Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
It’s corruption, stupid! I am only aping Bill Clinton’s campaign slogan: “It’s the economy, stupid!” There have been many pretenders who as Nigerian leaders claimed to be waging war on corruption. It should not be forgotten in a hurry that General Sani Abacha did stake a strong claim as per fighting corruption and actually jailed many Nigerian potentates, but the looted funds of the goggled general are still being brought from abroad in large caches. So much with boasting about fighting corruption as a Nigerian leader!
Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye, a highly regarded Nigerian columnist and writer whom Chinua Achebe described in his memoirs, There Was A Country: A Personal History Of Biafra, as “one of Nigeria’s prized journalists”, undertakes a heart-wrenching dissection on the vexed question of corruption in his book Nigeria: Why Looting May Not Stop. He speaks for the common people as he dedicates the book “to the ever-suffering Nigerian masses, hapless victims of the perennial, brutal looting of our commonwealth.”
Divided into two seamless parts, to wit, Part One: Deadly violations of a malformed giant, and Part Two: Sundry thoughts…, the book paints a pathetic picture of a country in decline due to the rapacious antics of its ruling elite.
In what he titles his “Forethought” at the beginning of Nigeria: Why The Looting May Not Stop, Ejinkeonye stresses: “Not a few Nigerians believe that any day their country is able to make up her mind to end her obscene and ruinous romance with the stubborn monster called Corruption (emphasis his), she will automatically witness the kind of prosperity no one had thought was possible in these parts. Just imagine the amount of public funds reportedly (and un-reportedly) stolen or squandered daily under various guises by too many public officers and their accomplices and the great transformation that would happen to public infrastructure and the lives of the citizenry if this organized banditry can at least be reduced by fifty percent!”
Ejinkeonye depicts a woebegone nation of forlorn folks eating from the dust bin. It is a wretched land where a cow thief bags all of 12 years in jail because “in Nigeria, it is, perhaps, safer and more rewarding to be a successful criminal than a poor honest man.” For the author, the immunity clause of Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution is quite obnoxious. A letter entitled “First Witness: How I Joined The Looters’ Club” written to the author by a self-confessed “highly-placed and very influential lady, a distinguished member of the country’s ruling elite, a well-connected political leader, super political organiser and one of those who decide the direction and future of this country” is mind-bending. Another letter entitled “Second Witness: My Elevation To The Eating Class” comes from a “Chief (Dr.)” who from entering the university with forged results “wanted to make money fast and live big.”
The author argues that until a new set of Nigerians shorn of the selfishness of the “I-Better-Pass-My-Neighbour” breed is raised looting may never stop in Nigeria. Ejinkeonye argues earnestly that “it is time to do away with the current retrogressive style of governance and adopt a more creative approach for the good of all.” For him, the word “credible” ought to be “totally banned in any discussion on Nigerian politics and Nigerian politicians.” He damns the “419 chieftains in the Senate” and slams “thieves on the throne” such as state governors who hop off to overseas once they get their monthly allocations.
The author laments that the government means nothing to the people and cannot even be compared with a refuse dump because “even refuse dumps serve some useful purpose.” Nigerians happen to be “dying for looters” as Ejinkeonye writes: “When the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega announced the winner of the 2015 presidential elections, it was reported in the media that not less than 25 people died and several others were wounded while madly celebrating the announcement.”
Cry, the beloved country of costly presidential visits, even if aborted, in an epoch “when squander-maniacs are in charge” whilst rewarding profligates against the background of Nigeria’s image crisis.
Ejinkeonye is indeed a compassionate writer blessed with conscience and morality, whence his warning on the spread of kidnapping from the Niger Delta to other parts of the country and the appendixes of Boko Haram insurgents and the upsurge of herdsmen’s attacks. He highlight’s the letter-bombed journalist Dele Giwa’s assertion that “one life taken in cold blood is as gruesome as millions lost in a pogrom” while condemning the murder of innocents by degenerate policemen. What the author calls “disastrous generator culture” happens to be an interminable Nigerian affront. Ejinkeonye does away with modern-day political correctness in maintaining that immorality should not be taught in schools in the name of “Sex Education” or “Sexuality Education”. His stand on religion is that “salvation is an individual thing, not a group experience, and everyone will answer for his life as an individual.”
Ejinkeonye’s Nigeria: Why Looting May Not Stop from what I can decipher is the first title in a series called “Nigerian Leadership Review”. More books need to be published by this influential public affairs analyst. Since books are quite enduring more than newspapers, there is the need to edit out fixations like “Early last week” (pg68).
Nigeria: Why Looting May Not Stop is a timely book that goes to the heart of the matter. Nigeria definitely needs sincere public intellectuals with the laudable gifts of Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye.