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One of the cardinal pursuits (policy) of the Muhammedu Buhari's administration is to wipe-out corruption in Nigeria. He promised it while electioneering for the presidency. And now that he is the president after being elected (after the said electioneering), he has putting-on the right garb: the fitting clothing to fight corruption squarely in the Nigerian-corruption-boxing-arena. He says unhindered (without mincing word), that “if Nigeria does not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria.” Therefore, he is prepared to punch-hard and deliver the most devastating/damaging upper-cuts that will send corruption into a prolonged pain/fit or even totally extinguish it (hit the bucket and not to survive again).

Like an old soldier-he is a full time General at that (and remembering that once a soldier always a soldier); he has declared a Marshall-law against corruption in Nigeria. Indeed, the battle is on. The battle-song is blaring and agents and soldiers of war against corruption are kitted to do a do-or-die battle (is it actually a battle or a war?). The mantra/motif is ready and has been properly mounted on the canvass! The orchestra is dishing-out a bewildering but soothing symphony!! A war that must be won, which is horizontal and vertical is before all eyes to behold!!!

Interestingly, in all this, this writer asks: What is Corruption? He is not ignorant, but just wants a proper definition of it before the “soldiers against corruption” sets-out to the battle-field/ground. Indeed, proper definitions (ingredients before the food is cooked/the preparation for the cooking of the food) immensely helps the body and the resultant gains for the body—blood and good health or waste (shit) it must eject as conclusion (or end of the war in this case). Surely, proper definitions in all things in all human undertakings also help and guides properly, especially towards the achievement of a set-goal or goals. “Know thyself (first) and know thy limitations” is a great counsel by a great philosopher. So, with all this in mind, the question that follows is: What is corruption (which consequently instigates a fight against it i.e. corruption)?

The word corruption is a Middle English word that emanates from a Latin word: corruptio, which the French re-coined, corrumpere (which to them means: mar, bribe and destroy). Therefore, to the English, who updated the word to corruption, it means: Dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery; the action or effect of making someone or something morally depraved; the process of decay or putrification/decomposition; perversion of integrity; dishonest proceedings; debasement or alteration (as of language or text); impairment of integrity, virtue, or moral principle: depravity; inducement to do wrong by improper or unlawful means (meaning: bribery); a departure from the original or from what is pure or correct (for further definition, please see The Oxford English Dictionary).

Furthermore, this writer has earlier encapsulated the definition of corruption in one of his earlier write-ups as “an hydra-headed phenomenon that does not begin and end in financial misappropriation only, but also involves subverting any provision of the constitution; … abuse of power for self-benefit (in illegal money and property acquisition, getting whatever inappropriate elevation for oneself (or selves) in power position (s); using superior mental or manual powers to subdue those less endowed in order to do one's wish(s); deviating from established societal norms, customs and ways of life-making others to accept it (them) through supine, covert, or strong-arm methodologies; bad and negative influences on others, etc. etc.).”

According to Wikipedia “the word corrupt when used as an adjective literally means “utterly broken.” The word was first used by Aristotle and later by Cicero who added the terms bribe and abandonment of good habits. Stephen D. Morris, a Professor of Politics, writes that (Political) corruption is the illegitimate use of public power to benefit a private interest.”

In addition, President Muhammadu Buhari has “defined corruption as the greatest form of human right violation (further see Wikipedia: Corruption in Nigeria). Chief Obafemi Awolowo on his part saw corruption as “a matter of few holding the cow for the strongest and most cunning to milk” (ibid).

Encapsulated simply therefore, it could be rightly posited that “there is no globally accepted definition of corruption. In philosophical, theological, or moral discussions, corruption is the abuse of bestowed power or position to acquire a personal benefit (or to unduly benefit others considered close: as friends or relations or of the same race). Corruption may (therefore) include many activities including bribery and embezzlement. Government or 'political' corruption occurs when an office-holder or other governmental employees act in an official capacity for personal gain (or gain for those known to them).”

In order to therefore further understand the meaning of corruption (because as a nation that is now in a war against corruption—as declared by the government in power presently), we need to atleast also understand some its other ramifications. In this regard, it is most pertinent to know in highlight, the: 1. Scales of corruption; 2. Examples of corruption in different sectors; 3. Methods of corruption; 4. Types of corruption gains; 5. How to prevent corruption; 6. The degree of corruption; 7. Anti-corruption programmes. Also, we shall hereby highlight corruption in Nigeria and its causes.

