But why do Nigerians talk more about corruption today? Or, why is there noise about corruption today than ever? Is this administration more corrupt than previous administrations? The main reason why there is noise about corruption in the country presently is because there are many platforms with which Nigerians can vent their anger or express themselves on national issues. The deregulation of the telecommunication which occurred in 2001 brought to the country private telecommunication companies such as MTN, Airtel, Global and Etisalat.
But the first nine years of the advent of mobile telecommunication in Nigeria was for only the rich. This was because, initially, to acquire the Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards cost as much as N30,000 while ordinary Nokia 210 phone cost as much as N50,000! Then, many Nigerians were unable to afford the exorbitant SIM cards and mobile phones available at that time. Nigerians only started to have access to mobile telecommunication from 2010 when the Nigerian markets were flooded with various types of smart phones and the prices of SIM cards were also crashed.
The availability and affordability of smart phones and the crashing of the prices of SIM cards gave rise to huge telephone and internet penetration across the country. So, from 2010 till date, Nigerians could acquire smart phones and SIM cards at low prices as they were crashed from N50,000 to N5,000 and N30,000 to N100 respectively. Many private radio and television stations were also established within this period. With many private radio and television stations; smart phones and internet penetration – social media have become the vogue. Nigerians can now vent their anger and respond to national issues with their phones through the social media.
The unhindered use of Twitter, Facebook, electronic mail (e-mail) and short message service (SMS), they now call on live programmes both on radio and television stations to vent their anger and comment on national issues. This is why there is noise about corruption. This was not so in the past when there were only the conventional newspapers and few government-controlled radio and television stations. Then, one could only comment on national issues by writing comments, opinions and rejoinders in newspapers which may not even be published due to the almighty gatekeepers in those media houses.
There were no means to comment on issues being discussed on radio and television stations at that time too because the government controlled Nigerian Telecommunication Limited (NITEL) was not functional. Therefore, Nigerians couldn’t comment on corruption and other national issues because they lack the medium to use. So, corruption thrived then but Nigerians couldn’t say or do anything about corruption because they lacked the medium to use. It was as bad as that. But with the presence of mobile telecommunication, smart phones and social media in the country, Nigerians now comment on national issues unrestricted.
There are no more gatekeepers to prevent them from airing their views because the social media, radio and television stations have no gatekeepers. On social media, there are no gatekeepers; people are free to say whatever they like. And because the social media have no gatekeepers, people say whatever they like without confirming what they hear or read. So, many Nigerians who comment on national issues on live programmes on radio and television stations don’t have the grasp of what is at stake before they come on air to make comments.
This is why there is so much noise about corruption today as if corruption began with this administration and will end with this administration. It is imperative to state that there were more corrupt practices in the past than we have in the country today. For instance, there was Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) and Green Revolution (GR) programmes where millions of hectares of land were seized from Nigerians under the pretence to feed them.
Hundreds of billions of naira of our oil money were expended to purchase tractors and build farm settlements for the programmes. But Operation Feed the Nation and Green Revolution farms have been taken over by individuals but Nigerians couldn’t talk about them then because the medium was not available. It should also be noted that the greatest corruption is the seizure of lands from the people because nothing can be done without land. When land is taken from the people they become poor.
Again, the $2.8b and $12.4b that got missing from the petroleum sector during the regimes of Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo and Gen. Ibrahim Babaginda were more valuable than the $20b Nigerians are shouting about today. The reason being that then, the naira was more valuable than what it is now. Between 1976-1979 when the oil sector lost the $2.8b, the naira was exchanged at N0.658 for one American dollar.
Also, when the petroleum sector lost $12.4b during the regime of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, the naira was more valuable as N2.02 was exchanged for one American dollar. But in all the cases mentioned above, Nigerians couldn’t talk then because they had no medium with which to talk about them. No doubt, there is noise about corruption today not because there are more corrupt practices than it was in the past. Every Nigerian is talking about corruption today because there are many platforms with which they could talk about it unhindered. In the past there were no social media and telephones with which they could talk about corruption but presently these platforms are available for them to use. This is why there is noise about corruption than it was in the past. (Concluded)
•Victor Anya, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Ikeja, Lagos.