Niyi Osundare, Nigeria’s international award-winning literary icon, on Sunday dismissed Senate President Bukola Saraki as “Mr. Corruption personified”.
The English language professor spoke to SaharaReporters at the 50th birthday celebration of Jiti Ogunye.
“Most of our politicians are criminals, real criminals,” he thundered. “Many of them should be behind bars. They are not serious. Such prodigals!” he lamented.
“Look at our Senate, the band of people that you have there, where the Senate President [who says he] is talking about corruption is himself Mr. Corruption personified. We still remember how he became Senate President, he and his cohorts.”
Osundare expressed concern that Nigerian politicians only care about winning the next election and not necessarily about the people.
He commended the commitment of the Muhammadu Buhari-led government to fighting corruption, but stressed that the executive cannot be observed in isolation from the other tiers of government.
“We cannot talk about the government of Buhari in isolation from the legislature and the judiciary because this is longer a military government but a three-tier government. So, we have to take a comprehensive look at all of them. What happens when the presidency is against corruption but the legislature is frustrating it? The legislators have a reason to frustrate because they are not very clean people.”
Turning to perceived corrupt practices in the judicial system, he alleged that some judges are paid just to stall corruption cases.
“When you go to our courts, you are not sure you would get justice and then the way people buy injunctions. You’ve stolen people’s money, everybody knows you’re corrupt, now you’re to be prosecuted and then you shop for a judge and you buy a perpetual injunction. That is, nobody must even mention that case any longer. I don’t know any part of the world where that kind of thing happens,” he said.
He lamented that corruption has eaten so deeply into the country that young people have been recruited into various corrupt acts, stressing that the attitude of many Nigerians supports corruption.
“Many Nigerians do not think seriously about corruption … because they say it is God that put [the politicians] there; it is their time. That is to say, when I get there, I too will steal my own.”
Questioning how corruption can be curbed in a country where the people have such a frame of mind, he said that for corruption to be eradicated in the country, Nigeria would have to regain her lost sense of shame, and that Nigerians would have to be less tolerant of corruption.
He also noted that corruption goes beyond the political class. “In the past, if anybody associated you with theft or perjury or fraud, it was as if your family was being inflicted with leprosy; people would avoid you. Today, they will give you a horse to ride on.”
Speaking on the rate at which politicians decamp from a party to another, Osundare said the lack of political ideology in the country is partly responsible for that.
“If you want to talk about ‘ideology,’ I think it is the ideology of ‘chop, make I chop.’ It is a prodigal, extremely corrupt and corrupting belief system. That is what constitutes our so-called ideology.”