Former President Goodluck Jonathan once defended corrupt politicians using an analogy involving a goat and a yam. Jonathan’s argument was that leaving politicians in charge of national resources was the same as leaving a goat with a yam or plantain and expecting the goat not to eat it.
This kind of thinking is wrong for a host of obvious reasons. Although they may act like it, politicians are not goats. Human beings are supposed to have a sense of self-control that comes with the capacity for higher reasoning which distinguishes us from animals. When trusted with a position of power, individuals are supposed to rise above board rather than steal from their constituents. This kind of reasoning reflects the excessively passive nature of the Nigerian attitude to authority stealing.
We have come to expect politicians to embezzle and misappropriate funds, so we are far too tolerant and resigned when they are caught doing so. That is the problem. To make matters worse, the social and legal consequences for corruption are far too lenient to deter politicians from stealing more money in addition to their already large salaries and benefit packages.
In May 2018, former Taraba state governor, Jolly Nyame was sentenced to only fourteen years in prison for graft. Nyame was found guilty of twenty-seven charges at the Federal High Court in Abuja and had stolen one point six-four billion naira during his eight years in office.
Governors already enjoy several extravagant benefits years after they leave office, including six cars to be replaced every three years. If we take into account the thousands of lives that were and remain negatively impacted by ex-governor Nyame’s avarice despite enjoying all these benefits, fourteen years in prison is more of a paid vacation than an actual punishment.
Of course, our leaders continue to rob us blind when there is a very low price to pay for being caught. We must make corruption more expensive. What follows is a need for redistribution. Our leaders will only learn to stop stealing when the consequences for doing so far outweigh the benefits. A more apt punishment for corruption would leave politicians with nothing, much like the people they steal from. May God Bless our beloved Country, Nigeria.
Funmilayo Adetokunbo A-A, a political and International Affairs Analyst, writes from Somerset, England, United Kingdom.