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Corruption and revolution

By Kole Omotoso   |   16 October 2016   |   3:10 am

travelsTo say that the problem of Corruption has no solution is not a negative conclusion. Neither is it an encouragement to do nothing to weaken the hold of Corruption on the Nigerian polity. Rather, it is to assert, after a tour of the history and geography of corruption, that attempts to stem the easy and continuous flow of corrupt practices usually lead to revolutions. Bloody and violent ends visit those who cling to power in spite of their corrupt ways being pointed out to them. It is the massive rejection of the behaviour of the DSS in matter of the judges, especially by the leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association, which have led to this conclusion that the problem of corruption any where has no solution except the dissolution of the affected polity through violent revolution. The NBA would want due process to be followed in dealing with high profile corruption cases. But it is the failure of due process that has led to the situation in which Corruption is in control of Nigeria no matter which party is in power.

When Dafida Trouble arrived to take up residence in his ancestral home of Nigeria, he took the survival of Nigeria to the Ifa Priest. He later took the same puzzle ‘Will Nigeria Survive?’ to the church and to the mosque. The church said pray and keep on praying world without end. The mosque said Allahu qadara wa insanu dabara! Human beings dabble and Allah creates. The Imams insisted that only Allah can decide the fate of Nigeria. Which stalemate led Trouble to seek the help of the Babalawo. And after consultation this is what Ifa said:

“Onikeke has twenty tribal marks; Onigbaja has thirty while Onikolo has fifty. This statement constitutes the core of the consultation for Trouble. He must sacrifice to avert death. He must sacrifice himself to avert death. Did he do so? He turned deaf ears to Ifa. He turned hearing to doing nothing. He mocked his Babalawo. He asked why the Babalawo always asked for easy sacrifice. If I sacrifice my self I die. And I want Nigeria to survive and I want to be there when it survives. How can I sacrifice myself then? Silence of the Babalawo drove Trouble to begin his travels in search of answers. Onikeke has twenty tribal marks. Onigbaja has thirty while Onikolo has fifty.”

Over the centuries advisers to rulers, be they kings, emperors or dictators, advisers have always advised rulers against corruption. Machiavelli, John of Salisbury, Jonas d’Orleans and Nizam al-Mulk as well as the historian al-Ghazali have left their thoughts on the dangers of corruption to the body politic. But in none of these political tracks of advice do these writers tell the ruler what to do. As the writer of a new book Sarah Chavez says early in her book “Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security”
‘Other than threats of divine punishment in the afterlife, these manuals fail to suggest any systematic means of redress against corrupt governance.’ (page 16)

Corruption is a moral evil and a threat to the security of the realm. To get rid of corruption, the political environment must change. ‘Injustice unremedied, with no channels for redress, sow the frustration and desperation that may erupt in violence.’ John of Salisbury wrote ‘Policraticus’ in the 12th century, al-Ghazali wrote ‘Book of Counsel for Kings’ in the 11th century, Niccolo Machiavelli wrote ‘The Prince’ in the 16th century, ‘Mirrors for Princes’ was a common title written before the tenth century, ‘Education for a Christian Prince’ by Erasmus in the 16th century and Anonymous wrote ‘The Sea of Precious Virtues’ . Not one of these tell what to do about corruption until it burst into bloody revolution. In England Charles I was beheaded. In France the ruling house as well as even the early revolutionaries were wiped out. Out of those European experience the founding fathers of the United States of America fashioned a polity that guarded stringently against the corrupt use of political power.

John of Salisbury asks in his ‘Policraticus’ “Who is more intuitions than he (who) destroys law by law and is beyond the law, even while he burdens others with the law?” This is a question the members of the NBA should be asking themselves. We have seen the situation in Nigeria, in Kenya and in South Africa where senior lawyers have worked assiduously to ensure that there clients accused of corruption never get their day in court! By using the law to outlaw the law these senior lawyers create impunity among the high and mighty corrupt people.
With the generalised collapse of public ethics we get an over emphasis on personal morality as a cure for society’s ills. Hence the wrong-headed policy of change starts with me.

You purify yourself,
Then everybody will purify him/herself,
And then society will improve
And God will be happy with you.
Naturally, you change your way of behaving, of dressing,
And if everybody changes their own way of dressing and behaving
There will be a change in the nation.

This as we have learnt does not happen. There is no change in the nation. Read the first speeches of Nigerian coup makers. Why is it that there is no change? Using corruption imagery to counter corruption reality leaves corruption in tact. If the political environment does not change, corruption continues its reign. And “the Ida that you could change the nation by changing individuals changing the polity by changing individual morality failed.” (page 131 “Thieves of State”). The reason is that what should be a political war against corruption has become a spiritual warfare against imagined foes at home and in the neighbourhood. Violent language is used in imprecatory prayers. And the raw power of violence is cast in north vs south, Muslim vs Christian warfare.

Nobody remembers the variety of the tribal marks of all. Nobody remembers that corruption is the child of political power and that it can only be fought through changes in the political environment. Somebody needs a o remember these things.

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