There is really a huge lure to comment on the political today. President Muhammadu Buhari has just given a national broadcast that provokes several questions; ex-Taraba governor, Jolly Nyame was, during the week, sentenced to 14 years imprisonment; Buhari assented the Not Too Young To Run Bill, among many other issues. Unless we want to fool ourselves, political issues drive the engine of discourses in Nigeria today, especially when the 2019 elections are less than a year away. However, social and economic issues are arguably the grease that oils the engine of the political.
Some installments ago, the social issue of spousal violence which has been on the rise in Nigeria, engaged this writer. With the title, With this dagger, I thee wed, I discussed the menace of fatalities which arise from violence on the home front. Without recourse to formal statistics, one can state without equivocation that domestic violence is one of the main issues that afflict the home today. Newspapers are, every now and then, painted with crimson stories of deaths that arise from the violence at the home front. Prisons are almost bursting at their seams with husbands/wives who kill each other. During the week, a video went viral on the social media about a teacher, Abimbola Olamide, who stabbed her husband Dare to death over a household brawl in Ikorodu, Lagos. You would want to cry seeing the lifeless body of the man inside the tricycle that was said to be conveying him to the hospital before he gave up the ghost. It is so rampant now that hardly does a pass by without a recorded case of spousal violence. Homes are hot like oven today due to violence on the home front and unless urgent remedies are found to this menace, the kitchen knife, which is mostly the innocent instrument that is sent on this gruesome assignment at the heat of anger in the home, may become the god that reigns in the affairs of the family.
Of a truth, domestic violence is not locale-blind and is a global phenomenon. However, in Africa and Nigeria especially, it is fast becoming an epidemic and is not susceptible to class analysis. In With this dagger, I thee wed, I tried to proffer solutions. My prognosis was that, spousal violence was largely borne of cultural reasons; that the home front is in disarray because we have lost our values as Africans. Wives are no longer owned by the extended family as “our own” and as such, when disagreements come, the family is ostracised from the process of seeking solutions. His Imperial Majesty, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, in a rejoinder to the piece, corroborated this point. He even took it to another realm and submitted that the abetment of the violence in the home by Christianity is rather huge. Parents are increasingly becoming witches and wizards in the modern African home and are being replaced by “Daddies and Mummies in the Lord” who counsel that couples make their spousal disagreements internal and shouldn’t seek interventions from their families. Violence is thus bottled up within the home and only comes into limelight when blood and the kitchen knife are eventually locked up in a mutual embrace at the heat of anger.
While some people are of the opinion that economic pressure is aggravating domestic violence as husbands have become impotent economically, others believe that promiscuity in the home is a major cause of spousal disagreements. Today, I however, want to talk about a causal factor of domestic violence that many may not have averted their minds to. It is the menace of aristo. Aristo, whatever is its etymology, is a lingo among higher school students which is an appellation for married men who befriend girls old enough to be their children or even grandchildren. The appellation may be recent but it’s a phenomenon that is ancient, especially in Africa where having multiple partners by men is a thing to flaunt. Yoruba Juju musician, Ebenezer Obey, perhaps had the same aristo phenomenon in mind when he referred to some men who live a life of pleasure as Agba Man. They are the rotund-tummy men who park posh cars at university female hostels, using the veil of nocturnes as shield. They splash on these girls enough money to satisfy their greed and carve an unearned class for them on campus. To these ancient sybarites, I am attributing one of the reasons for the implosion of spousal violence today.
Aristo is as old as the founding of higher institutions in Nigeria. In the quest to spill his Adamic fluid, the aristo garnishes his girl with huge cash, gift and lodges her in the comfort of 5-star hotels, as well as spoiling her with international travels. Few girls found life-long happiness therefrom when their aristo transmuted into their husbands or when they pass through the thorny road of schooling with the able cash support of the aristo. Thousand others pick up life-long scars of Hiroshima proportion from the dalliance. One feature of the aristo phenomenon is that the girls are spoilt with material wealth/gifts that become very difficult to replicate when the girls eventually decide to abandon it.
They then marry husbands who, most times, are struggling to survive; who, if ever they are employed, are paid pittance. He gives her, perhaps half of his salary, which amounts to, say N50,000 for monthly upkeep, thrice of which the aristoperemptorily gave as her TF (transport fare). The struggling husband houses her in a rented house that is sparsely furnished and perhaps, owns no car. This is no doubt a grueling suffering for a girl who was chauffeur-driven in latest automobile and was exposed to the coziness of the best hotels available. The incubus of comparison now creeps in and for a girl who was accustomed to the good life, she is frustrated with her spouse. At this intersection, she is exposed to three options: fall in line and accept that the cozy life of the aristo time is bygone; patch it on the side by clandestinely returning into her vomit of aristo, this time as an adulteress; or unleash her frustration on the “indolent man who can’t grow up,” that is, her husband. Each of the options has its drawbacks. The last two options have the potentials of leading to spousal violence.
