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Redefining corruption

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The Editor of the Guardian, Mr. Abraham Ogbodo

From the narrative last week, I guess there is a common understanding that corruption is not only when a public officer steals big money from the national treasury.

Corruption actually happens before the open stealing that is rather visible and attracts loud condemnation. I gave good instances of corruption last week. I shall continue today in the same trajectory.

To pretend that Nigeria is one and it does not matter how government is constituted even if all the key players are from one location is corruption of the highest order.

The national sentiments are well established and it does not serve any national interest when a leader remains insensitive to these sentiments and go ahead for instance to appoint desert dwellers to manage the marine resources of coastal dwellers.

The point that Nigeria is not one is further underscored by the operation of Sharia in some states in a country that purports a secular status.

That is corruption and a bigger one at that to drain taxes arising from the production and consumption of alcohol into a common resource pool called VAT and redistribute same across board on the basis of population, land mass and such other nebulous indices to benefit areas where the regime of Sharia forbids the sale and consumption of alcohol.

To forbid alcohol and eat from its gains is like reaping bountifully from where a seed was not sown.

Even more corrupt are people who use the name of God to fester evil. It is corruption for a full bearded Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who had also been governor of a state to entice a female juvenile and imprison her as a wife.

The corruption is further complicated when the Senator returns to foist the argument that his religion allows the marriage of children by grandfathers. He is simply re-writing the rules of nature and society to service his expansive libido and there can never be a more corrupt thinking.

In this country, people, for purposes of winning election, had appropriated Boko Haram and rechristened the terror machine a peasant revolutionary movement specifically created to save Nigeria from bad leadership.

These same people turned full circle after their purpose had been met to renounce Boko Haram and say it is evil that must be defeated. What shall we call this? It is corruption.

Flowing from that, it is corruption too to tie down the entire Boko Haram phenomenon to mindless terrorism without a thorough examination of the issue of bad governance in most of the North, which created the social conditions for Boko Haram to come on board.

Nigeria celebrated 55 years of independence penultimate Thursday. It should be pointedly noted that it is corruption for a nation to be 55 years old and will not know the exact number of its citizens because it pays some people to have it so.

And when one innocent man called Festus Odimegwu raised the alarm that given the objective statistics, Kano State could not have more people than Lagos State, some people called for his head and they were given on a platter of gold.

This corruption driven by a leadership mindset that has constitutionally limited the same Lagos with its overflowing population to only 20 council areas and allowed old Kano State (now Kano and Jigawa States) to split astronomically into 72 local government areas (45 for the new Kano State and 27 for Jigawa State.

And please candidly answer these. Is it not corruption to build the supporting bureaucracy of the oil and gas industry hundreds of kilometers away from the actual sites of seismic operations in the Niger Delta?

And how do you describe an official policy that allows the construction of bridges over dry valleys and tableland in Abuja and elsewhere and leaves areas crisscrossed with rivers and creeks and where all the money of the country is made with neither roads nor bridges? I shall answer; it is corruption.

Last week, the PDP gleefully announced that it has zoned its ticket for the 2019 presidential election to the North, which currently holds the presidency.

In 55 years, the North has had the power for 36 years for which it has nothing to show its people and Nigerians as a whole and here was the PDP a so-called national party openly mortgaging its future to the same region because doing so sits well with the calculations to recover the presidency from the APC in the next electoral outing.

Whereas there is so much effort to cultivate the North as if anything otherwise will spell doom for the country, nobody mentions the Southeast which has not tasted substantive power outside the seven months of General Aguyi Ironsi since 1960. It is corruption to continue to operate as if the entire landmass east of the Niger is an unwanted attachment and not a substantive part of Nigeria.

There is something called Petroleum Equalization Fund (PEF) in the management of the political economy.

It seeks to subsidize the logistics of local fuel distribution such that a unit of the stuff sells at a uniform price in the South where it is more readily available either by production or importation and in the North that is far from the source.

By this arrangement, fuel is made to attract additional subsidy outside what is official to make it available and afforable to some people.

More or less, government is saying fuel is vital to all and the economics of proximity to the source of the product should not apply to make some people enjoy low price and others to suffer high price.

Fine argument. I only want to add that food is also very vital and there should be some equalization fund to make the prices of food items uniform nationwide.

I can’t see why there should not be a Malu Equalization Fund (MEF) for instance to make cow sell at uniform price in Maiduguri and Yenagoa.

If malu does not sell in Yenagoa the same price it is sold in Maiduguri, why should fuel sell in Maiduguri the same price it is sold in Yenagoa? If for any reason PEF is desirable, MEF too is desirable. It is corruption to have PEF and not have MEF.

It is good at this point to state clearly the connection between corruption and injustice and do listen well! Stealing is almost becoming a norm because people see it as one small way of mitigating the injustices they have suffered.

The public thieves only need a re-orientation to make them act differently after a good scoop from the public till. If they act as Robin Hood who stole to help the poor, they would be honoured with Nobel Prize for Peace.

If they continue in this restrictive manner of stealing to build personal fortune, they shall be called thieves and prosecuted by security agents at home and abroad, as it is the case currently.

As I speak, there are no roads, public water and functional healthcare system in my community. The only secondary school is disintegrating even after the immediate past governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan had promised to do something.

Altogether, nothing about the community connects it with the Delta State government not to talk of the Federal Government.

And so, if per adventure I become the next petroleum minister instead President Muhammadu Buhari whose community does not produce oil, I will not steal billions in dollars and stash away in the vaults of some banks abroad.

Instead, I will use my position to redress some of the injustices of the past.

Specifically, I shall re-channel part of the oil huge money to which my community is a major contributor, and for which nothing has been given back to it, to build basic infrastructure to ensure the survival of my people.

This is not corruption. It is enthroning justice. Corruption happens when justice is dethroned and it shall continue to happen for as long as justice remains dethroned.

A leadership that seeks peace outside justice has its mind set on graveyard peace, which is another name for silent tension.

I shall conclude by saying the universe is on the part of justice and whoever fails or refuses to align with justice because of immediate gains offsets the universal order in the long run.

Such breaches come with dire consequences, which may include corruption, Boko Haram insurgency and other forms of agitation for self-determination.

REPEATED


In this article:
Abraham Ogbodocorruption
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