The flurry of tales around the sordid revelations around the NDDC sleaze, Magu’s accusations, with a bifurcation towards Malami, the Attorney General, has set the country stirred around whether or not, the world’s poverty capital, Nigeria may sink under its moral morass. To compound our dilemma, Buhari, the seeming anti- corruption champion, merely sings about “fighting corruption” in a broken record fashion, and has no seeming ability to stem it, punish for it, on a commensurate scale or find the right engagement to curtail it, and this, neither now nor ever. Corruption for all we care in Nigeria, is a “directive of State policy,” if we may borrow a line in the Constitution.
To say corruption in Nigeria is endemic is merely not just to say the very obvious; it is a national behavior. It is a National culture. It is not odious. In fact it is a desirable, even if it is“ others” who tell us that, it disfigures the Nigerian character, globally, and it is a prime cause for our massive underdevelopment.
Our condition may have been helped if like “Lot and Abraham” in the Bible we could be asked to look for ‘fifty, fourty, thirty, twenty, ten good persons in the society. Much as we like to the vilify and ridicule our “Police” as the poster child for corruption, you would be hard pressed to move to any other institution in the Country and not find “corruption blood stains”. This is about institutions, as it is about the ages, even down to the “calm down” boy.
The moral turpitude of the Nation is tossing about in the sea. And there are sadly only but few shining examples. Even the “saint” dressed in a borrowed garb and we are all told, is “squeaky clean”, is merely a myth sold as a political gimmick, we are finding out. It is patent before our eyes, where the truth lies.
We moved out of our old cultural “stronger” values and we are moored in the cesspool of who gets to steal the bigger billions, in the speedy rate of NDDC’s Interim Management Board. The Society has no underpinnings. Political office holders are not selected for moral rectitude, but the one with the fattest purse. Where from ? No one cares. In fact you are given juicy “Ministries and positions, so you can be a “dirtier pig and with your loot, you can return to your State to became “The Governor”, “The Senator”, the next bigger office holder, in a no holds barred “rapacious treasury riler”. And today, religion does not seem to restrain anyone in the public space. Times was, when you could vouch for some ethnic group or some religion. Now, not anymore. Education in Nigeria has no moral or ideological content. And so from weak homes, we course through schools, into public life, unhinged morally. Like the American’s would say we behave like the ‘shit’ that hit a rotating ceiling fan. We have lost it and we are collectively not deeply sorry. If only we all, as a society could see that the over $600billion dollars stolen from Nigeria into the ”outer space” of the Western World, since 1960, could have made Nigeria a double “Dubai”, we may have developed a compunction and a sense of responsibility.
Pardon me, if pathetically, we linger on the sad examples of what could have been a better Akwa/Ibom and Rivers States. In terms of earnings from IGR, Federal Statutory allocation and VAT, these two could have been model States. But then, corruption is a habit and so States that could have set the examples of transformation are just as niggardly as others. Lagos makes an awful lot, as much as a trillion naira is budgeted annually, but is Lagos in a transformatory shine? Perhaps it has also to do with the level of intelligence of those who say they want to be leaders. And that is a critical point to make and take note of. The choices they make inside the inner closets of the cabinet, the lack of the people’s ability to make critiques of public policies and the coercion of the people never allowed to demonstrate to state their rights- all leave both the Federal Government and States, at an abysmal level of shame and underdevelopment. As time passes, we have no reason to blame the young ones. For want of engagement, the young ones drift into yahoo, kidnapping, gangsterism, the hit Boys for politicians. The girls go into “lesbobo” or outright prostitution; into a life of crime and unproductivity. Hardwork does not appeal to them. They prefer instant gratification. Travelling out of Nigeria is their easiest dream, instead of “imagining” a better future.
