Nigeria: A President and The Corruption Conundrum

By IndepthAfrica
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Jan 3rd, 2013
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by M.B.O Owolowo
The corruption conundrum continues as some incredulous statements were recently attributed to the President during the burial service of the late General Andrew Azazi. He was responding to a factual and frank homily by Bishop Hyacinth Ogbebor blaming corruption for the helicopter crash, amongst other issues in the country.

The President said, “Corruption is not the cause of our problems. Nigeria has more institutions that fight corruption. Most of the issues we talk about are not corruption. If we do things properly, if we change our attitude of doing things, most of the things we think are caused by corruption are not. If Nigerians would change their attitude, you will realise that most of these issues being attributed to corruption are not caused by corruption. If we change our attitude to life, if all Nigerians do what is right, Nigeria will change”.

Pondering over these statements, the president should be reminded he too is part of “all Nigerians” he has referred and his “attitude” must change as well. His attitude towards corruption must be taken into cognisance; he says “Corruption is not the cause of our problems”. Considering he previously made a statement rating Nigeria’s commitment to fighting corruption as secondary to only that of the United States, one might be excused for wondering if he is inhaling air and operating from the stratosphere above the public’s atmospheric level.

I have always believed a people that tolerate drivel will accept gibberish; with these sort of statements it becomes apparent why corruption has been initiated, perpetrated and perpetuated for decades in our polity.

Unfortunately, we as a people have become accustomed to mediocrity and peddlers of lies. We accommodate in positions of authority the mortgagers of our collective futures, killers of dreams and marauders of aspirations.

Those in power know this fact and continue to take us for a ride; else the populace should have revolted. But not all of us have amnesia and not all of us can be fooled; Nigeria has been synonymous with corruption from yore and it predates the current regime. Corruption has become so endemic to the extent of being considered part of our ethos. The whole world knows it is our problem and constantly chide us to confront corruption head on.

According to Transparency International, Nigeria is ranked the 35th most corrupt nation in the world. The 2012 Corruption Perception Index revealed Nigeria scored 27 out of a maximum 100 marks to land the 139th position out of the 176 countries and territories surveyed in the report, based on perceived levels of public sector corruption. Nigeria was ranked alongside Azerbaijan, Kenya, Nepal and Pakistan.

According to a report by Sahara Reporters New York, June 7th 2012:

“The United States has again dismissed Nigeria’s anti-corruption efforts as mere talk, describing the Goodluck Jonathan era as one in which the government is not implementing the law, and officials engage in corrupt practices with impunity.”

Also, during the visit of the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Nigeria, she blamed failings by Nigerian leaders for the country’s woes and emphasized the prevalence of “unbelievable corruption”.

We recently read reports of how about $400 billion has been lost by our successive regimes over time and how most of that money ended up overseas. Even the nation’s anti-corruption agency, The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, blamed infrastructural decay in Nigeria on corruption.

In view of these publicly known facts, I wonder why the President would make such a boorish statement as corruption not being the cause of our problems in Nigeria.

Paradoxically, some have argued that a credible head does not necessarily translate to an effective overhaul of a corrupt system. But we should also consider the countries that scored better on the Corruption Perception Index must have had issues of corruption, with adequate steps taken to mitigate the situation. So we can’t continue to allow the deterioration of our society based on these excuses. Drastic and effective measures must be taken to combat the menace.

For example, in 2009 there was an Expenses Scandal that rocked the United Kingdom Parliament, though the figures the Members of Parliament were accused of is a modicum compared to the whopping amounts our public servants embezzle, the United Kingdom didn’t treat the matter with levity.

The accused Members of Parliament faced criminal charges that lead to many resignations, suspensions, arrests and prosecution with sentences varying between 9 – 18 months imprisonment.

In Nigeria, it’s our hope to see a replica of such virtuous actions. We genuinely accept the process of eradicating corruption would be gradual, as the deterioration to our current state of socio-economic inertia too was gradual. Sadly, corruption and kleptomania is as rife as it is alarming, some have termed it ‘LOOTING’ for unborn generations, and the figures emanating from fraud investigations are as staggering as they are depressing.

The President must realise Nigerians can’t be hoodwinked any longer, the public hearing about a scandal being unearthed isn’t enough; we want to see arrests leading to actual indictments and prosecutions. I was once quizzed by a friend, who sarcastically asked, how many key government officials or top politicians have you seen arrested and jailed and how much has been refunded into the nations treasury? This was a critical question that made me ruminate on all the publicity stunts machinated by the government, aimed at not only boosting the President’s image but also massaging his ego; witch-hunting opposition and critics or the settling of political scores against perceived adversaries isn’t fighting corruption.

Charity begins at home, so the attitudinal change must start from the Presidency, budgeting obscene amounts of money for executive frivolities and unwarranted expenses isn’t fighting corruption. There are many aspects of the budget that are simply wasteful. Just because previous regimes embarked on such squandering doesn’t make it right; why not set a precedence of curbing expenditure?

Borrowing recklessly and not investing in infrastructural development or capital projects aimed at boosting economic growth isn’t fighting corruption, it is according to the CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi “accumulating debts for future generations”.

For the President to be taken seriously, he must use his executive powers to ensure the arrests of culprits and that priority is given to such cases within the Judicial process to expediate prosecution.

The President must enforce the forfeiture of assets from those indicted and the reimbursements of retrieved funds to the nation’s coffers.

Surely with purposeful leadership change can be effected, else the change of a purposeless leadership would be initiated. Change must start from the Presidency! His offices’ ineffective reputation can only be ameliorated by effective and sincere actions aimed at tackling corruption.

The concomitant melancholy this administration exudes and forlorn felt by majority of the populace can only be changed with drastic implementation of progressive mass oriented policies.

“The one who adapts his policy to the times prospers, and likewise the one whose policy clashes with the demands of the times does not” – Niccolo Machiavelli

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