Corruption as Nigeria’s death agent
Specifically, the Country Director of ActionAid, Mrs. Ene Obi was quoted as saying that ‘‘corruption kills more Nigerians than malaria and the HIV/AIDS diseases.’’ While she was not reported to have given statistics to back her claim, the dramatic assertion nevertheless aptly captures the gravity of the effects of corruption in this country and indeed any society.
Every person who had aspired to lead Nigeria had been harping on the narrative of ‘the trouble with Nigeria’ by offering corruption as either the first or the second in order of severity. Even military usurpers of constitutional governments have used corruption index to justify their acts of treason.
Corruption is merely a convenient overarching term to capture any and every manifestation – in thought, words, or deeds – of impurity, perversion, degradation, and violation. The metaphor here is that corruption is a diseased state of the mind that is by far more difficult to diagnose and treat than bodily diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS. We should not succumb to that hypothesis so easily as a nation. We must quickly state that corruption is treatable, arguably more easily than malaria because it is a choice of the corrupt person to be so or not, to adhere to the ethos of self-control and discipline in the face of the perennial temptations that also come in uncountable forms including, of course, money, power, and sex.
That corruption kills is a trite assertion but one that needs to be articulated in the broadest terms. There are many ways to die –or to express it more appropriate to Nigeria, many ways to kill people. Corruption is the perfect instrumentality to achieve this. The theft of public funds earmarked for the development of critical sectors such as health, education and infrastructural projects inevitably denies the nation and its people such avenues to make progress on all fronts. On the other hand, the scourge funds and feeds the insatiable greed and undeserved, obscene lifestyles of thieving public officials and their collaborators outside government.
A people denied good health are being killed physically; a people denied good education are being killed mentally, and people denied adequate, regular power supply, good transportation system, and other infrastructural necessities that facilitate productive and gainful life are being killed economically and emotionally. And needless to say, if the human asset is the most important asset of a nation, it goes without saying that the nation that suffers corruption in these forms, besides other manifestations, is being impoverished to death by its parasitic exploiters. It is no wonder that Nigerians have sunk into such level that the country has earned the tag of ‘poverty capital’ of the world. Furthermore, people denied the opportunity to earn a decent living through fair and honest work suffer, ipso facto, a moral violation of their rights and they would be forced to seek alternative, opaque means to survive.
One example is that, to make ends meet, poorly paid employees do other things with the time and other resources of the employer. Other forms of corruption killing Nigeria include nepotism, cronyism and general un-trustworthiness of managers of the nation’s affairs at all levels and in all sectors. Nothing can kill a society more than a lack of trust between the leaders and the led. We should add too, that parochialism and arrogance of power are indications of corrupt personal values. And, a nation under a leadership infected with these diseases of the mind suffers slow and sure death.
Since 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari has made corruption one of three-point agenda his government has determined to settle because, according to him, ‘‘if Nigeria does not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria.’’ Quite an apt mission statement and covenant with the people.
Coming into office with a great deal of goodwill anchored, essentially on his popularly perceived personal integrity, as well as the performance of his short-lived military regime (1983-1985), Nigerians had hoped that this multifaceted monster called corruption had met its match in the person of Buhari. Admittedly, the president assumed the leadership of a massively and systemically corrupt nation. No fair-minded citizens expected him to magically turn things around overnight. But an electorate thoroughly sickened by the magnitude of corruption during 16 years of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) governments expected to see the clear and principled change that Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) party promised and was elected to prove.
The APC on which platform Buhari was elected recognised, rightly, that procurement of goods and services remains a major means through which public officials perpetrate acts of corruption even in blatant disregard for the detailed provisions of the extant law on public procurement. The party manifesto promised in writing to the people of Nigeria to ‘‘Require full disclosure in all media outlets of all government contracts over N100 million prior to award and during implementation at regular intervals.’’
The party also promised ‘‘Reform and strengthening of the justice system for efficient administration and dispensation of justice along with the creation of special courts for accelerated hearing of corruption, drug trafficking, terrorism and similar cases of national importance.’’ The APC even promised to ‘‘Amend the Constitution to remove immunity from prosecution for elected officers in criminal cases.’’ Above all else, the party promised ‘change’ from the bad ways of governance to a better, more transparent and more efficient way. The electorate believed it and voted it into power.
What is more, Buhari promised in his 2015 inaugural speech to ‘‘tackle head-on’’ the corruption and the other ‘‘enormous challenges’’ that his new government inherited from the Jonathan administration. He promised to ‘‘improve the standards of our education,’’ to ‘identify the quickest, safest, and most cost-effective way to bring light and relief to Nigerians.’’
A nation progresses or regresses on the quality and values of its leadership. Credibility, trustworthiness are aspects of the integrity most necessary for a leadership worthy to be so-called. The reputation of Nigeria in the eyes of the outside world remains unenviable, first and above all else, because its leaders have repeatedly proved less than trustworthy.
It can be argued that integrity-deficit is the worst form of corruption because it grants a man to do what he wills (as long as it serves his selfish, narrow purpose) instead of what he ought such as he is on oath obligated to do.
Mrs. Obi’s somewhat metaphoric statement that corruption is a worse killer of Nigerians than diseases of the body is not at all out of place. But, as proposed above, it can only be cured by the firm commitment of every citizen at every level of society, to do what he ought to do for his country and not what he wills. If corruption is not to kill Nigeria therefore, Nigerians must kill corruption now.
In the main, it should be noted too that corruption has been noted as a major reason insecurity too has become another bad ulcer that thrives on the medications applied to it. So, the earlier the authorities take the war on corruption beyond media trials that the nation has perceived, the better for us.
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