In Nigeria, the only thing worse than corruption, is the hypocrisy that comes with it.
Here, everyone else is corrupt but the person that is currently postulating. The moment you say anything contrary to what he is seeking, he labels you as corrupt or mitigates his condemnation by describing you as condoning corruption. Truth is there are very few Nigerians who are neither corrupt nor corruptible. But we do not see that and such hypocrisy is in itself a form of corruption.
From the civil servant who will not move files without a greased palm; the director who will not approve payments without gratification; the company director who marks up a project budget by 30 per cent; the clergy whose god is money; the doctor in a public facility who demands money for appointments and diverts resources to his private clinic; the immigration officer who manipulates procedures; the customs officer who allows contraband into the country; the teacher who awards marks after “obtaining” the student; the parent who purchases question papers for his child; the student who cheats in examinations; the reporter who pushes his conscience out of the way and sells his newspaper space to the highest bidder in betrayal of public trust; the traditional ruler who sacrifices the interest of his people for a mess of pottage and so on, all contribute to the sorry state of our country.
But hypocrisy makes us blame other people. It is one of the reasons why people say the Jonathan administration did nothing about corruption but I beg to differ. And I will give two examples of things that he did.
As Senate President Bukola Saraki said last week, the NNPC is the engine room of corruption in Nigeria and it has always been. But NNPC is not in that state because of bad people, it is because the system is weak and easy to manipulate . In addition to that, things are hard in Nigeria in such a way that there is pressure on everyone who has an opportunity.
With the debilitating level of poverty in the country, only the fear of God, rather than the fear of jail would stop people who see gaping opportunities to steal. Such divine reverence is, sadly, not commonplace. As long as opportunities exist, people will work to perfect the act of not being caught.
That administration promised to reform the sector and in June 2012 through former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Allison Madukwe, it laid the Petroleum Industry Bill before the National Assembly. The National Assembly was in session for two years after this date but the law was never passed.
I have heard arguments that there was a lot of disaffection with the law but isn’t the national assembly there to aggregate opinions and give us a law that we could at least try? I am confident that if this law had been passed, the volume of malfeasance that we hear about the NNPC would be greatly minimized.
It is also wrong to say that the administration did not attempt to bring people to justice. What it did not do was turn investigations and trials into circuses. For instance, all of the cases that have been celebrated in the past few weeks started during the Jonathan administration. While investigations were going on with some, some could not be prosecuted for one reason or the other. For example, Governor Murtala Nyako fled the country, Governor Sule Lamido had immunity. Dr Chimaroke Nnamani’s case was in court, while investigations started into the cases against Mr. Steve Orosanye’s and former Governor Ikedi Ohakim
So what is my point? One, rather than see corruption as a “they against us” problem, every Nigerian must realize that they must do something to save this country from corruption.
Two, law enforcement and trying people in the media will never sufficiently tackle corruption in Nigeria. If it could, no Nigerian would pilfer national resources after the Obasanjo administration sent governors to jail, removed an Inspector General and prosecuted him, removed and prosecuted a minister (who was Obasanjo’s senior in school and who unfortunately died in the course of his trial) ridiculed and put the President’s permanent secretary cousin on trial.
Thirdly, corruption is inevitable in a country where poverty is endemic and institutions weak. I was happy to read about President Buhari’s plan to reform the oil and gas sector (starting with the NNPC) and strengthen anti-corruption agencies. This reform should also affect the judiciary such that cases are expeditiously dispensed with and those who would take plea bargains can do so promptly.
In addition and most importantly as a matter of fact, something urgent needs to be done about the welfare of the people including political office holders. An improvement in the ability of the people to fend for themselves will ultimately affect the scale of corrupt practices.
Finally, I suggest that President Buhari and the All Progressive Congress (APC) should be less dramatic about the alleged corrupt practices of the immediate past administration. It is okay to probe but kindly do not make public statements until investigations are conducted.
There are two ways in which such random proclamations could be counterproductive. The first is that it will rob the credibility of the administration if investigations reveal anything contrary to what has been said to the public. And secondly that those at whom we point fingers by these statements would try to cover their tracks. There is no doubt that ministers have no capacity to commit such criminal acts without the connivance of civil servants. Presumptive comments would alert these collaborators and it would be impossible to prove these acts eventually at the end of the day. I think more tact is important.
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