Corruption And Leadership: A Nigerian Perspective By Aminu Usman
Safe claims could be made that Africa is home to the poorest people in the world even though no other continent can rival it in terms of abundant natural resources. It is more than ever sad that almost the entire population of Africa has continued to suffer in all spheres of life (social, economic, and political), mainly as a result of leadership crises and corrupt practices which have engulfed the so-called “Black Continent” of the world. The whole system of Africa has been deeply destroyed, accounting for the continent being regarded as the most corrupt in the world. Corruption is without doubt a global problem, consistently being encountered by both the developed and developing nations of the world. It has become so much widespread that it does not take place only in top governmental offices, but as well in every bit of contractual agreements involving at least two persons.
Day in and day out, the world, Africa in particular and most especially Nigeria my nation continues to face the negative connotations and consequences which are associated with corruption. The menace has permeated all segments of the Nigerian society, and continues to pose serious threats to the survival of the self acclaimed “Giant of Africa.” Whether it stems out of bad leadership, or bad leadership stems out of it, several arguments could be made to support either claim. The unprecedented widespread of corruption coupled with the leadership crisis Nigeria has become a prey to, has triggered me to write about this topic-“Corruption and Leadership”, which I consider as an applied ethical issue.
Although it is a fact of life that Nigeria is both a colonized and democratic nation, it is so much painful that the acts “colonialism” and “democracy” have produced for Nigeria insincere, money-minded, selfish, and unimaginably corrupt leaders whose focuses are and have been on enriching their pockets and their families. The gross and criminal mismanagement of resources by these immoral and unethical leaders has impacted Nigeria’s political stability, economic development, and the socio-economic well being of majority of its citizens. In fact, it is arguable that in Nigeria, every political office occupied by an individual either through election or appointment is a product of corruption which has disguised itself in various forms and shapes such as election-rigging, tribalism, nepotism, and age discrimination amongst many others. No sane individual would deny that corruption has reached an alarming proportion in Nigeria, although former president Ebele Jonathan in a national television show I watched did have doubts on whether corruption even exists in the West African country.
Leadership in its natural form implies goodness, and commands nothing but positivity. Corruption on the other hand represents every bad adjective and its axis of location is none other than the negative axis. However, due to a desire to abstain good and positive things from flourishing in the land, the concept of leadership in Nigeria has been modeled completely to befit all the practices which corruption commands. It could rightly be argued that from the colonial period during which Nigeria’s stream of resources were internationally abused, to the early independence and successive military regimes during which misuse and diversion of public funds was common, up to the civilian generation of political leaders in which exploitation of public funds for personal benefits has continued to become very widespread; Nigeria as a state or may be a country (although definitely not a nation) has failed in its system of leadership. For this, it has become difficult for the leadership class of the country to impact its citizens positively. Bad has therefore outweighed good in a century of the state’s existence.
Corruption in Nigeria predates back to the colonial period under the British rule. It is well known that Britain never settled in a country which lacked natural resources. It is in the nature of the white people even as of today to only go to places where they expect to benefit materially. These people exploited immeasurably the abundant resources which Nigeria had-from agricultural harvests to mineral resources and human workforce amongst others. They conspired with the initially just and faithful traditional leaders in Nigeria. These leaders who had total control over their people allowed the colonial masters to take full advantage of all the resources in these leaders’ communities in return for some amounts of money, luxurious and ostentatious goods. The people of those communities were therefore deprived of their communal rights as a result of the growing cases of corruption in their leadership. In such cases, the white people or colonial masters continuously enticed these leaders, thereby making corruption seemed okay or acceptable to the leaders.
This evil act was not limited to only the traditional leaders, because the then political figures or social reformers among the Nigerian society also covered up all the malicious misuse and misappropriation of Nigeria’s resources by the colonialists, in return for favors and power. As a person does an act every day, he becomes used to it. Additionally, it is said practice brings about perfection in whatever one does. From that act which one attains perfection, that person develops a habit. And because men are creatures of their habit, corruption remained in the blood stream of those Nigerian personalities or leaders of the colonial era, even after colonialism had ended and the colonial masters had left. Because they had enjoyed diverting public funds into their personal wealth while acting as inferiors; the first Nigerian leaders of early independence then had even more desire to embezzle the nation’s wealth and treasury after they had occupied the top governmental seats.
No one will deny the fact that the masses in Nigeria are currently facing the harsh consequences of corruption. The level of poverty continues to rise at alarming rates because the corrupt rich tend to become richer, while the poor tend to become poorer. There is as well socio-economic failure in the state. The standard of living is getting lower day after day. Businesses are on a downfall. Infrastructural development is at a minimal. It is so sad that as a result of corruption and leadership crisis, Nigerians cannot boast of good road networks, pipe-borne water supplies, stable electricity and power, good public schools, good hospitals and medical facilities, suitable marketing environments, and a host of so many amenities and benefits of life a richly endowed nation like this should harbor. Most of the security unrests across the country could as well be linked to the failure of the state to control the sporadic cases of corruption.
Reducing or even totally eradicating from Nigeria acts of corruption, more especially in the public service is not something which should be considered impossible to achieve. Stiffer penalties must be imposed on all those found guilty of embezzling public funds. These involve amongst others long term jail sentences. In addition, all public money or properties which the actors have diverted must be forcefully taken away from them and be reserved for governmental expenditures. Furthermore, public awareness and campaigns must be staged to warn people about the dangerous consequences of corruption, and the stiff penalties committers are likely to face. An introduction into the Nigerian educational curriculum, of a subject dealing with corruption would also help in combating any love of it that could be rooted in the hearts of individuals from their very tender ages.
Much more than what has been seen so far needs to be done by the leadership of the country if really an end to corruption is needed to be seen. Given the warm welcome corruption continues receiving in the populace and unless divine intervention is sought after, I doubt if we shall soon see a Nigeria free of corrupt leaders. Everyone must therefore prepare to live for quite a while in a community full of corrupt elements and processes. Hopes would be renewed with time though as the government takes the fight to the chains of corrupt public office holders. Until then, everyone must strive towards fighting the corruption in their hearts and the one in their immediate surroundings.