Why economic reason is at the core of even this causal factor of domestic violence I just suggested is that, those days when the agba man infiltrated the campuses in search of girls to sexually plunder, decorating the campus girl with cash and travelling with her all over the world, when the girl graduated from school and disconnected from a life of serving as object of sexual exploitation by the man, she was almost instantly economically empowered. She immediately secured a well-paying job, got a car of her own, married an equally empowered man with whom together, they could forge a tomorrow together. Thus, the life of comfort of the aristo period on campus was not, for the girl, an unattainable mirage. Today however, the life of comfort the girl enjoyed on campus is almost forever a mirage as the economy has ensured that she is jobless, consistently dependent and marries a man who is barely surviving. The resultant effect is frustration jamming frustration at home and before you could shout ‘what!,’ crimson becomes the colour of the family lounge. As for solution; sorry, I don’t have!
Killing the Leviathan called Security Vote
Transparency International (TI), the global corruption-fighting initiative, recently released a very damming report on the Nigerian Leviathan called Security Vote. Leviathan is a sea monster which the biblical account referenced in the Hebrew Bible. It is a primeval monster.
Entitled Camouflaged Cash: How ‘Security Votes’ Fuel Corruption in Nigeria, TI insists that ‘Security Votes’ are “opaque corruption-prone security funding mechanisms widely used by Nigerian officials.” SV, which began in 1983, as it is called in government parlance, is a relic of military rule where funds are provided to certain federal, state and local government officials in which the disbursement of this budgeted money is entirely at the discretion of the officials.
In actual fact, SV, by the mindset of its framers, is reserved for attending to underfunded federal security agencies and unforeseen security needs. The modus operandi of the SV is that it is beyond the subject of any legislative inquisition or audit, due to its theoretically sensitive nature. The reality is however that SV is seldom spent on security, if at all. Presidents, governors spend it on political activities and many embezzle it with impunity. According to TI, the secretive, unaccounted-for cash expenditures add up to over $670 million (N241.2 billion) annually. TI also submitted that the total sum of Nigeria’s various security votes dwarfs the international security assistance it receives, is more than 70 percent of the annual budget of the Nigeria Police Force, Nigerian Army’s annual budget, and more than the Nigerian Navy and Nigerian Air Force’s combined.
Not long ago, President Muhammadu Buhari was credited with the move to stop it. The president, the report said, had also stopped same to himself and his vice. Months after, this news unfurls as another of the various governmental wish-lists that always end up in the trash-can of history. Indeed, TI stated that Buhari is further worsening the corruption roulette of the SV. According to the damming report, Buhari “has increased the number of security votes tucked into the federal budget from about 30 in 2016 to over 190 in 2018. The total value of these votes increased from $46.2 million (N9.3 billion at the time) to $51 million (N18.4 billion now) over those two years.”
Apparently, those who legislated SV into existence had in mind that heads of government should not be encumbered by bureaucracy and be dictated to in the needed speed to attack security issues in their domains. Thus, security vote, whose cost is arbitrary and the mathematics that berths it illogical, has become a drain pipe on state and federal economies and is our national Achilles hill from where government functionaries deal us mortal fiscal blows.
Those who decreed it into existence apparently failed to reckon with the insufferable greed of upcoming Nigerian presidents and governors. Hiding under the proviso that its drawers owe no one the need to explain how it is spent, security vote has become a burden and a funnel through which governors and their allies pipe huge chunk of our funds into illicit personal needs. This is why the news that the Buhari government had begun the process of stopping was elating initially.
Due to the pseudo federal government that we run, where the police and other so-called federal security agencies hardly have enough to maneuver them from the rag-tag operations that they run, the security agencies most times go cap-in-hand to state governments to ask for dole-outs for security equipment, vehicles and operational expenses. Also, a cache of security issues like ethnic uprisings that need urgent financial bail-outs to stem them dictate that a vote be made to cater for the emergencies. But as things stand today, all these are mere theories. Governors especially are notorious for filching and raping this fund serially, expending it on personal and mundane issues, including expensive cognac, women and all that, at the detriment of their states. Security votes are the first to be forcefully extracted from state allocations by these rodents. It was learnt that some state governors filch as much as N1 billion as security vote monthly.
A former state governor was caught with a paper detailing how his monthly security vote would be shared among his harem, children and acquaintances. Today, SV has witnessed more lamentable metastasis. If you are privileged to see the list of beneficiaries across states, you will weep for Nigeria: clergies, judges, policemen, journalists, human rights activists and many more “respectable” people in society are monthly beneficiaries of the slush funds. It is what is used to prosecute elections, bribe judges, compromise investigating officers, fight adversaries and which transmogrify into foreign exchange that resurfaces hours after as real estates in western capitals, shrouded by names of lackeys and cronies.
Every effort must be made to halt this hemorrhaging of Nigerian funds by killing our Leviathan. If President Buhari is indeed serious about incinerating the monster of corruption, the best departure lounge to commence this unpopular journey is initiate a bill that will expunge SV from the books. If this is done, it would be evident to all that most of those we don robes of “Excellencies” are actually glorified crooks whose understanding of governance is doing a Jack-the-Ripper on our collective resources. Security Vote is their foothold.