THE CORRUPT AND THE REST OF US!
By Kelly Ovie Umukoro
My heart bleeds each time I think about the modus operandi of corrupt leaders in our society, we work very hard to inform the society about the evil of corruption everyday as anti- corruption agent but, this evil persist, the question is why?
The issue of Corruption is not a recent one in Nigeria. Since the creation of modern public administration in the country, there have been cases of official misuse of resources for personal enrichment. The rise of public administration and the discovery of oil and gas are two major events seen to have led to the birth of corrupt practices in the country. Over the years, the country has seen its wealth withered with little to show in living conditions of the average human being
Since independence, successive governments have been a matter of few holding the cow for the strongest and most cunning to milk, under those circumstances everybody runs over everybody to make good at the expense of others. The pervasive corruption has been blamed on colonialism. These were the words of chief Obafemi Awolowo.
According to him, the nation’s colonial history may have restricted any early influence in an ethical revolution. Throughout the colonial period, most Nigerians were stuck in ignorance and poverty. The trappings of flash cars, houses and success of the colonists may influence the poor to see the colonists as symbols of success and to emulate the colonists in different political ways.
A view commonly held during the colonial days was that the colonists’ property (cars, houses, farms etc.) are not “our” property. Thus vandalism and looting of public property was not seen as a crime against society. This view is what has degenerated into the more recent disregard for public property and lack of public trust and concern for public goods as a collective national property
Some writers have posited different potential causes of Corruption in the country: many blame greed and ostentatious lifestyle as a potential root cause of corruption. To others, societies in love with ostentatious lifestyle may delve into corrupt practice to attitudes of the society may also be a contributing factor. Gift giving as expressions of loyalty or to traditional rulers may be fabrics of the society.
Also, a political environment that excludes favors towards elites or wealthy citizens may also be influenced by corruption. Wealthy elites may resort to sleaze in order to gain power and protect their interest. However, the bottom line summarized from the views of most Nigerians is that corruption is a problem that has to be rooted out.
In Nigeria another major cause of corruption is ethnicity called tribalism in Nigeria. Friends and traditional rulers seeking favor from officials may impose difficult strains on the ethical disposition of the official. Many kinsmen may see a government official as holding necessary avenues for their personal survival or gain. A culmination of use of official resources for private gain may lead to further pressures on incoming officials from other kinsmen. However, the fact is, the importation of modern rules on inter-ethnic political relationships is a recent colonial and western initiative that may take time to become the norm, deep allegiance to other ethnic groups for administrative decisions earlier on was sometimes viewed suspiciously, and an early institutionalization of a unitary system in the country, may also have led to a further familiar groupings induced corruption. Nevertheless, a modern practical approach to leadership and relationships has gradually taken a prominent role in the political process. The necessity for practical inter-dependence and cooperation is at the forefront yearnings for good governance in the country
Sometime ago, a prominent Nigerian was released from prison, members of his family and political associates rolled out their drums to welcome him, the celebration was describe by many Nigerians has a show of shame. The big Question is how do we sustain the fight against Corruption, when those that are supposed to show good example are now been celebrated as thieves.
It has become a modern trend in Nigeria that when a man steals a little amount of money, he will be put to jail for many years, but if he steals more than a billion naira he becomes a celebrity, it is only those that are cut in the art that are called criminals or corrupt victims even some of our political aspirants seeking for power to become the president of this great nation are been financed by those that they once accused of corrupt practices “according to some newspaper reports”.
Wealth acquired from corrupt means by most of our corrupt leaders have been injected into the society for dubious purposes, sometimes these monies are used by our corrupt elites to influence our youths to indulged in all forms of social vices, even some of our religious leaders are not helping matters, these leaders give front seats to corrupt elites to seat in churches, they pay huge amount of tithes and offerings to the amazement of those who know.
Also, proceeds from corruption are used to service prophets for spiritual purposes, the orphanage homes are not lift out. The corrupt buy all sorts of food items and clothing to donate to the less privileged ones; it is obvious that money gotten from corrupt means flows down to the rest of us, in one way or the other.
Corruption has done incalculable damage to the Nigerian economy. It has retarded the growth, smeared the image of the nation and has had other damaging effects on the economy, although some institutions have been set up by past government like the independent corrupt Practices and other Related offences Commissions (ICPC), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commissions (EFCC), still these institutions lack the political will to fight corruption as operators now do the bidding of those who appointed them.
If Nigeria must become one of the leading developing economies in Africa and indeed the world at large, the fight against graft must be looked into collectively and taken very seriously. From individual households, schools, religious bodies, government agencies, civil society Organizations, the media among others. Government must set up a strong democratic reform programme that is geared towards good governance and economic stability in the country.
Kelly Ovie Umukoro is Communication Officer of Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), a Benin City based Non-Governmental Organisation.