By Josef Omorotionmwan
CORRUPTION in Nigeria today is so pervasive that our current war against it may not be capturing its total catchment portfolio. Yet, people are calling for capital punishment to address the problem. But, shall we scratch the body with the intensity of the itching, at the risk of being totally bruised?
We are quick to accept the legal dictum that those who approach equity must do so with clean hands. That is also what the war against corruption demands – all those engaged in the war against corruption must put on the garb of incorruption. The war must involve all segments of society. This nation can be saved not by a single fiat or legislative act or the stroke of a statesman’s pen; but by millions of separate steps, an inch at a time.
The thieving industry in Nigeria has assumed a frightening dimension. And sadly, stealing is gaining a warped legitimacy in many quarters, to the extent that some who stole their States blind ran to the court on the eve of their departure from Government House to procure perpetual injunctions restraining everybody from questioning them. Shamelessly, we watch as these same perpetrators use their ill-acquired wealth to lord it over those who chose the path of honesty.
It used to be one of those tales by moonlight that there was a notorious thief in a village. Disturbed by the activities of this thief, the villagers came together at the village square to seek a way out of their predicament. As soon as they gathered, the thief came out and issued a stern warning that nobody should talk about him.
Our Labour Unions have just demanded that corruption should be visited with the ultimate punishment – death penalty. In May 2010, the then Chairman of the EFCC, Farida Waziri, recommended the same punishment. The issue was quickly taken to the public domain by a popular Nigerian Newspaper. The people returned an overwhelming verdict of more than 75% in favour of death penalty.
Funny enough, the less than 25% who voted NO did so, not necessarily because they did not believe in the efficacy of the death penalty, but more as to who would cast the first proverbial stone. Their salient question was: How many Nigerians would still be alive after everyone adjudged corrupt has been summarily dealt with?
Among those voices that are loudest when it comes to criticising corrupt politicians are school dropouts who managed to find their way to the Customs but meanwhile, they possess the most primitive accumulations in bank accounts and sprawling landed property across the land and beyond; opinion leaders who will not encourage their people to vote unless the office-seeker has purchased their conscience; and community heads who have scorned politicians unable to donate N20 million to their community project.
Clearly, a society that encourages corruption; and a political process, which emphasises unhealthy rivalry and ostentatious consumption is, without doubt, a sure prescription for widespread graft.
Who will really cast the first stone? Is it the legislative branch, which demonstrably, is not any less corrupt than the executive? There is something patently wrong with that system, which at the end of tenure sends the Governor to jail while the legislators who gave him his annual appropriations, with all sing-song about legislative oversight of the administration, walk our streets in unfettered freedom.
Or, is it the judiciary? If for nothing else, we commend the Labour Unions for their resolve to henceforth run-over those judges and their courts that grant the bogus black-market injunctions restraining thieving executives from being prosecuted.
The judiciary must live up to the expectation that ultimate deterrence rests on rationality and on the fear of apprehension and a belief in the certainty of penal sanctions. It is not going to be business as usual where investigations and trials will drag on ad infinitum.
The anti-graft agencies cannot, in all conscience, claim to be on top of the situation when thousands of people keep being invited and the conviction rate still remains at near-zero.
As a way of demonstrating its seriousness and pointing at the direction it wants to go, this administration must quickly show a few concrete examples of what a decisive war is all about! There must be vigorous enforcement, which relies on the military maxim that the best defence is a strong offensive.
The workers, too, must stand to be counted. Admittedly, it takes at least two to tango. In the case of a rational offence like stealing, placing a security guard near the basket of mangoes is likely to reduce the number of mangoes stolen – that is, if the security guard is not the one stealing the mangoes!
Invariably, every stealing by the politician is aided and abated by the workers. If the anti-graft crusade must succeed, the workers’ involvement must transcend the shouting bouts on our streets and at the stadia into that of everyone playing well his role. It is incumbent for anyone who sees corruption to cry out. The disease of corruption can only be cured by the medication of incorruption.
Coming at a time when the abolition of capital punishment is gaining currency world-wide, Nigeria cannot now be seen to be adopting the same atavistic measure. Even for the ultimate crime, murder, the new world order rejects capital punishment because besides offending Christ’s message of forgiveness; punishing killing with another killing also runs counter to the way society treats other heinous crimes. For instance, rapists are not being punished by being sexually assaulted.
Wittingly or unwittingly, the call for capital punishment looks like a booby-trap intended to return President Buhari to his military past. He must run away from it!
The fundamental cause of corruption is traceable to our perverted value system, which glorifies and worships material wealth acquisition without sparing a thought as to the source of such wealth. No meaningful change here can afford to leave behind the idea of general re-orientation of society. Anything that affects all must be approached by all.