Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Security vote in Nigeria is state sponsored looting, ban it now!

There is a Nigerian saying that the only thing that unites us is football. Well, on the positive side football does. But whenever you have any cause to examine the goings and comings in our fatherland today, you would as well begin to have a re-think and re-jig of that collective thinking, that football is the only thing that unites us – and I am using that word ‘unite’ in its very loose sense. There are many areas of our lives wherein our Hausa and Ibo brethren and sisthren would never see eye to eye, or walk together – areas like matrimony, in song and dance and in the observance of certain traditional and religious rites and nuances. In those areas, we would stare balefully at each other, daring the other to blink firs.

But not so with matters of money – and please do kindly ignore that old wives tale, that it is only the Ibo who likes money, or would do anything, or go to any length to get money particularly if that money is easy money. I have had to mention to a couples of my dudes that with the ongoing probe of Dasuki aka Dasukigate, the old paradigms that once held us together – that the Westerner is the more educated, the Easterner, the most businesslike and the Northerner the most politically savvy – have given way to other values that are both heuristic and shameful to say the least. In their place, we have an enigma – corruption – as Nigeria’s new emulsifying factor. I have no doubt that you will agree with me, at least when we consider the fact that Nigerians from all shades and divides – the elite – journalists, lawyers, pastors, kings and queens, the politicians who are the usual suspects, old people who have no businesses with amassing the kinds of sums and amounts that are being bandied about as either stolen, looted and appropriated for circumstances that are very different from their original use. If you want to you can disagree with me but corruption has shown itself to be a true emulsifier of the various ethnic groups in Nigeria. The former NSA in the Goodluck Jonathan administration is a fine officer and a gentleman from the core north of Nigeria. Allegations that made the round all through the beginning of the year, and still smolder have it that sometime before the April 2015 Presidential elections, he misappropriated monies that were meant for the purchase of arms, and diverted same for the election campaign of his oga. I must confess that as at that time when the Boko Haram became as intractable as it was, it perplexed me to no end that a seemingly ragtag an outfit as it has proven to be could not have been pocketed by an outstanding a force as the Nigerian. Did the people who were collecting those monies from the erstwhile National Security Adviser ever bother to ask where those monies they collected came from? Did they know that the monies they collected were monies for arms procurement?

My father of blessed memory had a favourite aphorism, to wit, that whenever anyone points one finger to traduce the other person, he should not be surprised that the other three hold one culpable as well while the thumb points us upwards. If that is the uncanny manner in which the Ultimate One wants us to realize that we should consider HIM whenever we point our fingers at others, I cannot tell honestly. But what I am certain of is that even at our quiet and sober moments some of us may have just realized that we are as culpable as the erstwhile National Security Advisers of Mr. Goodluck Jonathan and those who collected monies meant for tackling Boko Haram. Take it from me that if I am a journalist, lawyer, writer or whatever and I had to put myself at the disposal of any politician because my boss who collected monies from the erstwhile NSA did not pay my salary for many months, I am as united in corruption with the man who collected those monies. At least there’s Papa Olu Falae, a former presidential candidate and elder statesman who was said to have collected N100 million from Dasuki but declared only N5million. 

Questions and their probable answers on why Dasuki dolled money the way he did emanate from the modus operandi of that obnoxious national malfeasance known as ‘security vote’. During the Ibrahim Babangida years, our research shows that what was earmarked or ‘voted’ for security was just a couple of thousands and a few millions as the case may be. The reason for this was that the army, the police and the navy all are supposed to have been equipped with men and materials with which they can deal with security issues. After all, it was a military era, wasn’t it? But all of that changed with the inception of civilian rule. Even with the men and materials that the armed forces had, governors across the political divide collect over N100million monthly as ‘security vote’. What do they really do with the monies? As soon as a governor gets that amount, a feeding frenzy ensues - he summons the commissioner of police, the men in charge of the army, the navy, the SSS, proprietors of hotels, drivers unions, journalists, and begins to dole the monies for ‘intelligence gathering’. Of course those monies are spent unofficially and no record, no account of them is ever made. They are monies spent in the shadows and in the dark. At most, what a governor who collects say, N500million monthly spends as security vote is a couple of that amount. The rest goes to his pocket. 

Therefore what you see that has happened with Dasuki in the days of Goodluck Jonathan is what has played out in 16 years of civil rule in Nigeria. As a matter of fact, what happens at the federal level is the bigger version of what plays out monthly in every state in Nigeria whether it is a APC-led or PDP. Monies meant for securing our lives and property are actually monies for political interest groups that sustain the hegemony of the man in power – ask Aliyu Gusau, ex-NSA under Olusegun Obasanjo and under Goodluck Jonathan; visit the cemetery and ask Owoeye Azazi of blessed memory, and if both chaps say that they did not spend their own security vote to maintain their principal’s hold on power then we would all know that honour is indeed spending a weekend in hades.

I would like to suggest to the people who are probing now to look inward. People from both divides need to be hauled in for questioning as to how they have been spending security votes in their states. What may actually come up is the semi-discovery that nearly half of the people who sponsored the election of Mr. President had to empty the treasuries in their states, and indeed their security votes for the sponsorship of his election. Secondly, we should ban that anathema called the ‘security vote’. It is nothing short of a state-sponsored looting of the common wealth of the Nigerian people by just a handful. We should tell ourselves the truth, and insist that the security votes being handed over to governors be used to strengthen the police, the arm, the anti-corruption agencies, ACAs. On this platform - https://www.change.org/p/treat-nigerian-school-children-with-malaria-with-security-vote-for-governors, we are leading a campaign asking that half of what the governors spend, or what they have as security vote should be used in the development of vaccines for the treatment of malaria in Nigeria. 

Please do visit the site and support the campaign. In the World Malaria report, an African child dies every minute from a preventable disease like malaria. This happens because we sometimes focus too much on the primordial and invest in the thing which ‘unites’ us. 

Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku
ANEEJ, Benin City.