Dear Righteous Nigerian,
I hail you for your patriotism, resolve and commitment to see that government officials accused of corruption are punished by God.
Well done o!
The saintly garb which you have donned since the news broke that Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke is ill with cancer sits so pretty on you. You take the shine off the sun in all her glory. I see that all you have done since that day is to share her photos on your Social Media pages, updated with your petty and childish comments written in very bad English!
In case you haven’t heard this, death is a debt all of us must pay at some time or the other, and through one manner or the other. Permit me to also tell you that apart from the trauma and hardship a protracted illness inflicts on the family and care-givers of the sufferer, the patient gets the chance to take stock of his/her life, make amends with fellow human beings and find peace with God. A protracted illness also prepares the family of such a person for the eventuality.
However, since you believe that cancer is punishment for malfeasance, let me tell you who else should be afflicted with the disease: those officials in your state’s Ministry of Health who share the monies meant for building health centers in your community among themselves; that your local government chairman who uses the money allocated for bore holes and roads in the community to finish his personal house so he can celebrate his daughter’s traditional wedding in grand style; the accountants who defraud and run companies aground through over-invoicing; the store keepers who connive with outsiders to steal materials from the company store; the religious leaders who use offerings, pledges and seeds to establish high brow schools which children of less-affluent members of the congregation [whose parents have also contributed to these projects] cannot afford to attend; those officials in the Ministry of Power who have grounded the power sector through corruption so that Nigeria continues to import fuel and you and I continue to spend large chunks of our incomes buying diesel to run generators for our homes and businesses; those government officials whose children are studying in the best schools abroad with monies looted from Nigeria’s coffers, while our own schools lie dilapidated. What about the governors and presidents who have milked Nigeria dry from 1960 till date, but who are still alive, wealthy, happy, surrounded by their families who are still enjoying the fruits of their ill-gotten wealth? All these people, who have hijacked the common wealth and destiny of the Nigerian people for their personal use, deserve to have their own share of ill health, assuming your thinking is right.
Let me even zero in on you for a moment. You may not have held any positions in government, and so are not accountable to the public, but your dealings with people around you leave a lot to be desired! For example, you pay your staff peanuts as monthly salaries, yet you use them like slaves and take up their weekends, including Sundays, to the extent that they become strangers to their wives and children. Sometimes you owe them several months’ salaries while you and your families take holidays in exotic parts of the world. You owe your plumbers, carpenters, mechanics and electricians for so long that their children are kicked out of school because they cannot pay the fees. Sometimes they’re thrown out of their homes because you withhold their payments for work they’ve done for you, monies they should have used to pay rent. Your house-help wears “rags” and rubber slippers to church. Your wife gives her cabin biscuits and pure water for breakfast while your children eat the choicest meals money can provide. The poor girl sleeps on a mat or mattress on the floor despite the fact that you can afford to buy a bed for her. And after serving you for five years and more, your wife sends her home after accusing her of everything from witchcraft to husband-snatching! You could not even train her in any vocation, so she goes back to the village and turns to prostitution due to frustration. At best, she marries the village drunk and the cycle of poverty, which you could have helped to break by empowering her with a skill, continues in her life.
Tell me, who truly deserves to suffer cancer?
Have you ever thought about children who are born terminally ill? What about the hundreds of hard-working, God-fearing, Nigerian men and women who struggle to feed their families and keep their children in school but who are currently losing their lives to these dreaded diseases? What about Chief Gani Fawehinmi, who spent his life standing for truth and defending victims of injustice in Nigeria? What about Dr. Dora Akunyili, one of the most diligent and dynamic government officials Nigeria has ever had? Without the work she and her team at NAFDAC did in the health sector, you and I would have been dead a long time ago.
Tell me once again, since you believe so strongly that a terminal illness and death are punishments for corruption, what crime or sin would you say these noble men and women were punished for?
By the way, who says that cancer is a death sentence? With proper treatment, people are able to overcome it, and Diezani may very well outlive those who’ve said, “Serves her right.” See? Besides, how will gloating over her current situation undo what she has been accused of doing? How does her illness help to recover the monies she is said to have stolen? How will it move Nigeria forward?
While I believe that the state should punish people for corruption and other crimes, we owe ourselves a duty to unshackle our minds from the ingrained belief that sickness and death are part of that punishment. We need to do this so we can also stop regarding people who suffer bad luck and misfortune as sinners. Most times when people experience serious challenges, what you notice behind the outward shows of concern and commiseration are the subtle attitudes that seek to blame the victims for bringing the problems on themselves. “Who knows what he did?” “They’re not praying hard enough.” “There must be a hidden sin in her life.” Some Christians take it a step further by whipping out their bibles to buttress their “this-is-what-God-says-about-sin” positions. This mind-set, which has its roots in certain aspects of our tradition, is promoted relentlessly by modern churches and I can only imagine what the sermons in churches have been like this past week!
Our wishes should not be death to government officials who’ve been accused of corrupt practices. Rather our prayers should be that they remain in good health so they can clear their names in the courts of law or face the punishment for their crimes. That is the only way you and I can get closure concerning those who have mismanaged Nigeria’s affairs.
If, after reading this, you want to step back and desist from gloating over this woman, that is fine. If you do not think so, that is fine too.
Written by Vivian Ogbonna, tweets @vivianogbonna8 and blogs at undertheinfluence.wordpress.com