Temple Chima UbochiSunday, February 2, 2014
Bonn, Germany




Continued from Part 11

Man has dominated man to his injury (Ecclesiastes 8:9)

Sinful Inclinations lead many to put their own interest first or to center their lives on gaining material possessions or authority at others’ expense (Romans 5:21; 7:17, 20, 23, 25)

People who want to be rich fall into all sorts of temptations and traps. They are caught by foolish and harmful desires that drag them down and destroy them. The love of money causes all kinds of trouble (1 Timothy 6:9)

s this writer noted before: Nigeria was a country with a promising future in 1960, but, it didn't take long, after independence, for that hope to dissipate, because, corruption became a famous citizen of Nigeria immediately after independence, and today, it (corruption) had taken over Nigeria! The only problem Nigeria has today is corruption; tame it and we will start having good roads, good schools, regular supply of electricity, security of lives and property, free and fair elections, well equipped hospitals and health centres, piped water, good leadership and governments, operating industries, and most of all, gainful employment. Transparency International says that corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. It hurts everyone whose life, livelihood or happiness depends on the integrity of people in a position of authority. The consequences of corruption can be disastrous; it has been responsible for untold hardship, suffering and misery. Honest people who have tried to establish a more just society have been constantly frustrated by greed and corruption. In a Nigeria characterized by greed and selfishness, the rulers, driven by selfish ambition, have become power hungry while developing strong desire for more money and excessive possessions.

As emphasized before, underdevelopment epitomized by poverty, illiteracy and disease breeds unemployment and a spike in societal ills. Comparing what Mugambi Nandi, an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya, wrote for his country and what’s obtainable in Nigeria, one can conveniently say that our growth can aptly be described as stunted, considering how far we are behind the Asian Tigers, our economic peers at independence. Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan are now developed, high-income economies, thanks to deliberate government policies that facilitated rapid industrialization and sustained growth rates above seven percent over the years. Their leaders identified areas of competitive advantage and invested heavily in them. On our part, we identified the triple evils — ignorance, disease and poverty — as our enemies. We mistook the symptoms for the illness. As the diagnosis was wrong, the prescription was not bound to cure the malady. While we were fighting the three enemies, or pretending to fight them, corruption made a surreptitious entry into the scene. It consumed the generals and the troops who were leading the fight against the triple evils. And that is how we lost the battle. Ignorance, or lack of information, has been used by the political class over the years to its advantage. Nothing demonstrates this better than the tribal voting patterns which we witness at every election, and the quality of some of the leaders we “elect”. Yet we are famed to be amongst the most literate people in the world! Our education system must be designed to solve our problems. Hopefully, the dawning of the age of a laptop for each child will herald a new generation, through whom ignorance will be dealt the final blow. Poverty is a social problem characterized by low levels of income and lack of access to basic services and amenities such as food, education, health care, sanitation, clean water, transport and communications. In a stroke of genius never before seen in that august house, members of the national assembly identified low pay as the source of poverty – at least their own. Having identified the problem, they proceeded with alacrity to solve it by increasing their own pay tenfold. Soon, other public sector employees took the cue, and the result is that Nigeria is labouring under a public wage burden that will hinder our attempt to take off like the Asian Tigers. Instead of enhancing productivity and marshaling savings, we have turned to consumerism, as poverty flourishes. One of the key drivers of any economy is a healthy workforce. Apart from being involved in productive activities, a healthy population provides a market for goods and services and contributes to the eradication of poverty. Although we are doing better than our neighbours in terms of medical health facilities, we are far from where our potential as a country requires us to be. The growing outward-bound medical tourism mainly to India, South Africa and the UK speaks volumes about the confidence our own people have in our medical facilities.

