POLITICAL corruption is a persistent phenomenon that pervades the Nigerian State. Since the creation of modern public administration in the country, there have been cases of official corruption and misuse of public resources for personal enrichment.
The rise of public administration and the discovery of oil and natural gas are two major events seen to have led to a litany of ignoble corrupt practices in the country. Over the years, the country has seen its wealth withered with little to show in living conditions of the average human being.
A Nigerian political leader, Obafemi Awolowo raised a salient issue when he said, since independence, our governments have been a matter of few holding the cow for the strongest and most cunning to milk. Under those circumstances everybody runs over everybody to make good at the expense of others.
Characteristically, apologists for the failings of African governments have blamed colonialism for the pervasive corruption.
According to this view, the nation’s colonial history may have restricted any early influence in an ethical revolution. Throughout the colonial period, most Nigerians were stuck in ignorance and poverty. The trappings of flash cars, houses and success of the colonists may influence the poor to see the colonist as symbols of success and to emulate the colonists indifferent political ways.
Involvement in the agenda of colonial rule may also in hit idealism in the early stage of the nascent nation’s development. A view commonly held during the colonial days was that the colonists property (cars, houses, farms, etc) is not “out” property. Thus vandalism and looting of public property was not seen as a crime against society.
This view is what has degenerated into the more recent disregard for public property and lack of public trust and concern for public goods as a collective national property.
Some writers have posited about the different potential causes of flagrant and pecunious graft that exists in the country many blame greed and ostentatious lifestyle as a potential root cause of corruption. To some, societies in love with ostentatious lifestyle may delve into corrupt practices to feed the lifestyle and also embrace a style of public sleaze and lack of decorum.
The customs and attitudes of the society may also be a contributing factor. Gift giving as expressions of loyalty or tributes to traditional rulers maybe fabrics of the society, also, a political environment that excludes favours towards elites or wealthy citizens may also be influenced by corruption. Wealthy elites may resort to sleaze in order to gain power and protect their interest. However, the bottomline surmissed from the views of most Nigerians is that corruption is a problem that has to be rooted out.
In Nigeria another major cause of corruption is ethnicity, called tribalism in Nigeria. friends and kinsmen seeking favour from officials may impose difficult strains on the ethical disposition of the official. Many kinsmen may see a government official as holding necessary avenues for their personal survival or gain. A culmination of use of official resources for private gain may lead to further pressures on incoming officials from other kinsmen.
However, the fact is the importation of modern rules on inter-ethnic political relationships is a recent colonial and western initiative that may take time to become the norm, deep allegiance to other ethnic groups for administrative decisions early on was sometimes viewed suspiciously, and an early institutionalization of a unitary system in the country. May also have led to a further familiar groupings induced corruption.
Nevertheless, a modern practical approach to leadership and relationships has gradually taken a prominent role in the political process. The necessity for practical inter dependence and cooperation is at the forefront of yearnings for good governance in the country.
Pre-Independence and the First Republic.
Corruption, though prevalent, was kept at a manageable levels during the First Republic. However, the cases of corruption during the period were sometimes clouded by political infighting.
Azikiwe was the first major political figure investigated for questionable practices. In 1944, a firm belonging to Azikiwe and family bought a Bank in Lagos. The bank was procured to strengthen local control of the financial industry. Albeit, a report about transactions carried out by the bank showed though Azikiwe had resigned as chairman of the bank, the current chairman was an agent of his.
The report wrote that most of the paid up capital of the African continental bank were from the Eastern Regional Financial corporation.
In Western Nigeria, politician Adegoke Adelabu was investigated following charges of political corruption leveled against him by the opposition. The report led to demand for his resignation as district council head.
In the Northern region, against the backdrop of corruption allegations leveled against some native authority officials in Bornu. The northern government enacted the customary presents order to forestall any further breach of regulations. Later on, it was the British administration that was accused of corrupt practices in the results of elections which enthroned a Fulani political leadership in Kano, report later linking the British authorities to electoral irregular rites were discovered.
Gowon Administration (August 1966-July 1975) corruption for the most part of Yakubu Gowon’s administration was kept away from public view until 1975. however, informed officials voiced concerns. Critics labeled Gowon’s governors as misguided individuals acting like lords overseeing their personal fiefdom. He was viewed as timid, in terms of being decisive against corrupt elements in his government. In 1975, a corruption scandal surrounding the importation of cement engulfed many officials of the defense ministry and the central bank of Nigeria. Officials were later accused of falsifying ships manifestos and inflating the amount of cement to be purchased.
During the Gowon administration, two individuals from the middle belt of the country were accused of corruption. The Nigerian government controlled the newspapers, so the Daily Times and the New Nigerian gave great publicity to denunciations of the administration of Gomwalk, and Federal Commission Joseph Tarka by the two critics. A situation which may signal a cause for exigent action on corruption.
Murtala Administration (1975-February 1976) In 1975, the administration of Murtala Muhamed made reformist changes. After a military coup brought him to power, the new government sacked a large number of prior government officials and civil servants, many of whom had been criticized for the misuse of power they wielded under the largely uneducated military of Gowon.
Obasanjo Administration (February 1976- September 1979), Shagari Administration (October 1979- December 1983).
Corruption was deemed pervasive during the administration of Shehu Shagari. Few federal buildings mysteriously went on fire after investigators started probe on the finances of the officials working in the buildings. In late 1985, investigations into the collapse of the defunct Johnson Mathey Bank of London shed light on some of the abuses carried on during the second republic.
To be continued next week.