Avarice, the hamartia of Africa’s giant

MY My heart sinks into deeper melancholy and mystical perturbation swallows up my spirit like a landslide every time I ruminate over the current economic status of our dear country. Caustic hunger, sweeps through streets, grilling life out of the average Nigerian. His superior, inflation, struts in the marketplaces, enclosing transactions in his daunting quagmire. The state worker is deprived of the solace of sleep for as the world quiets at night falls, the shrieking of the fiends of several debts and lack, takes over his mind. The federal worker is agitated as uncertainty sweeps through his room and hovers over his bed, what if the next salary alert doesn’t show up? The greatest dilemma of them all, however, is that which besieges the private sector worker. For even in the face of delayed salaries, he knows in his heart that he is only but a cost in the hand of the owner and can be cut loose at anytime – petrifying job insecurity.

How did our dear country degrade so? How did this economic impasse befall us? Once, we were a strong country. So strong that the rulers of the world acknowledged us as the giants of our continent – Africa! Alas, that giant has disappeared like fumes from a conjurer’s boiler and has been substituted with a bony hag sans a tinge of succulent flesh. The fat cow our ancestors bequeathed us has been so savagely milked that the teats on her udder have been retracted… she lays, bereft of flesh, not even useful for meat and awaits death. Who did this to her?

The answers we seek are not conundrums. Though in our outrageous sanctimoniousness, we lament of spiritual attacks on our economy and summon heavenly chariots of fire to come to our rescue. I would snicker at such hypocrisy and guffaw at such blatant naivety! For the answers lie right in front of us and are as simple as the life of a sloth. This horde of economic decay, galloping right towards an irrevocable state of putrefaction, if not timely intercepted, was brought upon us by the people we anointed. Yes, the demons we endorsed. The blood suckers we campaigned for. The greedy swine we gave free pass into national halls of fame. The ravens we allowed to fly over open vaults of cash and the baboons we gave codes to strong rooms fraught with precious stones. Today, the hero is falling, plummeting from heights of reverence due to the ferocious thieving of these ‘lootsters’, in whose hands the fortune of the country snoozed. Today, the future of posterity has been mortgaged by the extravagance and recklessness of elder countrymen who were supposed to secure it. Albeit, they simply secured those of their generations unborn with public fund! Today, a fertile maiden, once upon a time robust, has been ravaged into a sickly kwashiorkor-stricken child. We need not look any further for the reason for this appalling transformation. Our answers lay, naked in the ostentatious lifestyle of public office holders. Their grandeur, opulence at the expense of the citizenry whom they were called upon to serve, or so we thought!

My heart has been fraught with grief since the emergence of certain facts – I turn on the TV and I see millions and millions of naira in dollars. I read the paper and incomprehensible figures of more millions throw my non-mathematic brain into entropy. So, I begin to ask the screen and the paper why, like a raging lunatic. One person, an 18 million dollars mansion with reported furnishings of two million dollars and a bullet-proof gym! This same person was allegedly in possession of jewellery worth 2 million dollars until they were confisticated and was until a year ago, a minister of the Federal Republic of our dear country. This ex-minister was alleged to have adorned her wrist with a watch worth 185 million naira! All of this was allegedly acquired with public funds – your money, my money, our children’s money!

In this column, last year, I wrote the piece ‘Diezani: a Cornucopia of Taints, Controversies’. In that article, I delved into the murky waters of her misdemeanors as a highly influential public office holder in the GEJ administration. Harrowingly, I was completely benighted of the extent to which those hideous voracious activities had vapourised the green leafy parts of our dear country’s economy. However, I am more saddened, piqued and tossed into indignation by her rebuttal.

“When did it become a crime to own a property in Nigeria? When did it become a crime for a woman of my status to have in her possession, jewelry? Jewelry, which women all across the world, including the woman selling tomatoes in Bodija market, have in abundance in their closets,” said Diezani, former Minister of Petroleum Resources.

For Pete’s sake ex-Minister, I live in Ibadan but I am yet to meet a tomato seller in Bodija market that wears a watch worth 185 million of hard currency. I would love if you can send me their addresses so I can do an elaborate feature on the lavish living of Bodija tomato sellers; I bet it will win an award!

She talked about her status as an ex-minster of a third world country as if she were the leader of the free world. I feel obliged to state that even President Barack Obama of the United States of America is retiring into a five million dollar house. Talking about status? Go compare!

Unfortunately for Nigeria, people like this are as ubiquitous as the sand grains in a sea shore in every sector of the nation.

What do you say about the state governor that buys private jets, the local government chairman that owns a fleet of choice cars, the security chief that owns homes in Beverly hills’, the university vice chancellor that builds houses worth millions, the young graduate that wants to drive a range rover and wears a Movado bold watch on a salary that is barely over a hundred thousand? We have come to a precarious place and my faith is running dry. Our leaders have set the pace with exemplary thieving and looting, God knows what this generation and posterity will accomplish for this congenital greed thickens yet.