Democratic Corruption: The Nigerian Experience By Idris Evuti
Corruption is global, but pervasive in Nigeria. The phenomenon has manifested itself in various forms, and has become an ‘almost-to-do-with’ factor in the daily activities of Nigerians. If you don’t partake in it, you discuss it. The effects are on the socio-economic and political spheres of our society. Democratic irregularities are forms of corruption, and, bane to Nigeria’s development which undermines the nations’ quest for a transparent and participatory democracy.
In Nigeria, democratic corruption has eroded public confidence to an extent that nothing good seems to/or can come from the government. Corrupt practices have now become acceptable norms, especially if the ‘legitimacy’ (approval) is been derived from the power that be – the presidency. An example of corruption that greeted our political landscape recently is the sharp practice that saw 16 votes been recognised against 19, by the Nation’s political leadership – this is democratically suicidal. Also, in Rivers state where 5 members against more than 20 attempted to impeach the state’s speaker. What is the guarantee of free and fair elections in 2015? Or has Nigeria adopted the retrogressive formula of determining a winner in an election? The Nigeria governors’ forum (NGF) crisis further justifies that the presidency still harbours the advocates and disciples of the “do-or-die” political philosophy on one hand, and on the other it might have added to the political credentials of Gov. Rotimi Ameachi.
Instead of being a place for making laws for the good governance of the people, legislative chambers have turned to boxing rings and hub of miscreants, even though this is not peculiar to Nigeria. But, in other nations law makers involve in commotions as a result of heat generating from debates on policies meant to better the lots of the citizens. Alas in Nigeria it’s either a power tussle, misappropriation of funds or inflation of budgetary figures for selfish reasons. Am tempted to ask if our legislators have the moral certification to legislate on our behalf? In situations where they are busy using mace to send one another to hospitals.
Another consequence of corruption on democracy is that, it puts the tolerance level of the citizens to test. Instances can be drawn from the violence experienced in the aftermath of the 2011 general elections in Nigeria, and the response of Nigerians to the withdrawal of subsidy on the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), by the Federal Government. Nigerians frowned at this decision because of the pervasive corruption in the oil sector, which ordinarily should have attracted the governments’ will to sanitize the industry; and as well those involved made to face the full wrath of the law. And not making more than 160 million of Nigerians to serve the punishment of offence committed by less than 50 persons.
A Democratic system of government is built on the strict adherence to some tenets; such as periodic elections, constitutionalism and rule by the majority etc. Laid down rules and regulations are easily subverted and manipulated in corrupt societies, especially those with weak institutions; but the consequences could be severely detrimental. That is, citizens will be forced to form vicious alliance (groups) with the aim of projecting and protecting their interests and needs, if they cannot achieve them through democratic ways. The crisis we witness today in the North and other societal vices in other parts, are largely the results of these alliances.
Even with the amnesty granted to the Niger-delta militants, crude theft has being on the increase. Recently the coordinating minister of the economy admitted that if not checked, the crude oil theft posed serious challenges to the Nigerian economy. And likewise the dread killings of innocent souls have continued, even with state of emergency declared in some Northern states. Although arguable, no amount of amnesty or state of emergency will work in a democratic society where the citizens have experimented taking-up arms against the government; as a way of making their voices heard by the government. Am not being pessimistic here, but saying the realities on ground.
However, a better Nigeria is possible. The political leadership, being the ‘nation’s driver’ should show sincerity of purpose and the will to fight corruption in all ramifications. Most importantly, strong institutional frameworks are instrumental in making any government to succeed or otherwise. There is the need to clearly separate politics from bureaucracy and politicians from technocrats. By this, politics and politicians will come – and – go while bureaucracy and technocrats will stay. Because weak government institutional- frameworks are bedrocks to corruption while, Genuine democracy thrives only on strong government institutions.
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