In our series of viewpoints from African journalists, Sola Odunfa considers the possibility that Nigeria's corrupt officials may need psychiatric help.
I was settling down to write this letter when a back-page column in the Punch newspaper seized my attention.
“ We have observed people amassing public wealth to a point of madness or some form of obsessive or compulsive psychiatric disorder ” EFCC's Farida Waziri
The Punch is a daily published in Lagos but its distribution spans the length and breadth of Nigeria, and it claims to be "the most widely read newspaper".
The columnist in that issue dealt with the well-flogged subject of corruption in the country.
I had thought that there was hardly anything more to say about the brazen ravage of the Nigerian treasury by public officers and officials but this columnist brought a fresh insight into the subject.
That insight was provided by the executive chairman of Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Farida Waziri in a public lecture.
Her statement bears quoting verbatim: "The extent of aggrandisement and gluttonous accumulation of wealth that I have observed suggests to me that some people are psychologically unsuitable for public office.
"We have observed people amassing public wealth to a point of madness or some form of obsessive or compulsive psychiatric disorder."
How else does one describe a situation in which a public officer who has stolen hundreds of millions of dollars from the public purse acquires property in key Western countries and, of course, South Africa, maintains multi-million bank balances abroad and yet continues to steal?
They can hardly keep track of their wealth, the full extent of which they must hide from even their spouses and children.
Their obsession with stealing is such that they are totally incapable of having any feeling for the scores of millions of other Nigerians around them who are bearing the consequences of their action in poverty, deprivation, disease and hopelessness.
Business as usual
The Niger Delta crisis is a direct product of that obsession.
Officials at all levels cornered so much of the revenue from oil and gas that there was nothing left for the welfare of the hapless populace.
“ Dollars will also start flowing again - into the permanently open mouths of gluttonous public officers ”
When youths of the region rose in protest the army, backed by helicopter gunships, was sent in.
The youths responded by stealing oil to acquire weapons. Eventually revenue into the public purse was reduced by half.
There was less money in the kitty to steal. Panic set in! Amnesty came to the rescue. High-profile militants have since surrendered their arms. They are now talking peace with the government.
What happens in this new era of peace in the region?
I think oil and gas will resume flowing in the pipelines. Dollars will also start flowing again - into the permanently open mouths of gluttonous public officers.
The situation will return to normal. Business as usual.
Honestly, Mrs Waziri's concern and suggestion of psychiatric evaluation of some people in public service made comic reading only here.
Something tells me that the legacy of Mobutu Sese Seko, Jean-Bedell Bokassa and Sani Abacha (former leaders of Zaire, the Central African Republic and Nigeria respectively) is alive and well somewhere not far from here.
If you would like to comment on this column, send us your views using the postform below.
The "permanently open mouth" have increase in number. The consequences include, bad Roads, no Electricity, lack of employment, educational system collapse and many more. Its more oil more problem. Enobong Aniebiet, Lagos, Nigeria its true and i agree with the author of this article. we all knows that Mobutu seseko was a leader who made citizens of congo to suffer and while geting the wealth of the country to himself and families. festus, windhoek, Namibia
This obsessive-compulsive affliction is pandemic e.g. examine the lives of politicians, insurance industry executives etc. See the parallels? AIDS, H1N1 virus and other pandemics seem to pale in comparison to the Greed Pandemic. We desperately need a vaccination against this scourge! We must examine our instincts and the behaviour we follow in pursuit of satisfying our perceived needs. Do we have a drive to preserve life or are we only stimulated by instant gratification? Are we parenting our children in a manner that prevents them from developing into mature personalities where altruism is dominant. Are we retarding our children's personal growth, by restricting their life experience to materialism? There seems to be so much infantile behaviour in all societies and a worldwide - Where are the adults and wise elders? When last were they in leadership positions? Thank you for the article "African View: Insane with Greed", please publish much more of this type of news, the world desperately needs wisdom. Karin, Philadelphia, USA
Are UK Members of Parliament Kleptocrats, are the Private sector scions who pay themselves billions to destroy your economy kleptocrats, are you bridge building firms kleptocrats. It is egregiously offensive to insult a whole continent and a race with this kind of irresponsible writing. Sheldon A. McDonald, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
Stealing of public wealth has become an obsession for our leaders. Nigerians are not asking these gluttons for amenities that can be found only on Mars but basic infrastructure like power, good roads, hospitals and schools furnished with equipment... Are our leaders Aliens brought to rule the country? The system is just in a mess and what hope lies in this country for young people like me who loves Nigeria? Leadership is a sacrifice to serve and not an opportunity to rob the public! Sam, Cambridge, UK
Majority of public office holders, and probably the generality of Nigerians see public office as an invitation to cut their own slice of the National cake. This explains why a public officer goes into office not so wealthy, but is stupendously rich a few years later. The fact that no one is punished for corrupt enrichment also serves to fuel and legitimize this plunder, and the results are so obvious as is the case in the Niger Delta. Aspiring public office holders ought to have a psychiatric evaluation as no other malady but madness can aptly describe this flagrantly insatiable appetite for materialism that drives a man to keep amassing the national wealth of the people which he holds in trust for them. Ehi Okupa, Kaduna, Nigeria
Time to stop beating about the bush, Nigeria as a State has failed, from all indicators. The never ending hope that every next election or military regime will sort the nation out should now be validly questioned. Corruption is only a symptom rather than the cause of a dysfunctional amalgamation of peoples with obviously different goals and modus operandi… Ayo, Telford
This is one of the most Honest, Direct and credible criticism of African Leaders that i have read. How else can someone explain why the Continent that has the most valuable Raw material is at the same time the poorest, most backward and the largest recipient of Aid in the world. As a black person from the Caribbean i have never witnessed Corruption on such a large scale until when i was working in Africa, from the Airport to the Hotel to walking on the streets, it was like swimming in a lake full of Pirhanna fishes. Everything was for sale, birth certificates, drivers licence etc, etc. It is time Africans realise that development is within the individual and not in building mansions, the lack of Pride, Honesty, Selfesteem is really what is keeping Africa down and their greatest enemy is themselves. E. Campbell, Montego Bay Jamaica
All the corrupt African leaders are taking cue from Nigeria where corruption is the alternate governor. Nigeria has infected other countries with corruption, and that is another reason why all the past leaders should be lined up and shot. The uprisings in Niger Delta will soon settle all these because the youths cannot take it anymore. This uprising will consume Nigeria. It is a country where governors lack ideas and initiative and copy colleague governors and replicate something from a sister State. The governors in turn mimic the president and repeat and make some pronouncement without knowing the full import. When words are pandered and repeated like this, it becomes a tired cliché. The pity! Mike Onwukwe, Arusha Tanzania
That is Africa for you. Charity begins in the home. If they can steal from the masses, chances are some of them have stolen from their own families. There is a difference between sacrificing for others to have, and having things stolen at the expense that one cannot even survive. The majority of the people have been exploited. This unfortunately nothing new, ever since the dawn of the slave trade, Africans have been guilty of selling each other. The demons of the past are alive and well. Ezekiel Olagoke, Denver