Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
This Animal Called Corruption
December 15, 2005
This piece derived its inspirations from Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s book entitled "This Animal called Man". Obasanjo’s treatise captured his personal tribulations, spiritual ebullience and swingeing experiences supposedly inflicted by man’s bestiality. Mine is a catalogue of temptations, intimidations and conquering pandemic condoned by state-power. The Nigerian Nation no doubt has maintained a lead in the act of corruption and corrupt practices in the last four years in a consecutive manner and has evidently failed to subdue the monster, be it physically or psychologically.
Having only Bangladesh and few nations to compete with in this profoundly devastating evidence, it seems the corruption gadfly has finally caught the country in the crucible of a disdainful reckoning. Power, they say, corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Accordingly, power and corruption can be said to have some raffish stance, depending on how power is administered. The rude assault of corruption on the citizenry can be quantified by the harsh poverty and deprivation as exemplified on Nigerians ‘ horrifying faces of despair. There’s no doubt that the menace has eaten deep into the fabric of the Nigerian society, thereby polluting and corroding all its capabilities and abilities alike. In a renewed fight against corruption, the nation’s helmsman after blaming his inherited predicament to the corrupt tendencies of his predecessors established an Independent Corrupt Pratices and other Related Crimes Commission (ICPC) yet, the acts of corruption sparks further like wild fire in its encroaching ramifications. Bereft of ideas on how to tackle the scourge, the President retreated to the pulpit for divine intervention while the citizenry watched helplessly the crusader of fight against corruption abdicating all his responsibilities, including his exalted office to corrupt forces!. It is this mine boggling episode sprawling a hidden psychic into hydra-headed monster that conquered the great men-of-war. But, despite what anybody would say about corruption, corruption they say, like power is sweet and refreshing. It is an addictive vice that once you indulge in it, makes you inseparable with. The tendency is that once one is corrupt the mutation of gene of corruption is likely to assume a monstrous proportions. At a personal level, I watched a culture of corrupt retention amongst even the local populace. A Grandma whom I visited five years ago in Maiduguri was blunt in advising me. Hear her "My son, make sure you make money because money nowadays is everything" she paused for a moment to confirm whether I was listening and continued. "You see during our days, integrity counts more than money ……….. but now, no body cares about that ……….. I know you may not like what I am saying, but it is the plain truth. Unlike what other people say, money has legs and wings. You are dead without money". She could hardly finished when I intervened raising some moral questions but all falling on deaf ears.
Grandma thundered "what do you know? I am not saying you should steal government’s money but look for a job that would fetch you money". After throwing a piece of kolanut she was chewing and clearing her throat, she leaned on an arm-chair with her eyes roving over mine in search for signs of remorse and talking in parables concluded " It seems you are happy that your mates are building mansions while you have none. With money you get power, and with power you get influence and with influence you can move mountains".
A second encounter I had was when my junior brother took my course in the university and failed. My colleague came to my flat in a rather furious and bitter contempt and asked rhetorically "Are you not a Nigerian? I guess you are either wicked to have allowed your blood brother to fail your course or you are senseless, period!" and walked away without expecting any explanation. The day I got the heat of my life was in Potiskum, now in Yobe State. I have gone on a vacation to cool off my feet after the hectic work and pressures at Funtua the preceding year, when I fell into a mob of friends and former classmates (Potiskum being where I attended my Primary School) who paradoxically knew about my presence. The leader of the delegation was fast in stating their mission" We have come to greet you after long period of separation. Since some of us are not opportune to go to school like you and God has bless you with money and education. Education does not mean anything to us at this stage, but help us with the money as God has helped you" after thanking all of them for the concern and love they have showered on me, I wholeheartedly removed my bag and shared the money equally amongst ourselves thinking that it is a gesture that will impress my friends. But to my disappointment, the most courageous among them quipped " I have to be sincere with you that I’m not impressed. As a deputy director, this is least expected of you" and he coiled back like a famished cobra.
