By Terfa Naswem
Ever since I became conscious of my existence as a citizen of Nigeria, I have always wished that Nigeria should be revitalized in all aspects so that it would be a country that would put grin on our faces. But so many unpleasant events idealized by our leaders and promoted by sycophants make me to wonder if our leaders want us to be patriots or traitors to Nigeria.
A patriot is a person who vigorously supports their Country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors. It is also a person who loves, supports and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.
A traitor is a person who betrays a friend, principle or county. It is also a person who commits treason by betraying his or her country.
Patriotism is devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country; national loyalty.
A true leader is supposed to be a patriot by defending his country against internal and external enemies or detractors such as corruption, but when a leader promotes corruption, he betrays his country and therefore becomes a traitor because corruption is an enemy to democracy and development and leaders are supposed to fight against it not to promote it.
Why are Americans more patriotic to America than Nigerians are to Nigeria? A friend of mine once told me in Makurdi, Benue State that America gained her independence on July 4, 1776 while Nigeria gained her independence on October 1, 1960 so there is no need for any comparison. But I told him that a balanced comparison can be made on equal levels or stages of development in America’s past in relation to Nigeria’s recent past or present state of affairs.
Thomas Jefferson was the third President of the United States from 1801 to 1809. He was a patriotic leader who contributed to making America a great nation today.
Jefferson’s political philosophy was one of the pillars to America’s greatness. While he affirmed “the best government to be that which governs least”, he was equally convinced that “the welfare of the whole is the proper purpose of the state”. In his book: American Education: A historical perspective. Gutek Gerald, an American writer says that Jefferson encouraged the need to use federal powers to advance the national interest for the common good.
George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin were among those who stood firm against corruption and encouraged Americans to be patriots and not traitor through good leadership.
In Nigeria, the case has always been different right from inception of Nigeria till date. Most Nigerian leaders who should be patriotic have become traitors.
To mention a few, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) (Retd), late General Sani Abacha, General Olusegun Obansanjo (Retd) and Goodluck Jonathan are among those who have taught us to be traitors by the corruption they committed with impunity.
There is no government or leader that is not naturally corrupt, but when a leader institutionalizes corruption, he becomes a traitor because he does little or nothing to fight against this enemy called “corruption”.
Under Babangida administration which began on August 27, 1985 after Buhari’s military regime was deposed in a peaceful military coup; foreign debt rose to $30.2 billion according to The News of 7 June 1999, Vol.12, No. 22 P. 16. The News says that it was this time also that Nigeria witnessed an unprecedented level of capital flight, divestment of foreign investment from key industrial sectors, low capacity utilization, outright closure of industrial concerns and unemployment.
The News also noted that he was alleged to have “siphoned the $12 billion Gulf war windfall. These are a few among his many corrupt acts.
Ernest Shonekan was handed over power as the interim Head of State by Babangida after he annulled the June 12, 1993 presidential election, which was to usher MKO Abiola as civilian president. Shonekan was handed over power in August 1993. In November 1993, Gen. Sani Abacha forced Shonekan out of office and formed his own provisional ruling council.
During his administration, Abacha was noted to have diverted funds meant for financing certain projects into his account. Most prominent of these projects was the sprawling Ajaokuta Multi-billion dollar steel project. The late dictator simply arranged to buy back the $2.5 billion debt of the steel company. The News notes that pinching the whopping sum from the treasury; Abacha clearly diverted it to his account without effecting any debt buy back. From the large sum, he gave $5 million to Alhaji Bashri Dalharta, his power and steel minister, who described it as a “gift” for his role in facilitation the deal. Also known to have benefited from the scam was Chief Anthong Ani, the despot’s finance minister, The News says. These are a few among his many corrupt acts.
In his greedy nature, Abacha had planned to change to civilian rule, after which he met his death on June 8, 1998. Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar immediately took over the mantle of leadership in the same month. Gen. Abubakar was also not free from corruption. But unlike his military counterpart, Abubakar actually worked for the return to civilian rule that finally ushered in Olusegun Obasanjo as a civilian president elected on the 29 May 1999 in the third republic.
