Nigeria And The Problem Of Corruption: An Emerging Nation Culture

by Ritchie Ejiofor

What defines a democratic society is the ability for the citizens to exercise freely their vote in electing or deciding who will or should rule over them. In most developed societies, these right or privilege is not ascribed it follows from the act of vigilance in the protecting of rights of the people even if they (people) have to shed their blood to protect that fundamental right. It follows that those who are mandated by the people, are held accountable by that singular vote, and to rule properly and uphold sacred, public office as a trust.

The protection of, and enforcement of the constitutional rights and provision of the people, is entrusted with the police. The law enforcement hold it as sacrosanct duty to protect and defend the constitution of the land and enforce them without fear or favor both while exercising discretion, or and the law. Conversely, the judiciary is responsible for interpreting the law. I am sure almost every Nigerian at one point know these as basic social studies knowledge.

The constitution derives legitimacy from the people and it is inherently derived. The infinite wisdom of great philosophers of democracy modeled by the ancient Greek system and attendant modification by several other systems, must have anticipated that, the separation of powers into a three-tier system will provide checks and balances and prevent autocratic abuse of power. The legislature makes the laws, implemented by the executive arms.

Now the question that is albeit; rhetorical is why have Nigerian leaders even with the highest level of educational exposure and experience fallen short of the practice of modern democracy? I have espoused in other commentaries that it seems that the basic structure of our federation is faulty, as result, the outcome will always become a contraption that we conveniently describe as democracy. I have had series of intellectual discourses and various diatribes with colleagues and contemporaries and I hear the argument that, we (Nigeria) are making great strides since the army is at abeyance for a long time.

I am inclined to disagree every time the proponents of that argument confront me. I look at the whole package of development and using even the basic indices of growth and advancement. Nigeria has not made any strides since the colonial days and the reasons for this synopsis is not far fetched. We have degenerated from the days of free exercise book days to a period of non-existence era of today. In those days, school children were given free textbooks, one would expect that by today standard, computers would be readily available to our children, but the reality, we know is a sad commentary and a far cry from reality.

The police are another inept and corrupt institution that have further eroded and compounded the issues of corruption, lack of trust, frustration and a culture of jungle survival amongst Nigerians. Despite several changes and some finest personnel’s and officers within that centralized command structure, the enormity of the national woes and chaos in the areas of corruption have enveloped any positive virtues of the Nigeria police system. There must be a way out to revamp and reorganize the police to encourage the proper professional policing whose job is, protecting or defending of the constitution or constitutional rights of the people. The police is still seen as, one that is teleguided by the executive, or used as a tool of suppression.

It is not indicative that the Nigerian police does not have fine gentlemen or ladies officers and ranks, it is that the entire Nigerian police system and its conceptualization is corrupt and rotten, changes to the criminal justice system in Nigeria cannot be actualized by mere wishful thinking. Policing and the criminal justice system are laced with corruption and abuse at every level. For one, centralized police system, does not work well in a democratic federal system.

A situation where you see police officers used as private escort for wealthy individuals including expatriates is befuddling. The hustling mentality, the lack of self-esteem by officers and rank, including poor pay structure will forever produce a corrupt and mediocre police system. It is unheard of in most democracies for government to provide barracks with housing accommodation for police officers. It is necessary to encourage a more community friendly police system where the police officers live within the society to reduce “we “ and “them” mentality. The cost of providing barracks for police can be channeled towards improving the police. It is time we do away with barrack housing system for police. The police should live in the various communities where they are station. I have reviewed the argument for against the need for decentralization of Nigerian Police. I will espouse more my views subsequently. I am in total support of decentralization for greater autonomy, control, improvement and efficiency in crime prevention and community friendliness.

It is common and I think most Nigerians are in agreement that Police is the tools for election succession, re-election aka rigging. This politicization of the police by politicians creates that succession issue where the serving politician amass wealth enough to buy back votes or use police to intimidate the citizens.

