Corruption in Nigeria

Buhari . PMB Official portrait

I have come to the conclusion that, for all our collective posturing, majority are confusing System Failure with Corruption . . .

After a heated discussion with my friend and colleague Nnamdi Ebo, I have come to the conclusion that, for all our collective posturing, majority are confusing System Failure with Corruption. And whilst Change is on everyone’s mind, question is what kind of change and for whose benefit?

A cursory glance at our society today reveals several distinct groups and stratifications that characterize our national realities. One grouping would be Government and all its offices at all levels nationwide. 

Most sizeable here are the civil servants, the official guardians of our collective heritage. Yet allowed by, and complicit in deliberate system failure, some have become the gateway for loot. Collecting unofficial fees in official processes or organising “contractors” for bloated contracts and government projects are but some of the ways they try to “maintain”.

These qualities, perfected over decades unchecked, have led to the corruption we collectively complain of today. And likewise with the legislature wherein, though only few actually observe their duties and functions, most have equally become contractors in addition to other collections and “constituency projects”.

The judiciary however, though not directly or actively participant in the decay, exudes complicity through inaction in the face of abuse and even flagrant disregard for the rule of law. Sadly, herein lay the accomplices that enable graft and oppression. Indeed, how can a man be jailed for stealing a chicken out of hunger whilst his fellow countryman, who stole billions out of greed and economic sabotage roams free.

Another group would be the “merchants” i.e. the middle men, facilitators and professionals. This is the group that accounts for the private sector i.e. a large pool of Nigerians who have at one point or the other rendered services to the first group. Here also shelter the other various economic and political “stakeholders” in our depraved polity, thriving in the madness and sheltering in the chaos.

The rich variety, creativity, age disparity, funds and collective acumen of this group is enough to propel any nation to global reckon. Yet attitude and folly has allowed the cream of our society to sour, not emboldened enough to seek their destiny. Continuously complaining and curiously insufferable, united they remain, bound by the “turn by turn” psychology. Mostly they wait in servitude, nursing ambitions of their own turn to be “Oga”. Generation after generation, beyond cars and houses, amounting to nothingness.

The last of these groups would be the masses. Herein, when culpable, and in many instances, the “perpetrator” elicits support either through direct payment or by instigating turmoil along religious or tribal/regional lines to avoid due consequences. Demands for accountability, transparency and service delivery have been changed at this level to “na our man, leave am”.

But oddly, and sadly ironic, this is the same group most affected by our national deficiencies. These are the people who need the jobs and proper education, infrastructure and utilities and yet have no voice. These are the people who remain disenfranchised, and misinformed into folly, inspired by pennies. 

We have perverted our morals and customs to accommodate the ludicrous and bizarre in a twisted attempt at modernity. Logic, reason, honesty, principles, scruples and other essential fibres in the essence of the being are sacrificed for feudal and mercurial considerations.

We accuse “government” of rhetoric and insincerity as if government is not made up of those around us – our brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts and even our children. Are they not those same people we shower with all manner of honours and praise singing, perhaps for immediate gratification, instead of telling them the truth. The rot is not only at the top but equally exists in the middle and at the bottom levels of our society.

Thought provoking is the notion that if neither the government nor the people can effect restitution nor afford the upheaval and the time wasting that will be caused by an attempt to immediately and fully correct the ills of the past, perhaps an amnesty is in order, allowing the economic reintegration of these “rogue” funds, from whence we may safely say “no more” and deal decisively with new culprits henceforth.

Attempts at addressing corruption far exceed childish accusations in the dailies, EFCC, CCB, ICPC and any other compromised acronym. We should focus on addressing the system failure that has bedeviled government functions and processes. One man can not steal a Billion Naira alone. We must, as a matter of urgency, re-evaluate the system checks and balances and promote freedom of information.

Thus, whilst we want change immediately, we too can work with government, as was the case when we all tackled queue jumping in the early 80s and 90s, through state initiated/induced collective will. If we are again allowed to participate effectively, we will effect universal correction such that no one need to again ask WAI.

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By Akunwata Chuka Modebe | Abuja

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