In his last Monday’s Monday Column titled “Which tactic is there left to try?” Malam Mahmud Jega chronicles and assesses the performances of the anti-corruption policies and measures introduced by successive Nigerian governments since the country’s independence in 1960.
Going through the piece and seeing how every initiative and set of measures failed in the face of human manipulation, one cannot but conclude that corruption is simply invincible in Nigeria.
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Its invincibility, however, is never inherent; it’s, instead, due to the pervasive manipulation of the bureaucratic process, which has always rendered the anti-corruption measures ineffective; and also the manipulation of legal and judicial technicalities that have always enabled culprits to get away with cases of brazen misappropriation of public resources.
With the involvement of almost everybody from the lowest-ranking employee to the highest-ranking officer of all government establishments, departments and institutions as well as across the organized private sector businesses and informal enterprises, the invincibility of corruption in Nigeria cannot be overestimated.
Everybody abhors corruption and wants it eradicated but only to the extent where his own acts of corruption and those of his benefactors wouldn’t be stopped. Also, everyone wants to see the corrupt exposed, prosecuted and punished but only to the extent where he and his benefactors wouldn’t be affected. Some would sometimes even betray their respective accomplices to claim the credit of exposing corruption thereby “earning” cheap recognition, which they would then manipulate to build or promote their political careers with an unearned reputation of honesty.
Besides, every corrupt fellow compares the amount of public resources he misappropriates to what those above him in position misappropriate thereby grossly underestimating his ill-gotten wealth in total disregard to the extent of the devastating implications of his acts on people’s lives and the lives of the future generations.
Also, while against the backdrop of the pervasive culture of impunity in the country, more and more people right, left, and centre continue to join the ever-intensifying struggle to partake in the plunder of public resources using all conceivable and inconceivable tactics to outmanoeuvre one another, others opt for various “smart” ways to manoeuvre themselves into the corridors of power, or to somehow secure uninterrupted means of securing their shares through various supposedly legal ways.
For instance, apparent passionate criticisms of corruption and the corrupt elite in the media, enthusiastic anti-corruption activism and a pretended commitment to religiosity and moral values are some of the “smart” ways through which many unscrupulous elements always have their ways only to become exactly, and sometimes even worse, then the very corrupt people they have always criticized.
Equally, the National Assembly, state Assemblies and other departments with oversight powers over ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) at national and state levels manipulate their oversight powers in blackmailing the MDAs to share in the systemic misappropriation of public funds. This is notwithstanding the charades they occasionally perform in the name of the public probe of some MDAs that culminate in getting rid of some MDAs’ officials not because they are corrupt to the exclusion of others but only to present them as sacrificial lambs to serve as evidence of purported transparent oversight.
Likewise, in the name of pushing for the legitimate entitlements of their members, various professional bodies, trade and labour organizations have effectively turned themselves into “cartels” of blackmailing the government into facilitating it for them to have their shares from the public resources constantly misappropriated at various MDAs, and to also have a free hand to perpetrate further misappropriation on various pretexts.
Socio-culturally also, corruption isn’t only tacitly accepted as a norm but is actually celebrated as well. As a fact that everybody in the country knows deep down, almost everybody with access to a portion of public resources or serves in any public service delivery position shares in corruption and/or takes advantage of his position for personal gains. Many live clearly beyond their respective legitimate earnings yet they are recognized as “successful” and “role models” in the society, and are, in fact, celebrated according to their respective amounts of “success”.
Whereas, the extremely few who resist temptations and pressure to share in corrupt activities are detested and sometimes even persecuted at their respective workplaces especially when their cooperation is necessary to facilitate misappropriation of public resources. The general public also looks down at them as “stupid” and inherently “wretched” who are referred to as “wadanda ko a garwar mai aka tsoma su haka zasu fito a bushe”, which literally means even if they were to be dipped into a barrel of oil they would still resurface dry anyway.
Now, with the foregoing in mind among other things, which highlight the underlying dynamics behind the invincibility of corruption in Nigeria, one would find the explanation behind the persistent failure of all the anti-corruption policies and measures introduced by successive governments in Nigeria over the decades. This also includes the failure of the modern technological mechanisms being increasingly adopted since a decade ago even though they work quite perfectly in other countries.
The bottom line here is that no matter the sophistication of any technology-based anti-corruption and transparency enhancement measures, its effectiveness depends on the commitment of its handlers, which underscores the imperative of profound ethical and attitudinal reorientation in the country.