Is something not wrong with our people? Oh yes, something is definitely wrong with us! But what that is, I cannot claim to know. Some of us believe something is profoundly wrong with a great number of Nigerians. And I think there is a fierce urgency for us all to reflect on the complete breakdown in values, and take deliberate steps to change direction. If this is not done, I am afraid, Nigeria will continue to defeat all of us who wish her well.
A wave of populist immorality and repugnant social behaviour appears to have upended traditional behaviours and values that formed the foundations upon which the superstructure of society was built. It is depressing that in this new age of seismic cultural rebellion of rising assaults – unleashed on normal standards of behaviour and values that have shaped our way of life from the cradle, vile practices and abhorrent behaviours now look far less repugnant.
It’s a new and abnormal world order seemingly beyond the constraints of standard cultural and moral etiquettes that have endured time and space. Now, petty thieves and serial convicts are canonised as saints and heroes; kidnappers, gangsters and treasury looters hold the reins of power and make laws for us all to follow. It is a strange new world order where malevolent intents are masked with populism, where the victims are all too happy to be victims of delusional psychopaths spread across the length and breadth of the country.
I have refrained from intervening in the James Ibori saga that is on display in Delta State, particularly in Oghara until now for two reasons. One, I had thought the celebration of his release was an isolated incident by a couple of lost and deranged people, dancing naked in the market square. Two, I had thought that Ibori, having served time in prison deserved a break, in the hope that he has learnt some lessons the hard way; truly I expected him to quietly go into a “corner” and reflect and atone for his sins against his people by perhaps devoting the reminder of his time on earth to charity work. And maybe a third point: I had hoped the state government would use the lessons learnt as a guide, to block leakages in government finances and activities – to strengthen its desire for transparency and march towards a bright new future.
How wrong I was! Contrary to my expectations, and I dare say of many, disgusting and elaborate obscene public celebrations have been staged to mark the return of James Onanefe Ibori from prison. It’s like serving time in prison for stealing taxpayers’ money is now a mark of honour to be celebrated by the state government, elected officials and the same ordinary people who are the victims of corruption. His house has become a Mecca of sorts – where the shame of Nigeria is advertised daily. Look no farther if you want to know why our country has not been able to develop. The country’s progress has been held down by the likes of Ibori and those who celebrate him.
According to the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, $40 billion has been spent by various government agencies as well as oil companies in the Niger Delta region without any meaningful development in the last 10 years. This is how he reportedly put it: “The amount of money that has been put into the Niger Delta over the last 10 years is over $40 billion. This comes from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the derivation fund and investments by the oil companies. As I go to the creeks, I see no infrastructure that justifies the result of the massive investments. What this means is that the Niger Delta must begin to do soul searching by asking themselves, where did the monies go? Who took them? What were they applied to? What were the roles of our own people and other people as well, in examining how the money was spent? Unless we solve the governance and transparency issues surrounding how the money was spent, it does not matter how much money is put into the place, we will be heading to square one.”
Let me tell Kachikwu, if he pretends not to know, some of the people that took the money meant for development and the roles his people played in the thievery (at the very least provided moral support as they are doing now) are already known. It is precisely because ruthless thieves of like mind always find their way to public offices that the riches of Niger Delta have been more of a curse than a blessing.