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Sen. Ndume, mass wedding, and the logic of people- driven corruption

I read in some Nigerian dailies that if anyone would be killed for corruption that has to do with stealing from the public purse, the…

I read in some Nigerian dailies that if anyone would be killed for corruption that has to do with stealing from the public purse, the stealing has to be in trillions. That is to say, a stealer of a million or a billion naira is not a thief or has not stolen enough. He or she is an apprentice whose stealing should be overlooked. Stealing in the region of a billion should be considered a tolerated thievery. This is, as reported, coming from a high ranking senator whom I admire for his candidness—especially in calling a spade a spade—during an interview.

However, I have some misgivings. Did he really say it? If any law-maker would say that, it should not be the Ndume I know. I searched for the Channels TV interview only to confirm that Sen Ali Ndume actually said so. It was a question about death penalty for drug dealers vis-a-vis the condemnation of such penalty by human right activists. Ndume spoke passionately and logically to my satisfaction. 

Invalidating the strongest argument of antagonists of death penalty which is hinged on abuse of human right to life, Ndume averred that every human has right to life—including victims who suffer consequences of hard drug.  The human rights of those people that drug dealers kill are as important. On this, I unreservedly agree with Ndume. As far as I am concerned, any campaign against capital punishment for hardened criminals is a campaign for the entrenchment of criminality. Nothing more.  

But in the course of the interview, the ace journalist (or call him “trouble maker”), Seun Okinbaloye, veered to a form of corruption that has to do with political elite. He asked why death penalty is not used against corrupt politicians as deterrent. In response, my dear Sen Ndume educated us on the levels of stealing by politicians and which should warrant death penalty.

According to him, it has to be in trillions. Until you steal in trillion, you have not deprived people of their means of sustenance. That is Ndume’s logic. Now we know why lawmakers, governors, government appointees, and other politicians steal money in hundreds of billions without qualm.

Except if Ndume would later explain that he is being misconstrued, according to him, Nigerian politicians are corrupt, thieves, and criminals. Ndume seems to be too generalising; I think there are possible exceptions. I may be wrong anyway. While he promised to espouse death penalty for corrupt politicians if that is mooted, the stealing has to be in trillions. 

He further de-emphasized politicians’ corruption which pales into insignificance when compared to corruption in the banking/financial sector. I will give Ndume that, perhaps he knows better. What I find disturbingly nauseating was his assertion that their corruption is people driven. What does that mean?

Hear him: “We politicians (even if you call us anything) if you compare us to all the corruption, our own is a very small one. Our corruption is people driven. You steal all the money, you go and share it to the people. If you don’t, you are not coming back after four years. Then Seun asked: “That is the reason why most of you steal the money?” “No, no,” he retorted, “some will go and keep it.” Then he made a disclaimer not to sound as if he is endorsing stealing: “There is no reason for stealing o.”

Though Ndume only explains what we already know, it is always good to hear from the horse’s mouth. According to him, some of them steal money and share it while others just keep it. Perhaps due to time factor, Ndume did not talk about using stolen money (or whatever money by politicians) to conduct mass wedding for orphans orphaned by bandits as constituency project. To validate some of these follies, religion is always resorted to as a cover. Once actions are justified rightly or wrongly by religion, due to its sacred nature, critics are automatically silenced. But you will hardly find any governor or lawmaker who will marry these orphaned girls themselves (except when they are exceptionally beautiful) nor would they marry them to their silver-spooned sons in the name of religion and out of sympathy. No one is even talking about the orphaned boys. Their own “saving grace” is almaajirinci.

We are so materialistic to think that it is unthinkable to start a marital life with a simple provision. We have so much materialized marriage in the name of religion such that we think marriage must be conducted with exaggerated fanfare. When that is not possible, government will have to intervene. 

Rather than create jobs and wealth, our governments—at all levels—choose to create poverty. When people are impoverished enough, sex will then be subsidized—in the name of marriage—to procreate more poverty. If you understand this simple logic, fine and dandy. If you don’t, you need to put on your thinking cap.

That said, I personally wish to thank Ndume for speaking the truth on air, not minding the fact that it is against himself and his colleagues. He is a man I still admire despite the ugly revelations coming from him. If other lawmakers are talkative like him, we would have realized more what those we elected think about us. We have been wretched; and due to wretchedness, we unthinkably clap for politicians who share money, subsidize pilgrims, subsidize marriage, distribute wedding and burial garments. After four years, we re-elect them and poverty continues. 

For researchers in the field of corruption, we can enrich our literature and even explore further on “People-Driven- Corruption” and its impact on Nigeria’s shoddy democratic experience. This sounds like a research topic.

Salaudeen wrote via [email protected]


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