By Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika

That many would engage in corruption as a means of social advancement if given the opportunity, is therefore not a significantly Nigerian disease. It is a human phenomenon.

I think it Jean Jacques Rousseau, if I am not mistaking, who in tracing the development of class society and class oppression from the idyllic state of nature, categorized the first man who ever claimed a parcel of land for himself to the exclusion of others, as a rogue, and the progenitors of all other subsequent economic rogues throughout human history.

It is true, as Dr. Sam Amadi has postulated that “It used to be that corruption was the concern of some priestly personages and some incurable social activists like Gani Fawehinmi”; that “Corruption did not register much then in the discourse of development and political transformation”; that “When the leading neoclassical economists postulated about how to get Africa out of underdevelopment strait-jacket, fighting corruption was not one of the must-dos”; that “Corruption was not considered a serious challenge to economic development”; and that these attitudes towards corruption has now changed  to one of concentrated “discourse about how to institutionalize anti-corruption regimes and ensure transparence and accountability in both public procurement and revenue management”.

I dare say that the previous attitude was informed by the indisputable knowledge of the corrupt nature of the economic system on which the social superstructure of class societies had always been founded. Corruption was seen and treated as just a symptom of an iniquitous social-economic relation. It is not unique to any particular race of people, or country or continent of our world.

That corruption now appears to be more rampant in some societies or countries than in orders is just a reflection of the escalation of class differentiation into international economic relations amongst the countries of the world. Our local “bourgeoisie” arrived late to the bourgeois banquet of the current predominant international capitalist economic system, properly known as economic imperialism now whitewashed and renamed ‘globalization’.

The system of capitalist production and international finance has gone far advanced and sophisticated than our local bourgeoisie can keep pace. There is a global division of labour among countries of the world according to which we have been condemned into producers of raw materials and consumers of finished products. In the case of Nigeria, we are no more than an extractive country.

We extract crude oil and sell in the international market as a national entity, not necessarily as a class. In the absence of any tangible productive engagement, our local bourgeoisie are left with politics as the only means of primitive accumulation. Politics is their main, if not the only enterprise.

This was what Dr. Sam Amadi conceptualized as ‘state capture’. The oil money belongs to the State as a whole; and by capturing the State, you capture its resources. That is why corruption is more rampant here. What history shows is that when a class has captured state power, they proceed to create or recreate society in their own image and in pursuit and preservation of their peculiar interest. To perpetuate their creation, they robe it in the false apparel of social consensus of all segments of the society. They will make laws in their own interest, interpret it in their own favour and execute it to their own advantage.

When therefore it was declared as a self-evident truth in the American Declaration of independence “that all men are created equal” the reference was to the form of man rather than his social status. Truly, all men share essentially the same form, and to that extent, it can be said they were ‘created’ equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights. But when men goes into social relations with one another, inequality enters. And this is true of social relations within the State of nature, as in an organized society. For instance, in the state of nature, a giant is more able to enjoy his “inalienable rights” than a pygmy, so also a wise or crafty individual than the less intellectually endowed.

In our capitalist society, although the dictum “everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty” most times translate to “you are presumed innocent until proven broke”. In order words, although the same rule is pretended to apply to all, in reality, your ability to take enjoy the rule depends on more than the mere letters of the law. A stark example of this is the right to speedy trial.

A pickpocket may be on the awaiting trial lists for many years during which, as is usually the case, he is locked up and possibly forgotten in one of the prisons, whereas a corrupt public official with his stolen loot is able to assemble and pay for so-called Senior Advocates of Nigeria with pre-eminent right of hearing in our law courts.

A pickpocket, even an armed robber, offends only one man, the one whose pocket has been picked or who has been robbed, possibly at gun point. Corruption, on the other hand, is said to have “resulted in hundreds of millionaires and millions of starving and dying citizens”. There is a sense in which both of these criminal activities are analogous; just that the pickpocket picks the pocket of an individual, the corrupt public official picks the pocket of the entire populace.

For instance, long before the promulgation of the superfluous Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act in 2000, we have had the same offences criminalized in the Criminal Code. When compared, you’ll find that the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act did not create any fundamentally new or distinct offences of corruption besides those already existing under the Criminal Code.

The only revolution, if any, which the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act represent is the concentration of the investigation and prosecution of corruption cases on a special body called the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, and the stipulation in its Section 26(3) that prosecution of offences under the Act shall be concluded within 90 working days of its commencement.

The belief was that the regular crime bursting organ of the State, the Police, has itself become so corrupt and stressed as to be ineffective in the handling corruption cases. It was also thought that even where cases are charged to court, the defence always find ways of delaying it forever thus undermining the integrity of the entire process.


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