Haranguing the limitations to the war against corruption
“History shows that, at earlier stages of economic development, corruption is difficult to control. The fact that today no country that is very poor is very clean suggests that a country has to rise above absolute poverty before it can significantly reduce venality in the system” – Ha-joon Chang
FIFTY-five years after the historic lowering of the Union Jack (the British symbol of colonial occupation of Nigeria) and the subsequent hoisting of the Nigerian flag to mark the independence of the country from colonial rule, the vicissitude of Nigeria has gone from bad to worse. The dire conditions we have inflicted on ourselves seem to justify the Whiteman’s rationale for colonialism – the supposed inability to “correctly” govern ourselves. Independent Nigeria has indeed become a byword for misgovernance. Indisputably, Nigeria is in no short supply of political Lilliputians, masquerading as democrats, and who as a matter of fact, are perpetually contemptuous of same country and people they are supposed to “serve” – the burgeoning plebeian population.
Despite the humongous human and natural resources nature has bestowed on our land, crass mismanagement and profligacy on the part of our leaders have successfully stifled the much needed growth and development of Nigeria. This leadership deficit has become the cross Nigerians have had to bear since attainment of self-rule almost six decades ago. The Nigerian political class, among other things, is visionless, shameless and lacking in the understanding of what “true leadership” entails. Yes, leadership deficit has been the difference between Nigeria and the hitherto third-world nations such as Singapore, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and others, who have zoomed past Nigeria in the race towards self-sufficiency and reliance while Nigerian political leaders, regardless of their political association or ideological leaning, are only united and committed to their primitive pursuit and wanton craze for wealth.
It is clearly an understatement that our dear country is neck-deep in the malaise called corruption. Small wonder, President Muhammadu Buhari, an avid anti-corruption crusader, during his electioneering campaigns, said: “If Nigeria does not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria.” It is also an incontrovertible fact that no sector of our national life is immune to the hydra-headed monster. Nigerians are taken aback by the fact that at 55, our narrative as a country is centered on underdevelopment, retrogression and all what not. As I type this piece, Nigeria’s economy is a horse-drawn cart; wherein virtually everything we consume is imported – that even though Nigeria exports timber, insignificant byproduct like toothpick is brought into the country for use! One begins to wonder the essence of Nigeria’s independence from her colonial masters.
Unlike what is obtainable in civilized climes globally, the Nigerian political class ranks amongst the richest and the most corrupt. This negligible few in the extensive pool of Nigeria’s human resources are predisposed to sybaritic and opulent lifestyle, leaving the citizenry in perpetual indigence. By a way of reaction, Nigerians will stop at nothing to relocate elsewhere in search of the proverbial “golden fleece.” This also accounts for why Nigeria and its citizens are mistreated in the Diaspora. More often than not, Nigerians overseas bear the brunt of the rudderless leadership back home, as their various hosts “disregard” them at the slightest opportunity. At any rate, whatever hardship Nigerians face overseas is a child’s play when compared with what pans out in the country; and this explains why Nigerians prefer to “hustle” in foreign lands than to be caught up in the seismic hardship the country is synonymous with. How can one explain the “enslavement” of helpless Nigerian factory workers in Chinese-owned manufacturing companies crisscrossing the demographics? The inferno that claimed many lives in a Chinese-owned factory in Ikorodu area of Lagos, where it was the practice for native workers to be locked up during production is still fresh in many minds. These shylocks place premium on profiteering than on human dignity and the sanctity of the human life because the government and its sheepish followers allow such anomaly in the first place.
It has now become a hard sell for anyone to attribute the escalation of corruption to the discovery and exploitation of crude oil in Nigeria. This is because other oil-producing nations like Nigeria are doing exceedingly well. A bold example is the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where there seems to be no distinction between public finances and the Sheikh’s private wealth, but which the monarchy, to a large extent, delivers to its people, the dividends of democracy, even though it does not operate one. Small wonder Nigerians, especially our “leaders,” flood Dubai (a desert) in thousands in search of high-octane leisure. It is quite unfortunate that petrodollars, instead of bringing succor to us, have become a source of hardship and pain to the people of Nigeria (many thanks to the “very good” political leaders we have got!). In my opinion, one of the root causes of corruption in Nigeria is the near-total debasement or devaluation of our human resources. In other words, Nigerians do not feel the need to stay loyal to the country because the country, through its leaders, “do not give a damn” (to use the words of former president, Goodluck Jonathan), to the plight of the talakawas.
This insensitivity has turned the backs of Nigerians against their country. Recall the criminal neglect of the people of Bakassi – formerly in Cross River State, by the Federal Government. Nigeria had 10 years to appeal the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling that ceded the oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula to neighbouring Cameroun, but failed to do so for reasons best known to the government, causing the people to lose their ancestral home on account of the negligence and lackadaisical attitude of political overlords. What patriotism do we expect from such quarters after they have been turned to refugees in their own country (sorry, former country)? How do we reunite the body, spirit and soul of the denizens of Bakassi, when it seems their fatherland has forsaken them? Nigeria is definitely sitting on the keg of gunpowder!
