I don’t know how many of us spare some time once in awhile to reflect on the problems facing our country, its many decades of wastes, of lost opportunities and the cloud of uncertainty that still envelops its future. I sometimes do and each moment of that period of reflection takes me to the same destination – frustration anchored on the hopelessness of our situation. I do not intend to bore you with the details of how we got to where we are today.
That is already a familiar story. You already know about our lip-service to agriculture which saw all of us turn our backs to the large and fertile lands that are still the envy of many other nations in and outside of the African continent. You also know about the damage that petroleum, one of the greatest gifts of God to this nation, has done to our psyche as individual Nigerians.
Oil has given us a false sense of ourselves and sent us to sleep with the wrong notion and attitude that we can succeed as a nation and even as individuals without having to work hard. The product that would have turned our country into a first grade nation in terms of social economic development has reduced us to slow thinkers and people without a vision. Oil created new tastes and appetites which have tragically altered our sense of values and morality.
It promoted money to the unfortunate pedestal of a primary reason for our existence and the only thing worth dying for. Money and the race to make it in huge quantum and quick has become the major preoccupation of most Nigerians. That race, as we can now see, has witnessed a lot of free and disingenuous styles being employed.
Armed robbery, advanced fee fraud, also known as 419, internet fraud and pen robbery as committed by officials in the public and private sectors of the economy are all manifestations of our false tastes and wrong sense of values. Billions of this nation’s resources have found their ways into foreign banks on the wings of various acts of corruption committed by public officials. Corruption is not a recent phenomenon in Nigeria. It has always been part of the culture of governance from the military era. It was also always part of the instruments of office passed over from one administration to the other.
Over the years, corruption has developed into a behemoth that has swallowed our country, our future and the hope of our children. There has never really been a serious attempt to wrestle this monstrous creature and retrieve the nation’s treasures from its belly. The promise to fight corruption had always ended on the list of abandoned projects of successive governments at all levels in this country. Now President Muhammadu Buhari is making the same promises that several others before him also made. That is, to kill the monster and retrieve all that is in its belly. Those who believe that this is possible must be very few and I’m not one of them. They do not seem to know how deep and widespread corruption is in our country today.
But even those of us who think that this exercise is another wild goose chase owe President Muhammadu Buhari one thing. And that is to wish him well in this onerous assignment. We are reluctant in investing our hope on Buhari in this assignment not because it is not a worthy cause but rather because we think it is a war that is unlikely to see many loyal ‘soldiers’ fighting on his side. Corruption is one huge industry that holds a lot of attraction to many people. Those in a position to fight and bring it down on its knees are the same people benefitting from it. That may make commitment to the war rather difficult.
If Buhari tries hard, and it has to be real hard, he may succeed in retrieving some of our stolen funds. But how can he guarantee that the same funds do not return to the belly of the monster under the name of new owners who are likely to be members of his own administration? In other words, how can we be sure that new robbers will not steal from the recovered loot? Corruption in Nigeria goes beyond what happens in public offices. It includes all forms of financial crimes and all forms of bribery that today rule the conduct of official business transactions. They happen everywhere and in all forms – in hospitals, car parks, in churches, in schools, in banks and more.
We are in a situation where no official duties and services are rendered free and as part of the normal course of duty. They come with fees. It is a situation which no legislation and long jail terms can salvage. Those ones may have their role to play in the war but must be complemented by ethical orientation. Whatever Buhari wants to do to corruption must include a campaign that targets the conscience of the people. They must be made to see and accept that the greatest enemy of a strong, stable and progressive Nigeria is corruption.