By Chiechefulam Ikebuiro
I kind of adored Mr. Jerry Rawlings while growing up. The man who ruled Ghana for years and reportedly changed her fortunes. At a very young age I heard how he had to do everything within his power to firstly wrestle power from the then government as well as curb corruption. Life in Ghana, according to him, had become very hard and unbearable that he had to overthrow a military dictator and, in a bid to stop corruption, performed what was referred to as the "house-cleansing exercise."
Jerry Rawlings, in his bid to make Ghana corruption-free, killed 3 former heads of state, some serious military officers, supreme court justices and whoever had to 'go', so Ghana can be free of corruption. This act endeared me to the man even at that tender age. Corruption has built a castle in Nigeria long ago that I knew its impact back then. Corruption is a monster. Corruption can bring a nation to her knees, and whoever was willing to do whatever it takes to free his environment of corruption, I believed, should be thanked. I have held Jerry Rawlings in high esteem ever since. You can now imagine my excitement and disappointment at his act recently (on Nigerian soil).
It was at the conference of emerging democracies in Africa at the Transcorp Hilton hotel in Abuja sometime last week where Mr. Rawlings gave an address condemning roundly corruption in Africa and how it has almost grounded African countries. He went on to talk about a former attorney general of Ghana Martin Amindu, who had campaigned against payment of questionable judgement debts to individuals and firms albeit alone. He faced ridicule from his own people until he won the case for his people. According to Rawlings, "Today ironically he (Martin Amindu) is being touted a hero. But did he have to fight a lonely fight in defence of his countries meagre resources?".
"Does Nigeria," he continued, "have it's lonely heroes, too? Yes, indeed, you do! You do. Some of them are even persecuted by … hmmm… the "ogas at the top". I don't know about this one [obviously referring to GEJ], but I know about some in the past... yo yo…Yes, but I am saying you do... But they need to fly with boldness, they need your support. If you have to change the cycle, people must learn to profit from right, from virtue and not from vice…"
I thought he did a great job (with the address), only to hear recently that he denied referring to Nigeria.
What has come over Jerry Rawlings was what I asked rhetorically. Fact is, one cannot isolate corruption in Africa from Nigeria. It is a known fact even to the international community that corruption has thrived, is thriving and, God forbid (if we do not fight it), is still to thrive in Nigeria. Nigeria is the bane of corruption. It is plain to see. Just look at Nigerians and you will see the impact of corruption on them.
What and who is Jerry Rawlings afraid of? Where did his balls leave him to? Is this not the same people that made people pay the ultimate price to make sure corruption was a thing of the past in Ghana? I thought he was a man who cared less whose ox was gored, as long as truth is told. Haba Mr. Rawlings really disappointed me.
Is it not true that people have been hounded in this country for daring to fight corruption? Fast forward to the real shamelessness - a rebuttal from the government boys, that Nigeria is not part of the corrupt African countries. Imagine where Nigeria will be without corruption.
If not for corruption, many of our roads would have been motor able. Many will not be going on empty stomachs if there was no corruption. Our hospitals will be well equipped if not for corruption. Our refineries would have been working if not for corruption. This not only ridiculous and cheap. It is totally laughable. Jerry Rawlings has said it and he cannot take it back. It is not like he is telling us something new and surprising. It something we already know and trying not to get used to in the coming years.
It's just so disappointing that he had to try to retract. I have not stopped asking myself who will ever talk about corruption in Africa and not think about Nigeria... Only our ogas at the top, perhaps.