Corruption…A societal moral fallout

ANTI-CORRUPTION

For several years now, Nigeria has consistently been rated by Transparency International (TI), in their perception index as either the most corrupt or one of the most corrupt country in the world.

Corruption has totally permeated all aspects of our national life, it has eaten deep into our national fabric from social, academic, industrial, and religious to political, diplomatic and even commercial fabric. It is the compelling factor that has condemned Nigeria to this shameful and shabby existence. In rejecting his nomination for the 2004 National Honours Award, Eminent Scholar and Professor of Literature, Late Prof. Chinua Achebe said “Corruption in Nigeria has passed the alarming and entered the fatal stage and Nigeria will die if we keep pretending that she is only slightly indisposed.”

The latest news in town is the exposure of “some” of the corruption that went on in high places of governance and politicking, from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) involving the dramatis personae, and the high level of allegation against erstwhile government officials and former occupants alongside friends of the immediate past government. Those in government are the worst hit in this latest scams from the federal level to the states and to the local governments, a prominent member in the family of corruption.

The corruption we are talking about is as a result of the low level of integrity coupled with a very low level of accountability and impunity at its climax in the country which has led to the high level of attraction that the public offices enjoy hence, we have career bankers going into politics, oil magnates, successful academics and even celebrated journalists all jettisoning their careers for political offices in order to protect their interests and acquire easy and cheap money. But those of us watching the happenings in the political field believe that two kinds of players succeed in the political arena: those who believe that politics is a thug’s game played by gentlemen and those who believe politics is a gentleman’s game played by thugs. Those being indicted at present? They are probably the fish scapegoats.

The kind of pressure people mount on public office holders is too much. In order to meet these alarming pressure all from the family, peer and even personal pressure so as to impress those around them, these public officers go out of their ways and do what ordinarily they shouldn’t do. And because it is a societal moral fallout, public office holders and even those in the private sectors who connive with them don’t see anything wrong in what they do. They even go to the extent of “begging and buying” chieftaincy titles from the once sacred traditional institutions but which have now become liquidated empires as a result of the activities of the contract seeking traditional rulers.

In our society today, because of the failure of some parents due to their inability to meet he needs of their children, they cannot ask the source of income of their children, they no longer have the moral strength to ask their children how come they have what they have in their possession because they themselves are direct beneficiaries from such possessions. People stay in mansions that are too big to maintain.

I am a Christian, but I must confess the church has not lived up to expectations, the society seeks to see and take succor in the church for their problems but very few churches are living up to that billing. A majority of these churches are business centers, holiness, righteousness and dedication to the works of God has for a long time been a thing of the past. You can imagine a ‘church’ buying shares in a blue chip company to the tune of ₦2.8 billion. I have been perplexed ever since I heard about this and I am still perplexed, surprised, disappointed and ashamed.

Let us look at these, where did they get the money from? Why did they buy such shares? Won’t the “Bishop’s” son/ daughter become a director in the organisation? How would the dividends be shared? Has the church too become a profit seeking entity to be expecting profit in form of dividends from that company? I stand to be corrected, answered or enlightened on all these questions.

It is now a thing competition for all religious groups to have their own private universities at an unaffordable fee to the majority of their members, who cannot afford it for their children/ or wards. Another misplaced competition going on in the religious grouping especially the churches is ownership of private jets in the midst of prevailing poverty.

The other day, a pastor received a Porsche car worth several millions of Naira as a birthday gift and even went to as far as Dubai to celebrate the ‘Man of God’s birthday. All these are not necessary, they are highly uncalled for. Not even with the pressure on our foreign reserves, or was it Naira they went to spend in Dubai or dollars? In this current dwindling revenue to service our economy, I think it’s high time, the Joint Tax Board and especially the FIRS started looking in the direction of our religious centers. You can imagine how much that can be generated to finance some of our national development programs. After all, Jesus Christ paid tax in the book of Matthew 22:21.

