Corruption trends in Nigeria

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Picture of Oshodi in Lagos State, Nigeria

By Olu Okunrinboye

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it, and then misappropriating the wrong remedies -Grucho Marx.

Corruption appears to be a never-ending national stigma read about on daily basis in our newspapers. This should not be a surprise to us all because we seem to have laid the national fabric deeply in it. Therefore, it is necessary to appreciate the concept of corruption and why it has become firmly rooted in our scheme of operation.

Aristotle once linked the corruption of kingship to tyranny but Earl J. Friedrich called corruption a deviant behaviour associated with selfish gains at the public expense. At the same time, he further expressed the view that: ‘‘The moral depravity which power is believed to cause in men – they no longer think about the right action or conduct but only the expedient action or conduct.’’ John Mukun Mbaku and Osden argued that ‘‘Corruption is probably the most significant constraint to both socio-political and economic developments in the African continent.’’ He reiterated further that corruption of different kinds existed from the time immemorial and acted as ‘Samper et unique’ (i.e., existed for long and in everywhere).

In the past, all efforts to eradicate corruption all over the world appeared ineffective because its root causes have not been seriously examined and at best, they have been addressed on the surface.

The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has proved that corruption is responsible for our leaders’ inability to boost private polices and strategies to accomplish developmental goals. It has been proven that our past leaders concerned themselves more with personal survival and retention of power at all costs than the welfare and survival of the masses. This administration has proven that our past leaders failed to distinguish between their private and public lives and interests, the result being that the masses continually lose confidence in them since they do not act in the public interest.

Our leaders must understand that corruption corrodes the machinery of government and undermines the confidence of people in their leaders and the system in which they operate. It is hard to have faith in a government when people have to bribe in order to get anything done. Corruption in rhetorical term means roads are not properly fixed, no electricity, no water, teachers are not paid their salaries as and when due, government workers cannot receive their salaries at the appropriate time, hospitals are not functioning properly. Corruption poisons and pollutes everything that it touches in a political system. Due to corruption, public resources (such as crude oil, gas, public income, among others.) have not been properly used to serve the advantage of the masses. The recently discovered hydrocarbon deposit which dwarfs any such natural resources ever seen before in the nation will soon become the property of a few highly placed people in the society. The expected windfall of trillions of dollars will be a curse to the nation rather than a blessing. The income from this identified natural resource should however be sufficient to transform Nigeria to a developed nation and also lift the poor people out of poverty if wisely used.

In Nigeria these days, it is usual to see children of between four and 10 years on the road begging for alms when they are supposed to be in school. We must understand that underground riches and loot cornered by opportunists in power and stashed away in private banks will cause bloody battles in the future if the welfare of the entire citizen is not properly addressed.

There are various concepts of corruption that may not necessary involved monetary or financial gains. The Watergate affair in which U.S. President Richard Nixon used the apparatus of his government to undermine the opposition Democratic Party is a clear example of non-monetized corruption. This is called “political corruption” that is different from “bureaucratic corruption” which involves the misuse of public office for private gains. It is argued that political corruption includes but not limited to, vote rigging, registration of unqualified voters, falsification of election results, buying votes from the electorate, acceptance of illegal monetary contributions to campaigns, assassination of opposition leaders or members, and so on. I do not personally agree that political corruption is not an outright corruption. It has become a norm in the western world to use political power for personal benefits and those of their supporters.

On the corruption in Ghana, Werlin (1973) described corruption as the “diversion of public resources to non-public purposes,” in which the public office holders illegally appropriate public resources for personal use. In Uganda, political incumbents are legally allowed to employ all resources of public office to seek for re-election. In USA, corporate contributions to political campaigns are legal while

other European countries regard such contributions as a form of political corruption. The ‘Corruption Perception Index’ (CPI) ranks differently countries based on how entrepreneurs, business executives, politicians, risk analysts and general public perceive corruption. However, we do not need to find far-reaching solutions to the menace which affects our economic growth and makes poor peasants become poorer by the day.

There are negative stories of corruption leading to uprising in many nations. Otto Perez Molina, the former president of Guatemala was forced out of office because of a corruption scandal in 2015. Zina el-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia was found guilty of stealing about $2.6 billion from the state covers before he was ousted. The family of even Jiabao, the former Premier of China, was found guilty of amassing $2.7 billion in assets during his tenure. Ehud Olmet, the former Prime Minister of Israel was sentenced for corruption. In USA, Senator Robert Menadx was charged for using his office for influence for peddling and a grand jury indicted him. Corruption scandals have rocked Italy, Korea, Indonesia, Japan and Russia in the past. This is to show that corruption is a universal problem that has affected the economic growth of many nations, particularly the developing countries.

Evidence has shown that there have been some improvements in the rate of corruption in many countries from 1989-1991 due to legal reforms. The developed countries now attach serious importance to fighting corruption since the events of September 11, 2001 when terrorists were able to bribe public officials in order to launder money used to finance their operations in USA. The World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and others are presently active in fighting the corruption epidemic in the world.

In order to reduce the corruption level, drastic measures must be taken by various governments. Everyone now appears to suffer from the painful effects of corruption. Hence, it is in the best interest of citizens to find a solution to the corruption scourge in order to allow for economic growth and national development. Provide good education to increase human capital development

Hence, national leaders must provide effective leadership. Legislative arm of government that is up to the task of the legislation and judges that can dispense justice appropriately must be emplaced.

We must appreciate that the economic growth of the nation is germane to improving the general welfare of people. The government must continue to examine the moral and economic roots of corruption in order to institute a long lasting solution

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