Corruption in Nigeria: Is It Curable? Part One

Posted: November 23, 2010 in Corruption, Governance, Institutions, Leadership, Special Interest Groups
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The Nigerian nation might not be a failed state but it is certainly by all ostensible standards of politics and governance a true kakistocracy. Nigeria’s condition of kakistocracy is a function of corruption and moral decadence. It is a truism to say corruption is a major societal ill in Nigeria blighting its way of life; Nigeria is a certainly bandits’ nation. Hitherto, Transparency International perennially ranked Nigeria as one of the most corrupt nation in the world for a number of years but the recent ranking of the nation as being a much less corrupt from practical experience and common sense appears at best to be dubious. Successive Nigerian governments since independence in 1960 are reputed to have squandered well over $500 billion (and increasing) of public income earned mainly from the export of natural resources. This allegation is supported by the information that a large number of Nigerian (former and current) senior public servants have personal overseas accounts and assets that amount to several billions of dollars in stolen public funds. It appears that there is some obsession on the part of the public servants who loot and bank money compulsively without ever withdrawing any of it for personal use.

What most Nigerians are interested in when it comes to matters of corruption is its cure and elimination often by miraculous means rather than by enlightened and practical human agency. What should concern them is how to suppress corruption. Corruption has been the way ruling classes and peoples everywhere in the world since the beginnings of man and is significantly high in most if not all nations depending on the terms of reference. The difference observed is that the governments of OECD nations provide and continuously improve public services by way of channelling funds into the right projects at the right time with little or no leakages simply because of (a) the existence of strong and well balanced public institutions and (b) a very keen public awareness (buoyed by an effective media) which effectively helps suppress corruption in those nations. In our beloved Nigeria most the funds haemorrhage upstream of funding channels so public services and invest tend to be perennially famished. The public institutions are weak because it has never been the interest of successive governments to strengthen them (politics in Nigeria is just another enterprise) and our public awareness is starkly backward because we know no better. I dare say if there is a nation referendum to either eliminate or keep corruption as a practice in Nigeria most Nigerians would vote for the former. How do we explain our adulation (regardless of our education, wealth, poverty, religion, morality, civic responsibility etc.) of the corrupt individuals who due to their rapaciousness are responsible for the conditions of no-electricity, no good roads, no tap-water, no health care, no security, unaffordable living, dumbed-down education etc. in the nation? The greater the indulgence in the public adulation of corrupt individuals the greater the incentive for them to be corrupt. Let us call it corruption publicly “legitimised”.

Effective governance can only flourish where corruption is adequately suppressed; looking for cures can be deemed a waste of time. Suppression is the ethos of vigilantly stopping an act before it even occurs; prevention is better than cure and the smaller the scale of the problem the easier it is to manage. Suppression is also an instance of effective public disciple. Preventing a rape, theft or fire does not mean the potential for their occurrence has been eliminated. Therefore, the suppression of ills in society is a continuous process requiring resources, vigilance and dedication. Considering kinds of corruption that have occurred in Nigeria, it was easier to suppress the stationary banditry of 1957-70 than the contemporary roving banditry we witness. Stationary banditry is a situation whereby leaders and public servants have long-term stable access to power so their incentive to steal is spread over a long period of time necessitating small or “reasonable” thefts or rents at a time. Roving banditry is a situation whereby leaders and the peers have short-term and unstable access to power and therefore steal as much as they can within the short period available to them. Corruption since independence has progressively gotten worse especially after the Civil War. At independence we had stationary bandits in power in the persons of Awolowo, Azikiwe and Bello; these personalities as fathers of independence thought they will have a long time horizon of leadership and possibly their children take over from them. Those were the days of invest 95% chop 5% of the public funds. However, after the civil war, Yakubu Gowon unwittingly though innocuously created a band of roving bandits mainly with the aim of breaking the power the stationary bandits who favoured secession. The quest for “One Nigeria” can be said to have gotten us into this mess. The dynamics of roving banditry is such that if a stationary bandit arises who can suppress corruption, the roving bandits instinctively gang up to overthrow or eliminate him. Now the nation is firmly stuck with a steadily growing but increasingly rapacious class of roving bandits who invest 5 -10% and steal 90-95% of public funds.

