Corruption In Nigeria: The Sequence And Today's Consequences
For some time now, corruption and its effects have taken the front stage in our national polity and each time I hear it being discussed among all the strata of our people, I usually shrug my shoulder at most of the faces discussing it, as I always asking myself - is this man also talking about corruption in our society?
Former president Olusegun Obasanjo once said that when he sees those offering interviews on corruption in Nigeria he gets bemused, and correctly so. As a onetime president of Nigeria, and an elder statesman, the security information of everyone in this country was, and is still at his beck and call. He knew and still knows those who can speak or be kept quiet on this deadly subject matter. Corruption as an issue is so deadly that it has become a religion, yet it is still being much trivialised! Even in Churches, some of the preacher men are deadly corrupt. Or why is it that we have so many churches now, yet we have more thieves, prostitutes and moral decay?
Today, the subject seems to have taken a new dimension. This is based on the false assumption that it is either a creation of President Goodluck Jonathan's administration, or that his government is promoting it, or, is the most corrupt. For me, this is very laughable.
Corruption did not just fall from Satan's conclave in the year 2011 when GEJ was inaugurated as president of Nigeria. Nobody will ever be so deceived; corruption has been with us for so long that I dare say, that most ladies and gentlemen from the age of forty down wards do not know or may not understand that this country was once very clean.
Time was, when if a child desires to get married, the father would refuse his blessing based on the fact that the boy/girl is from a family where a member was known to have stolen Yam in the Barn so many years before. Listen, it is the child's family member not the child's father, mother or even the boy/girl themselves who would have stolen!
Today, just mention of any activity seen as government responsibility that is not done well and someone would shout CORRUPTION! Yes the government is very corrupt! But who is the government? You and me! We are practicing Democracy - and in our Civics study in the primary school, i.e study of citizenship, Democracy is the defined as "Government of the PEOPLE for the PEOPLE and with the PEOPLE". So it is the people that are corrupt NOT the government or Nigeria! It is we, who make up the PEOPLE of NIGERIA and are involved - any which way, in the GOVERNMENT of Nigeria. You are either part of those involved in governing or one of those being governed. So if the government is failing, it is the people that are failing. Then the argument is "but I am not among them" who told you? What did you think, say or do when you saw someone doing something wrong?
When last did we hear of anybody being prosecuted in Nigeria for stealing high tension electric cable? Or stealing government fund, the law outlining it not withstanding? Yet we see them and turn our faces elsewhere because it is government property - your property, our property! It takes the people to be corrupt, it takes an idea to germinate before it blossom. So it takes agreeing parties to execute any act of corruption.
Let us take very vivid cases to buttress this point. Some time ago, a minister for Sports in Nigeria approved the purchase of a gigantic Electric Generating plant as a program was to take place at the National Stadium Suru-lere, Lagos. Prior to this time, a game was going on at the stadium but suddenly the light went off for some minutes! (Maybe someone switched it off to ensure that a quick decision would be taken to buy a new Generating Set who knows). But the story is that after the purchase of the Generator and its use for the immediate purpose - providing flood light on the football pitch, the Generating Set vanished!!! Every eye popped up at the National Sports Commission, and probe panel was set up. Behold the Generating Set was found in the home of the Minister almost 1000 kilometres away from Lagos. Two cases were established. The gen-set was discovered, someone took it there, but was the Generator recovered? NO. Was the man made to pay for it? No. Did people see the set being removed? Yes. Where they not PEOPLE who organised the removal, transportation and installation? That is the failure of our people who are entrusted with our property! The calamity of our time is in the failure of man not machines or methods.
