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‘Corruption can only be defeated by its victim’

Recently,  the law firm of Bamidele Aturu and co. presented its  annual Law and Social Development Lecture series with the theme: “Corruption and the Law: A case of unequal justice”, presented by Dr Sam  Amadi.  Mr Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika examined the paper as presented below

By Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika

Dr Sam Amadi has made a very good presentation on the theme of this second in the series of the Annual Law and Social Development Lecture organized by Bamidele Aturu & Co. and I am honoured to lead the discussion of his prognosis.

Let me start by telling you something bizarre which I witnessed not too long ago, and which I believe says a lot about the theme of this gathering. I was driving towards the Ikeja High Court premises early one morning sometime ago, and by some coincidence, I was directly behind the vehicle of one of the  Judges of the State High Court. The traffic was not unusual for that period of the morning.

At a point, a convoy of siren-heralded and official-looking convoy of vehicles terrorized its way through the traffic, sending every other motorists scampering to give right of way to the “big man” convoy. I initially thought it was the Governor of one of the outlying states, since the Governor of Lagos state would not be found carrying on in that manner, in terror of his electorate.

But I was wrong. True, the convoy was conveying a ‘big man’, but as I later confirmed when I arrived the court premises, the ‘big man’ was actually an accused person, a very important member of the ruling party at the federal level, answering charges of fraud running into several billions of Naira perpetrated during his very short stint as the Chairman of a Federal Government business enterprise.

Not too far from where our ‘big man’s’ convoy of cars were parked, one prison vehicle also parked with its cargo of some other accused persons, most likely in court to answer charges of affray, pick-pocketing and such other offences. The contrast was stack in its reality.

Our accused politician-thief was heralded into and was carrying on within the court premises as if he was there to receive a lifetime achievement award for service to the community. He was doing this with the active connivance of the State, whose uniformed law enforcement personnel kited and maintained at tax payers’ expense, were acting as bag carriers, private traffic warden and private convoy chaperons for an accused looter of public treasury.

In his preamble, Dr. Sam Amadi referred, in a flattering manner, to what he called an ongoing “war against corruption in Nigeria”. Any keen follower of the ongoing “rule of law” “war” on corruption will easily confirm that the story I have told above is in no way unique, but is symptomatic of the privilege status of corruption compared to other crimes, and of corrupt public officials compared to other criminals.

As I will demonstrate in the course of this discourse, corruption is an elite crime, and in a system where the process of law making and the administration of justice is an elite business, it should not surprise anyone that there would be inequality of justice between the perpetrators and the victims of corruption, and between corrupt criminals and other category of criminals.

Dr. Sam Amadi captured this in his concept of “state capture”, and in his categorization of corruption as politics; law as politics; and adjudication as politicking. If the State, as described in Marxist philosophy, is the execu
tive committee, the dictatorial apparatus of the predominant class in any given society, it stands to reason that the law and system of adjudication of the given society are no more than an expression of the political will of the predominant economic group of that society.

In his introductory remarks, the Chairman of this occasion, Prof. Itse Sagay took us through the maze of sleazy that we have witnessed this year alone, across all arms of government — the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary. He appears to conclude from the indisputable pervasiveness of sleazy in our body polity that the average Nigerian has corruption written into his DNA, so that we are all either perpetrators or potential perpetrators of corruption.

This would appear to be true, considering the many examples we know of so-called activists who were previously the loudest in condemning corruption, only to be accused of it themselves the earliest they obtain political power and access to the public treasury.

In Marxist historicism, class differentiation is based on the fundamental economic relation of every epoch, say as between slaves and slave-owners, serfs and lords, bourgeois and workers. If we accept the suggestion that we are all, without distinction, equally perpetrators and victims or potential perpetrators and victims of corruption, then we will have to accept the conclusion that the corrupt Nigerian State is the executive committee of a corrupt citizenry. Why then should we worry about corruption, or wage any war, real or imaginary, against it?

If, as has been suggested when talking of corruption, we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God, then this gathering would be hypocritical except it be for the purpose of acknowledging the benefits of corruption as Dr. Sam Amadi has informed us it was suggested in relation to some Asian countries in times past that corruption was considered to “be a grease to the wheel of economic development by allowing investment without wasting time on due process” or as “supplementing non-existing social security”.

But according to Dr. Sam Amadi, “Corruption is mainly the reason why about $400billion dollar realized from sale of oil in Nigeria since 1958 has resulted in hundreds of millionaires and millions of starving and dying citizens”. It will therefore not be right to lump the “millions of dying citizens” with the “hundreds of millionaires”. As far as I am concerned, corruption is just another means of primitive accumulation of wealth by which the economic classes have been differentiated throughout recorded history.

When you substitute Dr. Sam Amadi’s “millions of dying citizens” with “millions of slaves” and “hundreds of millionaires” with “hundreds of slave owners” you have the system of slavery; when you substitute them respectively for “millions of landless serfs” and “hundreds of land lords or kulaks”, you have the system of serfdom; when you substitute them respectively for “millions of workers” and “hundreds of bourgeoisie” you have the system of capitalism. Corruption is at the root of class differentiation.

Had a poll been taken of slaves in a slave society, most of the slaves may have been dreaming of becoming slave owners themselves. In our current capitalist world, the dream of many elements of the proletariat is to become millionaires. They go to churches, mosques, prayer meetings, Holy Ghost fire revivals and the like to pray for financial breakthrough and social elevation. Some of them play coupon or lotteries. Before the recent stock market collapse, many workers joined in the system of stock market gambling as a fast track means of achieving the good life.

It is in the nature of man to always seek self_improvement and social class upward mobility, and only few would resist an   immoral opportunity for self-advancement in the absence of a fair and effective system of reward and retribution. 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.


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