Silence of the damned!

(By Emeka A. Otoba)

It has become a norm in Nigeria that whenever committees or organisations are set up or put in place to resolve certain issues, say for instance, management of fuel subsidy funds, you can almost always expect a scandal. It is as sure as oxygen that someone somewhere will misappropriate funds and will end up running from the Senate or the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Another panel will most likely be set up to investigate the event, maybe a few arrests made but no closing to the case. Will this ever end? Can it ever end?

BY the time they find their killers, we will probably all be dead! It might not happen in this generation, or even the next. It might never happen! That the murderers of the numerous prominent Nigerians, good, bad and ordinary, who were all murdered for one political reason or the other would be brought to justice.  They were probably just ordinary men, who lived ordinary lives but an unfortunate turn of events has carved their names permanently in history. When we remember these men (names below), do they strike us as heroes or just unfortunate victims of untamed lust for power? As a country, can we really say we have a judicial system that works? In the present Nigeria, that is perhaps, too much of a dream.

  I am almost three decades old and so far, I have come to terms with the fact that the slogan “The Police is your friend” is a meaningless phrase tattooed on the wall of every police station. I long for the day when Nigerians can repeat this sentence with the kind of conviction and passion with which the Americans say “God bless America!” Over time I have come to realise that some mysteries will never be resolved, some crimes never solved. Some people will never be subject to the law and others will always be controlled by the law. Sadly, this is a country where investigations run for years and eventually amount to nothing. They fade with time and we have learnt to live with these painful memories as though they were normal occurrences. I went back in time and couldn’t miss these names:

  James Ajibola Ige: A man who, at the end of his life fought the death sentence by stoning passed on a so-called adulteress by a Sharia court in Zamfara, declaring that the Federal Government would not standby to see that happen. Whether or not his struggle for relevance and advancement of the democracy of this great country registered him on our heroes’ list, the big question still remains: “Who killed Bola Ige?”

  Funsho Williams: A man under whose stewardship in 1974, according to Wikipedia, 70 per cent of the roads and bridges were built and who was determined to move from implementing policies to formulating them. He joined the race for Lagos State Governorship election but on July 26, 2006 his body was reportedly found in his home, tied up and stabbed. His killers were never found!

  Barnabas and Amaka Igwe: The then president of the Nigerian Bar Association in Onitsha and his wife, Amaka, an expectant mother at that, were brutally murdered on September 1, 2002.

  Dr. Ayo Daramola: A popular Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate in Ekiti State, who was murdered in cold blood on the August 14, 2006, three weeks after Funsho Williams was also murdered in Lagos. There were arrests and releases but no one has really been made to pay for this crime.

   There is also the ‘popular’ list on the internet with other names like Hajia Sa’adatu Rimi, January 2006; Jesse Aruku, June 30, 2006; Anthony Ozioko, July 27, 2005; Lateef Olaniyan, July 16, 2005; Patrick Origbu, June 3, 2005; Alhaji Alabi Olajokun, May 15, 2005; Sunny Atte, February 5, 2005; Philip Olorunnipa, March 7, 2004; Andrew Agom, March 3, 2004; Ajibola Olanipekun, June 20, 2003; Toni Dimegwu, April 29, 2003; Emma Onyewuchi, April 19, 2003; Ikenna Ibor, March 27, 2003; Anthony Nwudo, March 21, 2003; Rasak Ibrahim, March 20, 2003; Theodore Egwuatu, February, 2003 and Isiaka Mohammed, September 24, 2002.

  As of the time of writing this article, several members of the dreaded terrorist group Boko Haram have been caught alive at one time or the other, some of them high ranking leaders in the group. How is it that financial sponsors of the sect have not been identified and prosecuted by now? Could it possibly be that the strategies of the sect evade the intelligence of our security forces? Can they actually be better than the Nigerian Army and all the other security forces put together? Do we just enjoy seeing daily the bodies of our innocent children pile up, heaps upon heaps?

  But this piece is not just about the dead. When dissecting Nigeria’s bad habit of sweeping important cases under the carpet one cannot make a meaningful analysis without mentioning the many cases of corruption involving public officers, most of which go unpunished. Usually, in the heat of the moment, there is always the merry-go-round of enforcement agencies and most times a number of arrests. In rare situations, the cases go to court, but the judgments which follow might as well pass for a get-out-of-jail-free card. A man steals N27 billion and gets a fine of N750, 000.00 on pleading guilty to the crime. I imagine he pays a million naira instantly before leaving the court and asks the cashier to keep the remainder. Other times, the stories just die down as the heat of the press subsides and we never hear of them again.

  It has become a norm in Nigeria that whenever committees or organisations are set up or put in place to resolve certain issues, say for instance, management of fuel subsidy funds, you can almost always expect a scandal. It is as sure as oxygen that someone somewhere will misappropriate funds and will end up running from the Senate or the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Another panel will most likely be set up to investigate the event, maybe a few arrests made but no closing to the case. Will this ever end? Can it ever end?

  More specifically, a whooping N500 billion was unaccounted for by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its officials refused to appear before the Senate. And if nothing is done about this – as might eventually become the case, this set of people will suddenly become above the law and the matter will be forgotten over time.

  A Swiss bank claims to have returned all of one of our late President’s loot – the late General Sanni Abacha. To peg a number to it, $700 million they claim has been returned to the government of Nigeria. While I admit ignorance and possible knowledge gap on the subject, I, like many other Nigerians, would like to know how all that money recovered was utilised.

  The former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Lamido Sanusi recently cried foul over a missing $20 billion which NNPC failed to report from crude sales and the President’s almost immediate reaction was to suspend him. Given the fact that investigations (we hope) are still underway and the matter, as of the time of writing this article hasn’t been concluded, I do not take sides yet but I foresee this matter taking a distracting turn and eventually being swept under the carpet with no culprits persecuted.

  When the revolution started in Egypt not too long ago, I watched with keen interest and followed the news daily to see if this was going to be the solution to their problems. I soon lost hope as I noticed it was heading towards a civil war. But I have often wondered, what really is expected of a people oppressed by their corrupt leaders from time immemorial? What is expected of the less privileged in a rich but corrupt society who constantly endure injustice and death from the hands of those meant to lead them to light? In Nigeria, we have come to accept these corrupt practices as the norm and I am afraid that by the time this generation gives way for the next, there may be no such thing as ‘innocence’ any more.

   We may have been condemned to silence for life. To take these ill treatments with a tough skin and shake them off as normal occurrences, to learn to live without basic amenities and accept insecurity. To watch the news with keen interest for the drama which unfolds daily from the government houses only for the amusement of our bored minds and availability of tales to pass on to our children. It beats my imagination though, when we stay silent, do we do this for the presence of fear or from the absence of hope?

  It really beats me!

• Otoba lives at Iju-Ishaga, Lagos. 

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”

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