One of the first movies father bought after getting us a VHS home-video player was The Godfather (right after Sound of Music, of course). I must have been about 9 years old at the time and I guess the old man didn’t give a hoot about movie ratings. Interesting as the movie was, it wasn’t till I read dad’s copy of the book by Mario Puzo 3 years later that I REALLY began to appreciate the Italian mafia sub-culture… an important part of which was the code of ‘omerta’.
Omerta is the Sicilian/Italian mafia code of silence…it is a code of honor that restricts members of a mafia family from revealing information on the activities of their organisations to the authorities.
This code is strict and harshly enforced, and those who break it are called ‘rats’ (the urban gangsta equivalent of ‘snitch’). To illustrate the import of this… if a mafia family member steals money from the bosses, his punishment is usually swift. He either gets a bullet in the head, or takes a swim with the fishes wearing concrete boots.
If he breaks the ‘omerta’ code of silence by ‘ratting out’ on his bosses, his death is slower and will also involve the murder of his immediate family (if he has any). His painful death is usually saved for last, so he can be forced to watch the brutal rape and slaughter of his wife and daughters/sons. Rats who managed to escape death usually spend the rest of their lives looking over their shoulders in witness protection programmes..
Just two days ago, the former chairman of the House of Representative’s committee on appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin, was suspended for 180 sitting days and also barred from positions of authority in the House till the end of the 8th Assembly.
Jibrin was suspended following his refusal to appear before the House of Representative’s committee on ethics and privileges to address the allegations of budget padding he levelled against the speaker and 13 other lawmakers. (Do bear in mind that Jibrin’s refusal to attend the Committee on Ethics hearing was because his request to have members of the media present during the questioning was denied.)
That all this harsh punishment comes before the issue of the budget padding has even been properly addressed might seem unjustified to normal everyday Nigerians like you and me, but to members of that ‘mafia family’ of honorables who know the score, it is actually a soft-landing.
Jibrin had committed the capital crime of breaking the ‘code of silence’. How are honest, hard-working, thieving politicians meant to make a decent living if members of the inner circle keep ratting out their activities??
Say what you will about our ‘honorable’ representatives… if nothing else, they believe in the idea of “honor amongst thieves”.
Obi Eze is a builder and social critic. Connect with him on Facebook.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.