but not surprising, Alhaji Abubakar and Alhaji Tinubu have recently been at each other’s jugular over their well known stories of alleged stealing at the expense of Nigerians.
A shadowy figure, one Michael Achimugu, was procured to spill the beans on Atiku. How he allegedly deployed Special Purpose Vehicles [SPVs] to steal Nigeria blind while he held sway as vice president. Stripped of corrupt tendencies, an SPV is a subsidiary created by a parent company to isolate financial risk.
its legal status as a separate company makes its obligations secure even if the parent company goes bankrupt. But for the corruption-tainted Alhaji Atiku and Alhaji Tinubu, SPV is a registered firm owned by them but with their names not listed in the incorporation documents. The firm would, however, have a secure pipeline connecting it to the government treasury for the singular purpose of illicit money flows.
They are good at their art but they are not alone. It is a syndicate. If truth be told the shame is on Nigerians. That Atiku or Tinubu with their well known and widely advertised baggage could possibly, from May 29, 2023, be the face of our country to the world should be concerning. Yes, none has been found guilty of anything, strictly speaking. But that’s being legalistic. Where do you begin to address the baggage of Tinubu- his parentage, his origin, his names, his primary and secondary schools, his heroin connection, his work places or his wealth without enterprise. Atiku does not fare any better.
His name appears to be synonymous with corruption since his days in the Nigeria Customs Service and then the vice presidency. Gen. Obasanjo devoted generous pages in one of his books chronicling Atiku’s alleged proclivity to steal from the public till. To the best of my knowledge, Obasanjo’s weighty and damning allegations have not been challenged by Atiku.
We, Nigerians, may appear not to care even as Atiku and Tinubu fight each other dirty in public. But something would eventually give. The day of reckoning may not be too far irrespective of the outcomes of the February and March elections.
Articles published in our Graffiti section are strictly the opinion of the writers and do not represent the views of Ripples Nigeria or its editorial stand.
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