While they conspired to work out tens of billions of naira for themselves, which leaves them with a charge of conspiracy and money laundering, if prosecuted, you are faced with a stealing charge if caught stealing a loaf of bread. The pity is that you may be lynched and some disused tyres dropped on you while someone is kind enough to spare little of the petrol, a litre of which he bought at N145. Your journey to a shameful end is complete when some souless chimney donates his cigarette lighter or a match stick. While you burn, passers-by sigh away their disgust when they hear that you merely stole a loaf of bread.
I have always loved, and lived by, that thought in Nietzschean philosophical treatise where he posited that the history of the world is circular and that everything repeats itself in such a classical fashion that even the man is confounded by his level of understanding. For me, everything comes full cycle. And when they come, man is left astonished. Law is one of such aspects of life and living that astonishes me. The more I try to understand the ass in the law, the more asses I see.
Look at this! Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, as President of the Federal Republic, told us that ‘stealing is not corruption’. He clarified, later, to explain that he was actually quoting a Supreme Court justice. Most commentators, and columnists, overlooked even the dictionary definition of stealing and corruption in defining the comment as proof of lack of knowledge of what is. Also overlooked was the legal understanding of both in terms of criminal jurisprudence. But note, I am not a lawyer. However, events in post-Jonathan Nigeria, have proved, that indeed, stealing is not corruption. And that is where the law is such a stupid thing.
From EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) dockets, it is learnt that more than 800 convictions have been achieved since inception for various crimes. The bulk of these are advanced fee frauds and issuance of dud cheques. Convictions with regards to crimes involving high profile persons and politically exposed persons have been minimal. However, it is the latter two categories that most Nigerians have their hearts set at. Those are the ones who fall squarely into public definition of crime as corruption. Yet, no politically exposed person has been convicted of any crime specifically charged as corruption. None has also been arraigned before a court for corruption. The charges have always bothered on conspiracy, money laundering, diversion of funds and economic sabotage.
In the Buhari presidential era, EFCC has charged plenty politically exposed persons and military officers to court and brought charges of conspiracy, money laundering, funds diversion and more, against them. None, before and now, has been specifically charged for stealing. This shows that corruption is not an item in criminal jurisprudence. Legally, no charge of corruption can be sustained against a criminal because of its ambiguous nature. I think that is why the law brings it down to specifics and have suspects prosecuted on charges which are spelt out as money laundering, bribery, etc.
Now, this is where I find the law as being stupid. Logically, you cannot launder money that rightly belongs to you. You cannot be found to have laundered your legitimate earning. Money laundering, in itself, presupposed that the money was unclean and the launderer seeks to make it clean again. Unclean money is often proceed of criminal enterprise which could come from trading in illicit drugs and other such substances, or from robbery, or have been professionally stolen from its owners, or from trade on banned substances including illegal trade in oil. All these are corrupt acts! The aspect of it that confounds me is that the accused who is arraigned before a court and charged with money laundering escapes with the crime of stealing. Logically stated, embedded in the crime of money laundering is the crime of stealing which makes one a thief because only thieves steal.
The failure of the law to bring a charge of stealing alongside that of money laundering elevates crime. In our clime, a thief is seen as a disgrace to his community and family. A money launderer is not seen as a thief but as one who played big, politically. Stealing brings more shame than money laundering does. So, why is the law not couched in such a manner that someone is found to have diverted public funds, or laundered money, is also charged for stealing? The answer, to my mind, lies in the fact that those who make our laws make two sets –one for the bloody Nigerian and the other for their own protection. That is where what you and I define as corruption begins. For the lawmaker, corruption, that ambiguous word, offers a cover which can be explained away by the fact of political differences. The bloody Nigerian, who is exposed to prosecution for stealing, even when he is eventually freed, lives with the shame of being a thief. See why the law is stupid? How does it happen that an apprentice who diverts his oga’s money and uses it to import spare parts from China, or relocates to another city with the money, is not charged with money laundering when apprehended but stealing?
Can you put an end to this? I have doubts! I doubt because the bloody Nigerian has no access to changing the laws. He just can’t do it. The best he can ever do is to sit under trees and bemoan his fate while accusing the Nigerian Big Man of oppressing him. Can he rise in protest? No! He has a concept of the divine which tells him that if God had not approved of the big man to become big, he wouldn’t have been big. He lives with some theocratic ideas that God had destined, and firmly put the oppressive big man in his stead, and that any act of protest against him, is an act of protest against God. For these concepts, the big man rides the political system like he does his donkey. He however whips the bloody Nigerian into line by making laws that protects him, his family, his businesses and his wealth but impoverishes you. He makes laws to build additional prisons for you while creating avenues to escape the law through plea bargain after his stealing and laundering enterprise.
This is exactly what the Dogara-Lasun-Ogor-Doguwa/Jibrin (One Against The Quartet) series has clearly exposed. While you hoped for the good from your elected representatives, listened to their litany of possibles, and expected, in masturbatory illusion, the delivery of the good life to you, they worked on your foolish expectations and created paths to personal wealth. While they conspired to work out tens of billions of naira for themselves, which leaves them with a charge of conspiracy and money laundering, if prosecuted, you are faced with a stealing charge if caught stealing a loaf of bread. The pity is that you may be lynched and some disused tyres dropped on you while someone is kind enough to spare little of the petrol, a litre of which he bought at N145. Your journey to a shameful end is complete when some souless chimney donates his cigarette lighter or a match stick. While you burn, passers-by sigh away their disgust when they hear that you merely stole a loaf of bread. And indeed, you did because you were hungry. After that, they converge, in regret and hopelessness, at the next beer parlour, or palm wine and ogogoro spot, to analyse the theft of ‘our money’ by the protected lawmaker who walks away with the elitist charge of money laundering when caught for diverting ‘your’ money.
Law is cruel right? Yes, it is! It is meant to keep the majority in check for the few to live freely. It is meant to keep the bloody Nigerian where he is while working the Big Man up the ladder. Again, the reason it is so, is because they make the laws. And no one has been seen to make a law that works against him. Even in your home, you don’t make an order you are not disciplined enough to obey. You are the big man in your home and big men often live above the law.