It is only in Nigeria that you see a community or state or sycophants organizing state birthday party for a governor or you see public party because a Governor commissioned a Flyover road!!! If that is not his job function what else is? The money used to host such party is never accounted for. It will take a lot of cleansing, to rid the concept of corruption and greed in Nigerian politics. You even hear Nigerians talk about corruption like it is embedded in the constitution.
As a nation, we have veered of the course or we never really did have a course in the first place.

We are programmed to think that development is only when a Governor, president or any executives build industrial complexes. The reality is that, if all these do not impact the quality of life of the people you govern, and then it’s times to redefine the concept of leadership. There are basic fundament needs of the people, right to life and enjoyment thereof, free speech, religion, liberty and housing. Good roads without, security, or healthcare. We as Nigerians understand healthcare as the building of palatial hospital edifices. We need health and Medicare. We need to cater for all class of infirmity; we have no disability benefits for those born with it or through service. Once a public servant retires from service, Nigeria provides no further care, a case in point is our veterans, and civil servants, and they live in deplorable conditions.

Our attitude to our selves and one another is exemplified in a visit to Nigerian consulate in New York; it will make you ask yourself, if it’s a crime to be a Nigerian. Our process is difficult; we deliberate make it so; the workers/staffs are the most dis-courteous and more friendly to non-Nigerian with pigmented skin. Back home, our airports showcases the fact that we are not a tourist delight and suggest that, we have no respect for one another. The sanitary conditions of the public restrooms leave so much to be desired. Just recently and I am sure it has not changed, the ongoing “ghost workers process” which pensioners go through verification process was brought to my attention. A Nigerian who witnesses the hardship a pensioner goes through to get their hard earned pension would devise the plan to corruptly enrich themselves so as not to go through this pain at retirement.

There are basic ingredients that are necessary to create good governance, electricity should not be a privilege, we have been unable to produce steady supply of electricity due to political calculation tied to census which in turn is tied to election, which in turn is tied to resources allocation and resource sharing, which in turn leads to the scramb

le for power at the center. We have refused to produce an accurate census figure, and have have relied on estimates for nearly 50 years due to imaginary fear of marginalization and for political gains.

No country relies on population estimates for it’s budgeting. In the case of Nigeria, it is purely political, each year, the centri-fugal and centri-petal forces disintegrate further apart. Most politicians at each spectrum of the divide, prolong the for selfish gains, this anomalies for their own purpose. The solution I believe, will start through revamping the cultural traits; beginning from proper home upbringing and from elementary school civic education. As at present time, our educational system fit perfectly, the description of Late Sani Abacha’s in his 1983 speech justifying the Military coup d’état. Even Parents have become major players in the pervasive corruption in the country. It seems that the meaning of winning at all cost may have assumed new meaning and dimension.

While we think miracle or manna will come down to change the polity, it is necessary for us to start with the little things by changing our thought process and mindset. It is imperative that we accept corruption as a vice and hold public office accountable to the people. The University and other citadel of higher learning is a microcosm of the larger society and family, this means it is a reflection of what goes on in the larger society. Corruption carried from home now pervades out higher institution, each year, there increases the loss of confidence in our learning institution, parents engage in corruption to secure their wards admission into “lucrative” course, how we hope to produce a moral society with all these is still left to conjecture.

There was a time when recreation sports activities was done by amateurs, today, even simplistic sporting competition is no longer free from cheating. Age competition, most Nigerians will admit, is not representative of the age bracket. States shamefully engage in this gregarious act and universities too. If I may ask, when was the last time, somebody heard of a sports scholarship given to a prospect student scholar? I have doubt if most schools still have games masters or universities or higher institution have sports departments. What transpires is the case where money is set-aside for the “officials” to hire “mercenaries” to represent the schools. When this becomes a national culture, one is not left in doubt that, redemption is a utopian dream.

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