Civil-society

Call for Anger

It is particularly important to change our laws and above all our mentality to make it impossible for corrupt politicians to make a bid to return to power. It is this possibility of returning to power that is the greatest support of impunity. Our anger should now be directed at those who partake of the proceeds of corruption to protect those who are known to be corrupt, and there are many of them in the bar, the judiciary, the prosecutorial agencies and the media. We must create respect for our laws by ensuring that criminals that loot our treasury pay a high price for the harm they do to our country and our people.

Last week, the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed lamented the fact that Nigerians have not shown enough anger against corruption in spite of the massive looting of public resources that has occurred. He reiterated his position that the Federal Government was more than ever determined to kill corruption, but decried Nigerians’ nonchalant attitude toward showing enough anger against corruption. He added that: “We are not witch-hunting any person. We are not out to vilify any person. What bothers us is that Nigerians are not angry enough. Last Sunday, it was reported that N381 million was recovered from the account of the wife of a former service chief and it is surprising that Nigerians have shown no anger about it”. The cost of corruption is very high in our society and the suffering of our people is directly linked to this history of corruption he emphasised. Finally, Mohammed drew attention to his revelation last January that just 55 people have stolen N1.343 trillion between 2006 and 2013 and that these resources would have gone far in providing for Nigerians. I completely agree with the honourable minister.

Indeed, one of my greatest fears about the future of Nigeria is our collective loss of the capacity for anger. It was the Cameroonian author, Celestin Monga who reminded us in his book – The Anthropology of Anger – that the capacity of civil society and citizens in Africa to advance the developmental and democratic agenda of their countries is a function of their ability to express outrage at the destruction of their societies and its assets. The nouns that define how we feel are important indications of our capacity to act. Anger, rage, fury, ire, wrath, resentment and indignation are vital elements in creating human agency. Fury denotes our marked displeasure at a particular situation and demonstrates we have not given up and substituted anger for passive sadness at the terrible states of affairs we find ourselves in.

My guess is that Lai Mohammed’s concern is that now that the terrible details of the scale and scope of the corruption is being released on a daily basis, why are we not getting more and more angry. My own key sentiment has been shock at the recklessness of the looting of our resources and the lack of concern by the mega looters that they were literally destroying my country. Relief, that at least, they are out of power and are being investigated and prosecuted then follows my shock.

For sixty years, every week, Nigerians have been inundated with news stories about corruption; starting from small brown envelopes in the 1960s to huge Ghana must go bags in the 1990s. The process culminated in simply taking $20 billion from the NNPC and brazenly posting the money into private accounts. Since the days of the Babangida regime and the invention of the instrument of the so-called “dedicated” accounts, much of our oil revenues have simply been diverted into private accounts.
Lai Mohammed is right; the least we can do is show our indignation at how our “leaders” have been ruling and ruining our country. Following the end of the Second World War, the anger of Nigerians at British misrule boiled. Nigeria had a leadership that could channel the anger. Herbert Macaulay, Michael Imoudu and Nnamdi Azikiwe organised a national strike in 1945 and in 1946 toured 153 communities to get popular mandate to end colonial rule and use Nigerian resources for Nigerian development. In Kano, Ibadan, Enugu and Lagos, hundreds and thousands turned up in the “cost of living” demonstrations and the death knell of colonialism was sounded. Herbert Macaulay, an 82 year old “angry nationalist”, died on his way back from the Kano rally. The British authorities, seeing the anger of the people, were forced to stop making the claims that the nationalist leaders were talking for the elite and not for the common man (sic).

Human beings tend to use anger as a resource in a calculated way. Under the Jonathan Administration, corruption was the modus operendi of governance, so maybe if Nigerians were to become angry at every act they learn about, anger would have been the only sentiment in the country. The explosion of social media also meant that Nigerians were inundated by corruption stories on a per second basis. My sense was that rather than channel energy on per second bursts of indignation, Nigerians took a more strategic approach of working to remove the corrupt government through electoral means and bring on board a new government with the resolve to fight corruption. My guess is that Lai Mohammed’s concern is that now that the terrible details of the scale and scope of the corruption is being released on a daily basis, why are we not getting more and more angry. My own key sentiment has been shock at the recklessness of the looting of our resources and the lack of concern by the mega looters that they were literally destroying my country. Relief, that at least, they are out of power and are being investigated and prosecuted then follows my shock. Had I sustained my level of anger, I would have died of hypertension. I however often think of the Chinese approach. When Chinese public officials are convicted for mega corruption, they are shot on the head with a single bullet, which is then sent to the person’s family to pay for the cost of the bullet. It’s a way of frightening people away from corruption. I believe it’s too cruel and violates the essence of human rights, as families cannot be held responsible for the corruption of a member, even if sometimes they are beneficiaries of the process.

In Nigeria, our expectations are that all those involved in mega corruption be successfully prosecuted and sent to long jail terms, whether or not they have hired Senior Advocates of Nigeria to defend themselves. While in jail, they must not have personal privileges in terms of accommodation, access to family and business colleagues, etc. that makes jail simply a vacation.

In Nigeria, our expectations are that all those involved in mega corruption be successfully prosecuted and sent to long jail terms, whether or not they have hired Senior Advocates of Nigeria to defend themselves. While in jail, they must not have personal privileges in terms of accommodation, access to family and business colleagues, etc. that makes jail simply a vacation. It is particularly important to change our laws and above all our mentality to make it impossible for corrupt politicians to make a bid to return to power. It is this possibility of returning to power that is the greatest support of impunity. Our anger should now be directed at those who partake of the proceeds of corruption to protect those who are known to be corrupt, and there are many of them in the bar, the judiciary, the prosecutorial agencies and the media. We must create respect for our laws by ensuring that criminals that loot our treasury pay a high price for the harm they do to our country and our people.


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Jibrin Ibrahim

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