Look at another scenario. During the political marriage of NPN (National Party of Nigeria) and NPP (Nigerian Peoples Party) on the one hand, and Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) on the other, ministerial posts were handed to NPP and one of the beneficiaries was Dr. Paul Onongo. Then also, late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo was the special Adviser political to President Shehu Shagari in 1979. Dr Onongo was made Minister of Steel but had to resign when the marriage broke up. When ask why he left office unceremoniously, he said that he had served the purpose based on the marriage of NPN and NPP. Shortly after late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo was asked if he would resign as Dr Onongo did in another interview. He replied that it will not be possible because he did not come to Lagos (then the Federal Capital) to look at the
beautiful bridges and houses so he goes back to Nsukka to tell stories. That was two of a kind - the difference between integrity and others.
How did we get here one may even ask? The world is so infested with corruption now, but why is our case looking irredeemable? As I write the European Union just announced that their governments loose over one Billion Euros annually to corruption related issues! That is a whopping Two Hundred and Fifty Billion Naira Aaaahhhh! It started with a little drop of water. Now it's a very mighty ocean.
In Ghana some time ago, a Finance Minister was dismissed for having a Jacuzzi bathroom in his new home. That to the Ghanaian government was corruption. At the time of the action, it had become common to steal five hundred million Naira unnoticed in Nigeria. In the same Ghana, the son of a Nigerian former governor was expelled from a University for corrupting fellow students with affluence - owning fleet of cars and security on campus. What will he buy on graduation? Where will he work? How much will he earn? As I write, National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) members all over the country are grumbling against the government for paying them paltry stipend. I joined in an argument some time ago to guide them on the difference between Salary and Allowance.
Salary is a fixed income paid to an employee monthly or periodically for service. Allowance, on the other hand, is a small amount paid regularly to a dependent so that they can make their personal purchase. NYSC allowance therefore, is the amount government pays to Corp members so that they can be marginally afloat until the end of the service year. After this comes employment and proper remuneration. So when Corp members grumble about
allowance, it makes me laugh. But they are not to blame. They complain because they see corruption and goings on in their places of primary assignment hence they make demands to meet peer pressures.
But the reason for the complaint really started from the corps members' days in the Nursery and Primary school. This is how it started. The corps member today was the spoilt child in the Crèche, Nursery and primary school few years back. While in Crèche and nursery school, parent took them to school with expensive bags and items.
Other than feeding them at home, they stuffed the school bags not with toys or educational materials, but Juice, soft drink and extra food. As if that is not enough, they give to the teacher or attendant some money just in case. What is the child of that age going to do with cash?
The child grow to know money and is advanced cash in their pocket that is why the child develops to buying Meat Pie, Ice Cream etc outside the food in the pack, during short break. While this was going on two things were happening - One, the kids whose parents could afford such luxury looked at their peers with envy, while those who have, increase their demand from their parents. That is the starting point of corruption. Soon, the child from the poorer home learns to steal money from to meet peers pressures in school, while the other getting all he wanted, grew to become undisciplined. Then they steal jewelleries, cash and other valuables when they are in the primary school in exchange for just anything outside that they can conceive.
Meanwhile the parents are careless. Why not? They have left their wards in the hands of underpaid and untrained teacher who has entered the pay roll of the kid knowingly or not! At the mention of the child's developing voracious appetite for luxury and in fact stealing, the parents (especially the mother) run to the school to cover up because they do not want the child to be exposed and their name bismared. This sets the stage for the next level of corruption.
The child is now in the secondary school, completely out of the control of the parents, who, while even in primary school, they did not understand much due to their career schedules and other preoccupations. The child's allowance is increased, to over ten Thousand Naira monthly even after they would have bought everything under the Sun for them. The child becomes preoccupied with the luxuries of being alone and in control of their life. Rather than
study, they begin to get distracted with attention from the opposite sex, friend and gangs. With the child's falling standard in school which is unnoticed by the parents, they are shocked when the school administrators summons them to embarrass them with findings about their wards conduct. Parents are alarmed but rather than let the school authority deal with the situation, they bribe their way because they do not want to be publicly disgraced. They pay for the child to pass examinations from class to class and graduate out of school full grown wreck!
