Tuesday, February 2, 2016

This is How We Can Demystify Corruption and Defeat it Totally


An idea suggested by Col. Gabriel Ajayi (rtd), on the issue of corruption, has kept me thinking. He said:
“We must demystify corruption if we must succeed in the fight against it. If I were Prof Itse Sagay, I would declare my own assets publicly followed by other members of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Advisory Committee. Though the law does not require it, all ministers and advisers should declare their assets publicly. We must demystify corruption, and one sure way to go about it is public declaration of our assets by all stakeholders in the Nigerian project.

All of us – judges, magistrates, vice-chancellors, professors, general overseers, imams, traditional rulers, senior government officials, media top shots, labour leaders, governors, legislators, military leaders, senior police officers, officials of the DSS, the EFCC, and Code of Conduct Bureau, political party leaders, business moguls across the broad spectrum of national endeavour – must publicly declare our assets. That is the minimum base line or we keep our mouths shut. We must know those who own all these petrol stations and hotels tucked away in our built-up areas.&

Let us know how people come about their wealth. Let us join hands to demystify economic, political, social, religious and traditional corruption that holds down this potentially great nation. We must engage the whole gamut of ethical revolution otherwise I am afraid we can do nothing worthwhile against corruption.”


This seems hard to achieve because non-political office holders will easily claim that they don’t owe anybody any obligation to declare their assets publicly, since they are not working for the public. And because they are not compelled by any law to do so, it will be hard to get them to do it. But most importantly, such an exercise would open the rump of most people who are in the forefront in the condemnation of those accused of corruption. By declaring their assets publicly, those who earn N100,000 a month but have chains of buildings and other assets will be asked questions how they came about such assets.

Asking those in leadership positions or those who have influence over others to publicly declare their assets is not a matter of legality but morality. It does not sound nice or feel nice for someone who is corrupt to condemn or accuse others of corruption. It reminds you of the men in the Bible who wanted to stone an adulterous woman to death, but when they were told by Jesus, “Let he who is without sin be the first to cast a stone,” one by one they dropped their stones and sneaked away. When people make it crystal clear that they have not corruptly enriched themselves, it confers on them the moral force to criticise others on the issue of corruption.

That way, the clothes used to wrap corruption would be removed. Corruption would no longer be seen as something mysterious. It would also help the public to see the extent of rot or cleanliness in the nation.

Corruption is a major problem in Nigeria but one key reason why it seems difficult to defeat is that it is seen as a problem restricted to only those who hold political positions. Those who don’t hold political posts swim in their own corruption but believe that theirs is not the main national problem. It is like the case of pickpockets, burglars and thieves who are the first to mob another pickpocket caught. Sometimes, one wonders if such people are really angry about the crime or the fact that the person was not cautious to evade capture.

However, what obtains now is that corruption is directly and indirectly promoted by the Nigerian society. Everybody in Nigeria seems to be waiting for an opportunity to hold a national position – either elective or appointed. It seems as if the life of a Nigerian is not complete until he or she has “served” the nation. Even though it is called “service,” there are clear signs that it is far from being service. It is seen as a golden opportunity to amass wealth and wield power.

Ironically, even though many people finger corruption as the major problem of Nigeria, the same people expect that a political office holder has to regularly dole out money, jobs and projects to people. Such a person is not expected to leave office poor or at the same financial level as he or she was before the position.

Once the person gets into office, congratulatory adverts are placed in the newspapers by his friends and associates, including his town union, committee of friends, university classmates, secondary school classmates, alma mater, etc. The person will also receive visits from family members, alma mater, religious groups and leaders, social clubs, etc, who will bring their congratulatory messages and requests. They expect that since their “person” has been “blessed” with a high position, it is their turn to enjoy. In a matter of weeks, they expect the person to start doling out money, jobs and projects to them. They won’t accept any excuses.

If that person does not dole out all these favours as quickly as possible, he or she gets the name of a stingy person or one who loves to “eat” alone. And if such a person leaves office without any evidence of stupendous wealth, he or she is heavily tongue-lashed by the same people for being “foolish” and missing a “God-given opportunity to become rich.”

One is therefore left to wonder: “What do Nigerians really want on the issue of corruption? Are they really serious about eradicating corruption or are they simply waiting for their opportunity to hold a high position to have the opportunity to wield power and amass wealth?”

The Corruption Perceptions Index released last week by Transparency International for 2015 showed that Nigeria ranked 136 out of 168 countries. It scored 26 points out of 100. In 2014, Nigeria was also the 136th nation on the table, but then the total number of countries surveyed was 174. That year, it scored 27 points out of 100. With the ongoing fight against corruption, one hopes that Nigeria will steadily rise in ranking. Nigeria needs to move away from the lower rung of the corruption perceptions index and move up to at least the middle of the chart in the next five years.

Corruption is a major issue in Nigeria. It is necessary that all possible solutions be thrown at the issue of fighting corruption. When the fight against corruption is made an all-inclusive battle, corruption will cease to be seen as a crime committed only by politicians but one that every citizen should steer clear of.

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