Etymologically, the word ‘corruption’ is derived from the Latin word corruptus which means ‘to break’ or ‘destroy’. Ifesimachi (2003:25) sees it as “the breaking of normal or social norms or practices”.
The World Bank defines corruption as “the abuse of public office for private gains. Public office is abused for private gain when an official accepts, solicits or extorts a bribe. It is also abused when private agents offer bribes to circumvent public policies and process for competitive advantage and profit. Public offices can also be abused for personal benefit even if no bribery occurs through patronage, nepotism, theft of State assets or the diversion of State revenue”.
Corruption is also seen as “the behaviour which deviates from the formal duties of a public role (elective or appointed) because of private wealth or status gains.” (Nye, 1967).
The Transparency International simply sees corruption as “the dishonest or preferential use of power or position which has the result of one person or organisation being advantaged over another,” while the Vision 2020 Committee essentially termed corruption to be “all those improper actions or transactions aimed at changing the moral course of events, judgement and position of trust”.
However, Section 2 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000, sees corruption as including “bribery, fraud and other related offences”.
From the foregoing, one can deduce that corruption is that which is morally unacceptable; an act intentionally meant to place one or an organisation at an advantaged position over others in a system. It is essentially an act that perverts the social norms, laws and moral ethos of a given society.
Based on the above, it is obvious that the monster of corruption pervades every stratum of Nigerian society. It reveals itself as bribery, tribalism, nepotism, electoral fraud, embezzlement, ’kick-back or ten percent’, money laundering and fraud (419), examination malpractice, child abuse, child trafficking, patronage, graft, extortion, tax evasion, perversion of justice among the police, the judiciary etc, and falsification of certificates, just to mention but a few.
Corruption in Nigeria is akin to a public liability company, which one may call “Corruption Incorporated,” operated by the ruling class and the comprador bourgeoisie. It is a prosperous company where most Nigerians own shares that yield dividends. In fact, corruption in Nigeria takes various forms in which only a specialist in the subject can adequately explain.
However, for the purpose of this discourse, I will dwell on political corruption. According to an author, Adeleye, political corruption is ‘corruptocracy’, a government of the corrupt by the corrupt and for the corrupt. And in that kind of government, there are no rulers because anything goes”.
One can also define political corruption as the abuse of public or governmental power for illegitimate private advantage, or the illegal, unethical and unauthorised exploitation of one’s political or official position for personal gain or advantage. Political corruption is, therefore, an effort to secure wealth or power through illegal means for private benefit at public expense”.
Political corruption, simply put, is the use of legislative power by politicians or government officials for illegitimate gain. This entails the use of civil servants or bureaucracy to misuse and abuse governmental power that exists in a state for other purposes. It also involves an illegal act by an office holder which is directly related to their official duties.
On the attainment of independence on October 1, 1960, hopes and aspirations were high in the country. At least, Nigerians were to pilot their own affairs. We were to use our God-given resources to better our lot. In any case, the new Nigerian leaders were to redeem pledges they made to Nigerians to put an end to capitalist exploitation, dehumanisation, degradation, unemployment, the non-guarantee of basic freedom and liberty, and the maintenance of egalitarian principles and sustainable development.
What has Nigerians got from our leaders since independence? Did Nigerian leaders fulfill the aspirations and expectations of the masses? Has poor Nigerians, who are in the majority, benefited from Nigerian leaders since independence? The answers to the posers listed above are emphatic No.
Nigerian masses have now become a metaphorical representation of a woman that was consistently raped, and was crying for help. Behold, a helper came and elbowed out the rapist, but continued the action from where the rapist stopped. Interestingly, history, which is benevolent and generous to a fault, has it that the track record of Nigeria from 1960 has been the accounts of misappropriation of funds, embezzlement or looting of treasury, and “settlements” through grafts and contracts, as well as jumbo or fabulous emoluments for lawmakers, among others. Where would this take Nigeria to?
Samuel wrote in from Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Port Harcourt.
N-ue Uebari Samuel