Do You Know That If You Don’t Loot In Nigeria, You Are Considered A Fool?

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These days, if my cell phone rings ten times, you can be sure that seven times, the guy on the other side has a problem waiting for me to solve. I don’t get fooled anymore if he spends some time asking about the wife and the children and work and the weather and if he goes on complaining about the “crazy economy”.

Have a little patience… he will get to it. He will tell you that you are the only one who can save the situation. His landlord is on his case and he needs money urgently to settle the very troublesome landlord or to pack to a new place. The children are at home because of ‘ordinary’ hundred thousand Naira to pay their school fees. The wife is in hospital and if you do not intervene, she might die there! Can you imagine that there is not even one cup of garri at home and he does not know what to do? Suddenly, you are made to feel guilty for some crime you have not committed.

Believe me, the situation in the land is that serious. The guy on the other end does not have to be your brother, cousin, old friend or former classmate. You probably never heard of him but it does not matter. Somehow, he has your number. What do you do? Tell him to go to hell and switch off? Let him know that you are struggling too? He will not believe you. Of course, he will not give up and will ask you to “just do something”. After all, like a friend of mine would say, “half bread is better than groundnut” or better put in the famous words of my guy, Segun Arinze, ‘at all… at all, na him bad!” If after trying, his hook does not catch immediate fish, then he would ask you, ‘when do I call back?’. Guy, you have just acquired a new customer!

I do not want to make light of the very difficult situation that people are going through in Nigeria. There are many in Nigeria who cannot afford one meal a day. There are many with genuine problems that we should address if we have the means. There are also many who have graduated with honours from the Faculty of Begging in the School of Lie-Lie. From Monday to Sunday, they are on the phone with a list of numbers telling their tales of woe. Even before the economy went south, begging was their full-time job.

If you are involved in activities like I am, that once in a while put your face in a newspaper or on television, you are in trouble. The assumption is that you are an Andrew Yakubu with piles and piles of American dollars in raw cash at home. Those who call you cannot understand why you will not just give them one little bundle of the cash and change the story of their lives. Each time you do not give, they wince and murmur that you are tight-fisted or like some young ladies will say, “that man na Aradite… in fact, him hand be like Super Glue”.

You want to blame my Naija people? When they see the billions and zillions that public officers in our land stash at home, in soak away pits or in foreign bank accounts and the many mansions that Nigerians own across the world, many a Nigerian verily believes that everyone in Nigeria that has been associated with some kind of leadership position has money stashed somewhere.

I know some of my kinsmen who loath me because I am still trying to finish my house in the village, several years after. In their thinking, “he should long have built many mansions worthy of the positions he has held”. I understand them. In our world, the achievement of a man is measured by the size of his many houses and the money he donates in public and not by his intellect, character or his contribution to the development of society.

Yes, I once served on a Federal Government Board. My allowance was the tidy sum of fifteen thousand Naira a meeting. Please tell me: how many times would I multiply fifteen thousand Naira and build a mansion with it? In my other situations, I have been an advocate, mostly unpaid. I once had to say that I spend eighty percent of my time working for free and twenty percent, working to earn a living. But in Nigeria, it does not matter. Every day, our people read stories of public officers with dizzying amounts of money stashed in foreign bank accounts, buried in soak away pits or locked up in boxes in their unused boys’ quarters, everyone therefore believes that once you have held a position of leadership, you must have conjured something under the table.

Believe me, you are expected to distribute your loot to your kinsmen and friends. That is how they get their share of the national cake. In our land, the dominant position is that you are a fool or an imbecile if you hold public office and you do not loot.

You will indeed be surprised that there are people you consider very close friends of yours who verily believe that you must be cooking something. To them, you are just being smart and selfish by keeping the loot away from them. Because of the prevailing culture, it has become very difficult for Nigerians to believe that there are citizens in our country who have a different set of values and do not go to bed dreaming of big estates and fat bank accounts filled with millions of Dollars.

That is why I feel sorry for all the people who try to make sense of the horror film called Nigeria. While Nigerians shout about corruption, they don’t mind corruption as long as they are the beneficiaries of the corruption. They don’t care how much you steal as long as they can get part of the loot.

I am sorry that there are many in our land who do not understand that the true measure of a man is not in his bank accounts or his mansions but in his character. There is no Nobel Prize for Stealing.

See you next week.

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