One of the most inspiring stories I have read from the Bible is the story of Lot’s wife, who was turned to a ‘pillar of salt’ when she looked back, while she and her family
were on their escape from the city of Sodom. The Angels who saved Lot and his family gave them clear instructions on how to escape the damnation that was imminent for Sodom. In the words of the Angels; “Flee for your life, do not look behind you, nor stop anywhere in the Plains, flee to the hills, lest you be swept away.” (The Bible Book of Genesis 19 vs 17)
[Photo: Lot’s wife looked behind and became a pillar of salt]
Lot’s wife lost a grand opportunity to be saved from the calamity that wiped off the city of Sodom from the surface of the earth. She, instead of enjoying a new lease of life, with her husband and daughters in the city of Zoar, was turned to a pillar of salt; a worthless commodity, and this serves as constant reminder to Christians and Muslim’s alike, to always look forward and not behind in their push for salvation. The story also contains useful leadership lessons for today’s leaders.
The story of Lot’s wife is also captured in the Holy Book of Quran, though in a different perspective. However, the Lady was portrayed as disobedient and sinful, hence, the Angels who came to save Lot ordered that she would stay behind and be destroyed alongside the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. In all, both the Bible and the Quran agree that looking forward is the way to salvation, while looking behind leads to damnation.
Nigeria’s situation today can be likened to the narratives of both the Bible and Quran on Sodom and Gomorrah and the salvation of Lot and his family. Especially, in the area of corruption that appears to be the major selling point of the Buhari presidency. The present have not hidden its determination to curb corruption in the system, and all true and patriotic Nigerians agree that curbing corruption is a good way to go. Corruption is the biggest problem confronting this country, and which has kept her down for the past fifty years. Nigerians will indeed be happy to see the end of corruption.
However, it is a general consensus among Nigerians that diversionary rhetoric over the fight against corruption may be more dangerous than allowing corruption to be as it is. The fight against corruption is a serious business and must not be reduced to a mere political mantra or some PR stunt.
The President’s avowal to probe into the corrupt practices that took place in the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan has struck a chord with some Nigerians who are understandably angry at the ostentatious lifestyle of most public officials who are assumed to have corruptly enriched themselves from our nation’s resources, while leaving the ordinary masses in pitiable penury.
For most Nigerians, including this writer, all those found to have stolen our wealth and contributed to the bitter circumstances of most Nigerians today, should be dragged before a firing squad and blown away with hot pellets, while all they have stolen should be confiscated and converted to national properties for the benefit of all Nigerians, no matter who and where they are coming from.
As interesting as this idea may sound, it is nearly impossible and also barbaric. Democracy allows the Constitution to be the most respected document in the State, and any action, no matter how popular that is not guided by the tenets of our Constitution is illegal, and should not be encouraged by any lover of democracy and human liberty. The Nigerian Constitution prescribed how to go about fighting suspected criminals, among whom are suspected corrupt officials. If we go by assumption, then, all the people who have served in government at any level and are presently enjoying some wealth are corrupt. But that cannot be true. There are past public officials who ran the affairs of their offices with utmost transparency and observed the highest level of accountability, yet, some of them are undoubtedly comfortable. This set of Nigerians may have made their monies before they came into government or after they left government, it is also possible that they made their money by using whatever legitimate earnings they got to invest in other businesses that fetched them good money. That is why the judiciary is there to protect the rights of citizens and ensure that the prosecutor or accuser proves beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of each essential element of the crime charged, hence, the sacred principle in the Criminal Justice System; presumption of innocence.
The legal processes and rigmaroles necessary to prove the guilt of those accused or suspected of corrupt enrichment is one of the pertinent dangers of looking behind in the fight against corruption. Most of these cases will drag even beyond the lifespan of this administration, and who knows, some of the cases may be eventually be dismissed for lack of diligent prosecution, lack of merit, and some other judicial technicalities, and the public funds committed into the case will go down the drain.
There is also fear within the Human Rights circle and Civil Society organizations that the so much mouthed fight against corruption may be a subterfuge to persecute as against prosecuting perceived and real opposition figures. Especially, considering the tilt of most of the arrests and interrogations witnessed in the last few weeks, since the advent of the Buhari presidency. These human rights advocates argue that any probe into the financial activities of the past, must stretch beyond 2011 and at least get to 2011, when the present democracy took root.
The distractions of looking behind are so immense and I am sure that Mr. Buhari is aware of them; hence, before the elections of 2015 declared that he would not be looking behind in his fight against corruption, rather, he would draw the line from May 29th 2015, and move ahead from there. How the President and his followers lost touch or completely discarded that statement and are now building an entire presidency on the shaky and vindictive wild goose chase called probe. For the President, everything will be probed, but it is a reality that anyone who spends all the time asking questions about the past will hardly make any progress into the future.
Am I not suggesting that those who stole our money in the past should be allowed to walk away free with their loot? I will not say so, but I can assure you that looking around to find out those who stole our money is not the best way to fight corruption, rather looking around to close the gates and safeguard our resources so that it will become impossible for anyone to steal our resources, now and in the future is the best way to fight corruption. Concentrating on the past will stultify our march into the future and to all Nigerians, the future is more vital than the past.
So far, the President has spent valuable time and resources setting up committees and advisory councils and more will still be set in this distraction of looking into the finances of the past administration. And there is already enough evidence that most of those who will provide the paper work with which this auditing will be done are more interested in impressionistic outputs than sitting down to dig out the right records.
So far, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Works, and the Committee led by Governors Adams Oshiomhole and Nasir El-Rufaihave had their claims torn to shreds by the immediate past Minister of Finance. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala did not only prove that these men do not sit down to get their facts right before coming to the public with false information, she also comes forward with figures and facts that leave no one in doubt that these people are out to embarrass Nigeria.
A case in point is the wild accusation from the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works who did not even know the actual amount which the Chinese Exim Bank loaned the country for her infrastructural needs and how the funds were managed and disbursed, but rather chose to go on some embarrassing media stunt by alleging that the loan was diverted. This is what we get when the fight against corruption is made an image making strategy, instead of being a real work that deserves all thoroughness and sincerity.
How then can we compare the Nigerian situation to the story of Lot’s wife which formed the prelude to my essay? It is simple; majority of Nigerians believed that Nigeria, like Sodom and Gomorrah of Lot’s days was deep in malfeasance and an imminent collapse, hence, requiring rescue. Buhari is the angel who came with promises of rescue and reparation.
The Angels in Lot’s day did not go about looking for those who contributed to the ruination of Sodom, they rather moved ahead by creating another beautiful city called Zoar, where Lot and his family resettled. The old things and sins of Sodom and Gomorrah was erased from the surface of the earth, and Lot who represents the new city was expressly advised to move ahead and not look behind. Buhari is expected to look into the future and move this nation forward, by ensuring that the mistakes of the past administrations which have weighed down the nation terribly are not repeated.
Looking behind and scouring into the records of the past will only end up delaying or even completely halting our match to the New Nigeria, which is what all of us earnestly ask for. This is not in any way saying that corruption cases that are already in courts should be withdrawn, neither am I saying that evidences of corruption stumbled into while running normal businesses of government should be overlooked, but the idea of concentrating all efforts towards finding those who looted money in the past is as dangerous as Lot’s wife looking behind.
May Nigeria prevail!
Onwuasoanya FCC Jones