It is very brazen political lying to equate the refund of stolen funds to the state with political success or successful anti-corruption. Effective correction, detection and prevention are the all-round benchmarks of successful anti-corruption for any given democracy. Only proper correction can make precise detection worthwhile, which in turn makes adequate prevention robust. The recovery of stolen is the supererogatory part of the correction and legal punishment the obligatory part. The successful prosecution and conviction of corrupt persons for corrupt practices without any recovery are also deemed successful anti-corruption. “Big theft, Big punishment” should be the motto of any serious anti-corruption government, not recovery. The recovery of stolen funds without formal legal correction is at best dysfunctional just like a car without wheels is dysfunctional. Recovery may be impressive in a backward country or to liars and the naïve but not in a civilised one or to politically aware people because there is an understanding of the impacts of “structural traumas of corruption “A political lie has started to unravel.
Nigerian politicians, bureaucrats, business people and foreign concerns have mismanaged and stolen close to $1 trillion since Independence. If we limit the recovery of stolen funds to period, 1999 to 2015, the sum stolen is $500 billion. What percentage of this $500 billion has the Buhari administration recovered if we weed out the propaganda? Where is the proof of the recoveries? We demand the truth, not political lying.
Wole Soyinka, Itse Sagay and others widely praised the sensational media revelations of the names and lists of persons yet to be prosecuted in a trial by media. It only served to provide escape routes, legal loopholes, preemptive retaliation and better defences for Nigeria’s Big Thieves. It is happening all over again with the acclamation of the recovery of stolen funds. Where are the prosecutions of the prominent and visible Big Thieves, forget about the prosecuted small fry?
Nigeria, its people and their way of life have been steadily and heavily traumatised in countless ways by the rapacious thefts of public officials. Does anyone think about the traumas to Nigerians caused by derisory electricity supplies, most drinking water with high faecal content, predatory medical services, bad/dangerous roads, substandard and worsening education? Or the ever-rising cost of public services, the enormous losses of jobs, derisory wages that even do not cover transport costs to and from work and worse? How about the deaths, diseases, accidents, injuries, abuses, vulnerabilities, family breakdowns, immiserations, dispossessions and stress? We know those in power, and their privileged supporters cannot think about such. Yet, these are all structurally inflicted traumas created by the theft of Nigeria’s public funds. Derisory recoveries of funds only impress those who stand to profit personally from hailing the effort in the short-term. Some political office? What does the average man or the nation stand to benefit from it in real terms?
Nigeria’s Big Thieves are guilty of creating untold despair [and even inflicting genocide on its people if we carefully calculate the fatalities] with their thefts and the political lying that goes with it. If we take an obvious example, education, within a state with a four-year gubernatorial tenure, we see these traumas without an x-ray. $3.5 million is stolen by politicians and civil servants with several impacts;
(1) Primary and secondary schools descend into a state of disrepair, dilapidation and an absolute lack of facilities, making them exceedingly unsuitable for learning. Some schools cannot function when it rains while others lack teachers.
(2) The state university has a lecture theatre designed to meet the need of three science departments with a 300-student seating capacity. The faculty now has eight departments, and that lecture theatre now has to accommodate 600 students at a time without proper ventilation or air-conditioning, most of them sitting on the floor or standing. The science laboratories lack functional equipment, and practical science courses are conducted theoretically. It is how the supposed “leaders of tomorrow” are trained.
(3) Teachers in the state are not paid up to 18 months at a time. Their well-being becomes deplorable, and they live with the consequences of unpaid debts which they cannot avoid, their marriage legibility declines due to financial uncertainty, landlords refuse them tenancy due to chronic non-payment of rent. Teachers in response develop incentives to exploit students and their parents who are, in turn, often traumatised. Many teachers even moonlight, taking second jobs simultaneously with teaching. These are the teachers of the supposed “leaders of tomorrow”.
Will the refund of the $3.5 million, if every penny goes back into the education sector of the state government [we know none of it will go there] adequately compensate for the educational deficiency the teachers and students experienced retroactively? Or the resolve the traumas they had to internalise as a result of the stolen funds? No. Are the other sectors any different from education? It is why stiff punishment is indispensable in coordinating correcting, detecting and preventing corruption.
Stop talking about recovery and prosecute the thieves properly. Any government that expedites the supererogatory opportunities of anti-corruption and leaves the obligatory ones to God is neither fooling men nor God; they are fooling themselves, their spokesmen with their political lying most of all. Such a government is a continuing culture of silent genocide and teeming societal despair.