Temple Chima UbochiSunday, February 16, 2014
Bonn, Germany




Continued from Part 13

You can't run a society or cope with its problems, if people are not held accountable for what they do (John Leo)

For the great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearances, as though they were realities, and are often more influenced by the things that seem than by those that are (Niccolo Machiavelli)

We’re looking at the singular condition of poverty. All the other individual problems spring from that condition… doesn’t matter if it’s death, aid, trade, AIDS, famine, instability, governance, corruption or war. All of that is poverty. Our problem is that everybody tries to heal each of the individual aspects of poverty, not poverty itself (Bob Geldof)

s the name “Nigeria” is now synonymous with corruption, the world has taken notice of it. In sooth, this writer doesn’t know why nothing seems to change for the better in Nigeria. Actually, we have no reason, as a people, to be where we are today. We have no reason to be so disrespected by the comity of nations. How and why did we get to such an ignominious level as a nation? Nigerian leaders and people are well known for their lack of integrity or honesty; for their use of a position of trust for dishonest gain; for their degeneracy, depravity, immorality; for their use of inducement (by the public officials as bribery) to violate duty, thereby committing felony. Nigeria “stinks to high heaven” because of the moral perversion; impairment of virtue; the luxury and corruption among the upper classes; corruption of minors, and the intellectual degeneration obtainable there!

No one doubts that Nigeria was created, whether in 1914 or in 1960, with corruption as one its "citizens". One wonders why corruption, that started its onslaught right from the time Nigeria was created, continues to grow, while Nigeria has stunted. During the First Republic, corruption was only a “toddler”. When the military took the political centre stage, corruption became an "adolescent"; but it was Muritala Mohammed/Obasanjo's regime that overfed corruption, turning it into the monster and Nigeria's famous citizen it is today. Unfortunately, many Nigerians are still deluded to believe that Muritala Mohammed was Nigeria's best leader. What happened was that his regime was short-lived; otherwise, his was one of the worst and most corrupt regimes Nigeria has witnessed. This column once wrote " Muritala Mohammed: His was one of the worst regimes ever, although people that didn’t know what went on during that time erroneously saw it as one of the best. That he didn’t last that long might have masked his real intentions. He had no reason to overthrow Gowon other than that Gowon was his junior when he became the Head of State in 1966. Mohammed was not the messiah people thought he was; he was corrupt, he privatised a lot of multi-national corporations and the gains went to him and his friends. There wasn’t much infrastructural development during his era. There was a lot of money then and he decided to move the capital from Lagos to Abuja".

In 2009, during that year’s Nigeria independence celebration, Senator Roland Owie, a former member of the Federal House of Representative between 1979-1983, and a senator who represented Edo South senatorial zone in the Senate from 1999-2003, noted why Nigeria continues to battle with endemic corruption and its attendant problem of under development. The senator blamed former Heads of State, Late General Muritala Mohammed and Olusegun Obasanjo for the malaise. The former Senator, in an interview he granted to the SUN then, said that the duo of Muritala and Obasanjo sowed the seed of corruption in the country through their “dismissed with immediate effect policy” in the civil service after the coup that brought them to power in 1975. The senator said that civil servants before the coming of the duo were doing their jobs conscientiously, because they knew that they had a secured tenure. But that with the “dismissed with immediate effect” policy of the Muritala\Obasanjo’s regime, the civil servants started thinking of how best to guarantee their economic well being. In the senator's words: “civil service is the engine room of development, civil service is the womb of government. He (Muritala) came with his greed and that of Obasanjo and they ruined the civil service of Nigeria by what they called dismissed with immediate effect. And when they came up with dismissed with immediate effect, the civil servant whose ambition in life, in work, was to become a permanent secretary or a deputy permanent secretary, have a house in GRA, get to grade level scale one or scale three or so, as they used to call it, changed. Before, when a civil servant is on leave in a year, he goes abroad, he comes back; build or buy one house of four bedrooms in GRA. Retire with his car. Corruption in the civil service and the political system then was to the barest minimum. Because the engine room was not corrupt! But when Obasanjo and Muritala Mohammed came, with their sycophancy and hypocrisy, and dismissed these poor federal civil servants and civil servants everywhere all over the country, the remaining ones said ‘ah! Is it how it goes? All that we had hoped for is gone. So the best beat is to steal. The only way now is to loot the treasury. ‘That was the beginning of corruption in Nigeria”.

