By Bashir Kabir
James Onanefe Ibori, a former Niger State governor, an ethnic Urhobo of the South South descent was once convicted of gross misappropriation of public trust worth $250m. in 2010 He was convicted and jailed in the UK after pleading guilty to ten counts of money laundering and conspiracy to defraud at Southwark Crown Court, London.
Six years later (in 2016) the same Ibori was received in his home states with grandeur and jubilation; loud drums and red carpets worthy of a returning hero. Eulogies were heard sung by his people painting him as a true son of the soil whose people are proud of. His completed prison term was declared to have cleaned him pristine clean of all sins.
Reuters also reported, on August 31st 2007 of a near similar occurrence. In which Thousands of cheering villagers in Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger Delta state of Bayelsa welcomed home another former state governor who was convicted of stealing public funds. That was none other than the late Diepreye Alamieyeseigha. He pleaded guilty before a Nigerian court to six charges and was sentenced to two years in prison on each charge. Yet, his people find in their heart of hearts the mercy and forgiveness to embrace him in a total disregard of the fact that he committed gross public misconduct.
Among the Yoruba sons, Chief Bode George, the one-time deputy national chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, South West zone was charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,EFCC, for inflation of contracts to the tune of N84 billion with five other board members of NPA including Aminu Dabo, O. Abidoye, Abdullahi Tafida, Zanna Maidaribe and Sule Aliyu and was convicted with two years jail term.
On the termination of Bode’s incarceration, the road to Kirikiri in Lagos was shutdown with supporters in a brazen display of merriment to welcome the ex-convict back to society.
On levels that have not reached the extent of conviction, various cases of national corruption incidences involving several personalities from Maiduguri to Gusau to Yanegoua to Calabar to Lagos to Kano have arisen and turned the dust significantly. Some are mere allegations before a court of law others haven’t yet substantiate to a legal battle. But one notable trend is prevailing in the perception of crime in the country. Region, religion, culture, and tribal inclinations play a major part in the stigmatization of the heinous act of corruption or even crime in general.
As was seen in the case of the above Niger Deltans and the South Western acceptance of a wronging son, there seems to be tolerance tied by tribal sentiments where wrongdoing (corruption to be precise) is concerned. The rift of division that keeps the country separate has allowed for criminals to gain undeserved sympathy of the people occupying the same camp as them.
In a similar fashion The north, easily comes into the defense of Abba Kyari when the infamous criminal (Hushpuppi) undergoing investigation in the US revealed that he allegedly bribed the super cop who has laudable achievements in the fight against crime in the country, to arrest co-fraudster in a $1.1m scam. It naturally felt like an attack on its son who up until now has only had series of admirable accomplishments. The north naturally believes Somebody with an impeccable record and indisputable reputation could not have done what was said about him.
In a different setting, Kyari scandal would have been just the corruption allegation case undergoing investigation. Sooner or later the US department handling the investigation will have to produce evidences as to whether the said alleged crime was committed or not and all would be set to rest.
However, in Nigeria it is a lot more than just that. It is a muscling issue between the north and the south. for the North it is an attack that has to be defended with the need to convince the world that such is not true. The Northern media was blazed with postings of support, while their southern counterpart keeps mockingly pointing out at how the seemingly untainted northern figure is caught pants down. Just like it was with the Pantami’s case.
For the south, finding this crack on one of the unsullied walls belonging to the north is precious. the north on the other hand feels the pressure to defend its honor by refusing to acknowledge the possibility of such occurrence. A typical example of counterproductive and unwise energy expending by both the rivaling sides.
Both sides are missing a vital point. while nobody is expected to be perfect and free from committing any crime; not Ibori not Alam not Bode, and definitely not Kyari. Attributing perfection to anyone in a form of absolute integrity putting exterem expectations on them that they would surely eventually fail to deliver is not being fair to them in the first place. The frameworks meant to ensure the prevention of corruption and crime in general never acknowledge the existence of perfect men of perfect integrity. If such people exist the law might not be needed to put things right back on track when they are derailed by the same so-called men of perfect integrity.
The South celebrating corruption charges convicts because they come from them is as wrong as the north falsifying corruption allegation to be proven before a court of law against one of its own. It is injustice at best and backwardness at worst. The worsening of the living conditions of men and women from north to south is largely as a result of those responsible abusing their powers. Supporting corruption and hence encouraging its continuity will by no means change the bad conditions.
The impact of corrupt activities perpetrated by personalities from north to south, east to west would always have a direct negative impact on the country. Chanting slogans of solidarity because the perpetrator comes from your region does not make things better for you and worst for your rival across the zones. It rather makes thing worst for all.
The north can wait until the investigation, hopefully, reveals the truth about the Kyari scandal before rushing in to protect him if it turned out that he is innocent of those allegations. Otherwise, let the law dispense justice. It is for everybody’s good. The south on the other hand should hold its breath and postpone jubilation because corruption in the country is not prevalent in just one zone. It is a national crisis that needs collective effort to combat it and the only language the wrongdoers understand regardless or ethnicity, religion, political inclinations and whatnot is that of rule of law.