Ayodeji: We need legal and social sanctions to combat corruption

Dr. Folusho Ayodeji of the Department of Psychology, University of Lagos, analysed the reasons Nigerian leaders act the way they do while in office. He spoke with OMIKO AWA on state of the nation and other issues.

Why is there so much corruption in governance in the country?
Several years ago, a newspaper columnist said any society that worships wealth, irrespective of its source, would be populated by rogues or aspiring rogues. Going by this, all of us have become aspiring rogues. And it is not just the military, civil servants, governors and other political leaders that are involved in the looting. We all know how much our military officers, Customs officials, public office holders and others earn, but when we see them live well above their means, rather than question them, we celebrate them. We see their ill-gotten wealth as prayers answered. Nobody is asking questions; indeed, with our attitude, we are creating the impression that Nigeria is inhabited by rogues. Corrupt behaviour is a function of not only an individual’s disposition, but also that of the society or environment that encourages it.

The problem is not just with Dasuki, we are all responsible and we are all involved at different levels.

Could this be as a result of our choice of leaders?
It is a combination of several factors. All the agents of socialisation –– the family, religious sector, school and others — that are supposed to inculcate values, have largely failed. They are also involved in this corrupt practice. Also, maybe because the educated class, hard working and honest Nigerians hardly come out for elective posts. Thus, they have allowed riffraff to take over the rein of leadership and what do you expect from such group anyway? We are not giving our collective wealth to our best brains to manage, but it is until we begin to do this that the situation will change. The social institutions, such as, the electoral process have also largely failed.

As you said, this ‘best’ do not always come out for elective positions, and when they do, they do not always have the required money to pursue the goal…
It is not a matter of money, but the core values of the society, which are all gone. Take for instance David Cameron, the former British Prime Minister. He personally carried his luggage, when leaving Government House. He even bought a second-hand car for his wife. But here, we lay much emphasis on wealth, which we accumulate because nobody questions us. Nigerians lack role models to emulate. Our past leaders consciously destroyed public schools for personal gains. From Obasanjo to Ibrahim Babangida, Atiku and others that have ruled before, they all have private secondary and tertiary institutions. Have we bothered to ask how many private schools there were in the 60s and 70s, or how many of these leaders attended private schools? If things were as bad as they are now during their youth, would they have become who they are today?

In those days, there was motivation for hard work, as the reward system was there. If you left school with good grades, you were sure of getting a good job. Some even got jobs before writing their final exams. Then, the youths looked forward to getting university education, because they saw it as a means of getting a better life. Today, mediocrity has taken the centre stage, rubbishing the system. If the system were good, as of old, there would be no need to steal government money; you wouldn’t need to do that. Indeed, Nigeria is a country of magic and miracle. One can come from nowhere to become a billionaire overnight. You can go to bed a pauper and wake up a billionaire, yet nobody is asking questions. This can never happen in any sane society.

We know those in entertainment and sports could become rich within a short time, but what about a man, whose parents are not rich and he did not discover anything special to make him rich and is not in sports and entertainment, yet he suddenly becomes a billionaire? It is the level of our corruption. It is a pathological case and it will take somebody that is honest and firm to change the situation. Corruption has gone into all facet of the society. So, as it is with the civil servants, politicians, so it is with the military. You see civil servants owning estates, building houses in choice areas of the town, sending their children overseas for their education, and yet we do not ask questions. Some even steal what they do not need; which is why I said it is a pathological case. What we are seeing with the military is the expression of who we are and what the society has made of their leaders.

What are the ways out?
Another area we should be concerned with is the sanction system. We should ensure that anybody found to have corruptly enriched him/herself, while in office, is adequately punished. Social sanction, such as stigmatisation and shaming, should be reintroduced into our system. He/she should be deprived of the ownership and usage of those things acquired illegally. We have allowed a very few Nigerians to pauperise the majority of us and we are doing nothing. So, our sanction system should be such that would discourages crime, make the person that wants to commit any crime to know what he/she is going into and the consequences, if caught.

Lastly, the society should provide enabling environment that would encourage the internalisation of hard work, honesty, integrity and patriotism. It should sanction corrupt individuals and other sociopaths adequately to prevent others from engaging in criminal activities.

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