Corruption in Nigeria has a million names but few stand out. Corruption is graft;over-inflating contracts like a vulcanizer without conscience, deliberately under-valuing government’s assets in order to sell them to cronies, padding departmental budgets for miscellaneous reasons preferably understood in anonymity, stuffing the payroll with names and bank accounts of ghost workers because there is scarcity of mammon in the after-life. Corruption is bribery. As a child I thought the word ‘bribe’ meant some sort of fruit tabooed in our culture. In those days the gist often went ‘…nor mind oga. Him dey do like say him nor dey chop bribe. But make dem give am bribe where nobody dey, him go chop am clean mouth.’Many years after I found I wasn’t wrong. ‘Bribe’ indeed is a cursed fruit that is why people swear oaths never to eat it. And when they do eat it,they swear again that they’ve never eaten it;bribes to award contracts,bribes to give employment, bribes to recommend for promotion, bribes to send on courses overseas.
Corruption is nepotism; appointing one’s own kinfolks into‘juicy’ positions so that when questions on ‘juice-theft’ are afterwards asked, answers will remain secure in the unbreakable code of silence.Corruption is ominous; the Power sector’s strange invulnerability to change despite inconceivable investments gulped down since 1999, since gulped down into darkness. Corruption is diversion; the very painful diversion of petroleum products for which huge billions have already been paid as subsidy. Ah! Especially for this one ma kpariwooo!!!
Corruption is the fight against corruption. Unfortunately the corrupt aren’t stupid. They know when they’ve been hedged in. They know if the new Ọlọkpais pacifiable. And they will latch on to the slightest let-off sin words or in body language to press home a deal. This is where they call upon the same old trait with which they vanquished the vault in the first place,that is the uncanny ability to broker hushed negotiations with someone hard to predict. This deft move never fails. It always opens up a grey space. But now it will open up a darkish opportunity where the anti-corruption official will witness the laughable strangeness in a grown man speaking so light and so ingratiating like a child mumming through a lie.What an opportunity to smash the case and make a name! What an opportunity to ‘hammer’ like the man on the other side of the table and put paid to any future doubts about money!
Fighting corruption in Nigeria actually requires fighting the thing within us that would rather give in to the wrong. This is the pursuit of altruism. Tracing the beginning of our troubled character, I think from somewhere in the past,probably from the late 80s into the early 90s, as a nation we began to allow ourselves the sin of continually defying the morality of consequences.The defiance,I think, steadily grew in us and with every passing regime of turning the blind eye, it hit new heights in audacity.Now what we have before us is an abiding culture of thieving whose only solution is the difficult process of unlearning the behaviour.
Like magic, today,Nigeria’s major player in graft, the Federal Civil Service seems to stand at attention to President Muhamadu Buhari.Nigerians’ ability to predict a man’s motives has never been sharper. Ọtẹmwẹngiẹgiẹ! U ma họn? The self-preservation instinct activated– nobody wants to get caught! The sudden change is certainly a response, an unwilling response it must be said,to nothing else but Mr President’s persistently uncompromising predisposition. But I am left scratching my head wondering how that 4years even 8years of repositioning the country’s checkered administrative thought would be enough to forge a maintainable tradition of selfless service for the future of public administration in Nigeria. I fear that irrespective of party alliances, as soon as someone else who doesn’t give two pennies about prudence takes over the helms, Nigeria will again hobble back into the bushes as if we forbid to enjoy the development good governance brings.
Altruism is surely the difference between fighting Nigeria’s corruption today and doing business as yesterday-usual. Sadly we cannot perpetuate one man for too long in office because he is proven to put Nigeria first in his dealings as that would in itself defeat the very essence of selflessness. Sad, because here is truly one man after long periods of national foolery. At times I ask myself in exasperation whether the failures of Nigeria’s democratic leadership aren’t palpable enough to countenance a Cuban style dictatorship. At least as a temporary salvaging relief from the comical madness where millions and billions go puff into the winds like circus tricks, like some common ‘blow blow’ we burst as an after-thought.
Just now there are sweat-dripping arguments that President Buhari’s fight against corruption suggests blatant disregard for the rule of law. Yet this argument seems to be in hefty silence on the fact that the indicted persons didn’t deny receipt of these monies but have only utilized the space under the law to explain away the purposes of these monies. It is as if proponents of this argument expect Nigeria’s corruption to suddenly develop wings and forever fly away as it were in a bedtime story. No! Certainly not! There must be a seeming breaking of rules and over stretching of boundaries, of course boundaries provided by the law, in a bid to catch the corrupt. And expectedly in response there must be hue and cry from the corrupt and their sympathizers over the government’s dictatorial approach to seeking convictions. The dust thus raised serves the generality of Nigerians, many for the first time, a rare opportunity to understand and to lend their own voices on national issues and on just why we have been notoriously unable to make progress as a nation.
I strongly feel that in aggregate terms,we are unlucky to have found the unfeigned zeal to fight corruption so late in our democracy.Yes it is late in the day of our democracy. Primarily because all those opportunities for development carted away in droves of trillions these past years may never be regained especially now as our only source of replenishing an always empty vault, crude oil, is failing in the market place. But the blessing in all this is that we are now forced to seriously consider diversifying our economy. But at what cost? As in where is the money, I mean the interest free money to finance the diversification and at the same time pay salaries and invest in a largely dilapidated infrastructure? It’s definitely back to borrowing ways, cap in hand as if we hadn’t the wherewithal to prevent the shamefacedness.
I know some will be quick to point out that Nigeria’s democracy is still in her formative years and as such just a bit unripe for all this doom talk. To this,I pick a punch from directly above the hip and land a kill-blow on the sternum of any thought less analogy seeking to equate a 17year old supposedly people-oriented system of government with a 17year old juvenile who doesn’t know what the time is in life!I never finish, I also hire three Agbekpos to lavishly pour ‘you know what’ on already filthy analyses that portray our democracy as only fledgling compared to the democracies of the West!Reason. 17years for any nation is enough time to begin and attain significant levels in industrialization.The 17year space is wide enough to wrestle with and scale up everything in the energy provision sequence; from power generation and distribution to adequately billing consumption. 17years is no small window to try several alternatives to a failed fuel subsidy scheme; survive the scourge of fuel scarcity, perhaps industrial actions,parley the NLC, subsidize food and transportation and weigh the twin impact on the masses.
This administration is an opportunity to again begin our story of prosperity as a nation but it is going to be hard fought for. It can no longer be the conventional warfare against corruption.Employing Drones to reconnoitre wayward vessels bearing precious petroleum products on the high seas is just the beginning. We are getting to the place where surveillance gadgets will be mounted in every Permanent Secretary’s office with a duly signed MOU to ensure the gadgets are always switched on or else… Soon members of the executive and national assembly will have to undergo a series of medical tests to prove negative to the Looters’ virus.Very soon Jacuzzis and Olympic size swimming pools will be installed in jail houses all over Nigeria so that oga and madam will not find it too unattractive to spend some time cooling off in restriction. Literally,something has to give because whether we know it or not, as a nation, we’ve long ago crossed unacceptable thresholds of pain caused by corruption.
Ayewoh Osezele Franklyn
© July, 2017.