Even when I explained that as a deputy director, I’m entitled to only my salary as a lecturer in the university, the matter died with an unbelievable recourse. Ruffled by my tormenting experiences in Potiskum, and retreating to my base in Zaria, I met the same story. It was very late before I could reach Zaria but decided to drive to GRA to see a friend of mine, Mallam Aminu who works with a court. On sighting me, Aminu was initially happy but suddenly retired into his sad mood. He blasted " We cannot continue like that. This your so called principles is rubbish!, For God sake when are you going to be wise?" Aminu narrated somewhat similar feelings with Grand Ma "you said you are our leader and can’t behave as others are doing. For how long are we going to suffer together? Enough is enough. Be wise, Be wise" said Aminu with some tormented gibberish. The following morning, I took my trip back to Funtua, my mind highly perturbed by the negative attitudes of Nigerians and their encouragement of corrupt practices which is now a norm but before I could finish thinking, a policeman stopped my car for the normal checking’s after greeting me ,he demanded for bribe which I refused and cautioned him. The policeman queried"oga what is wrong with it, man must survive" My immediate response to the policeman was "not by extortion, please. Be a Honourable man and a symbol of pride to the nation". Hardly did I conclude the statement when he murmured some talks to a fellow policeman, the fellow shot back by saying "I beg, allow am, no be all these lecturers that thinks from the moon?". The above experience is an indicator that if you are not corrupt, you lose the litany of your friends, relations and associates. Virtually everybody will hate you for challenging the status quo. Actually, I attach little blame on the masses of the country when issues of corruption come to fore, Here are a people that have been deprived through a fundamental social dislocation, caused by depraved and corrupt leaderships over the years, still wallowing in abject poverty and deprivation 44years after independence. It is a case of a sick head having a sick body. If the past military regimes are culprits, the present leadership can be rated as the major culprit. The national Economic Intelligence Committee (NEIC) report of 2001 exposed the seeming danger two years of its inception. NEIC revealed that year that the country has lost the sum of N8.379 billon to corruption and negligence between January and June 2000. About N15 billon was outstanding as unremmitted value added tax (VAT) from both Federal and State Governments, Ministries and Government agencies as at June 30, 2000.
The report further said that N13.312 billon collected as special levies in 1999 from solid minerals and other internally generated revenue and 7% special allocation from the Federation account were not highlighted in the budget and that out of a total of N 75.94 billon involving 68 companies levied by the Ministry of Finance, only five companies paid the sum of
N 123.15 Million in 1998 and N 6.854 Billion was paid by seven companies to the ministry in 1999. Also, the sum of $ 167.88 Million from crude oil and gas is yet to be paid into Federal coffers at that time of the report. The 2001 NEIC report was a child’s play compared to the situation as of today. About N 350 Billion was expended on road construction, yet the roads are still in bad shapes, and out of the money only about N 180 Billion was paid to the contractors.
A former Permanent Secretary in the ministry of defence, Mr. Julius Makanjuola was alleged to have stolen N 480 Million from government coffers. There’s also the issue of the ID card scam involving $214 Million and the infamous El-Rufai Versus Mantu and Zwingina bribery debacle. It is a corruption galore in the country with 419 elections capping it all. The ICPC on the other hand, has remained a more or less toothless bull dog. But solving the problem of corruption is not as difficult as people are anticipating, all that is required is giving people their dues and rights ad exhibiting an exemplary leadership. Discipline must be maintained on both sides.
However, paying lip service to fight against corruption as the President is presently pursuing will only aggravate the situation. At the tenth anniversary ceremony of the Transparency International (TI) in Berlin, Germany, the President in his address titled "From pond of corruption to Island of Integrity" which I believe should be the reverse, said "The story of my country Nigeria is fairly well known. Until 1999, the country had practically institutionalized corruption as the foundation of governance. Hence, institutions of society easily decayed to unprecedented proportions, as opportunities were privatized by the powerful. This process was accompanied, as to be expected, by the intimidation of the judiciary, the subversion of due process, the manipulation of existing laws and regulations, the suffocation of Civil society and the containment of democratic values and institutions. Power became nothing but a means of accumulation and subversion as productive initiatives were abandoned for purely distractive and transactional activities. The legitimacy and ability o the state became compromised as citizens began to device extra-legal and informal ways of survival. All these made room for corruption" he said. The President continued "At the root of the corruption quagmire in Nigeria, is the failure and virtual collapse of governance, the contamination of democratic values, the erosion of accountability procedures, and the prevalence of bad leadership. The erosion of public confidence in the county’s political and economical institutions, promoted a culture of contempt for rule of law and ultimately and unfortunately, a societal tolerance for a myriad of conducts previously considered abominable". All that the President has said is the plain truth except that instead of "until 1999" as quoted in his text, suppose to be "from 1999 till date". This is because it is the period that witnessed worst corruption cases since independence judging from the "medals" we have received so far.
