A trending video on the social media shows the former Director General of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), Issac Kgosi, being arrested at the country’s international airport over alleged corruption charges. This action has elicited reactions from many Nigerians; some of who think Nigeria should tow the line of Botswana and be more sincere and practical with the fight against corruption.
In the past years, the Southern African country has been rated as the least corrupt country in Africa by Transparency International Corruption Perception Index. A feat achieved through concerted efforts of both the authorities and the people. Records have it that in the early 1990s, a series of high-level corruption scandals involving senior officials in the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) erupted in Botswana and caused public outrage. That led to the enactment of the Corruption and Economic Crime Act (CECA) in 1994, establishing the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC). With the enormous powers and operational independence granted the agency, it has relentlessly carried out its duties, hinging mainly on investigation, prevention and public education. Both the low and the mighty, including members of the ruling party, are said not to be spared in the quest to rid the country of corruption. This has continued to give the country a clean record.
Juxtapose that with the anti graft war that has been going on in Nigeria since the creation of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2003 and you may know the reason why the fight is largely believed not to be making much impact. Instead of a holistic war against corruption, ours is selective. EFCC has been touted as a tool by the ruling party to haunt the opponents. While members of the ruling party are seen to be “saints”, those on the opposing side are termed corrupt. The loquacious National Chairman of the ruling party, APC, Adams Oshiomhole, alluded to that when at the party’s rally in Benin, Edo State, last month, he made what has become a famous speech that “…Yes, once you join the APC, your sins are forgiven”
Not too long ago, a video was released showing a sitting governor allegedly receiving bribes from a contractor. Up till now, the governor in question has not been chastised either by the EFCC or the Presidency. Even the state house of assembly that tried to carry out an investigation on the matter has been silenced with a court injunction by the accused. So the governor goes about seeking for re-election and promising President Muhammadu Buhari millions of votes from his state in the forth coming presidential election.
What about the grass cutting and fumigation scam in Aso Rock, the pensions reform case and other matters involving some high profile individuals in the country? For some time now, the media have been inundated with stories of corruption allegations leveled against some government functionaries and other highly placed individuals. What we do not hear in the long run is how these people are punished so as to serve as a deterrent to others yet we claim to be fighting corruption?
On the lower rung of the ladder the situation is not different. There is corruption everywhere; in the education, financial, medical, religious institutions and in the civil service. Contractors, students, lawyers, public servants, drivers and many others are daily involved in one form of corruption or the other. A social commentator once likened corruption in Nigeria to malignant cancer which has destroyed every part of a patient. No sector in Nigeria is corruption-free. The irony is that everybody in Nigeria talks about it, people condemn it yet almost everybody is guilty of it.
Yes, corruption is not peculiar to Nigeria. Every country has its own share of the evil. But the difference is that many of these countries are making concerted efforts to curtail it. What are we doing in Nigeria? Certainly, there is no way the nation will continue the way it has been carrying out the fight and expect things to get better.
Therefore, can we learn from Botswana and begin to educate the people on the dangers and repercussions of corruption? Can we focus more on measures to prevent corruption instead of investing the whole resources in chasing after offenders? Can our leaders mop up the political will to give the fight the needed push instead of constantly paying lip service to the matter? Fighting corruption in Nigeria requires action not words. Until serious efforts are made to tackle corruption, starting from the top, government will not be taken seriously.
There is also need for cooperation of all Nigerians in this important issue as it is obvious that government cannot do it alone. We need to re-orientate our values, laying less emphasis on materialism but more on honesty and strong moral values if we must rid our country of corruption.