  1. Scales of corruption: By this, we mean that corruption can occur in different dimensions, forms, places and levels. In totality, it means that “corruption occurs as small favours between a small numbers of people”—this is called “petty corruption.” Another form (scale) of corruption is “grand corruption”—which “affects the government on a large scale;” and the last but not least, is the one called “systemic corruption”—which showcases itself when it “is so prevalent, that is, it becomes part of the everyday structure of society, including corruption as one of the systems of organized crime” (Wikipedia).
  2. Corruption in different sectors: Indeed, corruption is an hydra-headed monster (as we earlier indicated). It occurs “in different sectors (of the society), whether they be public or private industry or even NGOs” (Wikipedia). In essence, it rears its ugly-head in: a. Government/public sector; b. Political structures—whether governmental or in political jostling and organizations. To say it all, the hallmarks of “political corruption is the abuse of public power, office, or resources by elected government officials… It can also take the form of office holders' maintaining themselves in office by purchasing votes by enacting laws which use taxpayer's money”—see Wikipedia also. c. Police Corruption: this involves police misconduct—obtaining financial benefits (bribes and other personal gains), selective pursuing/investigating of cases and arrests, flouting the police code of conducts in order to secure conviction of suspects, falsified evidences, deliberate and systematic participation in organized crime, etc.; d. Judicial Corruption: This refers to corruption that is related to the “misconduct of judges, through receiving or giving bribes, improper sentencing of convicted criminals, bias in hearing and judgment of arguments and other such misconducts” (ibid); e. Corruption in Educational System/Universities: this kind of corruption “occurs frequently in universities” in many developing nations, and “include bribes to bypass bureaucratic procedures and bribing faculty for a grade” (ibid). f. Corruption within Labour Unions: This occurs when Labour Union executive elections and in-house dialectics/dynamics/operations are conducted in mafia-like codes of operations/systems.
  3. Methods of Corruption: includes the multiple ways which are used concurrently in order to circumvent or compromise existing laws and orders of societies through: a. bribery—improper use of gifts and favours in exchange for personal gain—kickbacks etc; b. embezzlement, theft and fraud: the first two occur when someone gains access to funds or assets illegally and taking control of them, while fraud in this respect “involves using deception to convince the owner of funds and assets to give them to an authorized party” (ibid).  c. extortion and blackmail involves the use of threats of violence, false imprisonment, and exposure of individual or public secrets, threatening to negatively publicize others and “demanding money in exchange for continued secrecy” (ibid).
  4. Types of Corrupt Gains: a. abuse and discretion: “refers to the misuse of one's power and decision-making facilities”—e.g. a judge improperly dismissing a (criminal) case without following laid-down legal procedures, rules; or customs officials using their discretion to allow banned substance/goods through a port/border control (Wikipedia). b. Favouritism, nepotism and clientelism: “involves the favouring of not the perpetrator of corruption but someone related to them, such as a friend, family member (or of the same ethnic/tribe/section/race) or member of an association. Examples would include hiring a family member (or of the same race/tribe/neighbourhood/sectional-area etc.) to a role they are not qualified for or promoting a staff member who belongs to the same political party (or club/association/religion etc.) as you, regardless of merit” (ibid).
  5. Preventing corruption: according to R. Klitgaad, “corruption will occur if the corrupt gain is greater than the penalty multiplied by the likelihood of being caught and prosecuted.” He further designed an equation/formula, thus: corrupt gain > penalty x likelihood of being caught and prosecuted. But C. Stephen amended Klitgaad's equation into: degree of corruption = monopoly + discretion – transparency – morality” (Wikipedia).
  6. Anti-corruption programmes: These are established local and international legal instruments used in monitoring and preventing corruption whether they are localized, national or trans-national. Some of these are: The principal agent approach (used to target systemic corruption); multilateral institutions like UNAC, Transparency International; Traditional Type Anti-corruption agencies in countries (e.g: Police, ICPC, EFCC in Nigeria); and Anti-corruption policies that guides and improves the business environment, etc.
  7. Legal Corruption: According to Wikipedia, “Though corruption is often viewed as illegal, there is an evolving concept of legal corruption as developed by Daniel Kaufman and Pedro Vicante. It might be termed as processes which are corrupt, but are protected by legal (permitted) framework.”For example, is when trans-national companies involve themselves in corrupt-practices outside their originating counties and their base/home countries keep blind eyes to their sharp/corrupt practices (without sanctioning/punishing them for such corrupt engagements). But the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) makes it unlawful for US companies to engage in corrupt practices outside its shores. OECD Anti- Bribery Convention has also made it illegal for European companies to engage in corrupt practices while operating outside the European Union.

To say the very least, corruption exists in the Nigerian socio-economic and political space. For instance, it has been strongly asserted that “Political corruption is a persistent phenomenon that pervades the Nigerian state” (Wikipedia). Indeed, it is recorded that “Nigeria is estimated to have lost over $400bn to corruption since independence” (ibid). Therefore, it is pertinent to know some of the factorial-causes that fuels/instigates corruption in Nigeria. They are: a. Greed and ostentatious lifestyle; b. Custom and attitudes; c. Exclusion and non-recognition of meritocracy; d. Bid to gain power and protect interest; f. Nepotism/ Ethnicity/Tribalism/Cronyism/Pre-bendalism; g. Kinsmen Influence(s); h. Neo-colonial mentality—a bid to become/show-off as an African Bigman (the bigman syndrome—seen to belong to the rich class eventhough one comes from a poor background: sort of “rub-off poverty syndrome”); etc. etc.

In conclusion, that is after having gone through this write-up, is a question! The question is: Is the fight against corruption in Nigeria now (as being pursued by The Muhammadu Buhari administration), going through a battle format or a war tactics? We all know that battles and its techniques to conquer are different from war games (believe you me: every serious engagement in life no matter how serious is a humorous showmanship and therefore a game), or a civilian pursuit (which must use subtle means-carrots) to summit into success.  Sometimes, battles are won and wars are lost. Surely, war is the bigger picture and therefore requires sophisticated armament than those used in battles. Indeed, wars require blood, strength and guile (psychological, diplomatic, cunning and propaganda proficiency). Battles may require simpler means. War is all-involving but battles are fought in localized and sometimes in staccato or asymmetric patterns that projects their outcomes. Surely, if we define well, we will plan well and therefore win well (also in this said fight against corruption). Our last question is: have we defined well and have we consequently planned well? For in all, the outcome will surely (after the battle or war) tell! So be it!! Whether the outcome is good or bad—after all life is full of good and bad; like negative and positive wires, they must make the light glow!!!

Written by Ejike Kingsley Osuji M.Sc.
[email protected]

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