FANTASTICALLY CORRUPT?...Probably an Understatement.

Last week the British Prime Minister, David Cameron,described Nigeria as one of the most fantastically corrupt Nations in the World, sharing honours with Afganistan, and some Nigerians, including the President's spokesman, Garba Shehu went up in arms. And I am wondering why? Are we quarreling with being called one of the most corrupt Nations in the World or is it the 'fantastic' that we are unhappy about?

Indeed, if you ask me, David Cameron was being very 'kind' to us and I have not seen any one as 'kind 'to us when it comes to stereotyping Nigeria with corruption. 'Fantastic' is ordinarily a very positive word or adjective which confers exceptional ability or exceptional performance to any noun to which it is attached. I ask, is it not more distinguishing to be called a fantastically corrupt Nigeria than just a corrupt country? We must be exceptional in something. One of my late uncles, Mazi SOK used to respond to greetings as follows" Minus dough, I am alright. If you no know me for good, you know me for bad". After all We are always encouraged to do what ever we do very well! It just happens that we are doing very well in corruption!

Why are we angry with David Cameron? Are we not a well known corrupt country? When Chukwuma Nzeogwu and his gang decided to overthrow the Civilian Government in January,1966, was corruption not one of the main reasons they struck? When General Muhammadu Buhari and his own gang took over power in Dec 1983, was corruption not the major reason? During that Period, Generals Buhari and Idiagbon's greatest achievement was to jail corrupt politicians, some to 250 years imprisonment, terms which made the Guinness Book of Records. When General Obasanjo returned to power in 1999 as a civilian democratically elected President, his major focus was fighting corruption, leading him to establish the ICPC and the EFCC. And when President Buhari returned as a Civilian and democratically elected President in 2015, what did he find? According to him, speaking to Amanpour on CNN last week, he was "shocked". In effect, despite his effort in 1984-86 and all the hullabaloo about Obasanjo's EFCC and ICPC, corruption in Nigeria had gotten progressively worse. How do you describe such performance? If fantastic is out of place, then may be fantabulous will be more appropriate .

Any one who has checked the Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index (CPI) in the last twenty five years from the Military to the Civilian regimes, will notice that we have virtually remained around the bottom of the league, beating most of the Nations of the World in corruption. Why are we angry? Is it because it was said by a foreigner? We say and write worse things about ourselves everyday. Any body who reads our newspapers regularly and there are many who do so (on line & off line)can not but come to the same conclusion that Nigeria is very corrupt

(fantastic or not). This hypocritical outcry is embarrassing to me.

And that's why I am relieved that President Muhammadu Buhari agreed with David Cameron that we are fantastically corrupt. I would have been surprised and sad, if he had demanded for an apology from the British Prime Minister as some people had suggested. To me this confirms his rating as a man of integrity. Since PMB came to power a year ago, he has used every opportunity he has found to describe the Nation as being rottenly corrupt, more so at international fora. In New York, London and Germany, he had announced to anybody who cared to listen that "If we do not kill Corruption, Corruption, will kill Nigeria". This led some people to accuse him of de marketing the Nation, while at the same time foraging for foreign investments. You can not call your basket broken and still expect that your neighbors will not put their refuse in your 'Nkirika ' basket.

