Nigeria and the scourge of corruption

The view that Nigeria has to kill corruption before the menace kills the country needs to be shared by all compatriots and concrete action has to be taken by all to wrestle the monster down.

As this newspaper once said, corruption, especially in high places, may be an ineradicable feature of human society and its proportion and influence can be of tolerable, manageable proportions that infect but neither grounds nor kill a nation.

On the other hand, corruption can be so all-consuming as to render the entire system ineffective and terminally ill. Nigeria, it would seem, suffers from the latter category.

This is why the country has neither developed nor progressed meaningfully to justify its huge natural resources, its age as a self-governing federation and its standing as the most populous black country in the world.

As noted earlier, Nigerian public servants and their fellow looters working in the private sector have acquired a nuclear-level audacity to steal hundreds of millions and billions of naira.

Three reasons, as previously pointed out, may be considered responsible for this betrayal of trust. One is a lack of self-control with power and money. The other is a lack of a sense of shame of the repercussion of detection. The third is that corruption pays handsomely in this country at no cost to the perpetrator.

Should the punishment be swift and severe enough, a man without self-discipline or a woman who lacks a sense of shame would think twice before stealing from the treasury.

Once again, what sense does it make to ask a man convicted of stealing billions of naira to pay a few hundreds of thousands of naira?  How can a woman who defrauded her business clients to the tune of millions be jailed for a few months and sent home to enjoy the rest? How can anyone reasonably defend a judicial decision to prevent law enforcement agencies from investigating and arresting a former public office holder?

While the argument is often that the nation needs more laws to curb corruption, the truth is that there are enough laws in the statute books, if well enforced, to rid Nigeria of corruption. But there is a desperate dearth of honourable, courageous, patriotic men and women to do their enforcement duties no matter whose ox is gored. Too many in the entire gamut of law maintenance – the executive, the legislative, and the judicial branches of government are in the public service for self, but not for country. If the spirit and letter of extant laws were implemented today, Nigeria would turn around for the better within only a few years. The thieves would stop stealing and the intending thieves would refrain.

It is worth reiterating that the values of the elite constitute the dominant value that drives the wider society’s values. This newspaper cannot say it enough that the Nigerian elite—political, traditional, religious, intellectual, business — has infected the rest of society with selfishness, avarice, and mindless ostentation

No society, again, has ever developed on the greed and wasteful conspicuous consumption of its elite. None.  The burden of redirecting Nigerian values and repositioning the country for serious thinking as well as productivity lies squarely upon the leaders of Nigeria. This must start from the political leadership. The menace, of course, has eaten deep into the very foundation of Nigeria’s existence and hardly is anyone immune to it. The temple of justice, the judiciary, and the most important internal security institution, the police, have even been fingered as part of the most corrupt institutions in the country.

Once again, it would seem that the greater access public officials have to public funds, the greater their propensity to steal staggering sums from the treasury. The startling revelations of billions of dollars that have been misappropriated in the last 10 years should explain the dire poverty of the people and the country’s underdevelopment.

Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics’ report the other day that a total sum of N400 billion is spent on bribes each year since 2015 in a classic illustration of how the scourge of corruption is indeed capable of killing the country if nothing is done about it.

Indeed, corruption is Nigeria’s most powerful enemy, which both the government and the good people of this country must strive to defeat.

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