The pen is the tongue of the hand, the silent utterer of words for the eyes – Henry Beecher
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari should not worry about building more prisons to accommodate the growing tribe of notorious plunderers of the nation’s treasury as it is being canvassed in certain quarters. I have read in one or two publications’ suggestions that Buhari should construct Kirikiri Maximum Prison 2, and Kirikiri Maximum Prison 3 solely for creating adequate space for the country’s senior thieves especially those who public opinion believes would be leaving the state house and their cabinet chambers for jail houses.
I think what the President should seriously consider is the number of Psychiatric Asylums required to accommodate our men and women whose unprecedented level and style of stealing borders on insanity. What we have got on our hands are very abnormal human beings whose degree of stealing and to wit, corruption is beyond comprehension. Some one must be really crazy to ever imagine himself stealing 30 billion Naira!
Of course stealing did not start in 1999. Stealing or treasury looting did not start in 1989 either. 1979 could also not lay claim to being the beginning of corruption in Nigeria. 1969, when we were inching towards the end of our most unnecessary and avoidable Civil War did not make the mark of being the starting point of our collective madness in the field of corruption. After all, one of the major reasons given for the provocation and execution of the Majors’ Coup in 1966 was the damned bogey of ‘10 percenters’; Federal Ministers, Premiers and top public office holders allegedly signing cheques and other sensitive financial documents with their toes and the shells of palm kernel!
In other words, some form of stealing and other incidents of corruption had been with us for quite a long time. Some people are even quick to point out that there was serious corruption in the conduct of our 1952 Census, and the Federal Elections which ushered in our Independence in October 1960. But in all of those, there was no sign of madness or callousness.
The unfortunate Nigerian Civil War must take some blame for our gradual descent into abyss of corruption. It was during the War, as alleged, that stupid unearned money started flowing into the Nigerian market. Some documents and documentaries relating to the War years allude to some officers cashing salaries, allowances and emoluments meant for their fallen colleagues! The era of payments for ghost workers was alleged to have peaked during this period. A number of public officers were also alleged to be cashing the money meant for hundreds of thousands of employees who had run away from their duty posts before and during the War years.
Hence from 1967 onwards to 1970 and the years immediately after, there was a great rise in public consumption and appetite for luxurious tastes. The Udoji bonanza also played a role here. One may add that it was also the period that spraying currency notes on musicians’ foreheads assumed a serious dimension which has stayed with us till today. Armed robbery and get-rich-quick to keep pace with the Joneses became rampant necessitating public execution for armed robbers. It was thus a combination of two aphorisms, one of silliness by my friend Dr. Kayode Lasaki that ‘once you come by stupid money you start developing stupid appetite’ and the other of greed by my former colleague Chief Onyema Ugochukwu talking of ‘having Champagne appetite on Coca-Cola income’ that had brought us to where we are today.
Then came the lunatics! The first category of heinous thieves were those who were cashing on the misfortune of their colleagues who were killed in the War front, and those who constituted themselves to ghost workers collecting salaries and emoluments of people displaced by the War. Those were callous criminals. And one must hasten to point out here that the first generation of our thieves, those who the ‘coupists’ of 1966 referred to, were not particularly callous or selfish or ostentatious. Most of them had at best two houses; one in the capital city where they worked and the other in their villages/towns. And a good number of them rendered assistance to the needy in their respective communities.
But 1999 clearly and extravagantly carried the baton of lunacy in looting which it has continued to hand over to successive years like in a relay race. Some readers may wish to make 1999 read 1979; so be it. When someone buys an item he or she does not need and may never need or use, such a buyer needs his or her brain examined. When someone chooses to steal something that he or she does not need and may never need, such a person is either silly or insane.
It is insanity of the highest order and perverted greed that will make a top ranking public officer who is married to a wife or wives steal the beds of other people’s wives working under him and thereby make cuckolds of the women’s husbands. It is insanity of the highest order coupled with silly greed that will make a public office holder to steal so much money that will harvest for him 10 houses each in about 10 choicest countries of the world. Even if a person lives up to 500 years, such a person can never exhaust 60 billion dollars in his or her life time nor can five generations after him consume such humongous sum. It is sheer madness that will blind any person to the stark reality of the shortness of our sojourn on the earth surface. People steal and steal and steal and continue to loot and loot until they die, and you ask why? What does a single individual do with 60 vehicles of all shapes, brands and sizes?
I am happy that Professor Femi Odekunle the criminologist is among those appointed by President Buhari to help him in his search for a road map to killing corruption in Nigeria. Aside from impounding the loot crazily taken by our top thieves, and apart from giving them maximum jail term, it is my considered view that such criminals on conviction should first be sent to Lambo Clinic at Aro Psychiatric Hospital in Abeokuta, or to other notable Lunatic Homes to purge them of their madness. Thereafter they should be compelled to hang full figured human skeletons in their living rooms to constantly remind them that that is what all of us shall become sooner or later!
It is also instructive that any one aspiring to public office must first undergo psychiatric examination before such a person is turned loose on our space. There is no word to describe what some shameless men and women who misfortune has foisted on this country have done to her. Insane people who refuse to believe that they came to this world empty handed even though with empty closed fists and will leave empty handed even with hands literally open to confirm the emptiness. Is it not silly and satanic that a man who has a private jet still demands and accepts a bicycle as bribe!!
• Otunba Tola Adeniyi is Jagun Oodua Adimula ll e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org