By Babatunde Jose
But those who break the covenant of Allah after contracting it and sever that which Allah has ordered to be joined and spread corruption on earth – for them is the curse, and they will have the worst home (16:88)
The burning issues in public discourse today are insecurity, poverty, and corruption in high places. The issue of corruption, however, takes the cake which is understandable for obvious reasons. Corruption has been the bane of our economic underdevelopment and has exacerbated other problems. A situation where monies meant for the prosecution of war against terrorists is being embezzled and mismanaged is one of the fall outs of corruption. When monies meant for the procurement of vaccines to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, is diverted, and siphoned into private pockets, then the health of our people is jeopardized. At the same time when monies meant for education of our children gets cornered by corrupt elements the future of our children is put on the line. Boko Haram should have been degraded or wiped out if corrupt elements have not been selling our arms and opening the gates of our Base Ordinance Depots to the terrorists. Some corrupt and unscrupulous citizens even supply them food and fuel. Corruption knows no bound. It eats deep into the psych of the victim, obliterating all sense of decency and morals. Once a man has been bitten by the corruption bug, he is finished. Funds meant for the welfare of our troops fighting the terrorists and insurgents, are diverted for personal use by ‘fat cats’ in the military high command. The longer the war against terror, the richer they become. We sometimes see video footage of the terrorists in action and wonder where they get their arms from, including military transports and other logistics. No doubt, our people are behind it. The same could also be said of the Niger Delta insurgents.
The question that agitates the mind is why there is still little or no public outrage at this level of unbridled sleaze? Why would Nigerians sit and watch their common heritage being mindlessly squandered by heartless and irresponsible public officials? Why are Nigerians, in fact, incapable of rising in unison to oppose this level of wanton carnage? Why would Nigerians prefer to die in silence than demand for accountability and justice from those to whom public offices have been entrusted?
It was late Chinua Achebe who said, “The trouble with Nigeria,” is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to their responsibility, to the challenge of personal example, which is the hallmark of true leadership (Achebe, 1984).
But looking at the whole social milieu, there is everything wrong with the Nigerian character. We eat and dine with our corrupt friends without asking how they came about their fabulous wealth; we accept their being wealthy simply because they work in a government department. Equally, most children do not know the source of their parent’s wealth. They are robbers in bureaucratic garb. They constitute the richest segment of the Nigerian kleptocracy. Public service in Nigeria today is a passport to steal and as a national pastime, it is a ‘passport to shame’. These epitomes of corruption are seasonally awarded honorary degrees, some even set up universities, and are conferred with chieftaincy titles; granted special seats at church conventions and are accorded front row places in the mosques, where they are ‘Baba Adinis and Iya Sunnah.
According to Kayode Oladele, the history of political corruption and governance in Nigeria is replete with episodes that range from the commendable to the most absurd. Yet, the struggle against corruption and the quest for good governance have been constant, though historically checkered.
It is only in this clime that a former legislator transits into a state governor and after 8 years of ‘authority stealing’ is metamorphosed into one of the richest men in the land, boasting of private jets, an airline, chains of hotels, media houses, toll plazas, choice real estates and other forms of obscene wealth, without any visible means of livelihood safe for corrupt enrichment through creaming off state tax collections and spoils of office. And such men are many in our clime. Interestingly, they maintain a stranglehold on the political process and continue to milk the national cow.
The odious stench of corruption did not start yesterday, the genesis could be traced back to the First Republic, during which our leaders paraded their newfound wealth with impunity. And we groped along as citizens while politicians scorned the base by which they ascended. And that was putting it mildly if viewed in retrospect. Today we look back at the military era and shake our heads in shame at the rape of a nation under the rule of our praetorian guards. The regime that takes the cake was that of Abacha. The late Gen. Sani Abacha did not only toe the corrupt line of his immediate predecessor, General Babangida, but also perpetrated eviler corrupt practices than him. His regime witnessed the worst form of financial corruption in the country. Under his watch all the refineries became comatose, and we started importing fuel. There was even the notorious ‘Abacha fuel’ that destroyed many vehicles. Twenty-three years and five administrations after, we are still importing fuel with all its attendant corruption. If Babangida was the ‘Patron Saint’ of corruption, late Abacha was easily the ‘Borgia’ of corruption. He wrote for himself an epitaph in the ‘hall of infamy’.
If Abacha’s was vintage corruption, the last 22 years of civil rule will receive the proverbial ‘Victor Ludorum’ for national corruption. But corruption is endemic precisely because the borderline between official and personal money is non-existent in Nigeria, hence accountability and responsibility are exceptionally low, and public officers have flagrantly helped themselves to the largesse.
A 2011 report commissioned by the United Nations Development Fund described Nigeria as a ‘classic example of a Vampire State’; saying that between 1970 and 2004, more than $450billion accrued from oil, but was mostly ‘looted by Nigeria’s Kamikaze military bandits’- David Blair London Telegraph, June 25,2005.
Exasperated, a concerned commentator said, “The country cannot progress, and the country is not ready to progress. Everyone in Nigeria is to blame, not government alone. Our priorities have changed. These days parents do not ask questions. They celebrate their Yahoo children. The same child would later go into leadership position; what do you expect? The country is breeding fraudsters and hush puppies. Charity begins at home. Nigeria itself is built on fraud. The average Nigerian does not believe in honesty they believe you have to cut corners to make it. Nigeria is in serious trouble. I do not see any hope for Nigeria. The only way is to reset. We need accountability. We were handed a working Nigeria, but the greed of our leaders has turned Nigeria into what it is. How can you separate sand from rice? The only country in the world without a landline. The only oil producer importing petroleum products. We saw bombings in Gaza yet there were first responders racing to the scene; things still worked because there is a system in place. We destroyed our system because of greed and self-aggrandizement. A man wants to be President yet a law maker he bribed in the US is serving jail time for just $100k. It is ridiculous. Another aspirant does not have a traceable pedigree, yet nobody is questioning who he is. All his stories do not add up. No schoolmates, no classmates nor close family relations. Is that the type of person you will entrust with a country? We are not asking for angels but at least they must have decency.”
No Angel will come to our aid, no foreign power will rescue us from the hands of our kamikaze leaders, no amount of propitiation to the gods will do; only ‘Cassius from bondage will deliver Cassius’. Julius Caesar, Act 1, scene 3;90.
Allah said: And do not deprive people of their due and do not commit abuse on earth, spreading corruption. (27:14)
Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend