According to Transparency International, a global movement against corruption, understanding corruption is the first step in fighting it.
But what is corruption? Corruptie.org, another anti-corruption organisation, simply defines corruption as the misuse of entrusted power (by heritage, education, marriage, election, appointment or whatever else) for private gain. This broad definition covers not only the politician and the public servant, but also the CEO and CFO of a company, the notary public, the team leader at a workplace, the administrator or admissions officer, and so on.
A much more difficult, scientific definition for the concept ‘corruption’ was developed by professor (emeritus) Dr. Petrus van Duyne: Corruption is an improbity or decay in the decision-making process in which a decision maker consents to deviate or demands deviation from the criterion which should rule his or her decision-making, in exchange for a reward or for the promise or expectation of a reward, while these motives influencing his or her decision-making cannot be part of the justification of the decision.
I’m completely amazed, because the last definition simply shows how corruption is cultural in Nigeria. Of recent, the magnitude of improbity being unveiled in this country beats my sense of conception. The web is so dense that in the next four years of President Muhammadu Buhari’s (PMB) government, we may never be able to scratch the surface enough to partially bring justice to the door step of redemption.
What I find confusing every time stolen figures are mentioned is how much those accused of looting the national treasury really need to survive. At least, 80 per cent of Nigeria’s population cannot boast of N1m to their names, yet the nation’s resources are stolen in billions of Naira by the fortunate custodians of the same assets. It’s mind boggling, and extremely disturbing.
The illusion that revenues from the oil sector will never dwindle, prompted Jonathan to give undue liberty to members of his government to loot every available penny in sight. Awarded contracts were never executed after billions of Naira had been paid. The illicit funds then became the necessary instrument for reelection campaigns. The story goes on and on, showing decay in the decision-making process.
After nearly six years of inactivity, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has recently woken from its deep slumber. Of course, no one can blame the anti-graft agency for negligence when the government of the day openly gave credence and pillars of support to corruption. Goodluck Jonathan, many times, failed to properly define corruption in our society. He chose to call corrupt officials petty thieves, whose crimes did not necessarily warrant prosecution. His political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), became the bedrock of corruption and abuse of office. For 16 years, the PDP became the only institution in Nigeria symbolised as the epic centre of embezzlement, and looting of public funds. No accountability to the populace; revenue from oil became the property of the few, privileged cabinet members, and those chosen to head government agencies.
Nothing is more disheartening than a clueless, heartless and densely careless government that embraces lawlessness with extreme disregard for the rule of law. The last administration exhibited these traits.
The unfolding list of corrupt public servants and their crimes will be endless if the EFCC continues the roll call. It’s retribution time, yet no one has actively served a sentence for graft. Crime and punishment go hand in hand; they constitute part of a social contract. But as long as our judiciary, another corrupt institution, delays in the litigation of cases, piles of them will remain in the dust until justice is eventually denied. Nigerians will keep losing faith in their own government, and embrace corruption as the most endearing way of life.
If the disclosure by U.S. sources that a minister in the last administration stole over $6 billion is true, then we really need to check ourselves as to what is normal, rational and legal in Nigeria. It’s absolutely insane to keep looting our treasury with impunity, and, criticizing PMB’s government that is trying to normalise acceptable behaviour in our society is more ludicrous.
There is no sector of our economy that is not bastardised: from the dirty stories in the oil sector to Amnesty programme, embezzlement, misappropriation, mismanagement and outright theft remain the choruses. This level of corruption can never foster growth; and will not realign citizens toward ethical behaviour that would help the younger generation rationalise issues progressively, because they are born into what seems a normal way of life.
Already, corruption has attained the position of culture in our society. Everyone wants to cheat as much as position, with no laid-down process for retribution. No country on earth can accept this lawless behaviour without ending up in a failed-state status. Nigeria practically became a failed -state prior to the elections. Even ardent critics of Buhari’s regime will agree that, in the past six years, normalcy eluded us. This is the first time, after Obasanjo’s regime that we can breathe fresh air.
Is it not strange that up till now, the lingering issues in the National Assembly seem unresolvable? What is so difficult, if the lawmakers are sincere about service to the nation, that they find it very hard to agree on issue of categorisation? Greed and self-serving motives keep derailing the quest for normal interaction in both legislative arms of government. It is shameful and unacceptable to the electorate. We should not tolerate indiscipline in the National Assembly; the supposed lawmakers for the nation.
The only viable way to reduce this pervasive cancer in our society is to establish a firm, reliable, and dependable justice system capable of upholding the rule of law. But who will champion this noble cause with the new regime? From a distance, we still hear faint voices of a dying Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), defiantly longing for recognition. The few noise makers have refused to understand Nigeria’s grave and fragile disposition, but they are not to blame because, change is the most difficult aspect of human endeavour.
The future of this great country rests squarely on how President Buhari ignores retrogressive remarks, remains undistracted by taking the country to the threshold of normalcy with visible banner for probity; minimised decayed decision- making process. Those entrusted with public service must remain accountable at all times, irrespective of party affiliation and political position. The President must empower Nigerians to build integrity. This is the only tool we need for a sustainable future.
From all angles of our society, this protracted, self –inflicted contamination is conspicuously strong and invincible. Behind every cloud of corruption lies another cloud.