This is not really an article; rather, it is a collage of comments made by members of Champions For Nigeria, an organisation whose members are dedicated to recognising, commending, promoting and celebrating individuals and organisations that we recognise as genuinely having the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians in mind, and of which I am a proud member.
The discussion mainly bordered on corruption and how it has seriously and seemingly irreversibly stunted growth, human capital, productivity, progress and infrastructural development of Nigeria.
Olukayode Omaks Akingbogun: If Kenya can have the will to construct the single largest wind farm in Africa, with 365 wind turbines, then it means that if our leaders in Nigeria really put their minds to it, they should be able to do better, 10 times over. Now I understand what some people are saying when they say our current ministerial list does not inspire hope.
I couldn’t agree more. It will not take much to transform the whole of Nigeria when we start doing the right things for the right reasons, and at the right time. We make simple things look so complex in Nigeria deliberately to exploit and profit from institutionalised rot.
Ayo Akinfe: Our national budget is only $24 billion. Even if every penny was spent judiciously, we would still be a poor and beggarly nation. For 200 million people to live at ease with themselves, they need an annual budget of at least $200 billion. Low productivity is our number one problem! If our economy was more diversified, we would have less corruption. When over 90% of government revenue comes from crude oil sales, it is inevitable that everyone will be after petro-dollars.
Abiodun Oloko: I don’t believe that it is the amount budgeted that matters, the most important thing is to spend the money where and how it is supposed to be spent. Not until we are able to manage corruption which I believe it’s impossible to be eradicated anywhere in the world. Lots of corruption is reported to be going on in the London Crossrail Project, for example, but it is difficult to be proved as it is clearly seen that really worthwhile and heavy activities are going on daily. With the network of accountability in UK, we are still putting on safeguarding measures against corrupt practices.
At least part of Buhari’s achievement is creating the awareness that corruption should be tackled.
Ibukunolu Alao Babajide: You will have low productivity where there are inequality and a few corrupt people who do no work steal the resources of millions. There will be no investment in work and there will be no productivity.
Gbolahan Gbadamosi: The argument is usually that deprivation makes people greedy and potentially corrupt. Therefore, if you increase wealth and production, poverty would reduce and thereby corruption will reduce too.
However, I am a Nigerian and so are we all. I want anyone here to tell me from their heart sincerely that if you leave Nigerians as they are and not to prevent them from stealing, and there is more money in circulation through increased budget, then stealing will reduce?
I will predict that if you do not ensure they don’t have access to steal resources by dealing with corruption even if we have a budget of $500 billion, Nigerians will steal it all and be looking for more to steal.
If we cannot do something fundamentally serious about corruption, I think many other things will suffer. China kills corrupt people. I do not support capital punishment but I think it works for China.
Societies are different and you have to use the correct medication for each sick society. Nigeria as a sick nation is different from many others. That’s probably why we defy many solutions. Solutions that work in, say, Rwanda or China or the UK may or will not work for us as a nation.
We are seriously greedy and individually competitive. Everyone wants to be richer than their neighbour. Access to public fund means we should keep everything for personal use. Friends and family will blame you for returning from public office poorer or same as you entered the office.
Lock the till and keep it safe, otherwise Nigerians will steal from it. So, we should deal with corruption robustly by getting all the big names in jail – not the small thieves. As long as the big thieves are walking free and showing up as ministers, commissioners, appointed board members, etc, we are one big joke.
Dapo Williams: Pakistanis are not on a “Fantastic Level”. Nigerians are far more sophisticated in institutionalised corruption. Pakistanis, even in their corruption practices, have No-Go areas; in Nigeria, we have no boundaries – ours is access-all areas.
Ayo Akinfe: When there are no schools, people will steal to educate their kids privately. When there no hospitals, people will steal to pay for private healthcare and when there is no public transport network, people will embezzle so they can afford SUVs. No matter how many people you jail, corruption will thrive in Nigeria so long as there is no alternative. Remove the conditions that make corruption thrive and we will not even need the EFCC.
Abi Bada: Valid points made there. To eradicate the ills of our country we need to have some ways of meeting necessary basic needs to curb the need for embezzlement, stealing and corruption generally.
Abiodun Oloko: Petrol-dollars only amplified corruption; it is not the cause. Land grabbing associated with late Ejigbadero of Oko-Oba is corruption. There were petty criminals until after the Nigerian Civil War when Oyenusi and co., had access to ammunitions. The nitty gritty of the problems between Awolowo and Akintola, according to history, was corruption. There was a corruption case against Adelabu (Peculiar Mess), against Nnamdi Azikiwe, the list is endless. Our problem is ‘Get rich quick” syndrome. Accountability is the solution.
Ibukunolu Alao Babajide: Do you need Government to supply your needs to be honest? If government does not provide your needs, you can be corrupt. Should this be so? I disagree with this premise. If it was valid everybody in Somalia should be a thief and there should be no thief in Brunei. Somalis are very hard working and there are thieves in Brunei.
If you increase the budget by 400% stealing will increase by 500%. Honest people are honest not because they gain and corrupt people are corrupt not because they lose. They are simply bad people.
Ayo Akinfe: Let me give you an example of how Nigeria works:
(1) A Grade Level 15 civil servant working for the Oyo State Ministry of Works builds a house in Bodija.
(2) He needs to build a 10-foot wall around the premises.
(3) He needs to hire two security guards around the clock.
(4) He needs to equip them with uniforms, rifles and ammunition.
(5) He needs to sink a borehole to provide water to the compound.
(6) He needs to buy a generator and fill it with diesel to supply electricity.
(7) He works in Ring Road but because the roads are so bad, he needs two SUVs to get to work.
(8) Maybe the monthly bill for all this is N2 million but his annual salary is just N1.5 million.
(9) If the government had provided policing, electricity, water and public transport, maybe his total monthly outlay would only be N500,000, enabling him to live within his means.
So, we need to drain the swamp to eradicate malaria. Killing mosquitoes is no solution as the dead ones will only be replaced.
Eric Ayoola: A solution proposed is: If we can’t stop corruption because of a highly corrupt judiciary, let’s use an efficient tax system to get some of the money back from the corruptly rich. In the UK, Margaret Thatcher (Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990) levied a poll tax on houses per value. I will levy all those mansions in Abuja highbrow districts. Annually, as a start; then will collect road tax based on car value. All those thieves love brand new and fancy cars. They love big parties too. I don’t need to prove that you stole money to build your mansion; that you have a 500 million Naira mansion is enough for me to tax you.
Abiodun Oloko: I still believe that any draconian law will still empower the government officials employed to enforce the laws if corruption is not reduced. In East London, some Nigerian parking attendants have an arrangement with my Turkish neighbours who are operating a cafe, whereby they are able to park at a restricted street between 8.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. Who says Corruption is not in our DNA?
It is apparent from the above discussions that Nigerians are concerned about corruption; we have been concerned for a long time. However, the problem is how to tackle it – the leaders ado not have the political will and the followers have been browbeaten and shanghaied into accepting it as a normal way of life, which if otherwise, the world will crash around them, so the fear of the unknown is keeping the corruption-traumatised populace into acceptance of this evil of crime.
In fact, it doesn’t matter how comfortable in life you are in the Nigerian society, one still sees corruption as the best and only way of life to be lived, otherwise one cannot survive.
Let the Truth be told always!!!