A lot has been said
about corruption in Nigeria. Writers, critics and civil society have made known the extent of damage done on the image of the country, through corruption. For many years now, Nigeria has been ranked by the Berlin-based Transparency International as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
It is no longer news to hear that with the huge amount of human and material resources abounding in Nigeria, it is supposed to be counted among the first twenty industrialised nations on earth, yet the country is far from being industrialised, no thanks to corruption.
Often, we have heard that despite the numerous oil and natural resources deposited in this nation, with a per capita income of $340, Nigeria now ranks among the least developed countries in the World Bank league tables.
We have also heard that due to corruption, the Nigerian higher education system once regarded as the best in sub-Sahara Africa is now in deep crisis; that health services are woefully inadequate, graduate unemployment is rising and so is the crime rate.
People are quick to mention how those in authority embezzle public fund, leaving the citizens in penury.
I can’t agree less with critics that corruption has taken a deep root in the nation, resulting in all kinds of vices like police extortion, election irregularities, deplorable state of the roads, epileptic power supply and many more.
However, it is difficult to ascertain why we keep blaming government for the endemic corruption in the nation.
Why can’t we accept the responsibility for our own deeds both individually and collectively, which had plunged the country into the deep mess?
Is government to blame when workers take bribe to perform their statutory duties? People take bribe for issuing passport or visas, for providing permits and licences. A child demands “settlement”, before he goes on an errand for an elder, for a file to move from one table or office to another, the owner of the file must “settle” the messenger. How does government come in all these?
Citizens are supposed to be honoured based on their industry, intellect and integrity. But in our communities, men are recognised based on their movable and immovable assets. A man who embezzles money is respected considered smart, while the one who serves government diligently without amassing illegal wealth is regarded as a dullard or a good for nothing fellow.
Wealthy people who are known to be corrupt are regularly courted and honoured by communities, religious bodies, social clubs and private organisations. The visible riches of those corrupt and greedy, spur the poor to imitate their life style and mode of acquisition of wealth.
It used to be said that good name is better than gold. Today, the reverse seems to be the case in Nigeria. People now prefer to acquire gold through any means than maintain a good name.
These sociological and cultural causes of corruption are likely to continue for a long time in this country, unless some practical actions are taken to encourage sound moral values in society. The rulers, politicians, students, academics, civil servants, traders and the entire society should be re-orientated.
For the war against corruption to succeed, there is need for credible and legal enforcement measures to be put in place. Before then, the law enforcement agencies need to be re-orientated.
To eradicate or minimize corruption in Nigeria, offenders should be punished. We have heard so much about how the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), arrested some ex-governors and ex-lawmakers for corrupt practices. But what we may probably not hear is how these people were punished.
We may probably not hear that any of them was jailed for embezzling peoples’ money.
So there is need to strengthen and further empower the EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies, to carry out their job effectively, without interference from any quarter or undue judicial set backs.
If we had done appropriate justice to all previous looters perhaps the corrupt mentality would have eroded long ago.
President Jacob Zuma of South Africa sometime ago sacked two of his top ministers implicated in corruption scandals. Nigeria needs such cleansing – disengage the corrupt office holders, both public and private, who create bad image for the nation, punish them so that others will learn from that.
However, corruption is a global phenomenon. No country is extremely free of corruption. But despite how corrupt other countries are their citizens still project them in good light, especially to other countries. Why can’t we do the same for Nigeria? Why do we keep criticizing our leaders for the high level of corruption in the country and expect the desired change to come solely from them? The question you should ask yourself is, as a concerned citizen, worried about the prevailing situation, what have you done to change the situation?
You may not have been involved in any corrupt act, just like many other Nigerians, but have you done anything to stop corruption in Nigeria? You may say that a tree cannot make a forest. But don’t forget that little drops of water, make a mighty ocean.
All the country needs is support from both its citizens and outsiders. Nigeria is a good country and it will become better if all and sundry put hands together to make things work. Together, we can build a country that the future generation will be proud of.