A HERO'S WELCOME FOR BODE GEORGE
Tongues are still wagging in different parts of the country on the heroic welcome given Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, Chief Bode George, from Kirikiri Prison, Lagos, some days ago. Scathing queries on the morality of the grand reception are flying across the country from people wondering if the nation has not sunk into an irredeemable ethical hellhole.
Chief George, one time state military governor, a former vice chairman of the Peoples Democratic Peoples Party (PDP) and former chairman of the board of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) was released from the Lagos prison after serving a sentence for misappropriation of public funds. He was jailed for contract splitting at the NPA worth over N80 billion.
On being freed, the public expectation was that George would quietly go home. Not so. His release was orchestrated by image launderers who tried, unsuccessfully, to re-write the story of his incarceration by attempting to pass him off as a hero and a political prisoner.
It would have been quite understandable if the grand reception for George were organised by only his filial family. No. Visible at the programme were top shots of the Presidency and PDP at a time President Goodluck Jonathan is busy peddling anti-corruption campaign promises. The presence of former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, and a serving minister, who reportedly represented President Goodluck Jonathan, have raised several questions on this government's anti-corruption posture. However, Obasanjo has said he was tricked into attending the church service by George who told him it was a family thanksgiving, only for him to get there and discover that it was 'more than a family affair'. He said his presence at the occasion, which he called a 'celebration of criminality',was in error, and regrettable.
George perpetrated the criminal act under Obasanjo's administration, which laid claims to war against corruption. What is the public, still hoping and praying for a cleaner society, expected to make of this celebration? More importantly, what's the message or signal being sent to the youths and society in general about the ills of corruption when the PDP, the so-called biggest party in Africa, and the Presidency, of all institutions, are seen carousing with persons jailed for misuse of public funds, even while pretentiously promising to exterminate the evil for the overall health of the society?
In almost 12 years of PDP's dominance of government at all tiers, corruption has ballooned, apparently in tandem with the nation's rising oil wealth profile. The paradox of Nigeria, which is why she is stigmatized a global pariah, is that the more oil wealth the country gets, the more wretched the population becomes. The few opportunists at the executive and legislative arms of government feast on over 80 percent recurrent expenditure at all tiers of government, while 20 percent provided for capital projects is also partly eaten by the locusts in power.
The summary of this is that less than 20 per cent of the ruling class enjoys 80 per cent of national, God-given resources meant for all the people. For how long will this injustice continue? Sadly, all the other political parties are also guilty of one form of injustice and roguery or the other.
Yet, from East to West, North to South, there is no culture in Nigeria that celebrates stealing. Thieves are excommunicated. It is usually a taboo to associate with any family that has a thief under its roof. It's worse than being infected with leprosy. So, where did we get it wrong? It is partly the celebration of public enemies that stole public funds in the past that has brought us to this sorry pass.
The result of this corruption of social values is that decency and honesty are thrown to the winds. Public rogues become heroes while the honest are derided. Pilferers of huge public funds are released on plea-bargain deals, while state pardon is canvassed for treasury looters, as already being sought in some quarters for Bode George. This is the reason there are enough looted funds to rent crowds to celebrate villainy. That is also why billions of dollars oil revenue have not improved social infrastructure or improved our people's wellbeing over the years.
With public funds stolen, unemployment remains high. Financial crimes, kidnapping, terrorism are the order of the day. It is time to stop this infamy, to sincerely fight corruption for society's fabric not to be totally destroyed by discredited public enemies. Let Nigeria and the presidency not be seen to reward villainy. It is in bad taste. Let us rather celebrate honesty and excellence in furtherance of our quest for a greater country.