The former Senator said, from that period, “the civil servants who felt they had a secured tenure before Muritala Mohammed \Obasanjo eras came, now realized that there was no more secured tenure and then launched into corruption. The civil servants were in charge of various tenders, they have the brains. They started looting. Today go to the federal capital territory. Take the inventory of the houses in Abuja. Three quarters are owned by the civil servants. Not up to one quarter is owned by the politicians”. The senator said that the civil servants did not stop there. That the civil servants took corruption a step further by teaching the politicians how to help themselves to public funds. In his words “they are the people now teaching politicians. When the politicians arrive, they will say, you have to take care of yourself. They were the ones teaching politicians how to steal. ......the Mohammed\Obasanjo regime came and destroyed the nation a second time. When people were shouting General Muritala Mohammed, great man, great leader, he was not great in any thing. If Muritala Mohammed had stayed two years in government, he would have been pushed out. In fact, Nigerians would have demonstrated against him and walked him out of Dodan Barracks at that time. That was another irresponsible regime. A man that was in military, that came to Benin and looted the central Bank, collected all the money in Benin, when he came here on the side of the federal troops during the war. Turned around in 1975 and said he was now a saint. And started to destroy the only thing that Nigeria was known for: the civil service”.

The former Speaker of the House of Reps, Hon. Dimeji Bankole, a very corrupt element also, made a similar point when he said, on 29th November 2010, that "Corrupt civil servants, not politicians, killed Nigeria". Hon. Bankole maintained that corruption in Nigeria is perpetuated by corrupt and inept civil servants and not the political class. He said then: "in the past five years, an estimated N1 trillion was taken from the budget annually by civil servants and was not returned to the treasury". Bankole, who was speaking at the University of Lagos lecture organized by the institution’s Committee of Faculty Presidents, said “20 years ago, 80 percent of staff of the Ministry of Finance had no good accounting education while 20 percent had Ordinary National Diploma in Accounting”. He attributed the lack of capacity in the ministry as part of why the nation was ripped off even by international finance institutions as a $5 billion loan metamorphosed into $20 billion some two decades later. While acknowledging that corruption has pervaded the land including corporate and business and political corruption, Bankole maintained that the civil service in Nigeria has been the biggest perpetrators. In his words: “In a ministry, you will have seven ministers in four years but the permanent secretary would be the same through out the period. There have been situations where a director of finance would not want to be promoted because he is in charge of finances even after being in that position for 10 years”. Bankole insisted that corruption must be uprooted from Nigeria by the combined forces of the youths and responsible adults. He accused the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) of colluding with external forces to rip the nation, saying, “We do not even know the exact amount of crude oil Nigeria exports annually as different agencies bring different figures”.

Bankole was right in 2010, as the federal government of today doesn't even know how much revenue accrues to Nigeria from the sales of oil and gas, as it has been alleged that the NNPC haven't accounted for the sum of $10.8bn and $20bn it should have transferred into the Federation Account long time ago. Now, the finance minister announced few days ago, that the federal government will contract forensic auditors to trace the missing Federation Account Funds. What a country!