My only worry is that this characterization as fantastically corrupt will remain with us for a very long time. Nigerians can disagree on many issues, but one area, we all seem to agree is that Nigeria is corrupt, though everyone pretends to be innocent. Corruption is everywhere in Nigeria, especially in the public space. Corruption in the Police walks on the streets where, Bus drivers can be shot for not parting with 20 Naira, Corruption in the Military is very entrenched and goes to the battle field without ammunition while private houses are built ;in the Civil service, corruption leads to the padding of Budgets,the award of contracts to the least qualified and delay in the issuing of licenses and permits; corruption in the Customs causes government efforts to protect local industry to fail; corruption in the Immigration allows illegal aliens to enter our Country to cause mayhem; corruption in NNPC & PPMC causes economic sabotage and disruptions in fuel supply; corruption in the legislative houses cause delay in budget approvals and unproductive oversight of MDAs; corruption in the judiciary keeps cases going for ever and gives justice to the highest bidder; corruption in the States causes security votes to be used to buy private aircrafts and shipping lines while armed robbers and kidnappers have their way. Corruption in the local governments lead to the death of pregnant mothers who can not have access to maternity services; corruption in our educational system allows parents to ' buy'admission for their wards and parents to 'pay' 'for free education'; Corruption in the Private sector leads to bribing of government officials and the production of uncompetitive products 
(some fake or substandard) and services.Corruption is even living in our Holy Temples where tithes are accepted from armed robbers & fraudsters and Priests embezzle Church funds. I do not think it is different in our Mosques where hate speeches radicalize young people.There is no Nigerian or even visiting foreigner who is not daily assaulted by corruptive practices by taxi drivers, plumbers, electricians, security personnel, journalists, petrol station attendants, and even Mortuary attendants. In life or death, you can not escape corruption in Nigeria. And we quarrel with being described as fantastically corrupt. 

When Shehu Garba wrote to criticize David Cameron, he expressed frustration that the Prime Minister did not seem to recognize the ANTICORRUPTION efforts of the current federal government. The lesson for him and others who think that way, is that the current ANTICORRUPTION effort is generally seen as too limited, one sided, discriminatory and in some cases an attempt at vendetta. So far, most of the war has been waged at unravelling the sources of the campaign funds of PDP in the last elections. While some of the revelations are damning and reprehensible, unbiased international observers of Nigeria and its corruption tendencies are asking when President Muhammadu Buhari will investigate how the campaign funds for his own Party APC was provided? It is common knowledge, that much of the funding came from state governors( Past and serving) and other sundry sources. Observers are waiting to see when former PDP members who have now run into APC for "safety" will be investigated. And equally important is the question of when will the ANTI-CORRUPTION war go public and holistic?

The truth is that Nigeria's war against corruption may never yield the expected dividend, recognition and appreciation by all, until it begins to touch every segment of the society. If the issue of Budget padding had not been discovered by the National Assembly, PMB, would not have realized that his campaign currently restricted to essentially the political class of the opposition party had nothing to do with civil servants. They were 'cool', doing their business as usual while the 'government made its noise'. This is the crux of the matter, and I do not know how to make the point strong enough. All the ANTICORRUPTION campaigns and wars of the past and present have been very superficial with limited scope and depth. And that is why, the impact has been minimal and short lasting. We need to wage a fundamental ANTICORRUPTION war that will involve value reorientation from cradle to the grave, a reordering of the society to enthrone equity and fairness, provision of basic needs and safety net for all Nigerians, a robust crime prevention architecture, and an incorruptible law enforcement machinery among many other initiatives. Every Nigerian must be recruited into this war, not a battle for PMB and EFCC alone. Until we have done so, all the current strenuous efforts with the associated drama will not change the view of foreign observers. Because 'odila anya,anyi huwara Ausa na uta', even if some carry AK-47 these days and some actually shoot.

Finally, the claim that Britain and other western countries are hypocritical when they say that we are fantastically corrupt, and yet they act as receivers for stolen Nigerian assets, to me begs the issue. While that is true, are they the ones holding the assets from what we call 'minor corruption' going on everywhere in our Nation everyday? What happened to the assets they had returned? Is part of the returned Abacha loot, not part of the money now alleged to have been looted again through the former NSA? When you go to most cities and villages in Nigeria today, many of the best houses, estates, helicopter pads, private Jets, shopping malls,etc are are built with proceeds from corruption. How many have we recovered? Indeed in most places, any one who holds government post and does not build big houses or ride big cars after weeks of assuming office is regarded by the community as a failure. We even ask our politicians to bribe us before we vote for them. In Nigeria we promote corruption, we honour corruption, we adore corruption and we reward corruption. And then we turn around to show fake anger when others tell us the truth. If we are truly angry at Prime Minister Cameron for telling us the honest and bitter truth, then let us all decide today to shun every corruptive action and make it a national creed, with our leaders across the Public and Private sectors leading. Let us become a Nation that hates and loathes corruption, in word and in action.If we determine to do so, I know God will help us.

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR


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