By Douglas Anele
The level of corruption in Nigeria particularly since 1985 is so mind-boggling that dwelling on it for a considerable length of time can make one mad. But why is the epidemic of official corruption on the rise despite the existence of the EFCC, ICPC, Code of Conduct Bureau and increased religious consciousness across the entire socio-economic strata nationwide?
Akpotor underscores some theoretical approaches to answering that very question, whereas Schenone and Gregg focused on the Christian notion of sin and socio-economic and cultural underpinnings of corruption.
While I largely agree with the views formulated by the three authors mentioned above, I cannot accept the notion of sin by Schenone and Gregg because the word “sin” is overloaded with unsavoury theological connotations to the extent that it befogs, rather than clarifies, the question we are trying to answer.
In otherwords, the concept of Original Sin espoused in The Bible is terrifyingly unjust because it stigmatises humanity with the burden of guilt for a “sin” allegedly committed by Adam and Eve, the biblical first human beings. In any case, if we want to understand the ontological basis of corruption, all we need do is to probe what philosophers call “the human condition.”
In general, a human being, irrespective of culture, historical period and the stage of life he is in, is constituted by possibilities. Consequently, unlike other animals that rely almost exclusively on phylogenetically programmed instincts humans are the point in evolution where instinctive determination of behaviour is lowest.
This is accompanied by the explosive development of a cognitively empowered brain, by far the most advanced data and information processing system known to us. Because humans have the power of imagination, reason, self-awareness, and self-transcendence, they are capable of the noblest as well as the most ignoble thoug
hts and actions.
We are the products of our genetic endowment and of the culture in which we are reared. That is why although there might be inherent personality traits more predisposed to anti-social behaviours such as greed and corruption, the dominant worldview and value orientation of culture crucially determine the kind of values and behavioural patterns manifested by members of a given society.
According to Erich Fromm, while our genetic constitution provides a rigid but changeable somatic template for who we eventually become, the blend of personal and social character is critical in our character formation and its manifestation. Now, official corruption is entrenched in Nigeria because there is a near-total collapse of values that are necessary for resisting immorality.
Honesty, integrity, contentment, good name, peace of mind and fellow-feeling are time-tested norms which, if engraved in the mental architecture of individuals, will drastically reduce the propensity for corruption. Unfortunately, the spirit of this age worldwide, or what the Germans call zeitgeist, is decidedly materialistic.
Almost everyone everywhere is engaged in the futile race for primitive accumulation because people worship money and possessions. Thus, humanity is living in hyper-acquisitive societies at the moment in which people are judged not by the rational and humane values they bring to bear on the activities of life but on the sizes of their cars, mansions, wardrobes and bank accounts.
The problem of corruption by Nigerian leaders is worsened by the selective application of extant laws in favour of the mega-corrupt.
We see this all the time in the very light sentences given to VIPs convicted for corruption. Other corruption boosters in Nigeria are the shenanigans called “plea bargain” and “perpetual injunction” through which high-profile thieves are allowed to keep their loot and avoid jail time after returning a tiny percentage of what they had stolen, and are shielded from being prosecuted in the future respectively.
Of course, there are hordes of morally-desiccated Senior Advocates of Nigeria who bribe judges on behalf of their rich clients and employ all sorts of legal legerdemain to shield corrupt politicians from justice. We must be frank and admit that members of the bar and bench, with few diminishing exceptions, are avaricious.
At any rate, how can corruption among members of the ruling cabal go down when senior journalists and columnists routinely write exculpatory verbiage beatifying corruption committed by their benefactors? A journalist or columnist writes a book, probably the biography of a governor, prominent legislator or even a sitting President, and invites him as the chief launcher.
The moneybag and his entourage give millions of naira during the event for “a job well done.” The journalist or columnist could even be in the payroll of the governor, or is a proud owner of two plots of land in a choice part of town courtesy of the executive looter.
If the journalist concerned is an editor of a newspaper, he will never publish any negative report against his benefactor not matter how well corroborated. When he writes a column, as a servile oti mkpu, he will marshal fallacious arguments why anti-graft agencies prosecuting his oga “are wasting time and public funds persecuting the leader of democratic opposition.”
Right from when the EFCC began dealing with very rich former governors, legislators etc., there have always been disgusting essays by veteran journalists cleverly advising it to leave their messiah alone! What a shame. Religion is also involved the beatification of high-level corruption.
For one, former and incumbent heads of state, governors, ministers, bank chief executives and so on accused of corruption are either Muslims or Christians. Therefore, they are insulting Allah or Jehovah, as the case may be, through wanton corruption.
In various places of worship, imams, pastors and reverend fathers reserve special front seats for VIP looters, regularly offer special intercessory prayers on their behalf, and praise them with highfalutin adjectives simply because of the large tithes and gifts the “the men and women of God” receive from the glorified thieves.
As far as I am concerned, religion in Nigeria is a “holy” catalyst and handmaiden of official corruption. The general public beatifies corruption as well. We have already referred to Dankoru’s case. The point is that most Nigerians suffer from the same “get rich quick syndrome” as the leadership.
Hence, they cannot muster disciplined revolutionary moral indignation which is a necessary psychological precursor for abolishing corrupt leadership from the society. Concluded.