The question becomes why is it that corruption in Nigeria is out of hand unlike in other climes? Just as Nikki Giovanni (1943) wrote that “Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to error that counts”, fact is that no country is immune to the perils of corruption, but, the rule of law puts people in other climes, where corruption has been tamed, on their tows. In those places, corruption has been substantially subdued, because, people in those countries know the consequences if they are caught engaging in corruption or fraud. But in Nigeria, the laws are not effective as the legalsystem has perverted justice all for the high and the mighty. In Nigeria, the rule of law is only for the poor and the downtrodden, while the politicians, their friends and cronies and those who have unfettered access to the corridors of power, pay no price for the corruption and fraud they have been perpetrating. That’s the reason corruption has bloomed and made Nigeria one of its capital countries in the world. Professor Ukwu I Ukwu, in an interview he granted The Sun, said that “One of our major banes is the plurality and the conflict of laws. You cannot have a united country when the citizens are not subjected to the same kind of criminal justice (when laws are made to restrict the rights of some and not all). We have to restore honesty, vigilance amongst ourselves, and not when someone steals, his or her town union would troop out to defend their own. How can we have good governance with such attitude? Let there be transparency in government. Government are supposed to publish statement of account every three months, but, in Nigeria some are three to four years behind schedule, and whenever they do, they don't give enough details on their financial transaction, rather they just blab about it. Here, a contract gets awarded for billions of Naira, yet we don't know the terms of agreement for the contract. Contracts in this country costs 10 to 20 times higher than what it would cost in other climes; for every one million naira that is actually used for a job, nine million naira enters the pockets of politicians, ministers and commissioners who awarded the contracts and the pockets of the man who would make the money available. When they are probed or made to face the law, you see some coming out to protest that 'he is our man'. They fail to imagine that the society would be better off if that money they stole was deployed to create jobs”.

Corruption and Nigeria are two faces of the same coin, because, the menace has been perpetrated in the country since its creation. Nigeria, being a deceitful colonial creation, has had corruption as part and parcel of it. Some people are blaming President Jonathan for the monumental corruption with impunity going on in Nigeria, saying that they haven’t seen the types and magnitude of it before. Because of the way Nigeria came into being, the seed of corruption was planted in the country from the beginning, and there was no mechanism put in place, by the colonial masters, to fight corruption then. What happened was that upon granting the fake independence to Nigeria in 1960, those who took over the mantle of leadership then, had corruption bequeathed to them, and they started engaging in it. During the First Republic, the three major ethnic leaders were at one time or the other accused of engaging in corruption.

As noted repeatedly, the foundation of Nigeria was laid on deceit and corruption, and the three pillars of the First Republic – Zik, Awolowo and Sardauna –imbibed the corrupt tendencies the colonial masters created Nigeria with. Each of the three founding fathers of Nigeria was tainted by corruption, and those following them took it from there, and since then, corruption has become entrenched in all facets of life in Nigeria. The problem is that with each passing day, corruption tends to be all encompassing and overbearing. During the First Republic, corruption wasn’t so pronounced, but, when the military dabbled to the centre of the political stage, it exacerbated everything, making corruption a way of life in the country. Every new government, whether military or political one, tries to outdo the one before it in corruption practices as if there’s a price to win for being the most corrupt government in Nigeria. Delivering a lecture at the Sixth Tai Solarin National annual lecture held in 2010 on the topic; Nigeria: corruption, corrosion and correction, Professor Muhammad Munzali Jibril said corruption in Nigeriahas had a long, even respectable history. In his words: “During the colonial era , our Big Nationalists who are now considered fathers of the nations were each accused of various degree of corruption, with varying degrees of justification. Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, was accused in 1943 by his own cousin, Alhaji Abubakar Siddique, of misappropriating tax revenue as District Head of Gusau. Mr E. O. Eyo, the then NCNC chief whip in the Eastern Nigerian House of Assembly and who had a political disagreement with Zik, moved a motion in the Eastern House of Assembly asking for an impartial enquiry into the 2 million pounds invested by Eastern Development Corporation into African Continental Bank when the bank started losing money and Zik was the Premier Eastern Region. A panel of enquiry was set up, and Zik’s conduct was found improper. In 1962, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who was then leader of the opposition at the federal level, was accused by his political opponent of diverting Western Region Government funds to his party. An inquiry was subsequently set up under Mr. Justice George Coker which found the accusation to be true. In that lecture, Prof. Jibril said“corruption and public morality seem to be at the nadir in Nigeria today, we seem to have reached the stage when, if we lived in ancient times when God used to destroy nations that were beyond redemption in their moral transgressions, we would have been more than ripe for total destruction” He also said “the term Nigerian factor, a term which appeared to have found its way into public discourse in Nigeria when the then Vice-President of the republic, Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, used it publicly in the late 1980s, has come to mean, unfortunately, corruption, nepotism, dishonesty, fraud and anything that is negative in our national life. Our lack of patriotism in tagging anything negative as Nigerian has even surpassed that of the Irish in the 18th century”.

