It was to be an interview on Christians in politics. But the interviewee, a former commissioner in a state, now a pastor, changed the topic. He said, “Bola, if Jesus or Mohammed were given political appointments or elected to any office in Nigeria, they would have to resign their appointments or Nigerians would push them into corruption.
“Politicians are not really corrupt before election or when appointed. But immediately they get there, from my experience, the expectations and demands our people place on them turn them to theives. People say we are corrupt but forget they made us corrupt because if we don’t meet up with their expectations, we become bad people to them. I will tell you my experience, Bola.”
“I was a lecturer in university of … when the governor-elect invited me to be a commissioner. The very first challenge came from my wife: “Dear, immediately you are sworn in, my status much change o. You have to get me a big SUV. This Toyota Yaris is not befitting my status as a commissioner’s wife. I have to change my wardrobe and change the schools of our children. I also need a personal assistant to be helping me in case all the commissioners wives are to meet or the governor call us or journalists want to speak with me.”
I thought my wife was joking. I was not even sworn in yet, she has started buying things on credit for herself and the children, from a shop, telling them she would pay by month’s end. By her calculation, I must have been sworn in then! That was the first salvo that jolted me that the appointment could land me in trouble!
“I noticed that immediately the news got out that I was to be made a commissioner, different people began to come to my house. Some, people I don’t know, some of them I’ve not seen in ten years! Some would come from morning till evening, have breakfast, lunch, supper and refreshments between! There was no day between 10-30 people would not visit, some not going away. When I got back in the evening, they expect transport. Bola, I was not even sworn in as a commissioner yet, I was picking bills!
Now the very day I was sworn in was war! I was a lecturer who depended on salary. We have gone for some orientation at statehouse and governors office. The security details, PA, staff, etc came with their bukata and expectations. I had to speak to a friend to help me with about N7m to meet these demands or else people would see me as a fool. I was told we have to cook and merry, take Aso ebi, etc.
When my wife brought the list of people we would cater for and buy aso ebi for, I was like Jesus! Taking that N7m loan was inevitable. Remember, that money has to be paid back. That marks the beginning of compromising!
The first three weeks, I commenced a familiarisation tour of offices and parastatals under my ministry. That is another avenue for corruption. The civil servants are the biggest criminals. They teach politicians how to steal. The people there want to preserve themselves and gifts of all shades would start flowing in, depending on how rich the offices are. I was able to pay back the N7m in less than a month from gifts gotten from familiarisation tours, but was also getting deeper and deeper into new ones.
As a commissioner, you lose your privacy. I could not sleep in my house again because it became a kind of party office where multitudes report every day. As a commissioner, I got a new safer place at … Still, some visitors would still penetrate. One day, some men came, they are from Oshogbo. They come to show me native protection from enemies. I should not rely on the oyinbo religion because that wouldn’t save me. of course, I declined. I am a Christian. This is not a time to deny Christ. Bola, every body wants to eat. When they were going I know how much they got. People are jobless. They all come under one pretext or the other.
The family members have theirs. I am the first child, I have five siblings behind me. All of them placed their demands before me at a family meeting: each of them wants at least a two storey building, six flats and two vehicles, including one SUV. Meaning five SUVs, and five cars, and five six flats! A commissioner, Bola!
Going to my home town became a frightening venture because the Oba was expecting, his chiefs, my siblings children, in-laws, the area boys, the pastors in the town, Islamic clerics, etc. They all believe you are their meal ticket as long as you are a commissioner!
In the city where I served, I stopped going to church because my pastor placed all the demands of the church on my table. Anybody is sick, call commissioner. Anybody puts to bed, call commissioner. Any burial party, call commissioner. My pastor even told me to help them rebuild the church and bring all the commissioners and governor to donate money. You pastors are terrible, Bola. Do you know how much stolen government funds end up in Churches as donations and tithes? Everybody building camps with stolen banks and government money! Bola, I love Jesus, I don’t like these pastors!
Anytime I got home, there are over 20 invitations cards on my table, all of them expecting me to make generous donations! If you don’t give, you become an enemy to the people and they begin to bad mouth you.
Bola, I’ve not told you about the expectations and demands of my friends, my wife’s friends, neighbours, you journalists so as not to get bad press, area boys who would be threatening you, staff, etc. It was a war! A friend came to me and said, Dr, you were a commissioner, I did not drink a bottle of Fanta from your commissionership. You are a disgrace!” and he left.
I am still trying to repair that friendship till date. How many people would you give money? See how Nigerians turn their leaders to theives? This is just 30% of my story when I was a commissioner in …. state between 1999 and 2003!
Former commissioner speaks – Interview by Bola Adewara, editor E-life
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