Arms and the men
IF we were only being treated to a replication of a Shavian penchant for the euphemisation of tragic human pursuits, we would not be so much troubled. But now we are rudely set on edge by the fact that what we are all witnesses to in the country today is an unsettling reality of the peculiar Nigerian condition. So, George Bernard Shaw could not have had Nigeria in mind when he sent his British audience convulsing with laughter with Arms and the Man.
If Shaw’s audience’s tension was relieved at the end of the presentation of that outcome of his fecund imagination, the Nigerian audience is bristling with rage as the travestied version of his drama is unfolding. They fume at the seemingly irremediable loss of all moral moorings in the society, a development whose upshot is the quest for materialism that is utterly blind to the distinction between propriety and absurdity.
This was why while our soldiers were being mowed down on the Boko Haram battlefield, this stark reality failed to tug at the heartstrings of our so-called leaders. They steeled their minds against the urgent need to bring succour to the soldiers by equipping them with modern arms and paying them their proper wages regularly. They chose to swell their personal accounts with the funds officially made available for the above purposes. With numbed conscience, they went beyond pillorying soldiers who refused to commit suicide, knowing that fighting insurgents without guns amounted to this, to trying them with a view to meting out to them a harsher sanction.
Not that the citizens were bereft of the idea that this had been the practice in government. Even in the days of the then President Olusegun Obasanjo, his squabble with his Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, offered the citizens an opportunity to know how the nation’s resources were capriciously misappropriated. In the battle for supremacy with its attendant recriminations, there were the putrid revelations of how money meant for good governance was shared between our leaders. A part of such money not stashed away in sleazy accounts was used to buy plush vehicles for paramours.
With the way our leaders steal and waste our money, it becomes very clear that the country is rich and that the economy can sustain any kind of financial shock by our leaders’ recklessness. No matter how much our leaders strive to make us believe that we are broke, the days of General Yakubu Gowon replete with funds that could not be exhausted have not fully gone. Why must our leaders hector us with the necessity of keeping our expectations in abeyance because the country lacks the funds to meet them? Why must we be patient with them when we know that when they are not directly collecting bribes in billions of dollars as in the Halliburton case, they are unconscionably looting the treasury?
That is at the federal level. It is not different at the state level. Take Anambra State, for example. Just recently, Peter Obi and his successor in the government house, Willie Obiano, disagreed over whether N75 billion was left in the treasury by Obi.
Apparently trifling with the sensibilities of the citizens, they gave the impression that it is easy to lose billions. If Obiano is really convinced that Obi did not leave the amount of money he claimed to have left, why is it impossible for him to ask the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to invite Obi to convince them that he actually left the said amount of money in the state treasury? Now, to the shock of all Nigerians, the matter is fast leaving the public domain even though it has not been resolved. The citizens do not know who is telling a lie between Obi and Obiano and yet the amount involved is not paltry but billions of naira.
Nigerians know that the leaders have a way of settling issues among themselves to the detriment of good governance for the people. The leaders remind themselves of the futility of fighting in the public when they can quietly, far from the prying eyes of the citizens, share billions and enjoy them. They are mutually aware of the incriminating evidence that each of them has to destroy his opponent. Thus their quest to fight in the public and expose one another is abridged by a perverted sense of justice. As Friedrich Nietzsche reminds us: “Justice (fairness) originates between parties of approximately equal power… where there is no clearly recognisable superiority of force and a contest would result in mutual injury producing no decisive outcome, the idea arises of coming to an understanding and negotiating over one another’s demands.”
Thus in the face of the helplessness of the citizens, what the Buhari administration should do to redeem governance from its baleful mould is to ensure a thorough prosecution of the arms deal scandal. The EFCC must be allowed to do a thorough investigation and effectively prosecute the case so that the real masterminds would be found guilty. There should not be recourse to an out-of-court settlement as corrupt leaders are wont to do. There should not be plea bargain. They must return the loot and still go to jail. But there is a pitfall the Buhari government must guard against. It must avoid detaining the suspects in the arms deal beyond the normal time prescribed by the law. For a prolonged detention without trial may earn the suspects public sympathy. Then there would be room for the suspicion that the suspects are being persecuted on political grounds.
In fact, in view of the fact that the anti-graft agencies have not recorded breakthroughs simply because their investigations and prosecutions have been shoddy, we expected the EFCC to have done a more thorough investigation before bringing the matter to the public space. And since their investigation is not complete, the suspects should be allowed to go home. The excuse that if they are allowed to go home, they could leave the country or tamper with investigation is not tenable. The nation’s security agencies should have a way of keeping such suspects under their radar so that they do not jeopardise investigation that would lead to effective prosecution.
Clearly, releasing them to go home is imperative since before the law, the suspects are still not guilty. After all, even Buhari has leveraged on this aspect of the law to keep those on whom corruption charges are hanging not only in his cabinet but also as close political associates and benefactors. And unlike Shaw whose treatment of the tragedy of war ends in roaring laughter, the Buhari administration must make sure that at the end of the day, all those involved in the arms deal are made to receive their well-deserved comeuppance for their egregious greed.