ONE of the most virulent ills that our country is facing today is corruption. Unless we recognise the full extent to which corruption, abuse of office and all sorts of plunder of national resources is responsible for our poverty as a nation, we will not be able to develop to our full potential.
Integrity and honesty are some of the most important qualities that our country needs in order to make progress.
Why is Nigeria so poor a nation in the midst of such abundant resources? Why does our country make other nations rich by giving them resources which they transform into goods and services that we later pay high premium for?
Is there something wrong with us? Are we cursed to live under this yoke of poverty and deprivation whilst possessing vast resources? The reasons for our poverty are complex and we cannot pretend to be the experts that can fully explain why we are where we are since our independence in 1960 and even as we officially celebrate our centenary anniversary in January 2014.
Ironically many of our people think politics is a dirty game with which they need not concern themselves. The only problem with this kind of reasoning is that it is this same dirty game that affects almost every aspect of our lives.
This dirty game determines whether we have good hospitals or bad ones; it determines whether we have good schools for our children or bad ones; it also determines whether we drive on good roads or bad ones. In many ways, politics decides whether we have food to eat as citizens or none. The quality of politics determines the quality of our lives. It is therefore naïve to think that we can somehow insulate ourselves from this so-called dirty game for fear that if we participate or make our positions known on issues, we will be victimised.
It is true that politics in a developing democracy like ours can be a very expensive adventure for those who participate in it. The system of winner-takes-all ensures that those who lose are punished by those who win.
But this is so because many of our people have not yet begun to fully accept that politics is about them; politics is about their welfare. Any politics that ignores the people and their needs is not politics but crime.
This is why we see the kind of politics in our country that are predicated on feeding the hungry vultures that participate to the exclusion of our people.
This culture of indifference to the politics of our country breeds a fertile ground for corruption and abuse of office. Those who are brave enough to join this so-called dirty game feel entitled to reap the benefits of their adventure. But things need not be this way. We need to get to a time when it is not only those who are extraordinarily courageous or uncaringly criminal in their mentality that gets into politics. It must be a game played to benefit every citizen.
We must make sure that it is not rewarding for criminals to get into public office. To this end, it is good that institutions like Transparency International are pushing the agenda that makes it difficult for criminal politicians to continue stealing from their people with impunity.
The issue that Transparency International is raising is not a matter that is far removed from our domestic problems. It is good that they have adopted the declaration calling on governments to act decisively on the repatriation of stolen assets.
We say this because the keepers of our people have become their butchers. Unfortunately, this butchery does not end at persistent violation of rights and denial of meaningful participation in their politics, but it extends to the plunder and wanton pillaging of national resources.
Nigeria has suffered this same fate. It is therefore good that international solidarity in the form of Transparency International’s declaration on repatriation of stolen assets is coalescing international opinion in favour of poor countries that suffer at the hands of public officers who run leadership positions. They need to know and understand that the world is watching.
The age of impunity needs to be brought to an end. This avarice, kleptocracy and oppression have to stop now; 2015 should indeed be a defining moment for Nigerians. This is the time for paradigm shift- it is no longer business as usual where politicians come with the intention to cajole and bamboozle the citizenry with buncombe during electioneering season.
The colonialists have gone. We asked them to go justifiably though, and they are not coming back, so we must stop blaming them. Leadership, especially those derived from democratic process require tact, patience and sacrifice. A beneficiary of electoral mandate must be ready to take pains and not be unnecessarily happy and drunk with excessive power.
He must not necessarily be an economic wizard but must seek out who are and use them to avoid being thriftless. He must avoid being excitable because the job of managing a community of people allows little room for frivolity.
Frankly, recipients of electoral trust should exercise self -restraint at all times even when the governed chose to be otherwise. That is why only a few will occupy those positions of trust that is enough incentive to avoid vanity and primitive acquisition of wealth.
Lord Lugard demonstrated that when he died childless and the barony died with him. We would have taken care of the little sense of veracity, which Lugard blamed us for, when we begin to elect only leaders with proven record of accomplishment of sincerity and authenticity; who will see Nigeria and Nigerians not from the lens of North or South, Christian or Muslim but as one people bounded by love and unity of purpose.
Mr. EMMANUEL AJIBULU wrote from Abuja.