Whenever a foreign leader discusses anything pertaining to Nigeria, he or she harps upon corruption and how it has stymied the country growth and development. Even former president of the United States of America, Mr George Bush, of all people, lectured Nigerians on Thursday December 12, 2013, on issues of corruption elimination and tax incentives for sustainable economic growth by saying that “All corrupt public officers must be brought to justice, however powerful. Nigerian leaders have to be bold against corruption”. As the guest speaker at Access Bank Leadership Conference in Lagos that day, Mr. Bush lampooned Nigerian leaders for engaging in corruption and for being soft in tackling the menace. According to him “corrupt officials must be sanctioned; the ability to fight graft and crime is directly proportional to the development of a country”. He also charged Nigerians to hold elected leaders accountable, if they desire sustainable development. Bush declared that although highly placed individuals have the tendency to abuse their offices for selfish gains, identifying and punishing such individuals makes the difference. Bush added: “As president of the most powerful country in the world, I had cause to sanction senior office holders on account of corruption and they faced justice. All corrupt public officers must be brought to justice, however powerful. Nigerian leaders have to be bold against corruption, as a leader you must surround yourself with people who know better than you do and you must trust their decisions. This principle helped me succeed as a president.” Emphasizing on clarity of purpose and agenda, Bush advised Nigeria “to have clear rules that are enforceable without prejudice and also hold government accountable to the people so that it can assure that the people’s money would be protected by the law.” On job creation: Bush advised Nigerian leaders to tackle unemployment and also raise entrepreneurs, saying “If you build entrepreneurs, you will build prosperity in the country, this worked for the United States”. Bush reiterated the importance of tax incentive, by recommending an incentive driven economic policy by not over taxing capital investors but by rewarding them. He said: “I believe it is important to make sure that the role of the public sector versus private sector is balanced. When I was president, I felt it was important to invigorate the private sector. In my country, most of the jobs were created by small businesses. Many small businesses were incorporated as limited partnerships or entities that pay individual tax rates. Therefore, dropping individual income tax rates will increase private sector growth”.

In another but similar case, the late Nelson Mandela, in an interview he granted to Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed, a former Nigerian foreign ministry official, in South Africa few years ago, expressed his anger with the way corruption has “decimated” Nigeria that is supposed to be the proud of Africa. Mandela said “Nigerian leaders have no respect for their people. They believe that their personal interests are the interests of the people. They take people's resources and turn it into personal wealth. There is a level of poverty in Nigeria that should be unacceptable. I cannot understand why Nigerians are not more angry than they are. But what about the corruption and the crimes? Your elections are like wars. Now we hear that you cannot be president in Nigeria unless you are Muslim or Christian. Some people tell me your country may break up. Please don’t let it happen. Let me tell you what I think you need to do. You should encourage leaders to emerge who will not confuse public office with sources of making personal wealth. Corrupt people do not make good leaders. Then you have to spend a lot of your resources for education. Educate children of the poor, so that they can get out of poverty. Poverty does not breed confidence. Only confident people can bring changes. Poor, uneducated people can also bring change, but it will be hijacked by the educated and the wealthy. Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa can provide a tripod for real change but young Africans need to capture that vision. It will be more useful to me if you go back to Nigeria and work to give young Nigerians good education. Teach them the value of hard work and sacrifice, and discourage them from crimes which are destroying your image as a good people”. (Saharareporters)

Foremost American civil rights activist, Rev. Jesse Jackson, when speaking at the 2010 Kuramo conference organised by the Lagos State Government in Lagos, described corruption as the worst debacle confronting humanity. He traced Nigeria’s problem to corruption and greed of its successive leaders and recommended concerted efforts to stop the menace. According to Jackson, the nation is too rich for any of its citizens to be poor. He urged all Nigerians to rise up immediately to fight the scourge of corruption ravaging the country. In his words: “We can do it. We can stop it because corruption is a crime against humanity. Nigeria is so rich yet her people are so poor. We must fight in a big way. We must fight corruption and poverty. Fighting corruption is crucial to fighting poverty”. Jackson noted that at a time many nations of the world were strategising on how to carry out comprehensive global investment to guarantee sustainable development, Nigeria, which ensured freedom of other African countries from the oppressive rule of colonial masters, was being pulled back by evil.

To be continued!





Continued from Part 13