Our society is structured around corruption, come to think of it. You get nothing as of right, in educational institutions, government offices and institutions not to talk of the famous “wetin you bring, wetin you carry” toll gate security stations. Examine the life styles of top civil servants and the political elite. For the top civil servants, they consider “the civil service” as a business posts and as for the political class, it is the ‘raison d’être’, the reason why they sought public office, for aggrandizement and primitive accumulation. After all, it is easier to acquire wealth by “stealing” aka “akpabioisim” and “pondei-ism” rather than investment, hardwork and waiting for results. Then it all cascades to the children of the elite who live above their means. Heard of the Aso rock super bike story or the weddings of the children of the anti-corruption and law watch dogs? Mind you, we are not speaking of the weddings of the superrich!! Such a shame of a country!!!.
All these leads us to talk of values-societal values which should form the real bulwark. We have in error been talking of having “morality” as the defence, for our “corruption tendencies”. These morals are more often derived from religion and ethical norms of cultures and religions. If I do not belong to a culture or religion, how can I understand or ascribe to those values? Values, that are the real bulwark, are national values- which would tell all Nigerians of whatever States, of whatever location, of whatever religion or ideology, or culture to decide and evaluate what is permissible and can be done and what cannot be done. As long as we are in our disparate cultural enclaves and arguing and never uniting as Nigerian peoples, so long will we have varied perspectives on values, that favour our location, ethnic group or faith. So national integration prevents us from resolving the corruption war, meaningfully.
The war against corruption mantra of either APC or the Federal Government is a ruse. Institutions are so rife with graft and corruption that compromised people and institutions cannot be fighting what benefits them. Unknown to many of the other faiths and in the south, the conversations of Buhari on corruption are not political or moral but derivatives of his “Sharia” convinctions and imperatives. This is a fundamental assessment from his Tunde Idiagbon-Buhari days. It is still his learnt and perpetual thoughts. And since we are not of the ‘Umra”, how can we drive the moral and behavioural putsch against corruption from his perspectives? If only he had the intellectual capacity to drive the ideology of a corruption war on a national scale, driven by a national consciousness on progress, evolution, increased productivity, development and shared prosperity. Relying on EFCC and ICPC is a sheer waste of time. Wish we could learn from the Singaporeans, how they solved their “corruption” problem or the Chinese, whose zero tolerance for corruption means tying the guilty to the stakes. In Nigeria, we all want to go to heaven or ‘al Jinnah” but no one wants to die.
It therefore means we must pull ourselves by the bootstrap. The Americans simply say “it is the Economy stupid”. We should get going with the challenge of equity, fair economic distribution and improved national productivity. We are simply not addressing the fundamentals of our corruption challenges. You cannot allow this insane wealth and reward distribution manner in a Third World country and expect corruption to stop. The President earns N1million a month, but with others perks and security vote (more on that later) and you leave the average paid worker on N30,000 a month. What do you expect to happen of the least paid worker? You have asked him to steal, cheat and do all he can to make-up his needs deficit. This is a country of nearly 80 million unemployed graduates of various educational levels and they see the politicians living well and big and their children are enlisted into CBN and NNPC. What system of fairness is that ? And again, the unemployment level is so high that we are leaving gaps for corruption and crime. Added to COVID 19 lay- offs, with no succor in sight, are we not promoting the environment for corruption? There is no recipe for ending and stopping corruption, than an economy that works for all. An economy that is visibly seen to grow and can capture the poor; 100 million of them at the moment, according to an NBS statistics, and improve employment opportunities for the millions. We need to improve the internal investment climate, and stop expecting FDIs which in a post COVID era, is a will-o-the-wisp. With so much being stolen by the politically exposed class, you would think, investment in productive ventures, that would resolve unemployment should strike them. But then, that is – waiting for Gordot. This is a country whose potentials are being undermanaged and whatever comes out is mismanaged and siphoned. So with the economy in a minus growth, the country can only reap corruption in an ascendant proportion. At National and State levels, we have mismatches between responsibilities for the economy and the managing personnel. Fancy at the National level, a lawyer Professor is in charge of the National Economic Council. And at the National Finance and Economic Planning office, the two at the helm have other trainings and experiences, outside of economic management. To compound our woes, Buhari seem focused on a Sharia economic philosophy of “ZAKAT” and hence his hell bent approach on a “Social Investment Programme” to distribute public wealth (which is not growing and dwindling) on the poor, who incidentally are more of the unskilled, and untrained “talakawas”, which can never recycle the wealth nor expand our GDP base or the economy. So with the corruption question, “it is the economy stupid”. Many are underpaid, under rewarded and unmotivated in the present system. Corruption is the net effect. We either pay the right living wages, and provide appropriate rewards and incentives or we reap the rich dividends of corruption. It is to be maintained that if the rightest wages and salaries were offered in the system, there would be less to steal or to be corrupted with, either in the public service or the private sector.
