Corruption is an endemic problem in Nigeria. All efforts made to check the corrupt tendencies of some Nigerians have not yielded the desired fruits. This is very upsetting for the nation. We cannot gain anything from our corrupt disposition. Instead, it will continue to earn us opprobrium from the international community. We should therefore learn to be decent citizens wherever we may be operating in the society.
Meanwhile, Transparency International, the global anti-corruption watchdog, has rated Nigeria in its 2009 corruption Perception Index, as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Out of a possible 10 points for least corrupt countries Nigeria could only score 2.5 points making it one of the most corrupt countries of the world as already stated. And this is in spite of the efforts of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent and Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission. This is indeed shameful for this nation. Nigerians who are bringing bad image for this country should try to change their attitude and become good citizens. Stealing public funds kept in one’s charge does no good for the nation. It will make the country to retrogress. We should try to be patriotic citizens by not being selfish to a disgusting point. We should not be citizens of thieves because we want to get rich overnight. This will not augur well for the nation. We should note that the world is observing our behaviour. The ugly and bad ones among us should therefore decide to change so that this country can move forward.
It will be remembered that only in October, 2009, a prominent Nigerian, Chief Bode George was imprisoned by Ikeja High Court presided over by Justice Olubunmi Oyewole on sixty-eight-count charge of fraud while he was chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority. According to the charge he awarded a phoney contract amounting to one hundred billion naira during his tenure in 2001 through 2003. The charge was brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Others jailed with him were the former Managing Director of the Authority, Alninu Dabo, O. Abidoye, Abdullahi Arninu, Tafida zanna Maidaribe and Sule Aliyu. The convicts were arraigned in August, 2008, and jailed in October, 2009, having been found guilty of the offence. They.are to serve their prison terms at the Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison in Lagos.
In fact, this goes to show what the country is. A nation of corrupt high ranking citizens. When the top members of the society are corrupt who will show the light for others to follow? This is why we should search well before we make appointment to responsible ,and important offices in this country. Rogues and thieves should not be appointed into public offices. When they are in public offices they will steal and bring bad image to the country and cause backwardness for the country. We should therefore look well before we leap in making appointments into public offices.
Not long age, the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mrs. Farida Waziri called for psychiatric test for aspiring public office holders. Mrs. Waziri emphasized that some aspring leaders were mentally and psychologically unsuitable for public office because of the way they amassed public wealth. The chairman said this while delivering a keynote address at a workshop in Kaduna recently on transparency and accountability in public office. She pointed out that the extent of aggrandizement and gluttonous accumulation of wealth that she had observed among public office holders suggested to her that some of them were mentally and psychologically ill and therefore not suitable for public office. According to her, we have observed public office holders amassing public wealth to a point suggesting madness or some form of obsessive compulsive psychiatric disorder.
The chairman, is not far from the truth. Many aspiring public office holders in Nigeria have only one objective in mind and that is to amass wealth as much as they can while in public office. In fact, one of the endemic and pandemic ills of this country is political corruption. This socio-political disease dates back to early post-independence period when politically active people were accused of one financial malfeasance or the other. The conduct of seem of them fell far short of the expectation of honest and responsible people. Corruption among public office holders has been one of the common reasons given by coup leaders for taking over governments. Usually it takes the form of diverting public funds into private pockets or the enrichment of public office holders through illicit deals in the award of contracts.
In the current democratic governance cases of corruption abound. Not long ago, the Rivers State Governor Mr Rotimi Amaechi described some politicians in Nigeria as murderers because of their penchant for corruption. He made the observation during a retreat on due process for chairmen and deputy chairmen of House Committees which took place at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja. He said, some modern day politicians were men and women without conscience because of the manner they had been converting public funds into private use through contracts without following due process. The governor pointed out that some politicians in Nigeria aspired to get into various public offices not because they had the interest to serve but because they wanted to gain immediate access to wealth at the expense of helpless people of the country.
Governor Amaechi is right. As already noted the objective of many people aspiring to be in public office is to amass wealth as much as they can. This behaviour should be condemned. Public office is not for gangsters. , It is for decent well-meaning people who have the interest of the people at heart and to serve them sincerely and honestly without diverting the public funds into private pockets or other mysterious uses.
In the meantime, three members of the House of Representative who allegedly diverted six billion naira of public funds into their private pockets have surrendered to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. The money was diverted from the coffers of the Rural Electrification Agency. Those involved included the chairman,’ of House Committee on power: Ndudi Godwin Elumelu. They were alleged to have awarded fake contracts involving the said amount.
All these are disturbing. Public office holders should realise that they are not appointed or elected into political offices to steal public funds. Public funds are meant for the development and betterment of society so that Nigeria can move forward. Let us give this country a good image.
Dr Tofolofari is a Fellow, Institute of Corporate Administration of Nigeria, Abuja.
Dr Mann Tolofari