From 27th most corrupt nation in the world during late Abacha’s regime, Nigerian maintained the lead position permanently as from 1999. There’s no doubt that we need reforms at the leadership level in order to cleanse the nation of this state of anomie. The nation has lost its innocence due to the irresponsibilities of the leadership and the connivance of the vulnerable citizens.
Respect is the cousin of integrity but while respect is earned, integrity is achieved. The combination of the two leads to honour and dignity. The baseline is standing on a concretely verifiable fact and empirically demonstrable truth telling. Truth they say is a bitter pill but a redemptive line of portraying consciousness and combative incarnation tailored around an evolutionary logic. While truth can be sensationalised or even emotionalised, the contraries and contradictions find disablement in proofs and proofs are subject of evidence showing in a practicable and discernable manner. It has nothing to do with an individual, group, section or societies but an unfolding of human inadequacies and failures of correct sensing. The lawyer must not lie in order to have control over a case in the court. The schoolteacher must live above his students in both intellectual and moral conduct in order to earn the respect of his followers. The pastor or imam must be godly in order to preach against ungodliness. The military enforcer must exercise high level of professionalism and discipline for his juniors to follow suit. A traditional ruler must exhibit high level of decorum and imbibe the noble principles of justice and fairness in order to win the heart of his subjects. A political leader must abide by the tenets of constitutional provisions, which he swore with, for the leader not to be politically challenged. A businessman must be prudent and diligent in the pursuit of his business enterprise to be elevated to a consensus-verdict of a successful businessman. A contractor must show a remarkable degree of performance in order to be rated as a qualified contractor. A journalist must be very objective in assessing situations with an additional zeal of developing strong opinions without changing a matter of truth. An employee must succeed in ethical practice for his employer to appreciate the employee’s presence and so on. However, respect is reciprocal, for a lawyer, teacher, pastor or Imam, military enforcer, traditional ruler, political leader, businessman, contractor, employee, journalist etc to achieve these respects, they must be a rapport of understanding on both sides of the divide. A monopoly of such understanding tenders a levelling propensity inflicting overwhelming irrationality and gruesome exploits. No one can dislodge the common laws of nature or argue with the dynamics of divine sophistication. While it is human to pursue perfection as exemplified by God, the Almighty and the creator of heavens and earth, very few in decimal counts show demonstrable awakening and sinful ephemera. Though it is widely preached sermon that peoples’ voice is God’s voice, in societies like ours where unrighteousness and senselessness thrive it may as well be devil’s voice. This is because God identifies with only righteousness and correct sensing. A revolutionary anarchy it is contended brings about an evolutionary apocalypse of incorrectitude. Here a fault-line of human failures and inadequacies is clearly discernable. undertones and forcible imposition of strange logic. Lets imbibe the norms of civilised societies by inculcating the form and content of democratic ideals. Let us for once, explore our collective tendencies and exploit our hidden talents. Let us gauge the extent of our emotions and measure the level of our feelings with personal self-examination for greater challenges into future. In my earlier article "Obasanjo’s govt: Democracy at crossroads" published in the lead comment column of Weekly Trust of July 14-20, 2000 I depicted such intricacies with makes both leadership and followership in Nigeria implicated as culprits "every leader that emerges at any time and irrespective of the circumstance is considered either God-sent or a saviour by praise-singers until the leader is ruined as a result of the collective induced inflictions of immoral contribution of the larger citizenry, then the leader is again regarded as reckless, barbaric, demonic etc. the consequence is a loss of track of record of performance of any leader at all. All leaders are sometimes bundled together irrespective of their peculiarities in their dispositions and intuitive mind. To say that Sir Ahmadu Bello represents the symbol for the rejuvenation and reactivation of the Northern establishments is a mere understatement. Also to assert that General Murtala Mohammed is an embodiment of patriotism cannot be contested, but both the late Sir Ahmadu Bello and the late General Murtala Mohammed could have been consumed by the loss of memory if not for the sympathy they derived due to the unraveling circumstances relating to their deaths. Even then not much expected honour was accorded these martyrs at national level". If we cannot as a nation vilify the bad traits of the living, let us eulogize the good aspects of the dead and when respectability is accorded the living what stop us from extending same to the dead? After all, the dead needs more respect than the living.
- Paul Mamza lectures at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.