You will agree with me that the youths have been the worst casualty of the cankerworm of corruption. This is against the backdrop that the youths are the leaders of both today and the future. Some weeks ago, the media was awash with the “proposed budget” of the Student Union executives of Obafemi Awolowo University. They allegedly allocated millions of naira on frivolous activities such as the staggering sum of up to N1.8 million on recharge cards. In as much as I condemn the excesses of these student “politicians”, it will not be out of place to say that they are victims of the bandwagon effect of corruption and impunity in the country and since self-service has become the order of the day, we should not expect the youths to live above board, when the so-called elders are continuously seen helping themselves with the commonwealth. Albert Schweitzer once said: “Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing.” Alas, the example our leaders always show is premised on how to ‘creatively’ steal from public coffers.
Several shocking statistics have been cited in a bid to establishing the degree to which corruption has maligned the growth and development of Nigeria. The potpourri of corruption cases has not only dealt a great blow to our corporate image, it also shows the extent to which the values upon which the various peoples that make up Nigeria were built, have been corroded. More than anytime else, we have placed premium on material possession than on good, unsoiled name. Of course, this overdrive for acquisition and accumulation of illicit wealth means, among other things, that our roads will remain in a deplorable state, our universities will not be able to rank amongst the top schools around the globe, our “world class” hospitals dotting the cities and townships will never host a VIP – save for visitation sake and unforeseen circumstances, ragtag insurgents will continue to have upper hand against our hitherto intrepid military formations, geometric increase in youth unemployment and restiveness and most importantly, the battering of our corporate image will continue unabated.
As if to aid and abet the fiendish predisposition of the political class, Nigerians, in their multitude, would rather resign to fate, and commit everything to the Creator. Anyway, this lends credence to the most popular quote of German intellectual, Karl Marx: “Religion is the opium of the people.” In Nigeria, however, politicians often take advantage of our seemingly contrived religiousness, by way of using it to create confusion in the polity. I find it particularly disheartening that instead of galvanizing to patriotically demand our rights from the government, Nigerians would rather play the ostrich, while inundating the Creator with requests of those very things we can do for ourselves as a people.
At any rate, we end up suffering and smiling, as Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti would say. Is it that, as a people, we have yet to come to terms with the aphorism that a nation gets the leadership it deserves? No nation can prosper where prayer instead of work is the order of the day. Why can’t we ask ourselves why our nation is still backward despite the deluge of worship centres sprouting across the nation? Unsurprisingly, Nigerians are at best religious but not spiritual or pious. At this junction, I would like to humbly submit that since the Most High is spirit, Nigerians should learn to serve Him both in truth and in spirit as the scripture stipulates, instead of the ‘solicitory’ approach that typically characterizes our relationship with the Supreme Being. As citizens, we need to take ownership, if at all we want to put an end to the quandary we are faced with. It is a matter of necessity that we take ownership of our country both collectively and more at individual level because “everybody’s child is nobody’s child.”
At the heart of Nigeria’s war against corruption will be a judiciary that will not only bark but also bite any erring members of the society regardless of their social status. It is pitiable that the judiciary, which used to be the bastion of the masses, has been polarized by elite class for selfish reasons. Interestingly, the most feared thing after death is extradition! With a rejigged and restructured judicial system, Nigeria will not have to extradite the artful dodgers amongst us before justice can be got. If the actions and inactions of the new Sheriff in town as regards corruption is anything to go by, the populace can be hopeful that the “honeymoon” for the bad eggs, will, in no time, be turned to “mourning-mood” and Nigerians will be better for it.
From the quotation of Ha-joon Chang above, it is clear that poverty plays a critical role in the preponderance of corruption in any society. To tackle the issue of poverty; which has become endemic in our country, Buhari has to come out with a clear-cut roadmap that will revolutionize our already frail education and economic sectors. An improved education sector will engender qualitative policy formulation; which will drive a massive traffic of investors to Nigeria, in this time of gargantuan unemployment and biting poverty. In addition to the aforesaid, we need to revive the National Orientation Agency, charging it to go on a collision course with ethos, values and all what not that are alien to our forebears. If vigorously pursued, this would, in the words of Eddie Iroh, address the common denominator of bad behaviour, characterized by a ready disposition to cheat, lie, defraud one another, and swear on the Bible or the Quran while doing it. If we fail to do these things, we might as well be waiting for godot in the name of change!
Babatunde, a budding entrepreneur writes from Lagos.Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: 07033571259. Twitter: @osuntunde1
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