By Bamidele Aturu
Our country is being wantonly pillaged to a state of nothingness by those who manipulated themselves to political and other offices that confer on them the undeserved privilege of controlling the national till.
Everywhere one turns the disastrous consequences of the monster of corruption stares one in the face: our roads have become impassable; hospitals are not only understaffed with unmotivated workers, they have no drugs to dispense; public schools have virtually been wiped out; the country is in perpetual darkness as the epilepsy of PHCN has finally thrown it into coma.
This state of comprehensive inefficiency has led some of our concerned compatriots to conclude erroneously that the state has failed or is failing. While one understands the frustrations that feed that conclusion, the truth is that the state seems to be getting stronger.
That is the paradox of our situation. Corruption weakens service delivery and strengthens the state, albeit a rogue state. The pauperization of the population without a corresponding subjective mobilization by the popular forces notably the labor movement (the speaker not excluded) achieves a weakening of the organization of the people that translates into strength for the rogue state.
Thus the rogue state does not even require increasing its armoury or recruiting more soldiers once it can debilitate the popular forces through pauperisation. This thesis is contestable. But no one will deny a frustrating quietude in our people in the face of the most obnoxious provocative thieving by the charlatans who rig themselves into political offices across the country.
This quietude is more noticeable among the youth. The degeneration among the youth can easily be seen in the irresponsible collaboration of its once shining beacon of hope, the student movement, with the very rogues who they should war against for ruining their future. These days one wonders whether the various state houses are extensions of the Student Union secretariats.
It is natural to expect corrupt rulers to corrupt values. Worse than infrastructural decay, is the obliteration of our old values of hard work, honesty and good neighborliness. The get rich quick syndrome is a virus that has afflicted the soul of our country. No institution is excluded.
Once you have big cars, big houses, wear gaudy and expensive clothes, everyone celebrates you. No one is interested in the way and manner our nouveau riche accumulate their wealth. Even in some religious bodies only apparently rich people are venerated.
This country cannot survive if we continue in this state of anomie or lack of morals. This is not a doomsday prophecy. Corruption is killing our nation. We must kill it first if we must survive. Those accused of stealing who ordinarily ought to either bury their heads in shame or at least keep themselves out of circulation rent crowds to attend their trials in court with full complements of orchestra bands as if they are giving out their children in marriage.
Not only that, unless we want to deceive ourselves the accused are the ones in charge of the commanding heights of the economy and politics. They have become untouchable. Yet, unless we touch them and jail them, if found guilty, we are hopeless.
That is the plain truth. Nigerians must be angry at the way those in command of the ship of state are guiding or neglecting to guide the country. Anger is not enough. We must act in our own unique and collective ways. The labour and student movement must show the way. We must organize our people to rescue this country.
Corruption begets waste. One does not need to be an economist to know that our rulers are recklessly frittering away our resources. Governors travel with at least twenty-one cars in their convoy. That is utter madness that has no equivalent in any other decent country. Special Advisers have Special Assistants who have Assistants who in turn have servants.
A particular Governor placed adverts in newspapers to welcome a professional association for holding its meeting in his state. How on earth can such be justified? These people are haemorrhaging our treasury by their wanton acts. Unless we act they wonâ€™t stop.
We reiterate our call that anti-corruption laws be made strict liability offences. In other words, the onus should be shifted on anyone accused of corruption to justify how he or she came about his or her wealth. This is one of the ways we can show that we are serious in the war against corruption. Those who cannot justify how they came about their wealth must forfeit their property to the state and stigmatized so our children can understand that it does not pay to be a rogue.
Anti-corruption cases must be expeditiously disposed. The law should make this clear. The trials cannot go on indefinitely without people feeling that the whole thing is a huge joke.
If the Electoral Act can stipulate expeditious hearing of electoral robbery cases, there is no reason why economic robbery should not be dealt with quickly, particularly when we understand that political robbery is but a stepping stone to economic robbery. Three months should be the time ceiling for anti-corruption cases.
Justice is not only for the accused but much more so for the people whose moneys were stolen. We are sick of seeing people accused of looting their states of billions of Naira and dollars taunt us and the judiciary with frivolous applications to travel outside to attend to their health when it was their rapacious act of stealing that led to unavailability of health services in the first place. Our judges must exercise utmost judicial discretion in treating such frivolous applications.
To wipe out corruption in the country, we must abolish the venal system of giving oil blocks to individuals. These people rent out the licenses to oil majors and collect huge sums of money that distort our economy and our values.
Why should these characters be bothered about the state of our roads when they can buy private jets from their rents?
Why should they be concerned with our comatose PHCN when they can buy as many generators as they fancy and have fuel dumps in their courtyards? Our health services can remain in shambles as long as their fat rents can facilitate easy appointment with their doctors overseas even for common cold. The system is evil. It must be dismantled.
One other thing that requires urgency is for us to compress wage differentials. A situation in which a human being earn N7,500 and another earns N3,000,000 is simply atrocious and evil. This injustice fuels corruption, armed robbery, kidnapping and any kind of bestial crime of which one can think. There is no reason why any Nigerian should earn less than N50,000 or more than N500, 000. Wage compression would make all Nigerians hold governments to account. It would help make activists of so many people who think that it is only the lot of the poor to complain.
The solution to corruption is not deregulation. Deregulation is illegal and unconstitutional. It is indeed outmoded and discredited. Everywhere, even in America, banks are being taken over. We donâ€™t cut off our heads because we have headaches.
Corruption can also not be solved by recourse to privatizing everything from roads to our airports. The bubble that burst recently in the banking industry has shown clearly that we do not have a private sector in Nigeria but rent seekers who do not understand and cannot operate true capitalism with all its inherent imperfections.