Now in the University, the child of yesterday is full grown adult better described as a miscreant - someone who behaves dishonestly, maliciously and in other contemptible ways. It would not be out of place this time that the child is with the gift of a car! Not for doing exceedingly well in school, or being aired in the national Television for performing well in the schools debate, things like being the best behaved student, or even wining a prize in 'Who wants to be a Millionaire'! But for gaining admission into the University through bribery! The rest of the story you already know. So, out of the University, and now a Corps member, with already monthly running cost of over Two Hundred Thousand Naira, why should the young graduate appreciate Eighteen Thousand Naira? But that happens to be the beginning of the 'trouble with Nigeria'.
The child of yesterday is now the man today in the work force, in corporate world, Ministries, State and National assembly's and teaching! Teaching what? Values!!! From who? What value can such a fellow impact on anyone other than what he imbibed through school -CORRUPTION!
This is the true story or experience of most children born in just 1969 in Nigeria and their parents. By now he is likely to be married or still looking for the most elusive job opportunity. All that is in his head is just how to make it! Most likely, part of the examinations they passed through in school was by fraud or threat to their lecturers. Had to joined gangs to pass, and as a full grown demon, he wants to impact knowledge on the younger ones. What knowledge?
Corruption has become very pronounced because values have vanished. The other day, I wept for someone I have never met face to face when I was told that he has been having some health challenges. That man old statesman is Alhaji Bello Maitama Sule - The Dan Masani of Kano (pardon my spelling). This man is one of the remnants of our hero's past. Here is a man, who till date, still lives in his home acquired after his days as a federal minister in the first Republic. With his salary, he could not afford a house of his own. Yet he has never been perturbed. Now, even at his ripe old age, Alhaji will give you a much detribalised answer to any issue on national question. This is one of my Nigerian Mandela. He is revered in the country by those who still remember him. But as for the government, he is history because his values are not in conformity with today's norms.
Retired General Yakubu Gowon is another decent Nigerian. Toppled in a military coup in 1976 by his aides, the General left the shores of the country and rather than sulk over losing the enviable office as the Head of state, he went to study in England until he got his PhD. For the nine years he sat atop as the Head of State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,
he had no house of his own. Even now I doubt if he ever built any so, because it is to my knowledge that his houses in Jos, Wusasa- Zaria and Kaduna were all donations by groups. His brother Daniel Gowon once said that when he saw how later days heads of state and their relations were using the office for personal enrichment, he regretted that he never knew that money was tied to the office of the Head of State he would not have been poor!
Lastly, the world went blank as the light of a noble man was extinguished in his ripe old age. Nelson Madiba Mandela died. What endeared him to the heart of even those who hated him? - INTEGRITY!!!
He lost his first wife to integrity, went to prison for integrity and became a celebrity for the same reason. Who can stand for us as such man in Nigeria? I am still looking and counting.
For those of you who think that we will never have a new dawn and so continue with the status quo, go ahead. It was so before the French Revolution.
But suddenly, the day broke and no one could run away. Suddenly a close friend became an enemy. Arrests were the easiest despite the high walls of the rich. Muamar Gaddafi never believed that his day would come the way it did, so too was Saddam Houssain! So did despotic rulers in Tunisia, Egypt and developing elsewhere. Who says that change will not get here one day? Read this book "A Tale of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens your findings will shock you. We shall soon be there if care is not taken.
Do you expect more on this? I was just rounding up this writing this evening of February 8 when the programme TRUE NIGERIAN; HEROS OF OUR TIME anchored by Zakki Azzazy came on air. Who did I see, my new hero, the Minister of State Trade and Investment Dr. Samuel Ortom came up on AIT. Dr. Ortom today demonstrated how with poor parentage in the harshest environment waded through Touting, Agbero, bus conducting and Bus driving to pay his way through correspondence College to graduate with PhD and now a Minister! This is a confirmation that there is hope in Nigeria. There is dignity in labour.
So long ... the struggle continues.
Public Affair Analyst based in Port Harcourt
God is All Sufficient