There is nothing I have not said or done to convince one of my friends to have a rethink of an opinion, which has stuck with him for years.
Yet, he stubbornly holds to his belief that lawyers, journalists and politicians are the problems of Nigeria.
If he has his way, some of our loud-mouthed Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) and activist-lawyers will be sent to the hottest part of the world for their connivance in the corruption that has eaten deep into the fabrics of the judiciary.
He believes some of our lawyers are worse than the criminals and thieves they condemn or defend in courts.
On journalists, his opinion is that proprietorial interests have killed professionalism in the field.
Pitiably, he was with me last year when a SAN, with interest in property and education, called me to complain about the way a national newspaper twisted a court story involving the candidate of a political party affliated with the publisher of that newspaper.
To make the matter worse, the SAN was in court and witnessed everything that happened but the next day, because the proceedings did not go the way of the party and the said newspaper’s publisher, everything was twisted. And the story was used on the front page.
My friend has already given up on politicians. When the Otedola/Lawan $3 million cash-for-clearance scandal became public knowledge, he immediately added it to his list of unpardonable sins of politicians and why the country, in his view, will never develop with the type of systemic problems Nigerians encounter everyday. To him, a politician can be a doctor, lawyer, journalist, accountant, engineer, architect, teacher, farmer, soldier, lecturer, banker, cleric or activist.
Given what I know and what Nigerians see or read everyday, I can hardly fault my friend’s position.
As a journalist, I know when a story has a slant.
On the Otedola/Lawan saga, it was former President Olusegun Obasanjo who indirectly blew the lid a few weeks ago when he said that lawmakers were rogues and armed robbers.
He said in Lagos: “Integrity is necessary for systems and institutions to be strong. Today, rogues and armed robbers are in the state’s Houses of Assembly and the National Assembly. What sort of laws will they make?”
Of course, Obasanjo knows them well, especially federal lawmakers, because many of them collected money during the tenure elongation fiasco of his presidency in 2006.
Many things have been said on the bribery scandal in which the Chairman of Zenon Oil, Mr. Femi Otedola, and the former Chairman of the House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy Regime, Farouk Lawan, are the principal characters.
Otedola said that so far, of the $3 million demanded, $620,000 cash had been collected by Lawan and the Secretary of the Committee, Boniface Emenalo.
Initially, Lawan said he never received a penny from Otedola. When he discovered that the ‘checkpoint’ he mounted to collect the hundreds of thousands of dollars from the oil magnate was video-taped, he said his image in the video was doctored.
Thereafter, he said he received the money to expose Otedola.
There is a saying in Yoruba: ‘eni to ba paro, a jale (if you lie, you must steal).
How would Nigerians take Lawan serious on any issue now or in the future, in and out of office?
I was surprised when some people said the ‘sting operation’ was a plot against the House of Representatives leadership. What they have refused to understand is that corruption remains corruption. It has no other name.
Not a few Nigerians were sad that Lawan, a man who enjoyed the respect of his colleagues and millions of Nigerians on account of his reputation of flawless character and integrity since 1999 when he became a member of the Lower Chamber, could be gotten cheaply like that.
It does not make any sense for anybody to say Lawan was set up.
Was he kidnapped and taken to Otedola’s house to receive the money?
By eventually admitting that he took the bribe from Otedola “to expose him”, it can be argued that since he joined the House of Representatives in 1999, he had been collecting similar egunjes from some Nigerians who would not want their names mentioned or did not want their companies indicted in one probe or the other.
It is also logical to argue that Lawan can still ‘collect’ in the future if similar opportunity occurs.
And this is the leader of the Integrity Group. Now, not a few Nigerians are asking the moral right he and members of the group had to remove Mrs. Patricia Etteh as the Speaker in 2007.
If Lawan, a lawmaker seen as Mr. Integrity, could be so involved in a mess like this, how many ‘collections’ would have been made by other lawmakers in the course of performing their oversight functions or during probes?
The way the names of Otedola’s companies were removed from the list and brought back by the lawmakers after Lawan admitted receiving the bribe money has made mockery of the whole probe.
The mere fact that Otedola even ‘lectured’ the lawmakers that the forex his company collected from banks was more that the amount they stated in their report and the fact that he has nothing to do with another company listed against his name has really shown that the lawmakers should not be taken serious in probe matters.
Otedola said: “It is not possible to purchase $232,975,385.13 from the CBN without importing the product. The total figure is not even $232,975,385.13 as alleged but $372,207,990. They should go and amend the report to read $372,207,990 which is the correct figure. We are not, in any way, affiliated to the other company, Synopsis Enterprises Limited, also included in the report. Action by the House is laughable, a mere celebration of corruption and a further indictment on their honourable member.”
It is an open secret that many high profile probes in the National Assembly have been afflicted by corruption.
But, what many Nigerians find very annoying is the pretentious posture of the federal lawmakers.
Should Nigerians still refer to them as Honourable Members?
Once again, what the Otedola/Lawan saga has shown is that corruption has been institutionalised in the country. Everybody wants to have a piece of the action because ‘opportunity will only come but once’.
This has affected the standard of living of Nigerians with the people suffering in the midst of plenty.
Everyday, one scandal or the other is revealed and after 24 hours, we move to the next scheme.
In Nigeria, corruption has moved up to the next level, from naira to dollars.
Sadly, attention is focused on the Federal Government but corruption is even worse at the state and council levels. I read a story of a governor awarding a kilometre of road for N1 billion and he has not denied it. I wonder if the road is made of gold.
To even think that corruption can be eradicated now in the country is akin to somebody swimming in an ocean of illusion.
We have walloped in several decades of corruption-induced governance and now, corruption has come to stay.
This is due to the decades of entrenched systemic rot in the country, a situation which is now forcing primary school pupils to be thinking of driving the latest big car, instead of reading their books.
This terrible situation has foisted the appellation of ‘a failed state’ on Nigeria, although some Nigerians continue to deceive themselves that corruption is being tackled.
It is even worse among some religious leaders now who have become emergency contractors. They will only tell government officials what they want to hear, not the truth.
Everybody wants to be in government and die there because that is where the action is. That is where you can become a millionaire overnight.
A friend recently told me that some councillors in a particular state in the South-South, who did not have any identifiable means of livelihood before being elected or selected, now go about with bodyguards.
Last week, I read the story of the First Lady in France, Valerie Trierweiler, who, despite the election of her partner, Francois Hollande, as President, will continue to work as a journalist for Paris Match, a glossy magazine. That is France but here, it is not imaginable.
I even read it that there is a new group, ‘Association of Wives of Councillors’ at the local government level who, directly or indirectly, will be drawing salaries and perks of office from the system.
I pray that corruption will not be adopted as a state policy very soon.
Meanwhile, may I ask those who conducted, organised, financed and supervised the cash-for-clearance operation: when are we going to watch the Otedola/Lawan video?
I have a feeling it is going to be the most expensive video ever made in Nigeria, if it hits cinema halls.
With this type of video, I don’t think the Federal Government should borrow money for any project.
If it is taken on a tour of the country, millions of Nigerians will gladly pay N500 to watch it.
Once they have watched it, everybody will want to have a copy.
Millions of copies in CDs should be made and it will then be the duty of Information Minister, Labaran Maku, to begin a promotion campaign, shouting: “Grab your copy nowwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!”