I LOVE PROBES
I love probes. It is the best thing that happened to Nigeria since bread and butter. Probes are the ultimate political judgment day. They are the reasons why we must all know that Jesus will return soon. And I think we must set aside a day in the year as the National Day of Probes. I think there must also be a flag for probes. I suggest the colours black, white and red. The white must be in the middle symbolically to show how the red and black are strangling and stifling the white. Aren't red and black the colours used in movies to depict evil forces? Aren't those the colours of the robes of demons, witches, wizards and Lucifer, their Chairman, wear in movies? I think those are the most appropriate colours for the probe flag.
And while we are at it, how about a separate ministry of probe and investigations? Nothing could be more apt, don't you agree? Since we started lurching down the probe road like drunken rabbits, I have been clapping so hard my palms hurt. We are such great geniuses, believe me. How would the universe survive without us? People who robbed us blind must be brought to book and if we cannot manage to bring them to book, we must at least attempt to bring them on national television to explain why they thought they could ever rob us and go unpunished. Not on their stealing lives.
They must confess in front of 140million Nigerians, on television. Have you ever watched a more interesting soap opera? Since 'Palace' and 'Sweet and Sour', I have not enjoyed myself so much. And the Probe Teevee is even better, it is on air for hours almost everyday. If you are not watching the Power Probe, you can watch FCT Probe and in case you find both boring, the Transport Probe is about to start. Can we ask for more? What I find most interesting and thought-provoking are the lessons from this soap opera series.
For one, they will teach public office holders that there is a day called tomorrow, the day of reckoning, the day when you must confess like a witch all the evils you did while in office. Two, probes also teach us that there is something called a battle of wits. An ex-something is invited to come and testify and it takes a whole week to get him or her to surface. Within that week, there are subtle threats and counter threats. Then he surfaces and there is a long-drawn out cross-examination. The newspapers are suffused with creative headlines about who did what for who and why. That is quickly followed by denials and innuendos about ulterior motives. The wind is 'commanded to blow to expose the chicken's rump' and that is followed by more creative headlines. Absolutely interesting. Did I mention that airtime costs money? Not to worry, that is just a wicked digression that can earn me a spank on my ageing bum.
However, the biggest lesson of Probe Teevee is that politics in Nigeria, whether for better or worse, is one big holy war and holding public office teaches us that rain falls on the just because the unjust has stolen the just's umbrella. It is so easy to get sucked in by the probes and, like me, clap foolishly for the probers. He who probes is a prober, yes? If you get wrapped in the balance sheets and huge figures, you run the risk of never understanding Nigeria's unique problems. If you can read the text and the sub-text, you will quickly realise that shame or heroism have no place in this buttoned-down theatre of the absurd.
That is not to say there are no merits in calling former thieves to explain why money disappeared on their watch or outright abuse of office. In the next few days, the probe of the transport sector will commence and there will be mind-boggling revelations. We shall hear of how contracts were awarded to ghosts. We shall hear of how companies that were not registered by CAC got contracts and records of how Benin-Ore road has been completed and commissioned.. We'll hear about radars and fire equipment meant for airports and why it is possible for planes to fly away forever. By the time we are through with evil revelations of the transport sector, we'd all want to declare seven days of mourning for our country where nothing works.
Don't start sobbing yet. There were Senate and House Committees whose oversight jurisdiction was in the transport section between 1999 and 2007 or such committees are new inventions? So, what did they oversee? Did we have Committees on Power during Obasanjo's eight years in office? What were their responsibilities? How did all the rot escape them? Would we have to wait every eight years for an Ndudi Elumelu to expose evils done to our collective lives? Where are the members of the House and Senate Committees on FCT in the last dispensation?
The members of the oil, gas and other committees that 'supervised' NNPC under Obasanjo must also appear on the soap opera. All those who brought us to this sorry pass must confess. They have no immunity. There is too much pain, so much hunger and since this is the season of accountability, there must be no sacred cow or cows. From Obasanjo to the smallest clerk, everybody must appear on the show. Now to the most important and painful lesson: who is overseeing and supervising works, housing, transport, aviation, oil and gas sectors now? Are they doing what will make Nigerians look back in 2011 and offer prayers for them or are they colluding with Ministers to defraud the nation in the name of oversight function? Are they ensuring that the nation moves forward or they are lining their pockets? It is so easy to get carried away by the huge figures the different panels are flaunting and forget that we all run the risk of ending up on one big circus. Yes, the panels are raising dust and exposing the rumps of many chickens. We should commend them for their courage.
It is no mean feat stirring the hornet's nest and telling sacred cows to go take a hike. I should know. It is like standing in front of a moving train, telling once powerful untouchables they were little better than common thieves. But there is still a big risk. The risk of getting drunk on the excitement of the moment and falling asleep while the present crop of rulers ship off the national vault and the fullness therein to Switzerland. While we are televising the errors of the past eight years, we run the risk of funding palatial buildings at taxpayers' expense all over the world, from Lebanon to the South of France. Our major misfortune is that we hold the patent for exchanging one band of bandits for a worse set. No nation can beat us at that. And then we have a way of waking up only when the thieves have departed which is what probes are about and which is what I have against probe.
As for those who think retrieving money from failed contractors is the antidote to this snakebite, you missed it. In Nigeria, when we probe and retrieve money from looters, every single penny gets lost in the system. The more they try to explain it to you, the more confused you get. Or do you know the whereabouts of the Abacha loot and others like it that we have retrieved since probes became a tradition? No, telling the contractors to return whatever they have collected will be an exercise in futility. The money will get lost in our corruption maze. Let the law hold those who owe us by the jugular until they deliver what we agreed on. Probes, as good as we may think, are not what a developed country needs. Let us all do what we have to do now.
Let those who we are trusting to protect us ensure that they keep an eye on the system. Let the National Assembly protect us now, today. Probe in 2011 will be throwing good money after bad. If there is a drain pipe in the transport sector now, let the appropriate organs help Nigerians. Once the money has been stolen and shared, jailing the looters won't fix the roads or bring back from the dead victims of road accidents. If the money voted for projects in the agriculture sector has started growing wings, the time to clip those wings is now not when the bird is in full flight.
Let us all protect our treasury now for delay is dangerous.