- Abacha’s memory of sleaze should serve as enough lessons for other corrupt public officials
Twenty-one years after his death, an overseas court just seized 211 million British pounds; stolen money traced to Gen. Sani Abacha, Nigeria’s late military Head of State. It is as much personal shame for those Abacha left behind; as it is national shame, for Nigerians, whose resources the late military ruler brazenly plundered.
According to Metro UK, Abacha laundered the money, via the United States, into the Channel Islands. The loot was captured in the books of Doraville Properties Corporation, a company registered at the British Virgin Islands. The money is being held pending the time Nigeria, the United States and the Jersey authorities would agree on a repatriation and distribution formula. That could mean that though the money was stolen from Nigeria, not all of it would return to Nigerian public till. Given the state of a country not having enough to accommodate its pressing needs, this would be wanton loss indeed.
It is a country’s shame that an itchy-fingered ruler once presided over it and stole the common wealth blind. Yet, Nigerians love to toast themselves as among the most sophisticated and most enlightened in the world. Still, it was less the sophistication of the people; but more the putting in place, for whatever reasons, a government that had absolute contempt for probity, integrity and accountability.
Beyond ruing Abacha’s disgraceful stealing, therefore, a systemic solution would be to ensure Nigeria puts in place stout and robust checks and balances that would make such heists impossible, no matter how base the occupier of the office is. That is why Nigeria must deepen its democratic system; and ensure it protects public money, to deliver development and prosperity for the greatest number of citizens.
Beyond a sound system, however, Nigerians must begin to worry about the mental health of their leaders, if Abacha was a true reflection of that class. What mind accumulates so primitively and so senselessly? A mind plagued by the most vicious strain of spiritual poverty, so much so that the more they steal the more wretched they feel they are? But again, Nigerians must develop their democracy and make it so discriminative that its potent filters sieve off putative robbers-in-government, before they ever get into any office, to loot the public till.
This is nothing but long over-due, national survival strategy. Abacha’s stealing (like the rest of other robbers-in-government) was a case of simple pen-robbery. But its effects have been compound and complex retardation and developmental crisis. The results are all too obvious: collapsed infrastructure, social and physical, mass poverty, hopelessness, criminality and high insecurity. It is a hefty price our nationals have to pay for tolerating thieves to rule over them. But we must say never again!
That is why every patriot must buy into the current government’s anti-corruption war. Indeed, fiercely fighting corruption should become a national consensus for every government, across party lines. Sleaze in public places is clearly the most potent danger to Nigeria’s survival. We, therefore, have little choice, as a people, than to face it down and defeat it.
Abacha was a metaphor for the most vicious strain of executive impunity, which could still be with us, even with 20 straight years of democracy. Aside from checks and balances, therefore, we must put in place a robust crime-and-punishment system – a no respecter of persons or offices, no matter how high. That way, we can forever banish, from our collective psyche, a leader that died 21 years ago, yet still plagues the rest of us with his blind and insane stealing.