By Jide Osuntokun
These are the worst of times for Nigeria. Nigerians are being arrested in Los Angeles and New Jersey, United States for advanced fees fraud, impersonation and credit card fraud and for what is now generally called “Nigerian scams”. When other people commit these crimes, they are charged for committing “Nigerian scam”. We have now gone into legal history as giving name to a particular kind of crime. Tens of our people are being beheaded in Saudi Arabia for drugs peddling. The American FBI is looking for almost a hundred Nigerians for fraud. One of our country men even appeared on an ABC television network confessing his crimes and tearfully telling Americans how to identify “Nigerian scams”. Tens of our nationals are awaiting executions in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam. Some are in Laos and Cambodia for one crime or the other deserving capital punishment. What the hell for goodness sake are Nigerians doing in Laos and Cambodia? I mean it’s a long way to Tipperary! Other Nigerians are being killed in South Africa for drugs peddling. Chinese and Russian jails are also full of them for one infraction or the other of their laws. Some years ago, they were brawling on the streets of a Chinese town until they were beaten to surrender by some burley Chinese constabulary.
It seems wherever they go, they are followed by their criminal reputation. Genuine business people cannot transact business without being suspected of fraud. When our people particularly the young people have successfully conned an unsuspecting victim, they spend the money on frivolities like huge marriage celebrations, cars, hotels and on hedonistic life styles and prostitution. They even not only spray our national currency which they march under their feet, they also spray dollars, euros and pounds sterling. And for these they are prepared to ruin themselves and ruin the image of our country and even to commit hara kiri because anybody caught with hard drugs in most parts of Asia and the Middle East is likely to be sentenced to death. Yet with wide opened eyes our people go to these places hoping they will not be caught. Our greed is what is killing our young people. There is of course unemployment at home but the fact is that many of our young people are not ready to do the work that is available. They go to universities to avoid hard work or not to work at all. Even those who have jobs want to make it big by illegal and criminal ways. Why will a bank manager for example, resign his job to emigrate abroad where there is no certainty of a job but to join criminal gangs to defraud the system of the country he or she is going to? There is no Eldorado anywhere. There is no crown without thorns! This is the truth. A man who is a bank manager resigns and goes abroad only to wash dead bodies in the mortuary! Our young people must be realistic. I once participated in an interview panel for young recruits into an industry. When a young girl was asked what her goal in life was, she retorted that she wanted to “live large”. I had never heard the expression before. She was thanked for coming and asked to go and live large. I hope she has learned a lesson and would moderate her life expectations.
Young people tend to blame us the older generation for having spoiled the country for them by our criminal indulgence in corruption, squander mania, mismanagement, lack of focus general insecurity and planlessness. I plead guilty to all these charges of generational crimes. But I must say that this country has produced in the past world class scholars, international civil servants and administrators, jurists and distinguished medical scientists. Where we have failed is getting the right kind of political leadership and right helmsman at the critical juncture of national development. We were never able to find a leader who could cut through the miasma of tribal divisions and antagonism and chart a brilliant course of national integration for all round development. Poverty knows no tribe and prosperity also knows no tribe. Americans always say their favourite colour is green that’s the colour of the dollar. If Nigeria was prosperous, who will care what tribe the man at the top of government belongs to? I feel really ashamed that I am a citizen of a country that earned almost a trillion dollars from oil and gas over the years and we have nothing to show for it. No light. No potable water. No motor-able roads. Hospitals are “mere consulting clinics “No schools and 30 percent of school aged children are roaming about the streets as almajiris and hawkers of all kinds of goods. We do not have comfortable means of transportation or communication. All the appurtenances of modern civilization are missing. Some of our leaders troop to England, Dubai and Abu Dhabi to invest stolen money .We build mansions that become useless even while we are alive and in any case our children will not be able to maintain them when we are gone and if they want to sell them there will be no buyers because they will be old fashioned by then. What we have built will become useless at the end and all we have accumulated primitively will become a manifestation of vanity.
