Urgently Needed: A National Hall of Shame
On a recent visit to New York, I had cause to engage a good friend who is the publisher of a very influential online medium on why incidences of sleaze have continued unabated in Nigeria despite institutional frameworks put in place to check them.
This article was written by Kenneth Gyado. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 360Nobs.com.
This young man who has dedicated his entire work life to the exposure of corruption at all levels was of the opinion that official graft has been on the rise because perpetrators feel that the benefits of their crimes far outweigh the punitive consequences, even when they are caught.
According to him, not only are our laws very weak, the officers of the law are also deep in the rotten cesspit and have proven over the years to be facilitators of these crimes. He offered a brilliant quote which captured my imagination. He said, “the only weapon left to fight official crime in Nigeria today is the mobilisation of shame”.
The interesting part now is that even the mobilisation of shame is proving to be inadequate because these felons believe that the noise about their criminal acts is just a passing phase that will be drowned out over time or will become irrelevant at the exposure of the next big crime. They have studied the mentality of the people so well, and that accounts for their sudden transformation from being disgusting criminals to heroes. They deploy their manipulative skills to play up the ethnic and religious cards to appear as victims. Sponsored articles and advertorials suddenly appear to say “our son is being persecuted because he comes from a minority tribe or because he is a Christian”.
My psyche suffered a heavy assault recently when I read an advertorial from an amorphous group in Adamawa State saying Air Marshall Alex Badeh is currently being “persecuted” because he is a “Northern minority Christian”. What they didn’t say was whether he shared the N558 million he collected from the Nigerian Airforce coffers monthly with Northern minority Christians. They also failed to say whether the palatial mansions and shopping malls he bought were converted into cathedrals and community halls for his minority ethnic group in Adamawa.
Because of the “short memory syndrome” that has become a pervading disease in Nigeria, those who should be spending time making restitution and begging for reabsorption into society are now champions of populist causes. They believe that by making the right noises, their multiple sins of greed, larceny, avarice and covetousness will be forgotten. That was why DSP Alamiesegha was celebrated as a hero despite his conviction for the severe looting of Bayelsa State. This is the reason why people like Gabriel Suswam still go to public functions pontificating on good governance when his eight year adventure as governor set his Benue State centuries behind due to unprecedented graft, the poverty of ideas and incompetence occassioned by gross maladministration.
For a person who has been indicted by a Judicial Commission of Inquiry and who is standing trial for the crudest forms of theft, the only explanation for his public outings denigrating the government of his successor, Dr. Samuel Ortom is his opportunistic scheme to use the current economic challenges in the country to whitewash a thoroughly soiled image.
At this stage, what should ordinarily concern him is to deal with the exposure that he and 51 others cornered N107 billion for themselves while the State bled to near death. He should also explain the existence of over 4000 ghost workers while he ruled as governor. Benue people also need to know why despite the inability to pay salaries for six months before he left office, he still employed over 5000 people into the state civil service on the eve of his departure. We need to know why he paid himself N450 million as overhead cost 24 hours to the end of his tenure. Why did he leave his over 500 personal aides unpaid?
Again, Benue People need to know how come the fortunes of the state suffered downward reversals while the rulers of the state became suddenly stupendously wealthy. Who owns the Riverside mansion, Metropolitan Hotel, several shopping plazas, Atom Kpera Lodge, Wuye Market etc?. Who owns the large piece of land opposite IBB square where a proposed superstore by Shoprite is said to be coming up?.
I believe that our society needs to reinvent or recreate itself. I do not believe that the characters we lionise and celebrate represent the best that we have. It is a testimony of collapsed values when those who claim to speak for us reek of corruption. Can you imagine someone like Bernard Madoff who ran the biggest scam on Wall Street giving lectures on how to revive the stock market?
I watched the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami on a programme on Channels TV where he said he is currently drafting a Bill to the National Assembly proposing for the establishment of a National Crime Museum where enlarged photographs of Convicted Felons along with details of their crimes will be publicly displayed so that generations of Nigerians will be able to go and see the faces of the criminals that once brought Nigeria to her knees.
If the current wrist slaps that corruption convicts get have not deterred them from criminal activities, I think the possibility of their children one day seeing their faces in this Crime museum will make them think twice before they dip their hands in the till again. Also, a person whose image exists in the museum will not insult our minds by talking righteously. I suggest that the museum be called “National Hall of Shame”.
Kenneth Gyado is a public relations consultant and commentator.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 360Nobs.com.