However, should we be interested in stemming the haemorrage of corruption, four key institutions must be handled differently in what I would style as the bastions and anchor to stem corruption in a backward integration methodology.
A whopping N241.8 billion ($670 million) is being spent annually by the Federal Government as “Security votes” (This Day, August 7th, 2020, p. 15) “The Executive of the Federal and States channel their security votes into political activities or outrightly embezzle them” so states the Transparency International Defence and Security and Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre. The States spend an average of N6billion to N7 billion annually on security votes. These sums are spent without any accountability on issues that have nothing to do with the security or welfare of the people. The security vote is a sore issue as the Federal Government and States are granted the discretionary spending rights which is the ”letter” of “security votes” in the constitution. But the “spirit” is that office holders will exercise this discretion with utmost fidelity in the public interest. It turns out that for public office holders, the security votes have become a clever way by which they in collusion with security agencies defraud the public. This same syndrome sadly is found in academic institutions. This profligacy must be remedied constitutionally, through appropriation, Fiscal Transparency systems, public auditing systems and proper reporting and accountability systems. Security votes are the reasons for why many desire public officers and why they want “second terms”. The constitution must be reviewed on the issue and civil societies, like SERAP and ANEEJ who stand for anti-corruption, accountability and transparency must drive the process to end this officially sanctioned graft.
No monies as humungous of this magnitude in our corruption stories moves within and outside Nigeria in form of money laundering and transfers without Banks and Bankers in the know. We now need to fasten the noose, legally and constitutionally on the Bankers to cause them to spill the beans. If with money laundered outside of Nigeria, we have through International co-operation and anti-laundering measures, forced the hands of foreign bankers and Governments to return “our stolen assets” or famously called “the loot”, we must force our Bankers to reject by Law, any co-operation for corruptive assistance with politically exposed or high net worth individuals on public monies that is suspect. This pre-supposes that we have scaled up national values and consciousness to drive this new behaviour. EFCC and ICPC were set up, albeit, with a public interest intentions and with anti-corruption in mind. But they have, like all things Nigeria, turned to be political institutions. No one says EFCC Chairmen and operatives must come from the Police, a derided institution by all national accounts. Why can the constitution not empower, the citizens to so choose who chairs and who works in both institutions and make them accountable to the public and the society. As long as the Chairmen come from the Police and from a particular religion and from a particular section of the country, EFCC remains an untrustworthy institution. These critical institutions, EFCC and ICPC must be made national institutions. Their funding, to ensure their independence, could cease to come from the budget and be sourced from concerned Nigerians with higher values and national purpose.
If ending corruption is our objective, can we ‘delete’ accountants in all of our enquiry into finding alternative institutions that can withstand the corruption behemoth? If accountants are faithful to their callings, in terms of proper, clean and fair reading of values of any organization and have them audit and query appropriately, without caring whoever is involved and with an eye on integrity, addressing national values, posterity and value for money, books will never be cooked, thereby enabling the public to readily have a fair and true value of any public or private institution who must account to the public or the shareholders. The sorry details of the NDDC only came to light too late. If only the accountants were faithful to their calling!!!!
To complete the tripod for a new, cleaner and a better society, where the society has people of good conscience, imbued with uprightness and a desire to make a difference, any suspect wrong doing, can easily be exposed through the dual role of “whistle blowers” or the “investigative journalists”. That these are not budding in the system, or entrenching in the society, hence what may have escaped the eagle eyes of the Accountants, Bankers, or the new EFCC, gets caught in the web of whistle blowers and the investigative media.
Just about some ways we can talk of building enduring institutions that are nationally value laden and are morally free; the way and road to a less corruption free Nigerian society, so that we can breathe, and have funds for real development.