Although Obasanjo established Independent Corrupt practices and Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), his government was one of the worst in terms of corruption.
In 1999, the World Bank compiled a list of Nigerian funds by depositors in four Western countries and gave the list to President Obasanjo. But he ignored the list. The 2003 election which ushered in the second tenure of Obasanjo and some PDP governors was another peak of corruption. It was characterized by cheating, hijacking of ballot boxes, buying and selling of votes, rigging of results and so on.
The third term agenda of Obasanjo started shortly three months after he had assumed office for the second tenure in May, 2003. On August 23, 2003, The Sunday Sun published a cover story with the title: “Mandela warns Obasanjo- Don’t Try Third Term”. The paper disclosed that Mandela had a hint that Obasanjo was plotting for a third term after May 2007. On September 15, 2003, Insider weekly Magazine came out with a cover title: “Third Term Presidency: Nigerians says no To Obasanjo”. In the main story, which was captioned 2007: Obasanjo’s Secret Game, the Magazine stated: “It started as a strong rumour. But assumed a life of its own when venerable Nelson Mandela (of blessed memory), former President of South Africa sent a warning to his friends, President Olusegun Obasanjo not to tread the path of infamy by attempting to run for a third term in office . . . .” According to Insider Weekly of September 15, 2003, P. 18, source who spoke to the Magazine said, “it was the game plan of Obasanjo to attempt an amendment of the constitution that would enable him seek a third term in office”. He wants to be life President, if possible.
Titus Terver Mamadu writes in his book titled: “Corruption in the Leadership Structure of Nigerian Polity” that for the third term plot to be effective, Obasanjo needed the endorsement of the National Assembly and two thirds of the state assemblies. This was because the section 135(2) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria makes it clear and definite that subject to the provision in this section, “the President shall vacate his office at the expiration of a period of four years . . .” However, the corrupt mind-set Obasanjo who claimed to be fighting corruption pumped Senators and members of House of Representatives Billions of Naira so as to make his way through and effect the amendment of the 1999 constitution to favour his third term agenda.
The News of December 5, 2005, P. 33 reports that the Movement for the Defense of Democracy (MDD) reported on November 23, 2005 that in pursuit of the third term ambition, Obasanjo budgeted more than N90 billion to entice lawmakers to facilitate the third term agenda. They gave the following details of the amount of money involved in the alleged bribe: Each member of the 360 Representatives was offered N70 million (a total of N25.2billion). Each of the 109 Senators was offered N140Million (a total of N15.2billion). Every member of each state House of Assembly in the 36 states was offered N50million.
In a survey of the bribe, Thisday of May 5, 2006 reports that “pro-third term Senators and House of Representatives members in the defunct joint committee of the National Assembly on 1999 constitution review were alleged to have received $37,000 each to encourage them recommend a review of the tenure clause in the Constitution from two to three terms of four years each for the President. Vanguard of April 14, 2006, P.1 also reports a similar story.
In view of the huge amount used on bribe of Senators and members of House of Representatives, one can see that Obasanjo was a traitor and not a patriot. These are just a few of his many corrupt acts.
When President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (who became President in 2007) died on 5 may 2010 and Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan was sworn in on 6 May 2010 as the 14th Head of State of Nigeria, he cited anti-corruption, power and electoral reforms as focuses of his administration. But his administration has rather promoted corruption than curbed it. The basic problem Jonathan has is corruption which has neutralized his achievements and made most Nigerians to see his Transformation Agenda as a big failure.
