LIBERATION FROM BRIBERY AND CORRUPTION: Bribery and corruption is among the factors that militate against youth empowerment in Nigeria. It has eaten deep into the system that it has almost become a way of life. Pope Francis even defines corruption as ‘a commodity that we buy and sell.’ For him, the way people exchange goods and commodities that is the way corruption is exchanged freely without any remourse. However, a corrupt nation is a crippled nation. It can hardly develop. No amount of Youth empowerment programme can succeed in a corrupt environment.
Since corruption has almost become a way of life, unfortunately most people who are corrupt may not even know that they are corrupt; whereas problem known is problem solved. The first thing we want to achieve through this reflection is to create awareness. We want everyone to know that corruption is real, corruption affects development and above all, corruption can easily lead to hell fire. Corruption, according to Pope Francis, irritates God and scandalises people because it exploits, enslaves, even kills the vulnerable, but those who commit this crime are only focused on money and power.
Money and power is indeed the root of corruption. The bible even describes money as the root of all evil. A corrupt leader is someone who is not accountable to anyone and who falsifies financial figures and documents for his or her selfish interest. He is always feeding on public fund without any feeling of remourse. A corrupt leader is also someone who uses his power to oppress others. Hence as the saying goes, ‘Absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ Power can easily corrupt people’s mind, especially those who are not matured enough to handle it.
Leaders are expected to live an upright life, because to whom much is given much is expected. Unfortunately, most of our leaders are selfish and corrupt. The Lord God condemns all kinds of corruption among leaders, especially the shepherds. “Ho, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the crippled you have not bound up, the strayed you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the wild beasts” (Ezekiel 34:2-5). See, what corrupt leadership can cause! But God is taking record.
The Catholic Bishop Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) highlights the source and the ravaging effect of corruption, especially among top government officials: “Serious allegations of corruption have been leveled at some top government officials and other Nigerians. Very little, however, has been done to thoroughly investigate and prosecute the culprits. Those who have been indicted have either escaped from custody or been granted indefinite bail, or have been set free.” On the other hand, innocent citizens and those with minor charges are suffering under awaiting trials in most Nigerian prisons.
The Nigerian citizenry, according to CBCN, has the right to receive comprehensive reports on the management of Fuel Subsidy, along with appropriate application of justice on the criminals. Fighting corruption demands courage and sincerity, and the fight has to start from the top to the lowest cadre. Politics in Nigeria is still perceived by many in authority more as a self-serving pursuit, opportunity for easy money and prestige, than as genuine service for the good of all. CBCN then observes that “Recent probes on Fuel Subsidy have exposed the depth of corruption in the highest echelons of our government.”
Corruption has eaten deep into most of the sectors in Nigeria. The CBCN even describes as cankerworm: “This cankerworm of corruption, unfortunately, also affects other sectors of Nigerian life, even to the grassroots. Lip-service is paid to fundamental issues, such as youth empowerment, job creation, quality education that is affordable, agriculture, etc., with little or no action to redeem election campaign promises. This situation compromises the credibility of the current transformation agenda of the government.” Bribery and corruption has not just frustrated the transformation agenda it has also affected youth empowerment and other developmental initiatives.
Corruption is responsible for unemployment. Most intelligent youths find it very difficult to acquire admission due to corrupt system of education and governance. Admission into universities and other institute of higher learning is no longer base of merit but on personality and wealth. The right people are not given admission. Even after graduation to secure a job in Nigeria one has to pay dearly. Nobody is interested in your qualifications, even if you are the best student in your school, so long as you have nobody to push your file through, it is good as not existing.
During the pastoral visit of Pope Francis, to the Philippines, the Holy Father condemns in strong terms every form of corruption: “I hope that this prophetic summons will challenge everyone, at all levels of society, to reject every form of corruption which diverts resources from the poor, and to make concerted efforts to ensure the inclusion of every man and woman and child in the life of the community.” The best way to avoid corruption as the Pope noted is to carry everyone along, especially the poor ones in the society.
The pontiff called on Filipino politicians and other politicians across the globe to be honest in their work, and to work for the common good of the people: “As many voices in your nation have pointed out, it is now, more than ever, necessary that political leaders be outstanding for honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good.” This is the only way to shun corruption. It takes an honest leader to fight corruption. If the leaders are committed to the interest of the common good there will be no room for corruption.
The Pope identified three areas of corruption – in politics, in business and in the Church – he said all three hurt the poor who always pay the price for the other’s gain. The Pope further condemns corruption at all levels. “The great biblical tradition enjoins on all peoples the duty to hear the voice of the poor. It bids us break the bonds of injustice and oppression which give rise to glaring, and indeed scandalous, social inequalities.” This is the only way forward!
The Catholic Bishop Conference of Nigeria CBCN are of the view that the eradication of corruption lies in the hand of those in public offices: “To eradicate corruption, graver responsibility falls on those in public life whose acts of public administration ought to be regulated by due process and the rule of law. To regain the trust of citizens demands a certain definite firmness on the part of the government in pursuing sound and clear objectives, along with disinterested application of justice.” To whom much is given much is expected.
The CBCN then specifically challenged the President and all those in authority to address the problem of corruption at all levels: “We challenge the President and the leadership of this nation to address with greater courage, forthrightness and political will the problem of corruption. We, therefore, strongly appeal to President Goodluck Jonathan and his administration to enforce due process and the rule of law in public administration.” This will go a long way in reducing the level of corruption in the nation.
As a way of addressing the problem of corruption, especially from the spiritual angel, the CBCN came up with a short but powerful prayer against Bribery and Corruption in Nigeria. This prayer has gone a long way in creating the awareness of Bribery and Corruption in Nigeria. It is not just enough to recite this prayer without any conscious effort to avoid all forms of bribery and corruption, especially those we find in our Churches. Charity begins at home and moreover Heaven help those who help themselves.
PRAYER AGAINST BRIBERY AND & CORRUPTION IN NIGERIA: Father in Heaven, you always provide for all your creatures so that all may live as you have willed. You have blessed our country Nigeria with rich human and natural resources to be used to your honour and glory and for the well-being of every Nigeria. We are deeply sorry for the wrong use of these your gifts and blessing through act of injustice, bribery and corruption, as a result of which many of our people are hungry, sick ignorant and defenseless. Father, you alone can heal us and our nation of this sickness. We beg you, touch our lives and the lives of our leaders and people so that we may all realise the evil of bribery and corruption and work hard to eliminate it. Raise up for us God fearing people and leaders who care for us and who will lead us in the part of peace, prosperity and progress. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.