Corruption: A Nigerian Norm

In 1999, Nigeria, after a long period of endurance under military rule, finally saw and experienced a smooth transition to democracy. With very glaring evidences, it was completely incontestable that the decades of military dictatorship actually aided and abetted the worsening of Nigeria from the sickness of corruption.

The events of May 29, 1999, as well as those that followed suit had the entire populace on high hopes and expectations from this ‘saviour’ democratic government. However, what many actually thought was a saviour government gradually grew into and became the bane of the pain of the average Nigerian. Sadly, but quite truly, Nigeria once again went through another 8 years of dictatorship but this time under civilian rule which was ironically tagged ‘Democratic.’ Within this 8 years period, Nigeria experienced more strikes than it had ever seen since her independence in 1960, Corruption became a Nigerian norm, The Nigerian Labour Congress(NLC) was decentralized, The Price of fuel, diesel, kerosene etc, increased by over 300%, The Naira showed steady depreciation against the Dollar, Inflation took prices of commodities to sky-rocketing heights, Social Insecurity was not uncommon, the Judicial System was somewhat subject to steady influences from the government, the standard of living dropped to an absurd state, the Electoral Process was clearly flawed and the Standard of Education fell far below recommended standards. Indeed, the very survival of the average man was unquestionably doubted by many.

In one of the early speeches of Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999, he pointed ‘corruption’ as one of the major problems plaguing the nation and vowed that his administration would do everything within its power to curb corruption at all levels. In a measure to fulfill its promise, the federal government instituted two anti-corruption agencies: ICPC: Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission and EFCC: Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

It is absolutely not uncommon for new governments in Africa, especially in Nigeria, to institute new commissions, authorities or agencies in situations were previous ones had flawed completely or probably did not even exist. However, considering the fact this move was coming from ‘plain cloth’ men, a good number of Nigerians, with so much applause, encouraged the federal government on its present course of action. Quite soon after the establishment of these commissions, it was widely publicized that both past and present government officials would be brought to book as soon as tangible evidences against such officials were found. Gradually but quite concisely, several cases of misappropriation of public fund as well as other corrupt practices were unveiled and subsequently reported. In line with a common Nigerian practice, these anti-corruption agencies were swift to respond at the initial stages of these wide spread reports. These actions instigated a good number of public commendation and encomiums. It once again rekindled the hope of attaining a new Nigeria where corruption would be history, Law Enforcement agencies would frown at bribes and possibly prosecute those who attempt to offer it, Public office would no longer be viewed as ‘seat of looting’ but rather a ‘seat of service,’ a Nigeria where nepotism and tribalism would cease to exist.

Excellent as these hopes were, the bitter pill of truth remained that: while men and women of brilliance have devoted their skill, strength and life to the cure of Nigeria from the sickness of corruption, others with equal zeal, skill and like powers are focused on the crucifix of Nigeria on the cross of corruption.

Ironically, these anti-corruption agencies which were once instituted and given mandate to fight corruption have only become a sledge hammer whose entire force is centered on the nail head of certain circles of individuals. Rather than fight corruption at all levels, a well structured scale of preference now exists on sectors in which corruption is been fought. The direct consequences of the non-square actions of these agencies are but visible and clearly felt – Cyber scam is now widely predominant among the youth, Examination malpractice has become the order of the day, Bribery has so characterized the Nigerian Police Force that police men now give ‘balance’ to negotiated bribes offered in high denominations of the Naira, Mobile police men charged with the responsibility of keeping watch on the high way now resort to collecting bribes on their very many road-blocks, the fight into public office has become fierce than the ‘clash of the Titan’, the quest for power has dropped eternal enmities between rival groups, Due-Process has been fast forgotten as ‘Short-Cuts’ has become the norm in doing things.

Truly, our nation Nigeria has reached the ocean-deep depth in the ocean basin of corruption. Corruption in itself has become a Nigerian norm. Some writers have said that “there is a corrupt tendency in the average Nigerian.”

Across the nation today, different religious organizations offer prayers against bribery and corruption in Nigeria. Salvaging Nigeria from this scourge of corruption will definitely require a complete change in the value system of Nigerians, the willingness to give up old habits, the will to do that which is right and most importantly, Divine Grace and Intervention. May God Almighty save Nigeria from this sickness of corruption which has become a norm.

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