The Malabu Oil deal corruption is one of the issues that has questioned Jonathan’s anti-corruption competency. According to The Economist of 15 June 2013, In 2011 Goodluck Jonathan’s government facilitated the transfer of payment of $1.1Billion to a fake company set up by a controversial former Petroleum Minister under Sani Abasha’s corrupt regime, Dan Etete. The fake company, Malabu Oil and Gas was set up in 1998 by Etete using a false identity so as to award himself a lucrative Oil block, OPL245, for which he paid only $2million of the $20million legally required by the State. At the time of Jonathan’s government helping to facilitate the transfer of payment from shell and Eni to the fake company, Etete was already a convicted felon of money laundering in France. The Economist further says that only $800million out of the $1.1billon meant for Malabu Oil and Gas was even remitted by the Nigerian government.
The Nigerian Attorney General, Mohammed Bello Adoke, who signed the documents involved in facilitating the payments, denied the rest was shared by public officials.
The transfer to convicted Felon, Etete, only came to public light when a Russian lawyer that claimed to have helped Malabu negotiate a deal with the Jonathan’s government sued in New York for a $66Million unpaid commission. Both Shell and Eni as of September 2014 were under investigation for corruption by the UK and Italian authorities for the incidence.
The way which Jonathan handled the corruption act of the erstwhile Minister of Aviation Princess Stella Adaeze Oduah who bought 2 BMW bullet proof cars at the rate of N255miillion upset many Nigerians.
According to Punch, February 27, 2013, Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina was accused of spending up to N1billion to carry out biometric verification for retirees, both in Nigeria and abroad. On the whole, Maina allegedly misappropriated about N195billion, according to the Senate Pension Probe Committee headed by Aloysius Etuk and Kabiru Gaya. This resulted in extreme difficulties in getting money to pay thousands of pensioners their due.
Lamido sanusi was suspended by Jonathan and later replaced as the Central Bank Governor for leaking information that about $20billion of petrodollars were missing from the coffers of Nigeria. And this act made most Nigerians to lost faith in Jonathan’s government in effectively fighting corruption.
Premium Times of March 24, 2014 reports that the Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke was accused by Federal lawmakers of squandering N10billion to charter and maintain private jet for her personal use. She was accused of spending about N130 Million Naira monthly to maintain the aircraft, solely for her personal needs and those of her immediate family.
Samuel Adejare, the lawmaker who raised the matter made it explicitly clear that there was irrefutable evidence showing that the financing for the Challenger 850 aircraft was drawn from government funds.
According to Mr. Adejare, the estimated N10 billion would be “a tip of the iceberg” as further investigation would show the minister spent far higher.
As a result of many cases of high level of corruption in the Jonathan government, the United States Government in 2013 indicted the President Goodluck Jonathan led Federal Government of massive and widespread corruption.
According to the United States Department of State, government officials and agencies frequently engage in corrupt practices with impunity.
The former United States’ Secretary of State, Mrs. Hillary Clinton in a public interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts, lambasted Nigerian government saying: “They have squandered their oil wealth, they have allowed corruption to fester and now they are losing control of parts of their territory because they wouldn’t make hard choices”. According to her, President Goodluck Jonathan led government is indirectly aiding corruption to worsen the nation’s many problems.
From all the corrupt acts of these leaders, have they taught us to be patriots or traitors? They have taught us that corruption is right and we should not see anything wrong with it. How can we be patriots when most of our leaders don’t care about us? How can we sacrifice for Nigeria when most of our leaders are killing it? Patriotism is motivated by good governance. It is reciprocal. And for Nigerians to be patriotic to Nigeria, the leaders must first lead the way through exemplary leadership.
If Nigerian leaders continue to be traitors through bad leadership, there is no way we can be patriots. Until a patriotic leader takes over the affairs of Nigeria and lead by example through good leadership, Nigerians will never be patriotic to Nigeria.
The pendulum of support that swung against Jonathan and PDP in the 2015 general elections was projected out of patriotic spirits of Nigerians. Most Nigerians voted against Jonathan and PDP because of the high level of corruption and negligence of the masses.
We expect the President-elect, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (Retd) to motivate us to be patriotic to Nigeria through good leadership once he is sworn in on May 29, 2015. If he will be a patriot, we will also become patriots. But if he will be a traitor, we will also follow suit.