BY MICHAEL AMADI
NIGERIA is a mosaic of nationalities. It is one of those nation states in Africa whose boundaries were demarcated not in accordance with African interest, but in terms of the British Colonial masters’ interest. It is constitutionally a secular nation consequently saddled with leaders who at best can be described as Oxymorons. They run with the hares and chase with the hounds. It is a country where citizens claim to have the magic wand to alchemise base metals into gold.
They behave like anthropoids whose stock-in-trade is to cheat, swindle, loot and rip-off the fat of the land.
Ex-American ambassador to Nigeria, Walter Carrington, at the swearing in ceremony of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999, said “Nigeria should be the richest country by far in Africa and now is ranked as the poorest and the reason for that is bad management and stealing of funds. The corruption that is going on in the country is too high for comfort”. Frank Buchman was right when he said that suppose everybody cared enough, everybody shared enough. There is enough in the world for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed.
Over the years, several pundits, scholars, analysts, development workers, activists, politicians, international organisation, public affairs commentators and the general public have given attention to corruption and its attendant effects on the society. The problem is not new to mankind even though it has reached unprecedented proportions in recent years. It is said to be as old as the society itself and cuts across nations, cultures, races and classes of people.
It has been argued that one of the major obstacles to the development of poor countries is corruption. Corruption is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges, a challenge that is not only leading to impoverishment and loss of lives, but also threatening the stability of the country. In an opinion poll conducted by the Guardian Newspaper in the year 2000, Nigerians picked corruption, unemployment and bad leadership as the worst problem hindering the country’s development. 761 respondents or 70 per cent of the respondents out of the total sample of 1,080 people picked corruption as one of the worst problems hindering the nation’s advancement.
Corruption has a lot of negative consequences on every sphere of societal development, whether social, economic or political. Over the years, past governments have made effort to fight corruption but it has remained widespread. The challenge of corruption was therefore a major challenge during the 2015 elections in Nigeria.
The president and commander in chief of the armed forces, Muhammadu Buhari, made the fight against corruption one of his cardinal problems along with security challenges and the economy. As the administration finalises its plans and strategies including fighting corruption with the confirmation of ministers by the senate, it is necessary to reflect on failure of previous efforts at the fight against corruption with a view to properly focusing the war on corruption by the Buhari administration. Reviewing corruption briefly in Nigeria, it is well known that corruption is an obstacle to the provision of services and it has been documented that many public organisations in Nigeria cannot deliver service expected of the Service Compact (SERVICOM) as a result of several reasons including lack of capacity, poor orientation and attitude, poor incentives, weak monitoring and evaluation system and corruption.
It has also been recorded that corruption is widespread, deep and endemic in Nigeria. Nigeria has been constantly rated among the most corrupt countries in the world by Transparency International in its corruption perception index. In 2011, Nigeria was ranked 143rd out of 183 countries. In 2012, Nigeria was ranked 139th out of 176 countries and in 2013, Nigeria was placed at the 144th position out of 177 countries. In the last report, Nigeria was rated 136th out of 174 countries.
An analysis of the anti-graft and anti-corruption laws in Nigeria shows that corruption will continue in spite of the laws because the perpetrators do not fear any consequences.
It is now dawning on the Nigerian public that the so-called private enterprise and legislators are free from scrutiny, and governors claim to be immune. Corruption is found in the award of contract, promotion of staff, employment, dispensation of justice, and misuse of public offices, positions and priviledges, embezzlement of public funds, public books, publications, documents, intellectual property, valuable, security and accounts. Corruption can be systematic in nature and affect the whole life of an organisation or society.
John Locke outlined the doctrine of separation of powers indicating the danger of oppressive and arbitrary rule when all functions of government are exercised by a single person or institution. The growing corruption in Nigeria can be traced to people holding power at the federal, state, local and even in offices. Corruption does not just involve people in government, but also people in both private and public positions and even traditional rulers.
Ruzindana (1999) asserts that corruption in Africa is a problem of routine deviation from established standards and norms by public officials and parties with whom they interact. He also identified the types of corruption as bribery, private gain and other benefit to non-existent workers. The dishonest and illegal behavior by people in authority for their personal gain is corruption.
According to Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) Act section 2, corruption includes vices like bribery, fraud and other related offences. Corruption is the abuse or misuse of power or position of trust for personal or group benefit. It is a form of organised crime.
Within the educational sector in Nigeria, especially from secondary school to University levels, corruption is very pervasive, and most of which is not in the public eye. Corruption in education includes corrupt practices by parents of students, corrupt practices by lecturers, corrupt practices by the police among others.
How do one appraise the performance of the police and judiciary in attenuating the incidence of corrupt practices in Nigeria? The answer is like the definition of iatrogenic disease – a situation you handover a blood bank to Dracula to supervise. The treatment is therefore worse than the disease. Corruption is endemic with people in high position lining their pockets and spiriting away national wealth to Swiss Banks.
With unchecked, unbridled, and uncontrolled power, humans become corrupt. According to Thomas Hobbes, ‘life becomes solitary, nasty, brutish and short’. The colonial background has altered values and perception of morality. With the doleful, Cassandra – like stories of unemployment climate in Nigeria, how would one survive when he had neither silver nor gold to declare.
John Okon (not real name), a graduate of one of the universities in Nigeria, went out in search of work after five fruitless years, and was told to pay a whooping sum of two hundred and fifty thousand naira before he could be given a job. He looked up and in a thought of his own asked, “If I had N250,000 would I be looking for job?”
Corruption in Nigeria is systematic and to address the problem, a systematic approach is needed. To curb and eventually eradicate corruption, children, youth and adults must be given the power to distinguish right from wrong. All schools should return to the teaching of moral education to empower the children with the spirit of stewardship, while adults live exemplary lives, reflecting truth, kindness, dignity of labour and integrity.