Corruption: The Nigerian Definition By Olawale Rotimi
Among other social issues in Nigeria, corruption has received serious and consistent attention from Nigerians and non-Nigerians. Many commentaries have been passed, several journals, newspaper and magazine volumes have been published on corruption in Nigeria, sermons and teachings have been preached in various religious centres, some academic institutions have held public lectures, symposium and conferences on corruption, numerous non-governmental organizations have championed strong advocacy against corruption, surprisingly, the more attention it receives, the more resilient it becomes. Corruption has stayed so long in the Nigerian society to the extent that it has become intrinsic and seen as a way of life.
Queues at gas stations and public offices can be easily boycotted when you give bribe to the officer in charge, traffic rules can be disobeyed relaxingly with zero consequence when you give money to traffic wardens from time to time, you can be a youth corps and abscond from your primary assignment if you can share your monthly allowance with the zonal inspector, you can commit a crime and go free if you are influential enough, you can get admission into colleges, polytechnics and universities without merit if you can lobby through money or relationship with a top official, recruitment requirements can be overlooked for an influential person’s offspring, an airline can cancel others’ bookings if you bring a higher monetary bargain to table to mention a few. These and more have become acceptable way of life in Nigeria, with money, nothing seem impossible in the Nigerian society. This unfortunate cankerworm has eaten the society so deep that all appears normal, a Nigerian who refuses to give bribe may face serious mockery.
Many times, the concept of corruption is seen differently in the Nigerian society. “What is Nigeria’s biggest problem” is a public poll question conducted among Nigerians in Lagos, Abuja, Rivers, Delta and Oyo communities respectively. Interestingly, all the respondents saw corruption as stealing/mismanagement of public funds. All the respondents tagged people in political offices as the “corrupt ones”. To a high extent, this defines corruption in Nigeria. The average Nigerian sees corruption as a reality that exists among the political elites only. However, in concept and practice, corruption is not limited to embezzlement/mismanagement of public resources. The defining characteristics of corruption include: dishonesty, dishonest dealings, unscrupulousness, deceit, deception, duplicity, double-dealing, fraudulence, law breaking, criminality, wrongdoing, delinquency among others.
Assessing the above named defining characteristics of corruption, it is apparent that corruption goes beyond embezzlement of public resources. In the broad sense, corruption as a reality in the Nigerian society does not exist among the political elites only, it is a social ill that permeates all areas, ages, and social status. Corruption has enjoyed sufficient growth in Nigeria over the decades because the consequences against corrupt practices have zero or low implementation level. The lack of consequences for corrupt practices in the country has not only given room for corrupt people to expand, it has also encouraged many uncorrupt Nigerians to be corrupt since no consequence is attached. Nigeria’s reputation in the globe has been weakened severally with gigantic corruption records, even though tougher among the political elites because its implications affect all Nigerians, corruption in Nigeria is not limited to the ruling class. To tackle this social menace, it is important for Nigerians to tenaciously make living right a culture. Those who give and receive bribes at gas stations are not political leaders, traffic warden who takes bribe is not the president, the employer who hold on to employees’ monthly allowances is not the government, these and many more are severe corrupt practices witnessed outside the political caucus. Nigerians have to make living right a culture!
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