Nigeria and the corruption malady

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BY RASAK MUSBAU

“Corruption is authority plus monopoly minus transparency” – Unknown

GOING  by the resources that the good Lord has blessed us with, Nigeria’s natural place in the world order should be at the top. Regrettably, however, this divine destiny has been ruined by several vices, the chief being corruption. Corruption is one of the ugly features of Nigeria’s public life. It defines Nigeria, just as immorality defined the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah. Corruption is more than stealing. It involves people trying to get what they do not deserve by using money, bribes, ethnic connections, religion, family name, threats, harassment, deceit and other bad influences.

Corruption comes in different forms. It could come in form of an unqualified student gaining admission into a particular school because he has a godfather. It also comes in form of a policeman taking bribe to perverse the course of justice. It could equally take the form of a boss demanding friendship from a female subordinate as a prerequisite for promotion . It could manifest in a woman enticing her boss for favours . When a petrol dealer adds kerosene or water to increase the volume or quantity of his petrol that is corruption. When a civil servant uses the influence of a godfather to secure “juicy” posting that is corruption. When a politician rigs election to get into office that is corruption. When newspaper’s editorial judgments are influenced from ‘powerful quarters’ that is corruption. When a political appointee gives out a contract (which ordinarily can be carried out by professional in the civil service) to a consultant at an inflated amount so that he can receive a kickback that is corruption. Whe
n a government institution collects N1, 000 each from 700,000 job seekers to compete for less than 5,000 employment slots, that is corruption. When a doctor in public hospital dubiously refers patients to his private laboratory for test that is corruption. It is also an act of corruption when government’s spin doctors unashamedly reel out statistics on economic growth, provision of massive employment and other charade when the reverse is actually the case. Sadly, corruption destroys merit, honesty, dedication to duty and sincerity. These are the basic principles needed for nation building. And when these principles are relegated, the country suffers, and progress ceases.

Without doubt, the extent of corruption in the country is slowing down our progress as a nation . It not only erodes government credibility but contributes to political malaise. If corruption is this bad, why do people engage in it? Corruption has a long history in the development of human societies. The struggle against it is equally old. Various societies have tried to explain the evolution of corruption. Some societies have argued that corruption came into being because human beings are naturally corrupt. But we know that this cannot be true because children are not born corrupt. It is the adults who corrupt them as the innocent infants grow up. Therefore, corruption arises from adult society.It is also known from history that corruption arose in societies where the custom of equality and caring for one another broke down and was replaced with selfishness and the division of society into rich and poor.

One other plausible reason for the spread of corruption in our clime could be the corrosion of hitherto revered  African values. In the olden days, materialism was not the basis of the society. Today, the reverse is the case as petty thieves, armed robbers, corrupt public officials, among others, are now more respected than honest men with little or no means. The inability of government, over the years, to demonstrate genuine resolve to meet the needs of the people is equally responsible for the prevalence of corruption in our society. Perhaps, more crucial is the fact that nothing serious is being done to prevent corruption. Logically, the only thing that could make evil to triumph in any society is for evil to continually go unpunished.

Since corruption is so bad and dangerous to the nation, how do we stop the practice? First, the attitude and orientation of our people have to change. We must begin to respect and value attributes such as honesty, dedication, sincerity, selflessness, sacrifice, transparency and dignity above money. Similarly, public officials should declare their assets before assuming  and departing public offices. The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria actually makes provision for this, but it has not been followed to the letter.

Also, there is a need for governments at all levels to be more committed to the welfare of the people. If basic infrastructure and amenities that would make life better for the people are naturally provided, it would reduce the pressure on the people to cut corners. For instance, if all public schools are revitalised, the burden on the people, who go  extra  mile in paying huge bills to educate their wards at private schools, would be reduced. It is, of course, the failure of governments, overtime, to provide such basic needs that partly accounts for the rise of corruption in our society. Once it is certain that a large percentage of people  in the society could effortlessly access qualitative education, affordable health care system, moderate housing  schemes, among others, the preponderance of corruption would, undoubtedly, reduce.

For the progress of our nation, it is imperative to raise a critical mass dedicated to restoring the destiny of Nigeria by living above board, fighting corruption and conquering corruption. As followers when we are ready for change and live for change, our leaders will find it increasingly hard to stand in the way of our aspirations. The recent statement credited to the President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, concerning the prevalence of corruption in Nigeria, though disrespectful and distasteful, should be enough to make everyone have a rethink about the awkward  image corruption has carved for us in the comity of nations.

*Mr. Musbau, works with the Lagos State ministry of Information and Strategy.

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