“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides…to remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all…” – Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize winner, 1986.
These days we are being regaled by accusations and counter-accusations by hitherto comrades in crime; soul mates joined together on the altar of corruption. But greed, naked, insatiable greed, is trying to put that marriage asunder. Bins are being spilt and no one knows how the end would look like.
We feel ashamed or pretend to be, that we produced a Hushpuppy, forgetting that Hushpuppi is a true son who has learnt well from his forebears. A puppy inherits the genes of its parents, the dog. He is a true reflection of us and what we are seeing now authenticates it. Fraud is fraud whether internet or analogue. That he took it further afield is only natural, because every true son should aim at surpassing his parents. That is the dream of any good parent, anyway.
You see, Hushpuppy has many morphological brothers from the same sibling species who can be said to be his cousins but because they are here, they roam free displaying their wealth ill-gotten as a result of the positions of their parent dogs in government. His siblings dot the Nigerian landscape from Sokoto to Maiduguri, Kano to Akwa Ibom and Katsina to Lagos.
Like their international cousin, Hush, the junior puppies cruise around town in the latest exotic cars, own multi-million naira shopping malls and mansions that Dangote would salivate over, and oppress all at weddings and other ceremonies by spraying dollars with reckless abandon.
Hush, their senior cousin was birthed by their poor uncle who did not get the opportunity to go to school. Well, not necessarily, since with the right connections, those without the National Youth Service Corps certificate too can become top dogs; it is rather that Hush’s parents were not lucky enough to get the right connection.
Therefore, Hush employed his brains, albeit crookedly, and went ballistic. He used his evil genius of a brain to get for himself what his cousins got cheaply because they were lucky their parents found the right connection to guzzle our commonwealth.
Our society is one that not only closes its eyes to questionable wealth but also accords honour to those who have acquired it. And that is why jobless multimillionaire youths are popping up as their top dog parents facilitate the acquisition for them, their puppies. Those not favoured by nature to have papa dogs, like Hush, will now go to any length to get theirs.
Were Hush in Nigeria, no one may touch him except his dog uncles see that he has used his “hard-earned” wealth as an oppressive tool against their well-loved puppies.
If in doubt, just recall the Halliburton and Siemens bribery scandals. The two scandals rocked the international community, not only because of the quantum of money involved but also because of the beneficiary personalities, the breach of the ethics of international business as well as the scope of the money involved.
Many Nigerian top dogs of the late 90s and early 2000s were involved. Where in Germany, USA and other European countries the companies made restitution and some of their directors were sentenced to various jail terms, in Nigeria, some beneficiaries became ministers of first-grade ministries and some even ended up as national chairmen of the then ruling party. Yet these were people who would have been cooling their feet in jail were they where their progeny, Hush, was arrested.
On December 16, 2009, a Nigerian court discharged and acquitted James Ibori of a 170-count charge of corruption and abuse of office preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) only for him to be jailed 13 years on ten charges by a Southwark Crown Court in London. The court also confiscated from among his possessions a house in Hampstead, North London worth £2.2m, a property in Shaftesbury, Dorset, valued at £311,000 and a £3.2m mansion in Sandton, near Johannesburg, South Africa. Other properties confiscated were a fleet of armoured Range Rovers valued at £600,000, a £120,000 Bentley Continental GT and a Mercedes-Benz Maybach 62 bought for €407,000 cash, which was shipped directly to his mansion in South Africa. After the sentencing, Sue Patten, head of the Crown Prosecution Service Central Fraud Group said it would bid to confiscate the assets as Ibori had acquired his riches “at the expense of some of the poorest people in the world”.
Hush was arrested in Dubai where Ibori was arrested. If it were here, none of their properties would have been confiscated. And even if confiscated, they would be returned to them after a while. And since we are an unserious people who make jokes and glide over such issues and move on, sometimes even protesting on the dogs’ behalf, such things would keep occurring again and again, and corruption would never abate.
There is corruption everywhere in the world. No country on earth is free from it. However, ours is crude and becoming so brazen that something needs to be done urgently. The number of top dogs keeps increasing and because nothing happens to them, those waiting for their turn far outnumber them, while their puppies are also being positioned to take over.
Singapore which used to have a reputation for corruption now has one of the lowest corruption indices in the world. Singapore, understanding the Chinese proverb that says a fish begins to rot from the head, started tackling the hydra-headed monster from the top. The signal trickled down.
A true story goes that a minister was invited by a contractor on an all-expenses-paid holiday abroad. On his return, he was prosecuted and sent to jail. Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew used that to kick-start the country’s fight against corruption. What the minister did may not ordinarily be deemed as corruption but Lee Kuan Yew had to borrow from Professor Joseph Francis Fletcher’s Theory of Situational Ethics for the good of his country.
President Muhammadu Buhari has been acclaimed for his incorruptibility but corruption scandals are rocking agencies and agents of his government. This will taint his hard-earned image because, ultimately, the buck stops at his table. In the next hundred years, all these people’s names will not ring a bell in the country’s history books, but not his, being a leader. His name will forever be associated with the direction Nigeria took on his watch.
He has, however, started redeeming that through repositioning his party, the vehicle that ushered him into power. It is now managed by fresh, young, energetic, visionary and, above all, credible interim management committee whose mission is not only that of repositioning the party alone but bringing peace and unity all over the country through the mending of fences and calming frayed nerves. This, surely, is Buhari’s vision.
The next step is to put his government in order. The corruption scandals rocking the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), North-East Development Commission (NEDC), Nigeria National Petroleum Commission (NNPC), Ibrahim Magu, Dr Isa Ali Pantami, Alhaji Abubakar Malami and all others need to be conclusively investigated. Any person vindicated should be allowed to continue with his work while anyone indicted should be diligently and sincerely prosecuted.
Taking a strong stand with just these cases and any that rears its head would go a long the way in sanitising the government and rebuilding the shaken confidence people have in the president. He would also be laying a strong foundation for a stronger, more united and better Nigeria.
As long as small fries will always be those the heavy hammer of the law will fall on while the top dogs go scot-free, the more Nigeria will continue breeding Hushpuppy and his cousins.
The president has to do something about these greedy dogs and their puppies before their insatiable greed plunges Nigeria into inescapable nothingness. Right now Nigeria is in their mouths and like the allegory of The Greedy Dog in the classic Aesop fable, there is all likelihood of them sending our dear country down a bottomless pit.
In the classic taradiddle, The Greedy Dog, a short story written for kids by Rosie Dickens and first published in 2015, a stray dog suffers because of unquenchable greed. Though promising himself to stop it, he always forgets the resolution.
Very hungry and not finding food to eat one day, he decided to look for food on the other side of the bridge across his house. Luckily, he found a big, juicy bone and he held the bone tightly in his mouth so that no other dog could snatch it. He thought to himself that if any of his friends saw him eating there, he might have to share it with them. So he decided to take the bone back to his home. But as he was crossing the stream, he looked into the water and saw another dog holding a bone in his mouth.
Greedy as he was, he wanted the other bone too, so he barked at the dog. As he opened his mouth to bark, his bone fell into the water and beyond his reach. It was then he realised that it was not another dog in the water, it was his reflection.
Our top dogs, opening their mouths to grab more from the treasury and the mouths of other dogs, may end up dropping what (Nigeria) is in their mouths down the abyss. As the prophet of Islam, Muhammad (SAW) said, the ambition of man never gets satisfied until soil stuffs his stomach. The president has to stop them now.