Opinion: Corruption Runs Deeper Than We Think – By Azuka Onwuka
There was a time I thought that if we had good leaders and we all worked hard with commitment, we would turn Nigeria around and make it a great nation. But other factors have made me to realize that such a view is too simplistic. I have studied Nigeria and realized that the country is so fundamentally and structurally flawed that it is virtually impossible to do any tangible thing to make it work.
This fundamental and structural problem fuels the corruption in Nigeria. The irony of the corruption in Nigeria is that most people who engage in it do not even realize they are part of the corruption problem holding Nigeria down. The person beside you who is talking about how we should be patriotic and join hands to build Nigeria does not believe that the best candidates should be voted in to govern Nigeria. He believes that his “person” should be voted for, even if there are better candidates from other zones.
The same person believes that no matter how corrupt or ineffective his kinsman is while in office, he should NEVER resign or be impeached. Such a kinsman needs to be defended. Justifications and explanations will be given for his inadequacies. Those criticising him are attacked and blackmailed as jealous and hateful.
If such a kinsman or person from the same ethnic group eventually gets into office, he must clearly display his love for his kinsfolks, town, state, and ethnic group by giving more political appointments, jobs, and contracts to his people and also siting more projects within their part of the country. If he leaves office without doing that, he is judged by his people as “useless” and “wicked”. It does not even matter if he proves himself as a competent, patriotic, result-oriented leader who is focused on making Nigeria a better country. As long as he does not give preferential treatment to his community at the micro and macro levels, he is judged as a failure by his people.
In addition, most Nigerians believe that it is natural to enrich oneself while holding any public office. If you earn a salary of N300,000 per month but have amassed investments and cash worth a billion naira from under-the-table means, you and your kinsfolks simply see it as a sign of “God’s blessings” and “hard work”!
Most Nigerians believes that no service should be rendered while in public service without collecting “processing fee”, “facilitation fee”, “PR”, or “transport money”. When you see that such a person is swimming in unexplained wealth and ask him where all the money is coming from, he tells you: “Na God o”. Anybody who refuses to pay the demanded “processing fee” or “PR” is tagged an enemy who should be demonized, fought and prevented from succeeding in whatever thing he is processing. The document of the “enemy” may be made to disappear as a way of teaching him a lesson.
Remember that the person doing all this is complaining every day that politicians in power are stealing the country blind and making the country not to make any progress. Ironically, he sees nothing wrong with what he is doing. As far as he is concerned, what he is doing is not corruption but a simple case of survival or reaping God’s blessings.
This same person believes that his “man” in public office should favour him with political appointments, jobs, contracts, cash gifts, etc, as a sign of love. If such a political office holder does not do it for him, then that politician is termed a “useless, stingy, selfish, greedy person”.
Most Nigerians believe that anybody who goes into political office or civil service, but still depends on his salary alone and comes out without being very rich is foolish and daft: a disgrace to his family and people. Nigerians see public office or civil service as a rare blessing from God that must be exploited in full. Anybody who does not exploit such an opportunity maximally is seen as a fool who spat out the sugar dropped in his mouth by God. Such a person does not deserve to be given such an opportunity a second time.
Consequently, most Nigerians are praying that fortune should smile on them with a political appointment, especially one that is “juicy”. A juicy position is one which has a higher possibility of churning out money. It is a position that has a big budget and executes big projects and awards big contracts. Contractors are, therefore, eager to play ball to win contracts. Those who hold such offices are given a lot of goodies so as to be considered for contracts. Sometimes it may not be because of contracts but because such an office is feared and individuals and organisations need to regularly give gratification to officials of such an agency so as not to be in their bad books. The people who work in such agencies, therefore, swim in money.
This does not only happen in the the civil service or political offices. It happens in private organisations. It happens in the media. It happens in religious organisations. It happens in the academia. It has become like culture. And it worsens by becoming more brazen with each passing day.
The people who don’t think like this in Nigeria may not be up to five percent. Even five percent may be too generous. It may be less than one percent. It is so pervasive that it is not even seen as anything bad anymore.
Interestingly, this pervasive corruption is merely a symptom of a more fundamental problem. There is a detachment of Nigerians from Nigeria. There is no spirit of ownership. Nigeria is seen as no man’s property. The citizens are, therefore, in a hurry to grab whatever they can while the opportunity is available.
Consequently, with the high majority of Nigerians wishing Nigeria dead through corruption, outright stealing, and support for mediocrity, how can there be any hope of rebuilding Nigeria? How can you rebuild a country that the citizens don’t wish well, don’t believe in, don’t want to progress? How can you rebuild a country when its citizens love their ethnic groups and religion more than the country? How can you rebuild a country whose citizens have opposing worldviews and never agree on any issue that will make the country progress?
If you check the way Nigeria has been degenerating since 1960, you will see a trend. The wealth of Nigeria is the only thing holding Nigerians together. There has been a race by ethnic groups and individuals to grab all that wealth and strip Nigeria naked. Once that wealth is exhausted, there will be nothing more to fight for. The thing that holds Nigeria together will be no more, and things will simply fall apart.
This is not a doomsday prophecy. It is simple logic based on the facts on the ground. Any person who loves to face reality should know this. They are too plain and obvious.