Vanity upon vanity is all vanity, said king Solomon in his Ecclesiastical discourses.
If my generation has failed the country and our greedy youth has ruined the image of the country that the older generation built, shouldn’t we all start all over again and make hay while the sun still shines? Or are we going to throw up our hands and wait for Armageddon or the inevitable revolution?
The signs of revolution are all over the place, we can no longer move from one city to another without the fear of being kidnapped. We can’t sleep with our two eyes closed. I arrived last week from London and my luggage was instantly stolen. Foreign investors except for intrepid Chinese and Indians, who are ripping us off, have stopped coming to our country. We must do something to rescue this land of our forefathers. It seems to me that we must prepare the next generation by teaching them how to behave right from home to primary and secondary schools. Cheating at entrance examinations must be severely punished. Parents indulging in it must be publicly disgraced. We also must try and begin a campaign of moral rearmament and ethical revolution in our regular civic and religious lives. The church and the mosque must be engaged and charlatans masquerading as men of God must be forced out of their disguise. The government must mobilize the country for development. All young people roaming about the cities must be taken away to state farms and agricultural settlements to be built by all state governments. Annual budgets without any appreciable change in our lives must give way to physical changes. This country needs to be transformed like China was after 1949 and even Vietnam in recent times. Within living memory, we have seen the transformation of Malaysia and Singapore with which we shared common colonial history. There is presumably nothing wrong with us as a race. We just must get out of this rot. We cannot continue like this.
The reason why our young people have taken to crime both at home and abroad is that they think crimes pay. This is why we must approach punishment after crimes with full speed of the law. Punishment must be sure and swift whether crimes committed by herders, kidnappers, armed robbers, economic criminals and economic saboteurs damaging gas and petroleum pipelines. The spate of crimes committed at home and abroad indicates that our chickens have come home to roost and our cup is full. We must face our responsibility and take whatever measure that is necessary to stamp out all these criminal tendencies of our people. No one is born a criminal it is our degraded society that has made us criminals. We must therefore purify this evil society. Our legal system that allows criminals to exploit legal technicalities to avoid judgement and justice is not a worthy and worthwhile legal system. It must be thrown away. Recently a British court fined us $9.6 billion to be paid to so-called Irish investors who never dug the foundation of their so-called gas liquefaction complex in Calabar and then turns up to say because Nigeria failed to deliver gas to a non-existent gas factory, it lost imaginary profits for 20 years. The deal ab initio was a product of Nigerian corruption and lack of patriotism and coordination.
But what is most galling is that a Nigerian lawyer sat on the panel of arbitrators. What kind of legal system would condone this kind of fraud? We need whole sale judicial review in this country and Nigerian lawyers need to be more patriotic and less corrupt. Money is not everything. We brought nothing to this world and we shall not take anything with us when we depart it.
Our cup is indeed full and we must change the course of our journey as a nation so that we don’t hit the rocks of the inevitable cascade into an abyss of no return.
The recent situation of our much abused and despised people in South Africa, even though the involvement of many of them in drug dealing , prostitution and gang violence in which Nigerians are killing Nigerians in a foreign country, calls for close scrutiny of the kind of Nigerian migrants invading other people’s homelands. We must be frank with ourselves. I don’t like hearing we helped to end apartheid in South Africa. So what? Does that give us the right to invade another country with drugs? Our support for liberation of Southern Africa was based on enlightened self-interest of wanting to wipe out the blemish on and the humiliation of all black people on account of their colour which was what apartheid represented. Helping people in Southern Africa, in which I was personally involved, amounted to a second liberation of Nigeria from racism. There are Nigerian doctors, lawyers, professors, engineers and others making useful contributions in South Africa and they are not being molested. We must bring home our flotsam and jetsam and other deplorables ruining our image in South Africa. Must everybody be a trader? Enough is enough. Our humiliation in South Africa is part of the failure of our governments over the years that earned money and failed to industrialize the country and provide jobs for its teeming population. Enough of this voluntary second slave trade. We need introspection and soul searching to find solutions to what is wrong with Nigeria.