Prof. Jibril pointed out that corruption and dishonesty are rampant in today’s Nigeria, but they are neither Nigerian inventions nor exclusively Nigerian. “They are universal tendencies that have always existed in every land and clime but the cause for worry is the degree to which they are practiced by Nigerians and our openness and discretion in doing so”. He said so unashamed are we of it that we have elevated the plastic bag which is used to carry large sum of bribe money, and which in Europe, is used to carry clothes for laundry, to status of a national symbol of corruption and christened it Ghana Must Go Bag or GMG for short”. He lamented that “Nigeriahas gained notoriety in these negative tendencies because of the aggressive activities of a negligible but prominent minority.

Suggesting the way forward, Prof Jibril said “in order to avoid the total collapse of the Nigerian state which corruption is accelerating, all patriots must come together and fight it, for if we fail to do so the inevitable anarchy that will follow will consume us all”! He further suggested the “repatriation of Nigerian looted funds from foreign countries, estimated to be in region of $100 billion, which should be used to liquidate the debt and improve infrastructure nationally and also create employment for our people” Also speaking at the same lecture, Mrs Sheila Solarin, wife of the late Dr Tai Solarin, said “every Nigerian that is 50years and above owe the younger generation an apology for not working hard enough to make Nigeria a country they will be proud of. We are so sorry”.

The point this writer is making is that with every successive regime, corruption tend to graduate to the next higher level. Even if a new president takes over in 2015, corruption would worsen on his or her watch as there’s nothing anybody can do about it as long as the old order is still being maintained. As long as Nigeria remains as it is without any fundamental changes in its structural, socio-economic, political and cultural aspects, corruption would only blossom with each passing administration. Only a fundamental change which the national conference may, I repeat, may, usher in, if well organized, can make a huge dent in the endemic corruption in Nigerian politics and business!

As noted previously by this column: Metaphorically speaking, in 1960, the seed of corruption was sown as Nigeria gained its independence. Due to the fact that every condition necessary was in place, as the new nation was cobbled together with deceit, the ground was fertile for the seed to germinate into a plant and it blossomed. There was corruption in the 1960s, but, it was nothing when compared to the corruption of today. The seed of corruption that became a plant in the 1960s became a tree in the 1970s and 80s with the tap root chasing the underlying waterbed hastily and the shallow roots spreading like tentacles far and wide, choking and emasculating everything in their paths. The branches of this (corruption) tree spread out to all corners of the nation and prevented the nation from getting the light of development. The branches provided a shade for underdevelopment, providing a cover for all evils being perpetrated in the nation, making the country what it's today. Today, the tree is 53 years old and is all encompassing. It has provided a perching place for vultures, hawks and all birds of prey. While under it, the hyenas, pigs and scavengers have found a play ground to devour everything meant for all. Only the big and strong birds and carnivorous animals have been enjoying; living fat while the small birds and animals have nothing to feed on. It might interest the reader to know that after corruption and looting, still about eighty percent of the national revenue goes towards government salaries and all these worsen poverty (unemployment) in Nigeria.

To be continued!





Continued from Part 11