British lawmaker Tom Tugendhat had not yet breathed his first breath of life when General Yakubu Gowon became Nigeria’s Head of State in 1966. He was a two-year-old toddler when the former military ruler was booted out of power in a coup-de-tat in 1975. The British lawmaker who has been serving as Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee since 2017 must be privy to some information about Gowon that many Nigerians are incognisant of.
A few days ago, British parliamentarians were debating Nigeria and her many ills on the house floor. Tom told his colleagues that Gowon on his way out of power heisted half of Nigeria’s cash stash in the Central Bank of Nigeria and kept it for himself. He also alleged the loot was deployed to helping the former Head of State live a luxurious life in London where he resided after he was toppled in a military coup. The British lawmaker said more. He revealed that his country had become a hideaway for stolen cold cash by Nigeria politicians. We have always known that. The lawmaker’s allegation especially on Gowon is not up for scrutiny in this treatise. Whether it is true or not, what we remember about the former Head of State is that when he returned to Nigeria in 1983, his friends had to bail him out of penury to be able to live an averagely comfortable life in the country he was banished from.
The man who toppled Gowon, Murtala Muhammed, did not nail him for corruption. A legion of officers who worked with Gowon were indicted but the deposed leader was free and clear. When Murtala gave his first speech as head of state, he only listed “inaccessibility, insensitivity, and ignoring advice” as reasons for why Gowon’s regime was torpedoed. Not one reference to him as a corrupt leader; and no single insinuation about a looted CBN. If anybody should know the malfeasances in Gowon’s government, it was Murtala.
Up till today, it is reported that Gowon has only one house somewhere in Plateau State. There are no records of a hilltop mansion as does the military dictator, Ibrahim Babangida. There are no hotels and oil bloc allocation acquired as does T.Y. Danjuma. And no multi-billion naira sprawling library without books like Olusegun Obasanjo has around his legacy. No wealth acquisition is recorded in Gowon’s name that we know of. Gowon’s leadership style, governance or misgovernance is not for a debate this week. The ugly narrative of pillaging of Nigeria’s treasury by men and women entrusted with power and control is for a discourse. The reality of constant looting of our patrimonies by leaders with no beautiful testimonies has again been aroused by the British lawmaker. The stark reality sweeping across all endeavours in Nigeria today is that looting looms large over Nigeria’s humongous territorial space. And an end to the behemoth monster may not come anytime soon.
The following story may sound funny, but it was one I heard in the aftermath of the #EndSARS melee that threw Nigeria into a conflagration last month. This story broke my heart. A man whose house was not too far from the #EndSARS protest ‘war’ zone joined thousands of young people in Lagos to loot businesses and warehouses. He returned home to store up his loot; then he went back for another trip of looting. When he returned home to store up the fresh loot, some looters in the neighbourhood had looted his loot. Don’t ask me what happened afterward. He sat around to keep vigil on his fresh loot. He did not want to take any chances going for a restock lest he be re-looted. This is an ugly picture of the state of Nigeria today. It is the reality of a looting and looted nation.
Looting occurs anywhere and everywhere in Nigeria. Who is that Nigerian President that has never been found with his hands in the cookie jar? Who is he that was never accused to have looted after he left office? Except for a few; who among our leaders is without hilltop mansions, multi-billion dollar library, and oil blocs? Show me the governor who is not a professional looter while in office? Senators? Many of them, if not all, are senatorial looters. Members of the House of Representatives too are legislative looters with cut-throat pension and ruthless salary schemes. People in power in Nigeria have perfected the art and science of looting.
What about our Holy Houses of faith? America televangelist, Pastor Benny Hinn, once accused the Nigerian church of looting his resources when he organised a crusade in Lagos a few years ago. Are you surprised? Ushers in charge of donations loot offerings in church because they believe that pastors too are pentecostal looters who LOOT the un-looted portions of tithes and offerings. Don’t Imams loot too in mosques? My Muslim friends told me they do.
The reason why Nigerian young people took to the streets last month protesting SARS is because the security personnel went into a haywire looting of innocent young men with flashy cars and high-end phones. The mad SARS even looted lives and sold the body parts to occultic people who have needs for human head and hearts to appease their gods. Nigeria customs men in cahoots with their Immigration counterparts are looters manning our 150 borders and 1,500 illegal ones across the country. Take a quick trip to Nigeria, they will meet you at the port of entry and loot you loud and lousy.
Recovered Abacha loot totalling billions of dollars have been reportedly re-looted by some looters in government. Young men and women who became looters do so because they understand that looters in government escape justice and instead become celebrities. Looters drive big jeeps and fly in private jets. They have COVID palliatives stored in warehouses; and government money stashed away in wells.
Nigeria is a nation with round-robin endless looting! Who can stop looters in this nation? Not even Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd) who brands himself as the fiercest wrestler with every pig of corruption in human skin. Buhari’s noise is now in a diminuendo because among his people too are lousy looters.
We will determine the extent of lootings in the current regime only when power shifts base some day. It is unfortunate that after the braggadocios of Buhari, the fire of looting still rages in Nigeria. If Nigeria does not find a way to make her public servants flee corruption, the menace will forever feed on her flesh till it reaches her bones. Will looters stop on their own? Looters will stop looting only when their hearts stop beating. That is the reality of looting in Nigeria.
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