One of the burdens of leadership is being put to standards to which the rest of the society does not live up to. We demand sainthood of our leaders forgetting they are products of the society, living within the society, and drawing breath from the examples of leaders before and around them.
I am not writing to exculpate President Jonathan from the distasteful saga of receiving the gift of a church building for his Otuoke hamlet by an Abuja-based
Italian construction firm Gitto Construzioni Generali (GCG). No, I am not. His spokesman, my aburo Dr. Reuben Abati, has done that the way he knows best – tooth and nail, roforofo. Reuben has reminded us, lest we forget, that "this act of social responsibility" on the part of the Italian firm has "innumerable precedents in OUR COUNTRY" (emphasis mine), and that the president has committed no crime.
Abati is right; no crime has been committed in our dear country, not by GCG, not by GEJ, and certainly not by poor Otuoke hamlet.
One may add that the "crime" actually is in Jonathan making a show of his gratitude to GCG. Otuoke, even with the newfound fame forced upon it by its son, Goodluck, is so remote it would have taken a big event like the funeral of the president's mum for any newshound to ask questions. Mind you, only if she dies while he is president, God spare her life, otherwise the handful of people that will honour Jonathan's invitation will be his family and close friends, not even GCG folks.
However, was it not but yesterday we had a sitting president who publicly and with fanfare called the biggest and wealthiest of companies and contractors to donate billions of naira for his fancy idea of a "Presidential Library" in his Abeokuta homeland? Did we not hear that this same president had contractors who were engaged with the federal government donating structures, from dormitories to lecture halls, to his private university? And God knows what other "donations" of structures or equipment this same former president has received for his many other fancy projects, including the country's largest farm holding!
That's all in the name of "corporate social responsibility", please!
Throw not the first stone. As Abati's intendment says, what the Italian firm has done is commonplace in our country. Can we remember who that Local Government chairman or that governor of a state is who has not as much as been grateful to a contractor engaged by his local government or state for the kind "donation" of a building, a school block, a boy's quarters, tarring the road leading to his village home, a borehole or two, and "innumerable" others?
Truth is, this country is gone down in morals and the descent is unabated. How on earth can individuals be stealing billions of public money and stacking same at home, checking it at sundown and sunrise to ensure it is safe? What kind of country has trailer owners sabotage railway revitalization; or generator merchants sabotage public electricity; or parents help their wards cheat at exams; or presidents get "donations" of structures for their personal estate?
In corruption and stealing of public funds there are no longer no-go areas for us: we steal from the wretched; IGPs steal from the police; Army officers steal from the rank and file returning from overseas mission serving their country; directors of Pensions commissions steal from poor pensioners; the whole place has gone to the dogs.
Ours is a rotten society, rotten through and through, and leaders that we produce, no matter how personally elevated, are pulled into the vortex of rottenness that pervades.
Let's get it straight, until and unless we make examples of some past governors and presidents, if not by the Rawlings treatment, then by the Noriega one – sending them to long term jail for infractions such as Otuoke's church gift or the Halliburton scandal – there would be no deterrence and the standards we demand of our leaders would remain meaningless.
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