Mixed Metaphors: Rob The Weak, Pardon The Strong/

It is part of the Nigerian character to imagine an improved society even when our daily activities are a map to hell. 

We hear of the arrest of kidnap kingpin Evans, for instance, and smile a smile of relief.  Our era, we think, just got a little more secure.

We never ask the teenage local errand boy, who stopped going to school because his father lost his job four years ago, what he thinks.  We do not ask similar questions of the maid’s daughter whose mother cannot send her to school; they are both qualified only to serve our needs. 

Never do we suggest we are an egotistical, self-centred magic show.  In no shape are we Evans, never telling our families let alone our neighbors on the church pew, that for a living—our real living—we are ruthless hypocrites fundamentally responsible for society’s dislocation.

We do not admit the corners we cut.  We are not responsible for the people who died of treatable ailments, or in the desert trying to reach Libya, or in the Mediterranean seeking the embrace of some European country. 

Think about this for a moment: the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia sends to Nigeria 200 tonnes of dates as a Ramadan gift to Internally-Displaced Persons (IDPs), fellow Nigerians cut adrift as Boko Haram spread its menace. 

Why dates?  Well, it is Ramadan, and dates are a key component of the Ramadan fast experience.

In response to the Saudi gift, our shame-faced Ministry of Foreign Affairs would subsequently explain, the Commission for Refugees, Migrants and IDPs prepared a list of distribution locations, a list which included IDP camps and some prominent mosques.

The Ministry was trying to find the words for an apology to Saudi Arabia after the dates, all 200 million tonnes, were found to have been diverted, appearing in local Nigerian market stalls.

As the entire world well knows, one Goodluck Jonathan had the presidential magic carpet swept from beneath him two years ago partly because Boko Haram was on a rampage and he didn’t know what to do. 

The then aspiring government of President Muhammadu Buhari would have no such nonsense, it said, promising to hammer the militant group into the ground.  In any event, the Jonathan government was unforgivable corrupt, making the case for its replacement rather easy.

Those reasons are why it is not the battles that are now not being won from Boko Haram that are the more painful, but those being conceded by Nigeria itself, such as greedy officials taking food out of the mouths of children, the hungry and the homeless.

According to a May 2017 United Nations report, in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States, there are currently 8.5 million people deeply in need of life-saving aid, 5.9 million people requiring emergency health care, and 5.2 million on the edge of starvation.  

These figures do not include the 204,500 Nigerian refugees in Niger, Cameroon and Chad.   Remember that in January this year, a Nigeria Air Force jet mistakenly bombed an IDP camp in Rann, near the Cameroun/Chad borders, killing at least 236 and wounding hundreds.  At the time, the Rann camp held about 20,000 people.  On April 9 in this column, I also cited the case of 130,000 of our compatriots abandoned on a desert highway outside Diffa, in Niger, with no homes and no supplies.  Internally, there are Nigerians in camps nationwide for various reasons.

These are the kinds of victims to whom our Saudi friends sent those dates: people facing hunger, sickness, despair.  But in an insensitive and uncaring country, some officials could find no mercy or a sense of responsibility.  It was business as usual. 

As part of its apology, the Nigerian government announced an investigation.  The Saudis would be unwise to hold their breath.  Nothing will come of it, as such an investigation is for the consumption of the international community.  Experience shows that in just days, the government would have abandoned its pretences. 

Exactly one year ago, for instance, following yet another report of the Global Fund announcing that funds it sent to Nigeria to combat HIV & AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria had again been looted, the second such report since 2010.  Swiftly, the Muhammadu Buhari government launched three investigations: one by the EFCC; another by Health Minister Isaac Adewole; and a third by Auditor-General Samuel Ukura.  Three!

But nothing came of any of them: if anyone was found to have been complicit, the culprit was quietly sent off to other adventures.  Now, if Nigerians can be so cruelly sentenced to die of disease, what are fruits?

In serious countries, perpetrators of these kinds of crime are identifiable, within a few days, but in Nigeria, the treatment of institutionalized impunity that is worse than the diagnosis is proof that even when the government is different, Nigeria does not.  We are the auditor a wise man said arrives when the war is over and bayonets the wounded.

The future offers little comfort.  Last week, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, finding himself sitting on a sewer with no cover, admitted that 50 of every 100 lorries being sent to the north-east to deliver food aid do not reach their destination.

That is a scandalous 50 per cent menace.   To improve performance, he said the latest consignment of aid was being protected by over 1000 soldiers.

I admire his efforts, but his odds are not good, for it is not guns we carry on the outside but the bayonets we wear in our hearts.  In 2010, the predecessor-government of Mr. Goodluck Jonathan bungled the Global Fund situation so badly the Fund stated, sadly: “Money was (even) siphoned to a person arrested in 2003 for money laundering and smuggling diamonds that are mined and sold to support the war.”

Nigeria comforted the world with an investigation that died as soon as the government felt people had forgotten.

Six years later, the Fund’s new report included revelations of systematic embezzlement of programme funds, fraudulent practices, misappropriation, manipulated hotel expenditures; falsified or inflated receipts, bogus travel claims and kickbacks.

Again, Nigeria responded with a public relations gimmick: a loud outburst of investigations.  It is little surprise that one year later, all those indicted by the Fund in its exhaustive report are still in office, as are the pretend-investigators of this government.  I could name a hundred Global Fund-type situations in the past 16 years.

But our problem is actually worse than this.  Last week, Itse Sagay, the chairman of Buhari’s Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, came one adjective short of dismissing his government’s anti-corruption pretences.

Speaking at a public event in Abuja, he declared that the government, “particularly the President and Vice-President, who were elected into office principally to eliminate corruption,” must find the requisite response to corruption, “otherwise we are all dead."

Otherwise?  Remember, it is the same Professor Sagay who, THEWILL reported in March, was dead set against the trial in Nigeria for corruption, of the notorious James Ibori, citing his trial and conviction in England.

No, Evans—like Ishola Oyenusi and Lawrence Anini, like thousands of political manipulators and budget-padding specialists and sundry sharers of the dates of poor Nigerians since 1960—never told his neighbors and friends what he really did for a living. 

We do not, either.  Somewhere, who knows, another teenage IDP, his humanitarian aid being offered to him for sale in a market, grows desperate.