The challenge of corruption remains one of the most debilitating issues facing Nigeria. It has been the greatest impediment to the country’s development efforts. Having said this, it is equally important to add that corruption is a problem that confronts many countries of the world. The only difference is that the prevalence, gravity and persistence of the corruption menace vary from one country to the other. That said, the effects or consequences of corruption are always negative. Corruption blocks and frustrates genuine efforts at development. It leaves its victims literally gasping for breath.
Corruption is one human vice which requires immediate tackling. Given its damaging consequence, it is not a problem whose solution can be put off to another day. That is why most countries have in place institutions charged with tackling the menace. In Nigeria, the challenge of corruption has been discussed, examined and dissected at various fora: seminars, high-powered committees, academic gatherings, and in the media.
It is against the above background that this work attempts to come to terms with the problem of corruption with a view to finding a solution to it.
CORRUPTION: The word “corruption” is originally from the Latin verb “rumpere” which means “to break”. Following from the above, corruption means the breaking of a certain code of conduct for the personal benefit of the perpetrator. Many definitions of corruption have been put forward in different epochs or era
this is a process that creates growth, progress, positive change or the addition of physical, economic, environmental, social and demographic components. The purpose of development is a rise in the level and quality of life of the population, and the creation or expansion of local regional income and employment opportunities, without damaging the resources of the environment.
CHANGE: this is something that presses us out of our comfort zone. It is destiny-filtered, heart grown, faith built. Change is inequitable; not a respecter of persons. Change is for the better or for the worse, depending on where you view it. Change has an adjustment period which varies on the individual. It is uncomfortable, for changing from one state to the next upsets our control over outcomes.
CORRUPTION AND THE NATURE OF DEVELOPMENT AND CHANGE
Corruption is as old as civilization itself and in the particular case of Nigeria, it is as old as the history of the country itself. Omotola in his work in the year 2006 page 217, traces corruption to colonialism. He argues that by all standards, colonialism in Nigeria was built on corruption. This is to the extent that “because of the colonialist’s corrupt disposition to exploit the state for their exclusive benefit, they liquidated social structure against corruption associated with pre-colonial Africa and replaced and or transformed them to their own purposes”. This seems yet another attempt to shift the blame for corruption of our own account. We are, and have been since Independence masters of our own destiny in this matter and should, in a manly manner, shoulder the responsibility.
Chinua Achebe, the famous Nigerian novelist, has highlighted the incidence of corruption in some of his novels dated 1960, 1966, and 1988. Achebe’s literary presentation of corruption indicates the extent and damaging impact of the phenomenon on Nigeria and her people. In Nigeria as indicated above, the incidence of corruption is quite high. Since the return to democratic rule in the country in 1999, the country has either been ranked first or second in global corruption rating by Transparency International. This has been a matter of deep concern for both ordinary Nigerians and the political leadership of the country. Before 1999, there were many attempts at stemming the spate of corruption in the country. However, since 1999, there seemed to be a renewed determination to fight corruption. A number of anti-corruption bodies have been set up in this direction. For example the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). In spite of these agencies, corrupt activities have rapidly accelerated in the country almost making nonsense of the activities of these agencies and the war on corruption. This is quite unfortunate because it seems to have become an established pattern.
What is regarded as corruption in Africa is largely because it is expected that a beneficiary should show appreciation for a favour granted him/her. If a Government official offers one a job or contract, the beneficiary, it is said is obliged to show appreciation either in kind or cash to the Government official just as he would do to a village chief if granted a land to cultivate crops or build a house. Corruption is no myth .It is real because in our cultures the effort is made to excuse bribery as mutual goodwill. This is self-deception. Officials doing what it is their job to do, that is, what their salaries pay them to do, are not showing “goodwill” – they are merely doing what they are morally obliged to do. To seek or expect more money from the beneficiary is not morally defensible.
In the twilight of the Goodluck Jonathan-led Peoples Democratic Party administration, Nigerians lamented that they had never had it that bad. The challenges confronting them appeared insurmountable. There was pervasive corruption that threatened to sweep away the entire nation. Insurgents were having a field day in the North, declaring their own republic within the Federal Republic of Nigeria and annexing towns and villages while the government looked helpless. There was massive unemployment and the energy sector was in a comatose state with unending and seemingly impossible fuel and power shortages.
The generality of Nigerians, with the exception of those who were directly benefiting from the Government of the day were totally disillusioned. They cried for change and yearned for a messiah who would restore sanity in the land.
When the present administration was elected there was wild jubilation in many parts of the country because it was believed that corruption would be fought to a standstill.
One year thereafter, Nigerians have expressed total disappointment in the administration. They are agonizing because they have not felt the desired change they sought. Great efforts have been made to curtail insurgency and the Government deserves huge commendation for that. The fight against corruption is well appreciated but it appears targeted at politicians only, while other sectors and most of us are equally in the same state which led to increase in prices, growing unemployment, job losses, pay cuts and owed salaries, hunger. The landlords are crying, tenants are lamenting. Sellers are crying, buyers are lamenting. Many students are being rusticated from school because they can’t pay school fees. Proprietors are distressed. Many companies are winding up. The economy is hard”.
We live in a nation that imports virtually everything from second-hand automobiles, spare-parts to used underwear. Suddenly, the hundreds of thousands of Nigerians engaged in trade woke up to find themselves literally driven out of business. They don’t need anyone to tell them that the economy is in dire straits. They can feel the impact directly. They can no longer procure the scarce foreign exchange required to sustain their businesses with ease.
While we explain why corruption thrives and is easily sustained in Nigeria, it is pertinent to also take into account the critical issue of the ethno-religious constitution of the country and the pervasive rivalries it breeds. It is the crude manifestation of the same intense rivalries that militates against the adoption of common values and standards that are essential for our socioeconomic development.
Nigeria, where lies the change you solicited for, where lies the development you have been yearning for, will you remain underdeveloped until Christ comes again? O Nigeria, your citizens are saying that what they are experiencing now is not the change they bargained for. They have been deceived and led out of the biblical Egypt because of change and now, they are abandoned in the wilderness to die of hunger and misery.
Looking at all the things aforementioned, there is nothing the current administration can do to turn around the fortunes of the economy without Nigerians reaching a collective consensus to internalize the change initiative across a broad spectrum because, it is only decay in all around that I see.
We must not criticize Nigerians for complaining about the slow pace of the dividends of the change they were promised. What we cannot accept, and must reject completely, is any nostalgic reference to the wasteful past as the ideal utopia. Nigerians must develop the courage to interrogate their past without bias or recourse to primordial sentiments.
It has become necessary for us to learn the critical lessons necessary to chart a proper course for the future. We must never allow the pains we are currently experiencing to blur our vision distinguishing between truth and falsehood.
Nigeria’s development has been held back for too long by those who have turned corruption in the country into an industry that ran on its on steam until recently. It is evident from all the cases before the law enforcement agencies presently that Nigeria has been the cauldron of truly massive corruption for far too long. It is now time for Nigerians to take charge of their collective destiny for the sake of their future. And corruption must be fought at every level, corrupt payments refused, bribes and extortion reported to the authorities. The custom of corruption must be torn out root and branch.
BY: IKEGWU AUGUSTINE KELECHI