By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
As Alan García, the former two-time president of Peru, journeys home to meet to his ancestors, albeit ignobly, so many thoughts would be racing through his mind. He would be so much bothered that he has committed a grave crime before humanity and God. But he would be so much worried that he was not a Nigerian, and would pray fervently that in his next reincarnation he would be one.
Garcia died after shooting himself as police attempted to arrest him in the wide-ranging corruption scandal that has implicated scores of leaders in Peru and Latin America. The 69 year old was alleged to have taken bribes from the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht in return for massive public works contracts. He denied receiving money from the company.
The corruption was alleged took place during his second term, from 2006 to 2011. When police arrived at García’s home in Lima, officials said, he told officers he was going to call his lawyer and went into his bedroom. But a few minutes later a gunshot was heard, and the police forced their way into the room and found Mr. García in a sitting position with a wound to the head.
If mortals have will to dictate where to be born, Garcia could have chosen Nigeria. The calamity that befell him could have been averted.After all receiving kick backs as gratifications for awarding contracts is now a norm rather than a vice in Nigeria. Even governors are allegedly caught on camera receiving kick backs. Kick backs are so glaring here that you do not need proxies to facilitate them. More worrisome is that cronies of governors and other political office holders are feeding fat on kick backs, and these are done with grave impunity. They own choice houses and cars that are not hidden from the public. That calls for the scramble to join the league.
If Garcia were to be a Nigerian he didn’t need bother. What he ought to have done is to play the ball, at worst he joins the ruling party. After all, those who have corruption charges hanging on their necks like the sword of Damocles are majestically walking the streets of Nigeria free. Some of them are even current political office holders.
Poor Garcia, you were unlucky to have chosen Peru as your country . Please don’t commit that mistake next time. Even if the worse comes to worst, pay your way through to become a Nigerian. After all it is alleged that you were good in taking bribes. Therefore, you were also good in giving bribes.
Do you know that if you were to be a Nigerian that you could have attracted the best recognitions within religious and secular circles? Do you know that teams of idle youths would have besieged your compound every morning shouting “e go, go again”-the latest entrant in our political lexicon for some bottles of beer. Garcia, the choicest women and wine could have been yours if you were to be a Nigerian. You would have been treated to rousing home coming by your kinsmen if you were to be a Nigerian.
Garcia you chose wrongly. You chose to incarnate in a clime where the rule of law is robustly applied. Your ordeal has expressed that all that is required to fight corruption effectively is strong institutions and not strong leaders.
Strong institutions influence robust application of rule of law .Robust application of the rule of law did not shield Augusto Pinochet in Chile in 1973 for series of murders he committed between 1973 and 1990 when he held sway as the head of state. The story applied to Carlos Menen of Argentina, Abubakar Waheed, ex-President of Indonesia, former President of Phillipine, Joseph Estrada, Jonathan Aitken, a powerful minister of state in Britain.
The same applied to a former Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party and millionaire, Jeffrey Afrcher.The same rule of law provoked investigations in Germany into alleged illegal funding of the party of HELMUTKOHL on the long serving German Chancellor .In India, the strict application of rule of law enabled the Indians to jail their former Prime Minister, P.V Narasimha Rao and his deputy, Bunta Singh on the 29th of September,2000 for bribery and corruption. They got three years imprisonment. A former general and head of state in Bangladesh was not spared in Bangladesh. Neither was the rule of law in Hague spared Slobadan Milosevic, a former president of Yugoslavia who was tried for murder before the War Crimes Tribunal.
In Nigeria, what we do is selective application of the rule of law as captured by late Gani Fawehinmi thus: ”When the poor, the lowly and the weak transgress the law of the land, the fullest weight of the law through its punitive mechanism, is crushingly brought to bear on them:but when the powerful, the mighty and the rich offend the laws of the nation, they do so without the wildest punitive reaction of the enforcers and dispensers of the law”.
Our efforts to fight corruption in Nigeria have been a sham. General Yakubu Gowon regime witnessed an unprecedented oil boom Gowon boasted that “the problem of the country was not poverty rather how to spend the abundant resources accrued to the country occasioned by the Arab- Israel war of 1973 when the prices of oil rose to the high heavens as high as 400% due to the boycott of the Western oil market by Arab nations that protested the alleged connivance between Israel and the West.
Despite the boom witnessed during the reign of Gowon, when the regime was ousted through a coup in 1975, prominent figures in that administration was found wanting. They allegedly engaged themselves in amassing illegal wealth at the detriment of the Nigeria public. Consequently, an assets investigation panel was set up to probe the top brass in that regime and according to the report issued on February 3, 1976, all the Governors, except two, were found guilty of abuse of office. Those found guilty were subsequently dismissed and their assets were confiscated, while two were retired.
Like the Gowon regime, Alhaji Shehu Shagari administration was not spared as when the administration was ousted on December 31st, 1983, it was discovered that the administration inherited N2.3 external reserve when it assumed office on October 1, 1979, and also earned a total of N40.5billion in the next four years. The huge external reserve developed mysterious wings and flew when Shagari’s government on December 31st, 1983 when the administration was forced through a military coup de’tat, leaving the country helpless with external debt of N10.21 billion.
My dear Alan Garcia, my advice once again:in your next reincarnation choose Nigeria to forestall what befell you in this incarnation. Journey well as you meet your ancestors.