Will Nigeria Kill Corruption Before It Kills Her? By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye
It has since become common knowledge which enjoys widespread acceptance that any day Nigeria is able to make up its mind to end its obscene and ruinous romance with the stubborn monster called “Corruption”, this country will automatically witness the kind of prosperity no one had thought was possible in these parts. Just imagine the amount of public funds reportedly (and un-reportedly) being stolen and squandered daily under various guises by too many public officers and their accomplices, and the great transformation that would happen to public infrastructure and the lives of the citizenry if this organized banditry can at least be reduced by fifty percent!
Now, is this monster divorceable? Of course, yes. But are there any signs that anyone in the corridors of power is genuinely interested in ending the strong grip it maintains on the very soul of this country? That is the problem. It is sheer foolishness to expect many of them to willingly block the very hole from which great goodies also flow to them just because some other persons are also benefiting from there. No, you can neither fight corruption with soiled hands nor retain monopoly of it! It spreads like cancer. And the whole thing appears now to have been so horribly compounded by the emergence and successful empowerment of a very formidable class whose sustenance and longevity solely depend on its ability to continue sustaining the culture of corruption and bleeding the country pale.
This problem began when public office gradually ceased to be a platform for rendering selfless service to the people and transformed into the easiest route to financial empowerment. And since then, several generations of public officers have passed through this route, looting the nation blind with utmost impunity, and retiring into incredible abundance, without any fear of anyone ever prying into the clearly unearned wealth they flaunt with utmost abandon.
Thus, an ever-swelling cult of looters has emerged, whose nuisance value has remained the undisputed headache of the nation. And since it is becoming increasingly difficult to find former council chairmen, governors (military or civilian), ministers, presidents (military of civilian), army generals, police chiefs and several other categories of public officers who are not sitting on boundless, mysterious wealth, it has also become impossible to persuade most of today’s rulers to resist the temptation to surpass the unedifying exploits of their predecessors.
Indeed, wealth has become everything and hardly any public officer cares again about leaving behind a sterling legacy and good name. And so, virtually no Nigerian governor, for instance, would find it ennobling to wake up every morning, after he had left office, to engage in honest labour to earn a living. That would automatically demean him, and present him as “inferior” to his colleagues; in fact, even his people may begin to call him a big fool for returning from the Government House a “poor man.” And so the desperation to retire into boundless wealth and comfort is the sole motivation for all the mindless stealing going on everywhere.
Who now will break this circle? Can such a person be found today even in the so-called anti-graft bodies set up to battle the monster to the ground? That’s one question we need to answer sincerely, because, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find any person among those ruling us today who is more interested in acquiring a good name than accumulating unearned riches. Over the years, a cult of corruption has emerged filled with the country’s political and economic elite, and the sole qualification for initiation into this cult is wealth, boundless wealth, mostly stolen from the public treasury, and ownership of a couple of exquisite mansions in choice areas in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kaduna, London, New York, Paris, Dublin, Dubai and so on. I doubt if the point being made here should in the least sound strange to anyone who has lived in Nigeria.
Now, was it not late Sunday Afolabi, who, while working for the unmissed Olusegun Obasanjo regime, told us that those who were offered political appointments had actually been invited “to come and eat.” At least, the man was sincere about his understanding of the whole thing. Gradually going are the days when most people sought public offices with edifying intentions. No, not any more! Today, many go there to serve themselves and cart away unimaginable wealth. And they usually end up losing the capacity to feel ashamed, so much so, that even when they are called thieves to their faces by a disgusted populace, they remain unperturbed.
How then can this monster be tamed? How can anyone make all corrupt past public officers to give up all they had stolen and live normal lives with resources whose sources are explainable, in order to make those currently in office to resist the temptation to steal? Where would any one possibly start? And who would lead such a campaign given that even among the country’s security officers, anti-corruption operatives and judicial officers are many whose desperation to accumulate unearned wealth even surpasses that of the corrupt public officers they are hired to check? When will Nigeria be made a functional state so that people would not need to go to great lengths to steal in order to provide for themselves the amenities and comforts they had failed to put in place for the entire citizenry when they were in power?
With this dreadful cult in effective command at virtually all our public institutions, how then can we possibly hope to have free and fair elections in this country? These have so much money and have easily enthroned themselves as formidable godfathers and kingmakers who deploy the billions at their disposals to install and remove governments at will. Many of them can single-handedly found and fund political parties without the slightest impact on their bottomless pockets. They also have all it takes to frustrate any attempt to pry into their hideous pasts. The very negligible few among them who manage to get “messed-up” in the “anti-corruption war” are those foolish enough to find the trouble of those more powerful than they are, or get into some really complicated situation that it would be difficult to extricate them without a serious backlash that might threaten the peace and stability of the entire cult. So, they are carefully sacrificed to preserve the whole house, and used in the process, too, to launder a dubious commitment to an “anti-graft” campaign.
The cult also has many quiet and even more deadly members. These include very wise and successful fronts, errand boys (and girls), thugs whom the ‘ogas’ use (or had used) to prosecute their hideous politics and criminal accumulations, and, also, the countless mistresses, concubines and state prostitutes who take care of the leisure moments of these fellows. These, too, in the process of time, acquire their own wealth and clout, and gradually rise in prominence to become “successful business moguls” or “party stalwarts.” Others get into government service as Special Advisers, Commissioners, Ministers, council chairpersons, State or Federal lawmakers, or even governors, and automatically graduate into “patriots” and, later, “statesmen” (and women). A nation, no doubt, is judged by the quality of persons leading it.
Now, with such an unwholesome band of resilient leeches controlling sensitive spots in our politics and economy, with many of them even maintaining effective hotlines to the highest point of power, how can anyone pretend to enthrone transparency in the governance of the country? How can corruption be rooted out? How can progress be recorded? Do the fellows ruling us even understand what it means to build a country?
By the way, assuming there is anyone really interested in rooting out corruption, where would such person even start from? The sheer number, clout and destructive ability of members of this cult are simply too intimidating. Some have over the years even progressed and matured to become refined, patrician “elder statesmen” (and women) with vast “family business” empires, commanding enormous respect, but still subterraneanly doing enormous harm to the country. Yet the only day jobs anyone could remember they ever did were serving in public offices with clearly stipulated salaries, which when put together could not have created those giant towers of wealth. They are mostly proceeds of crime!
But should we give up? No! Never! No society should ever sit passively and watch the scum and scoundrels in its midst (no matter how formidably empowered) seize its tomorrow and murder it. That country is doomed which has shameless thieves as most of its kings. Ask yourself today: What are the antecedents of your governor, lawmaker or councilor? Can anyone possibly succeed in rebuilding the very house he is busy carefully plundering? It amounts to unqualified foolishness on the part of the majority to allow themselves to be perpetually enslaved by an immorally smart minority? A time comes in the life of a nation when the people must rise with one voice and bellow a big NO! And that time is now! Especially, as 2015 approaches.
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