Perhaps, corruption does not have a cure and it cannot be eliminated. Power, relationships, poverty, laziness, greed, envy, rivalry all corrupt; opportunities and incentives for corruption surround everybody everywhere but the difference in levels of corruption amongst nation, regions or districts has a direct relationship with the level of its suppression i.e. the higher the level of suppression the lower the level of corruption. Meanwhile, suppression is so difficult to achieve in already corrupt nations where the ethos of suppression is lacking. Why? Look at Nigeria where the masses have to walk ten miles in order to cover three miles in terms of daily economic survival, they are not going to challenge or stop adulating corrupt big wigs even if they truly wanted to. The Nigerian dream, the stuff of miraculous, effortless, or lucky “pure rags to major riches” and by any means is probably more powerful and seductive than to American dream which is aspiring American directly base on hard-work and deferred gratification. A disabling mix of stark poverty, belief in miracles, resort to begging, need of help of the more privileged, fear of the loss of the little one has and the fear of death, beatings or incarceration has incisively locked-down the will of Nigerian masses to suppress most forms of wrong doing. Hunger and democratic repression are not conducive for moral uprightness especially when it exacerbates instances of both the former and latter. Helplessness, learned or imposed, is the truest condition of the ordinary man in Nigeria today; it is the unparalleled moribund convention that undermines their very humanity. It must be said the repression most Nigerians experience is not necessarily centralised but emanates from the whims and designs of power elites as they choose; their powers easily exceed and  dominate the provisions of formal institutions of governance and regulation of the nation. Politicians in office or seeking to enter office will not adopt and enforce laws of clean governance because it will weaken their chances or election or re-election on the one hand and will reduce or wipe out the entrepreneurial benefits of being in office on the other. The politicians will not suppress corruption and the people are helpless in suppressing corruption. Tragic but true for now. So, do we give up and fold our hands? No!!!

In part two of this essay (forthcoming), I will present a discussion of  effective approaches to the issue of suppressing corruption that is available and viable in Nigeria.

Grimot Nane

Comments
  1. Bala Aliyu says:

    It has been a while now and I am not expecting magic but I would like to know what solutions you have come up with to cure corruption in Nigeria. I read a 2009 paper of yours recently and it appeared to have a few good practical solutions. Or is it that you are longer active on this blog? You have not written anything here since February. I hope all is well with you. Cheers

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  2. Bala Aliyu says:

    Grimot, I am keenly for your explanation or prescription for a cure for corruption in Nigeria and perhaps elsewhere. I hope you are still working on it. Best of luck.

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  3. Bala Aliyu says:

    I will like to see the original and complete wikileaks documents on Shell’s infiltration of Nigeria’s government departments. What did Shell’s management actually perpetrate or achieve by planting officials in government? Reading the blog on here “Educating A Shell Worker” we clearly now how Shell infiltrated the Nigerian government i.e. using scholarships, jobs and contracts. Is Shell responsible for grand levels of corruption, genocide, ecocide, misgovernance in Nigeria? Did Ken Saro-Wiwa die because of Shell’s profiteering or Abacha’s megalomania or both? It is simply not enough to mention just that Shell’s infiltrated the government. What is Shell responsible for in Nigeria? We want to know! And scientifically.

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  4. Parris says:

    My question is can corruption be removed or separated from the Nigerian culture that obviously promotes and glorifies corruption? The unspoken solution to corruption in Nigeria is bloodshed. I would be happy to see a very peaceful solution to corruption in Nigeria but not the kind offered by the imperialist lapdogs, Transparency International and cohorts.

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  5. Ed Mancur says:

    I am one of those who has spent my life vehemently condemning my people that blame the west for our political and economic woes. I now known better and seek attrition. I can see our worst leader ever was Obasanjo because he was so buddy buddy with the rulers of the planet. I wonder how widened his anus is. God Bless wikileaks!

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  6. Martin Is says:

    All Say “wikileaks”… Wikileaks
    All Say “wikileaks”… Wikileaks
    All Say “wikileaks”… Wikileaks
    How many times did I say it?

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  7. Austin O says:

    We can now comfortably accept what was always denied in the true spirit of imperialism and Western hatred – those who own the world cause problems for 3rd World countries then get their subjects to make holier than though careers (whether academic, political, ideological, economic, historical, military and economic) out of condemning the 3rd World using vacuous myths which Westerners love to believe like corruption, incompetence, low I.Q., tribalism. Well, the owners of the world can always put the cat back into the bag like nothing happened. Beasts

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  8. Ed Mancur says:

    I would like to see wikileaks expose the true details of high-level corruption in Nigeria. The Transparency International style is too vague and ineffectual.

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  9. John Okoro says:

    Corruption is like gout when excess food and drink are available its occurence becomes common but when rations are modest gout disappears from society. When Nigeria’s rich oil resources finishes corruption will disappear.

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  10. Martin Is says:

    Nigeria is more or less a nation of roving bandits, thanks to the author’s explanation. Except for a complete bloody revolution I do not see civil society or monetisation or media or the internet resources stopping our big men from roving. Part two, please!

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  11. Austin O says:

    I like this essay so much and I have learnt a lot from it. I would appreciate if writers like you can write on Nigeria forums or websites such as daily news websites or anticorruptionleague.org. My reason is that the anticorruption movement in Nigeria needs momentum on all fronts but all we get is heroes and villains and little else. I bet you agree with me. I Stand United against Corruption!

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  12. Ed Mancur says:

    A kakistocracy is a failed state and without a doubt that is what Nigeria is.

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  13. Jim Bolz says:

    I like your explanation of corruption because it is different from the usual moralising. Helplessness (I call it disempowerment) is a problem we all face that makes us tolerate more and more degeneracy in society by the day. I also like the idea of stationary and roving bandits because it is very apt. I do not agree that if there is a referendum on corruption in Nigeria the masses would vote for continued corruption. It is a patronising presumption. Maybe the elite would vote that way but not the poor masses. Let us see what you come up with in part two. Stay strong.

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