Corruption in Nigeria today is a massive one involving highly respected persons and our society role models. To me, I think these stealings are not necessary but it is borne out of ignorance. Yes, ignorance because for how long can a man live? Abacha’s loot is still being returned 18 years after his death. What a collective shame. Corruption in Nigeria has gone beyond selfishness, gone beyond greed and self-sufficiency but has graduated from wickedness to madness. It is purely to oppress people. It is a case of class struggle to make the majority of the people subservient to them, to lord themselves over us, or how can you justify an idle sum of over a billion naira sitting in an individual’s account with no need for it in the nearest future.

A sum of ₦1b is a huge amount of money no matter the current value of the Naira. We are so heartless and have deleted our conscience to the poverty around us that we no longer know we are to be our brother’s keeper. Where is our African culture of welcoming ourselves? Where is our African culture of looking after ourselves? Why did we destroy our African moral compass? When did we condescend to this low level of individualism?

Restoring optimism is the beginning of progress, like an American president once said, there is the need for governments at all levels to support one another in tackling these societal ills called corruption, and because this fight goes beyond the federal government’s ability alone, everybody should come to stand up and fight corruption so that the Federal Government’s effort will not be seen as succumbing to media trial and trial by mass appeal from a particular political party as the opposition PDP is claiming.

Let all agencies of government, join this crusade beyond a case of selective justice as it is being insinuated in some quarters or the present campaign having a political undertone or a pre- determined hidden agenda or that of a particular ethnic group or party is being selected for trial.

Allegation of abuse of office by the immediate National Security Adviser is both a moral and security issue which in my opinion should not be in the public domain. Such security matters are serious national matters and they should not be subject of ridicule or sensationalism. A father who goes around telling the world his home is filled with wayward children should not be surprised that no suitor visits his house as a friend will always say.

Former President Bill Clinton once said “you can’t de-value yourself to prosperity’. The economy is bleeding profusely and needs an urgent major operation. The present government needs to talk less and come up with more ingenuine ways of reviving the economy. It is not good for our national image when we constantly, vicariously and inadvertently raise so much negative assaults about the integrity and leadership abilities and styles of the immediate past administration.

We need to tone down the corruption rhetoric and fight corruption fiercely but quietly and pursue progress and development with greater vigor. It is injurious national information when the Information Minister addresses the press and says ₦1.3 trillion has been stolen between 2006 and 2013 by just 55 persons. Such information paints Nigeria with tarred brush, the sensational admission of massive corruption and mismanagement of Nigerian Economy by government; and the related tension in the socio- economic environment of our country have all combined to negatively affect the flow of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into Nigeria. Rather a capital flight is what we are experiencing as witnessed since the beginning of the year in the capital market with the bearish trend. We cannot continuously de-value our country to prosperity.

The economy needs to be revived as quickly as possible and Nigerians expect the present government to act fast and stop these sensational media trial and “perceived witch hunting” because they are now in government and wield enormous power. The late professor of Literature, Chinua Achebe, once advised that those whose palm kernel had been cracked for them by the benevolent spirit should not forget to be humble.

However, for this current wind of anti-corruption to be sustained, there is the need for those investigating and prosecuting those alleged to respect the basic tenets of fundamental human rights and the rule of law, whereby a suspect can have access to his/ her lawyer and to respect courts’ decisions as far as granting of bail is concerned. And when these people are tried and we see them being given a fair trial, it is only then we can say the campaign is yielding democratic dividends.

I believe it is only when we go back and respect our traditional heritage which teaches us to be good because it is good to be good, to love our neighbors, to live together happily, to respect and care for our neighbors as we are caring for ourselves, only then would we have a just society that is devoid of greed, wickedness, selfishness, ignorance, madness and taking undue advantage of the down trodden in our society, which all lead to the corruption we are talking about.

Ogunnubi, a Social and Public Consultant, writes from Wuse Zone 4, Abuja (tolaogunnubi@yahoo.com)



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