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Tackling corruption head-on

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Corruption is like cancer. Cancer is any malignant tumour which arises from the abnormal and uncontrolled division of cells that invade and destroy the surrounding tissues. In the like manner, corruption pervades all strata of the society. It is an illegal exchange; the individuals who are involved lack moral integrity. It is a social malady that breeds inefficiency. In turn, inefficiency breeds underdevelopment, poverty and further corruption. Bribery is used to influence businesses, civil servants and politicians. These classes of men can as well use bribery to influence others to attain their objectives. Bribes may be in the form of cash and kind. Some years back, a gift of wrist watch to a public officer, was considered to be a bribe. Bribe can be in the form of sex to obtain one’s desire. Any official action or inaction can be influenced by corruption. Officials can be bribed to perform any illegality or to do legality promptly, instead of waiting for a period of time. Therefore, to a large extent, an illegality may be legalised through bribe, or vice versa. In tackling corruption head-on, the government at all levels, must create the environment for it. First and foremost, there must be welfare policies in the state. It is a system in which the government undertakes the main responsibility for providing for the social and economic security of population by means of sustainable pensions, social security benefits, free health care, education, housing and so forth. Corruption can be reduced if welfarism policy is introduced for the masses. Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s action group did this, but he was checkmated by military intervention of 1966. Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande of Lagos State copied the template as the governor, but the soldiers stopped him. It was unfortunate. What we have today are propaganda stunts from politicians.

As indicated above, corruption is not peculiar to a particular stratum in a society. Few weeks ago, I had a chance meeting with an elderly lady. She confessed to me that her interest in religious house had hugely waned, because of the corrupt practices of the head. She asked me rhetorically: “Why should the head of a religious house steal the money that is contributed by the members? What example is he setting?” She revealed to me in all sincerity that she had distanced herself from that organisation. Only the Heavens know how many members like that elderly lady might have deserted the religions body, for lack of rectitude that is expected from somebody who had taken holy orders.

In the education sector, students are perverse. Examinations malpractices are the order of the day. In spite of laws passed against the practices, I am yet to know anybody who is jailed for the breach which has the evil of causing professional incompetence. Thus, the workers become tellingly incompetent in their business organisations. In effect, the nation’s economy is ruined and poverty sets in. Politics is not exempted. It is vulnerable at the time of elections to win votes for power. Who says that when the politicians attain power, the negative impacts of corruptions shall not manifest? There shall be the manifestation of the trend, quite unabated. Whatever anyone may say about President Buhari-led administration, all things considered, in terms of corruption, he has fared excellently. Many citizens of this nation, including this writer, are yet to identify any ex-president who has done as much as him. In the future, he may be surpassed in the war against corruption, but as at today, he remains consistent and constant as the Pole Star.

Be that as it may, his trend of constancy and consistency, corruption as a social malady cannot be entirely extirpated from our society; it can only be minimized. There is nowhere in the world that corruption is completely wiped off. How can it be reduced? Truth to tell, it is simple and possible to bring down the tempo. Every family is the smallest nucleolus of the society. A home consists of a family. As the saying goes, “Charity begins at home.” it is to the best advantage of the reading-public, if a writer alludes to personal experience to buttress his arguments. In my teaching days, I used to discourage members of house-hold from giving tips to my wards for services rendered. The house-holders erroneously believed that such tips were expressions of gratitude. To me, the tips were the genesis of corruption in the society. Usually, I would argue: “any occasion that the tip is denied to the young boy, he feels disappointed, and nurses grievances against his future delivery”. The neighbour might retort:” but, ingratitude is a sin”, to which I would counter: “ Gratitude could be shown in some other respects at different occasion”. Hope is not lost. Recently, Nigeria was placed on the world map. In far away Qatar , a Nigeria-born Micheal Jonathan Asemota reportedly returned QR 1,502,000 that was wrongfully posted into his bank account. The value in US currency was $441,127.99 which amounted to N150 million in Nigeria.

The young man’s honesty is a positive reflection on Nigeria and Nigerians that are not all dastardly villains and scoundrels, Micheal Asemota’s behaviour is a pride to his parents and himself in particular. There are many examples of Micheal Asemota in Nigeria.

To further effectively tackle corruption, teachers in primary and secondary schools must endeavor to beam search light by emphasising on moral instructions. It is not only on oral teachings of scriptures from their Holy Writs. It is imperative that our ministries of education at the states and federal levels that practical morals are linked with teachings. The present generation of education officers are doing nothing to instill morality in the students. Rev Sope Johnson’s column in the Sunday Times in those days is worthy of reference: Practical Christianity”. Practical Islam” is also desirable in the war against corruption. Inside our religious houses, sermons must focus on the immorality of corruption, whilst the officiating ministers set good examples for their members. Their usual practices of vile competitive propaganda against the opposite monotheist must be jettisoned. Both religious faiths are monotheists. There must not be question of deferring punishment till the day of judgment (Al-Qiyawmo) or resurrection. Punishment for offence must be immediate and not deferred to offer leeway to the culprits. Who has ever been present Al-Qiyawmo to narrate what prevails there? Those states Governors who fail to pay their workers, having received their payments, may have to wait till resurrection day before being punished for sin. Does this not encourage unabated corruption?

Therefore, it is imperative that their sermons must be productive in quality. Sermons must be on healthy rivalry. In my days as students, civics duties and responsibilities were taught us to be useful citizens. In the like manner, youth organizations, such as Boys Scouts, Girls Guides and Boys and Girls Brigades were established in education institutions. Today, these have vanished, and replaced with brigades of rascals. That explains why Nigeria has corrupt and greedy politicians as our leaders. Corruption grows with them from infancy to the level of national politics, and it is backed by Section 308 of 1999 constitution, restricting the state governors on legal proceedings. It must be expunged from the constitution. Surely, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The nation is not too late to mend its ways. President Muhammadu Buhari is showing the light for future leaders to find their ways in the efforts to tackle corruption head-on; wherever he may stop, others must continue. But, let the war against corruption begin at homes. It is simple, if there is the determination. So let it be.

Oshisada, a veteran journalist, wrote from Ikorodu, Lagos.


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