December 23rd, 2010
It is a common knowledge that corruption is the bane of
Nigeria; Transparency International (TI), the global
corruption watchdog, has severally shown that Nigeria is one
of the most corrupt countries in the world. But what seems
to elude us is how to reduce corruption, and its
debilitating impact on our economy to the barest minimum.
The high level of corruption is not a recent trend that
permeates the Nigerian society; it has been with us for a
very long time. However, the monster actually showed its
ugly head with the advent of the oil boom in the 70’s. The
easy oil wealth led to the award of contracts in an effort
to build infrastructures. That was okay, except that those
contracts were awarded without regard for due process, and
they were not properly monitored.
The pumping of so much money by the government into the
system with little or no supervision encouraged corruption.
This trend, fuelled by greed, continues to this day. Once
upon a time, former president Obasanjo attempted to put an
end to it by introducing ‘due process’ in the award of
contracts, but somehow it persisted.
It is a sad irony that oil wealth which should be a blessing
to Nigeria, as its sixth largest producer in the word, has
become a curse to the nation. And, except for the recent
‘amnesty’ effort of the government, it is threatening to
tear us apart. It has made the government lazy; the
government seems comfortable to remain a mono-economy
instead of diversifying which is the best thing for us to
do. This is
oil is exhaustible, and a non-renewable resource that is
easily affected by market forces. It is not just the
government that has become lazy; oil wealth has also made
many Nigerians lazy; many of them now want to be rich by
partaking in the ‘national cake’ without contributing
anything in return.
Corruption in Nigeria is manifested in the form of
bribery, graft, fraud and nepotism among others. But
perhaps the most destructive form of corruption is the one
perpetrated during elections, in which some people bribe
their way into offices; because unless we can organise free
and fair elections in this country, the wrong kind of people
will continue to rule us. We need to be more politically
active. Every Nigerian should contribute in one way or the
other to her political development. The fire of corruption
in Nigeria is, in no small measure, fuelled by self-serving
leaders who will rather put aside the yearnings of the
masses for parochial gains.
Tackling corruption has always been at the forefront of the
mission statement of successive administrations in Nigeria,
yet, corruption is still very high. Therefore, many have
insinuated that the government is only paying lip service to
the matter. And it is difficult to dismiss such talk since
many probes, on frauds, looting and other corrupt acts have
not yielded anything reasonable. And most of those accused
now flaunt their ill-gotten wealth without any remorse.
The judiciary should also share in the blame, as many of the
cases involving political leaders who siphoned billions of
naira were unnecessarily adjourned because of one spurious
legal interpretation or the other until the case dies.
The Obasanjo administration is one of those who promised to
rid Nigeria of corruption. Hence, he set up the Independent
Corrupt Practices and other Related Offenses Commission
(ICPC) and later the more aggressive Economic and Financial
Crimes Commission (EFCC) to deal with financial crimes,
fraud and 419.
Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, the young police officer appointed to
head the commission took the fight against corruption to a
new level. A serving minister, a senate president, and a
former police IG among others were some of the casualties.
In fact, some states governors become nervous at the mention
of his name. He was loyal and did the biddings of his
master. But some insist that Obasanjo and his friends were
exempted from the scrutiny of EFCC. And since those who come
to equity must do so with clean hands, Ribadu’s efforts were
rubbished for being selective. Nevertheless, the EFCC under
Ribadu received many positive nods from the international
community for cleaning up the polity. Therefore, his removal
brought us back in the headlines for the wrong reasons.
According to the World
Bank, Nigeria has lost a whopping sum of 300 billion dollars
over the last few decades due to corruption. One cannot help
but wonder how that money could have improved the wellbeing
of Nigerians. The money could have being used to build
better roads, to improve our health sector, to fund
education, for pipe borne water, to improve the supply of
electricity, to improve food production and so on. Surely,
the money could have saved many lives.
It is therefore a welcomed development that Acting President
Goodluck Jonathan has shown renewed commitment towards
nipping the menace in the bud. In a letter dated April 8,
2010 he urged the National Assembly to ensure the speedy
passage of the anti-corruption bill.
The letter said it is necessary to pass the bill “given this
administration’s commitment to combat corruption . . .”
Considering the pain that corruption has caused Nigeria, one
should expect that anything that has to do with curbing it
should be the priority of our representatives; and that they
shouldn’t wait until they were prodded.
So far, corruption has indeed eaten deep into the fabric of
our nation. With the recent exposure of some banks’ chief
executive officers involved in sharp practices, we now know
that corruption has its roots in both our public and private
sectors. Indeed, corruption can also be found in both the
high and lowly places. It is hydra-headed and must be fought
from every angle. What we really needed is character
re-evaluation; and a return to our old value system.
Be that as it may, any Nigerian leader who is not corrupt is
already ahead of very many others. It was Obasanjo who once
said that “fighting corruption is like fighting a war in a
battlefield”. Therefore, even if Jonathan and his cabinet do
not have the time for a full-scale war with corruption,
posterity would place them side by side with our nation’s
greats if they can resist the temptation of soiling their
hands with the oil of corruption.