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Presidents, Robberies And Prisons By Lasisi Olagunju



“Every morning, as I come out of Agodi Government House, I look down and I see Agodi Prisons,” Col. Ahmed Usman, a former Military Administrator of Oyo State, once told an audience. A hush descended on the gathering as he said this. He looked around, paused for effects – and continued: “and I always pray that: ‘God when I leave here (Government House), don’t let me end up there (Prisons)’.”

The British had an awful sense of humour. In many places where they built prisons while here, the jail houses were sited not far from the government houses. They did just that in Ibadan, in Abeokuta and in Ado-Ekiti. And you ask why? Even if there were no answers from the colonial minds on why they erected those two structures face to face, has Colonel Usman not unwittingly provided one? Every person in power must remember that we live in a world of opposites.

Power is one pole of a pair of opposites. The low side is carefully etched in the site of the prisons. They sit so menacingly, waiting and looking at arrogant power.

Life has up and downsides; there will always be life after power. But why is it that the powerful here feign ignorance of the other side of power? Could it be the reason very few who start well end it well?

Usman was fortunate; he left in peace and has been enjoying his retirement quietly in peace. But has that been the case with several others who held public posts?

Presidents have awesome powers, but are those powers a carte blanche – a franchise to do just anything, including wrecking the destinies of millions put in their care without consequences? The answer you get here cannot be the same you get abroad. Here, there are no consequences for anything; but elsewhere, leaders always know there is a tomorrow.

Indeed, the last one week demystified presidents, ex-presidents and all who thought themselves above the law. The world looked at the iron feet of the gods of power and discovered that they are indeed made of clay. South Korean former president, Park Geun-hye, was sentenced to 24 years in jail for abuse of power and corruption. Brazil’s former president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, got 12 years also for corruption. Former President Jacob Zuma of South Africa had his own day in court on Friday. He is facing a rash of graft charges. All these happened in just one week and Nigerians went into a frenzy. Do you really think this can happen in Nigeria? You probably would get a shrug as answer from me. And you ask why? Our own leaders aren’t like those ones in South Korea, Brazil and South Africa. Ours are tanks of tact and wisdom. Here, presidents and governors sign and approve anything for anyone, including themselves, because they are the law. They not only know how to eat the isin fruit, they have also perfected the art of removing the ‘death’ in its eyes.

Leaders here do not over-drink and miss their way back home to safety. They do not prepare their meals without having extra bowls for unexpected guests. They take enough to feed all dangers, including the law.

Above all, leaders here live in castles moated with their victims. They are blessed with an impregnable fort of the disinherited. The people here celebrate and protect their oppressors. They sign blank cheques for their leaders to cash. Leaders exist to spend the people’s money. If Tapa owns Igunnu and Igunnu owns Tapa, what then is the problem of intrusive law in what the two do to each other?

Those foreign countries could humiliate their leaders; it is their problem. The leader here owns the farm, the yam and the knife. He owns the law and all its fangs. So, there is no point thinking about doing good with public power.

Whatever you do here ends here: there is no hell. There is no law; there is no justice; there is no prison if you stay in the power family. Whatever the leader does, there are enough followers to give him defensive walls, moats to beat back haters of his success. The game of survival is rigged against the poor but he cares only for his oppressors. He tears himself away from himself turning the nozzle homeward. You don’t think the murdered and the murderers in Benue, Taraba, Kogi and Kwara are of the same class of the poor? It is the character of Nigeria’s character.

Our country lacks character. That is why leaders fail and are immune from karma. Character is what the Yoruba call iwa; the Igbo say it is agwa or emume. The nearest to it in Arabic is akhlaq. It is what Zig Ziglar describes as the foundation stone of “balanced success.”

It is what a woman lacks which she misinterprets as ill luck. It is that thing that is absent in a household that makes it unleash ill-bred children on the society.

A nation without character toasts daylight robbery with criminal silence; sees Boko Haram as halal; excuses murderous herdsmen and celebrates rogues as role models. When a nation lacks character, it is normal to succumb to what Richard Sennet describes as “rule by misrule.” A culture of accommodation of evil; an acceptance of cheats by the cheated; a system in which the insulted “interprets” and “explains” away insults – and then “excuses” their beloved tormentor. Where you have this, you end up having a nation of deregulated calamities – a free fall of values; a patterned harvest of victims.

There is an army of victims everywhere defending the rot here. How many of the fallen in Offa last week condemned Danjuma’s call for self-defence? What could be the opinion of the wounded and their relations now after the horrendous experience? In the name of loyalty to political parties and leaders, those who should demand good governance daily look away; or they even attack those who dare to ask that government, for once, governs responsibly. But where leaders are not asked to account, what would life look like? It would be brutish; it would be nasty, short. That is why the House of Nigeria fell a long time ago. Boko Haram has closed down schools in the North East; killer herdsmen have chased farmers out of their farms in the North Central. Armed robbers are closing down banks in diverse places. Where banks have refused to close down, they open shop 9 am and close by noon daily to escape robbery attacks. Going to banking halls or queueing at the ATM has become a journey to Sambisa. You write your will and say the last prayers. That has been a lot of the people in several rural communities. You find them in rural Kwara, in Osun and in Ijebu part of Ogun State. Life in the cities across the country is not radically different. Armoured tanks are the braces holding the shaky banking business in the cities. It is a war situation.

There was that mass murder called bank robbery in Offa. Its gravity shocked many who asked why? That is one huge alert informing us that the odious fixed account Nigeria has been operating has matured. Nigeria has sacrificed itself to the gods of unwell. The devil cannot be asked to excuse any settlement ruled by the ill-bred. A village whose head chief cultivates Indian hemp and the wife sells ogogoro (local gin) is willed to the devil already. Nigeria is that village. It has continued to give the wrong offerings to its chi. Nigeria sowed wind; whirlwind is here!
It is not true that all the murderous young men spraying bullets everywhere never wanted to do well in life.

Something must have snapped in their lives turning them over to the devil. A friend said the country has become the Somalia of West Africa. Boko Haram calls the shots in the North East with its human bombs; kidnappers are the Ogbuefi of the South East. In the South West states and Kwara, armed robbers have left no one in doubt that they are the Baba alaye – the lords of the streets. Cultists and militants are in control of the South South-land and creeks.

Herdsmen continue revving up their campaign of death in the North Central; villainous cattle rustlers superintend over the North West as the Amir of theft and murder.

These are the real forces ruling what we call our nation. We lost our country to them because what we call government is impotent; the leaders we have are not sentient. They perceive nothing apart from cool cash, s3x and the next elections. The law as pure fiction only fills the void whenever authority fails the powerful.

If you doubt these, ask why several communities are on forever security lock-down. Ask why more than 22 sinless persons had to die suddenly, hot death in Offa. Ask why those ones lost their lives and their assailants escaped to safety. Ask why the cries of death and bereavement were heard only in the mud houses of the dead. Ask why those voted to care refused to care. Ask why the unfortunate deaths are classified as just a line in Nigeria’s litany of woes. Ask why politicians in Nigeria have no fear of tomorrow

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