Blackmail is defined as (1) the practice of getting money from someone or making them to do what you want by threatening to tell secrets about them; (2) an attempt to make someone do what you want by making threats or making them feel guilty if they do not.
Since it has become a common practice for political parties in power to provide protection and immunity to treasury looters and other criminals, the obvious conclusion is that the practice is a bait to lure such exposed looters to switch camp. An ex-president of the country once told us that “If you cannot beat them, join them”.
Legally, a crime is a crime, for which an appropriate penalty, according to the nature and severity of the crime, should be exacted. Failure to exact such penalty can be described as fraud or corruption. Surely what we call treasury looting is a crime in the category of stealing or fraud. The mechanism involved in treasury looting involves contract deals, procurements, projects, transfer and diversion of public funds etc, whereby such money is released legally but shared secretly, rarely used for the purported purposes, from arms procurement, to feeding of displaced persons.
Records connected with such transactions are usually “doctored” and distorted such that traces of what actually transpired can hardly remain straight. This practice has been so perfected in Nigeria that we are a nation of geniuses in this regard. All such financial crimes are committed for personal and political purposes, to finance election, to influence and buy support and favour of some state agencies, suppress oppositions, image laundering, etc.
Many Nigerians are aware of these practices and antics but they are helpless to do anything about the situation. The nation, especially the helpless masses are forced to suffer and endure unspeakable agonies as a result of these frauds which we politely call treasury looting. The so-called exposure of treasury looters is like “kettle calling pot black”, because the list is not comprehensive or free from prejudice and hidden agenda. We cannot fight fraud and corruption by fraudulent and corrupt means.
However legally acceptable the practice of plea bargaining may be, a situation where it becomes a political gambit becomes questionable. Such escape route from criminal prosecution can have serious social and ethical implications and capable of encouraging criminality in the society too. Apart from the fact that a few selected scapegoats are being ridiculed in the public domain as the nation’s treasury looters, anyone can smell a rat in the whole affair.
What sense does it make that a pubic officer or politician would steal huge public funds thus causing economic adversity to the nation, and then returns a paltry part of the loot and let out of the hook? With a court injunction such looter of public treasury can even enjoy freedom from any probe or investigation in the future.
How ridiculous do we look as a nation that security report and a judicial verdict would attribute economic adversities of Nigeria to “a cup of tea and a gold wrist watch” offered to a former oil minister as bribe? Yet there are no such security reports and judicial verdict indicting other screened worse offenders responsible for the woes and adversities of the nation. Are Professor Tam David West and Deziani Allison Madueke the only ministers who had ever seen the affairs of the Petroleum Ministry?
The selective nature of Nigeria’s fight against corruption becomes more glaring when one scrutinizes the list of treasury looters given by the present administration. More importantly, why are such lists being released publicly now that political campaigns for 2019 elections are coming close? Is there no evidence of clever blackmail in such “patriotic” act of shaming treasury looters by naming them publicly?
There is a possibility of recriminatory naming and shaming of treasury looters, whereby those who have been currently named and shamed would hit back at those who enjoy some protection by the party in power. Power is transient and those who hide under its protection may not remain protected perpetually. Therefore, we can have a view of what the future portends.
The absurdity of human intellectual scheming and shenanigans gives support to the view that life is like a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Those who loot and destroy Nigeria’s economy, despite sly intellectual subterfuge, blusters and political protection, must reckon with nemesis whose verdicts can never be annulled by political braggadocio or partisanship. There are more treasury looters than the lists in public domain!
Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer, Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.