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Farouk Martins Aresa
Provision of pension in order to legalize governments seized by coups, as in rigged elections, can never stand in a civilized society. Army's duty is to protect and defend African countries against external aggression and internal chaos beyond the control of the police. Government is an area they are least equipped to manage. The latest treachery in Nigeria by politicians is to frustrate the effort to keep khaki boys in the barracks in Africa. If the Army know their regime in governments will be legalized after they leave, there is a great temptation to come back.

Most Nigerians are not in doubt that we encourage treachery, vagabonds and area boys into power, pretentious observers are. The evidence is glaring. We blame our leaders for everything yet our silent encouragement of decadence in our society is alarming. Most of those in the Houses of Thieves were poor men and women like you and I until they hit the “jackpot” into the privileged class. They are now the same people, out of magnanimity, that approved pension for military leaders.

Does any soldier deserve military pension more than the principled late Nzeogwu; or Mohamed that forfeited all his loot? It is not the amount of pension militricians are going to be paid that matters to them since they have more loot, it is the fact that a civilian government makes a law that encourage and legalize military coups. The law itself clearly spelled out that impeached leaders cannot get pension, yet military leaders that were overthrown or set/step aside for whatever charges, which is equivalent to impeachment in a civilian setting will be entitled to this pension.

Obasanjo shelved the law of rewarding coup plotters like himself with pension. He let it die by not signing it. But civilians, nudged on by their military mentors, revived the law in our faces again. This is a civilian Government rewarding past military leaders that took up arms against their motherland, a capital offence, yet we reward military governments. Do we deserve what we wish for in these appointed or elected crooks that got themselves into power to serve us?

This confirms that past military leaders have their quota of appointments in the cabinets and other positions. A few of the past military leaders have come out openly claiming some of the politicians and appointees visited them asking for help in order to secure juicy positions. In return, these politicians become slaves to the whims and caprices of those who secure them the lucrative posts. If you rub my back, I will rub your back and if you scratch my face, I will scratch your face agreement.

After all, their best argument is that corruption is not a Nigerian word; but the percentage of funds lost to it in Nigeria can never be tolerated in the countries that coined the word. This is why they punish their companies that bribed in Nigeria and keep the fines.

It is not that these military leaders are living in penury or denied their military pension; their policies forced pensioners to death while waiting on the line to collect arrears after many years of service. Instead of spending the money on the welfare of the neediest, they are giving coal to Enugu. Nigeria has more former heads of state on the dole than any country and these vultures, some of whom are only in civilians clothing, cannot get enough coup plotters to pay. So they are encouraging more of them to take over since this law will legitimize their action retrospectively. We are shooting ourselves in the foot.

Their scheme to legalize military governments through legalized pension is only clever by half. Politicians always look for creative ways to loot the lion share of our income. There are governors that made sure their pension were padded before they left office or made it one of the many obligations for their chosen successors. It was tried in Ghana but Rawlings, one of the beneficiaries cried out and used that opportunity to rally people around him.

Those who pardon criminals by act of omission, commission or ignorance will have themselves to blame and more innocent people will suffer the consequences. Since soldiers made an argument that anybody that has never served in the Army should become a President, we cannot blame the military if they see this as an invitation to come back and loot again. It is a warped logic, to call it a bribe to stay in the barracks.

Each time we try to deal with these politician's excesses, they bludgeon us with more of the same. The cry against their pay and allowances has not disappeared; they are now extending pension and allowances to their brothers in the military while the masses wallow in poverty. Every international ranking index from good environment to do business, credit ratings, poverty index, per capita GDP to corruption, rank us close to the bottom. But we always fault their methodologies, denying experiences of locals at the receiving end.

It is a difficult task for innocent people to go into politics and stay there clean. If they raise objections to illegal activities and criminal practices, they are ostracized and seen as fools or “mumu”. Some who cannot beat them join them for fear of getting roped into some scam. Indeed, once they are elected or appointed, the number of relatives and visitors increase dramatically; looking for contracts and favors. If the money that should take care of them is hijacked by a few, those few set themselves up for more responsibilities. Consequently, with or without fat salaries, we are tempted to enhance them by corruption.

Those who still keep to honesty and fair play are ridiculed and frustrated out. A few months ago, we were dismayed by a few members of the House on television. Out of frustration, they resorted to violence instead of using decorum and facts to make their case against another corrupt Speaker. As much as we detest their method, it is more disturbing that more members did not take up their cause in a civilized manner. If those risking everything get shafted while we sit on our hands, many and future fighters of corruption are discouraged. The reason is obvious: the Speaker remained unmoved. He even claimed they were after him for being a Muslim! Okokomaiko!

Those who know the Speaker before he joined the House of Thieves would swear to his honesty. Moreover, this is a very young guy. We keep hoping: it isn't so. Once we get into “free for all” government money, it becomes irresistible not to get our hands caught in the cookie jar. But government money is not their money, it is our money. The reason some of us encourage corruption is to keep the treasury loop open, hoping against hope or just in case our turns come. The fact is most of us will never make it there but we cannot even deny ourselves that silly mirage; and fight so that we can all gain.

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