Progressively, arguments over how much corruption has contributed to the undeveloped nature of Nigeria has become rife. A conservative sum of $400 billion is said to have been pilfered from Nigeria by corrupt political and public officials since Nigeria’s independence in 1960. And as we move closer to the 2015 elections, corruption and the eradication of it is in fact becoming one of the major points of discussion for Nigerians.
But some people think that ethnicity is the country’s major setback. One of such people reacted to a piece I did about corruption as follows: “corruption is not our major problem in Nigeria. Ethnicity is our major problem, as we have no love for one another. If we have love in Nigeria, then we would not take what belongs to another or the people. People feel cheated and once they are opportune, they want to take as much for themselves and their people. The moment the pressure of ethnicity goes down in Nigeria, the level of corruption will automatically go down. It is only when you thoroughly understand what ethnicity is that you can really know the impact it has in Nigeria. The thing is so devastating that we can’t move forward without the resolution of its fangs…”
I found this contribution both curious and interesting. While we cannot deny the negative effect of corruption on our country, ethnic rivalry amongst our people is an equally hazardous impediment to national growth. And there is no country in the world without a measure of corruption
For instance, reports of corruption in Indonesia even as it strove to get classified as an industrialised country with membership of the G-20 and become the largest economy in Southeast Asia is almost as alarming as it is in Nigeria. In 2011, Indonesia was said to have lost the equivalent of US$238.6 million to corruption.
Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia says this about Indonesia: “Companies are concerned about red tape and widespread extortion in the process of obtaining licences and permits, and they often face demand for irregular fees or concessions based on personal relationships when obtaining government contracts… Companies have also reported regular demand for cash payments and expectations for gifts and special treatments by Indonesian officials… About one-quarter of ministries suffer from budgetary diversions in Indonesia. Households spend approximately 1% while enterprises spend at least 5% of monthly company revenue on unofficial payments…”
It is also true that no country in the world, including the United States of America, which is regarded as the sparkling example of accountability, is free of official corruption or widespread corrupt practices. The only difference between Nigeria and most of these countries is the unity with which their citizens fight corruption. Hence no act of corruption is seen as trivial.
Welcome to the forest of ethnicity called Nigeria and see how tribal groups protect their own even when caught red handed in the attempt to pilfer our collective resources.
When someone is accused of corruption in Nigeria, his community comes around him, as Nigerians ask that such people receive punishment commensurate to their infractions, protests are organised by his or her clansmen, his ethnic group goes on the defence, they begin to describe corruption by another name – victimisation.
There is just nothing as a Nigerian resolve to fight anything. We generate new standards to addressing issues depending on the where the person involved comes from. A clear invitation to the perpetual stagnation of our development as a country.
Not surprisingly, ethnicity is playing a significant role in the upcoming elections, at least as far as the two frontline candidates are concerned. Most people from the Niger Delta region, where the incumbent president is from are bent on returning him to power by all means while every major grouping in the north have elected to back General Buhari on the strength of where he comes from. None of these groups is discussing the competence of their candidate. We are therefore a nation ready to sacrifice merit on the basis of origin.
Not even the Boko Haram insurgency which constitutes the highest threat to the corporate existence of Nigeria has made us come together to fight as a country. This, to my mind is a major reason why we are not making so much progress in terminating the insurgency. And I have a sense that it remains the reason why this country may not attain its potential until we find a way to make us all think Nigeria.
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