The Paradox Of Corruption And Patriotism

by Akintokunbo A Adejumo

“Oh Lord, I pray to thee, if the condition of my getting to power is to be corrupt, please don’t let me get there. Oh Lord, if I get there and I have to be corrupt, give me the wisdom to get out of there. If I have to be corrupted by power, Oh Lord, strike me dead before I become corrupt. Oh Lord, let me use the power you give me to the benefit of my people, the human race and the world. Please do not abandon me in a corrupt world. Amen”

“Democracy has turned out to be not majority rule but rule by well-organized and well-connected minority groups who steal from the majority”. – Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.

To say that the country called Nigeria is a conundrum is a gross understatement. To both its people and foreigners, it is a country that is, in its extremity, baffling, frustrating, annoying and uncivilised, yet so full of optimism, goodwill, hope, enormous potentials, understanding. One confounding issue we have is the interaction, or lack of it, between its people and its leaders. Both of them can be frustrating. The leaders are also the people, of course, but the people are not the leaders, as one would have expected in any country, irrespective of political ideology. Political power, they say, is derived from the people, but in our case, it does not work that way. This is because the leaders often force their way into power, whether by use of the gun or via electoral corruption. And when we know these people have hijacked power, we, the people, still tolerate them. In fact, we worship them, just because we also want to be like them. So, sometimes, I am wont to agree with the saying that a people deserve the type of leaders they get.

Nigeria is a supposedly Federal Republic. The fact is it is neither a federation nor a republic. Nigeria is my country and believe me, I am so proud to be a Nigerian and love my country and my people. I don’t have a choice, do I? But then, so will millions of Nigerians, inside or outside the country tell you. So will the evil cabal who have been misruling the country for nearly half a century tell you. So will the boldly, shamelessly and extremely corrupt civil servants; self –serving and greedy politicians; extremely and stupendously rich former heads of state and/or presidents and governors, both military and civilian; the rapacious Senators and Federal Representatives; the money-grabbing local council officials, state commissioners and federal ministers. So will the corrupting businessmen out to grab fat contracts from the government, collect the money and then do a runner, or at best, do a shoddy job. And believe me, so will the thousands of fraudsters, called ”419ers”, both within and outside Nigeria, who have dragged Nigeria’s name in the mud all over the world. So we are all proud and patriotic citizens of Nigeria, the so called Giant of Africa, actually more appropriately, the “Sick Man of Africa”.

All Nigerians are” patriots”. I am yet to see a Nigerian who is not “patriotic”. This is aptly exemplified when Nigeria is involved in a football tournament. Maybe this makes us different from the other people in this world. Corrupt officials and politicians and military officers who divert funds meant to make life better for their people into their own personal accounts are of course the most “patriotic” Nigerians. You will see and hear them making speeches (a very popular phrase is “Eschew corruption – Governor tells his people”) to the public, tongue in cheek, knowing they are fooling them. And we hear this nonsense and double speak with incredulity and anger, knowing that the same Governor or Minister is a thief who has been looting the treasury, and which you know is meant for the building or refurbishment of a hospital or to supply drugs and equipment which might have saved thousands of Nigerian life, if the money had been used properly.

We know of course that Nigerians are no different from other people in the world, or that only Nigeria has the problem of corruption. But you see, I am not “other people of the world”, I am Nigerian, and so I am only concerned, at least for now, about Nigeria. I am also aware that Nigerians all over the world have written thesis, essays, reports, treatises, dissertations, etc that should have appealed to our conscience and make the country a better place to live, but what effect have we seen? A lot of well meaning Nigerians have even given their lives in the pursuit of transparency, of good governance and better and deserved quality of life for their people. To what end? I am not about to re-invent the wheel here.

The point is: What are we as a nation? When is Nigeria going to be governable? When are we going to have the right people in government? Whose fault is it that these idiots have been ruling a country like this for several decades? Can we survive as a nation at the rate we are going? And a million other questions. Obviously, I cant answer these questions. There are Nigerians (and even non-Nigerians) who I would think are better qualified to answer these and other questions.

The first Nigerians to gain Western education did very well to establish a nation. We know them as the fathers of the nation. The sad thing is that they failed to pass their knowledge on to the right people, who would have upheld and continued with their values and hard work. In a large part of the country, the educated elite actually used their education and knowledge to oppress, cheat, loot and rape their own people for their own self-interest, greed and selfishness. Just because you don’t have a Western education does not mean you should not know what is good for you and your family. You need food, you need good health and other basic amenities that you are aware of, even if you did not go to school. Paramount is that even if you did not go to school, then your children should, so that they will help you later. But the action of the educated elite is such that this basic right to education is even denied to our children. The educated elite even denies the people not only the right to govern themselves, but also the right to food, good health, good water and ultimately, the right to live a good, productive and satisfying life.

The bottom line is that after forty-seven years of independence as a country, basic amenities such as healthcare, food and water, electricity, good roads, housing and a minimum acceptable standard of living should be a foregone conclusion to all Nigerians, given the money we are making from oil. Incidentally, nobody, not even the government of Nigeria, past and present, can actually tell you how much money Nigeria makes from its oil. There are several reasons for this: One, the Government itself does not know because it has little or no control over its production. Two, the Government does not want Nigerians to know even the true estimates, for the simple reason that people in government are making their fortunes from oil and Three, so much of the proceeds is being siphoned off by various concerns, both local and foreign, that it is impossible to know. There are other reasons that the reader may know of, but all of it point to one word: CORRUPTION.

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haypee apanda August 28, 2007 - 9:39 pm

Well constructed piece, but you are still stating the obvious.Everyone knows that corruption is endemic in Nigeria and you have colourfully and graphically painted various examples, truths and hearsays !!! But, where do we go from here. What solutions are you proffering ? We really need solutions to this hydra-headed problem. I give you kudos for the thought provoking treatise but like i said earlier, we need pro active solution formula to this problem from you and other well meaning Nigerians,

As for me i will start with the investigative journalists, they need to do more.They should furnish us with exposes' of these corrupt practises. I implore them to take cue from the detailed and incisive exposes' from Dr Dele Sobowale of Vanguard newspapers. Our lawyers should do more to file concerned citizens suits against corrupt officials. Most importantly our civil servants should help to expose this evil by not only refusing to co-operate with corrupt politicians and other officials but also provide detailed information to nail them and lastly the civil populace needs re-orientation about our civic duties to Nigeria and our collective resistance to this evil by celebrating excellence not mediocrity and dubious overnight riches and successes. WE NEED TO LEARN TO ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT OUR COMMONWEALTH.

Michael August 27, 2007 - 4:44 pm

The Gerry Rawlings of Nigeria turned 18 today! Happy birthday, Gerry!! He has also enrolled in the army; his rise should be fast and furious for he cannot wait to deal with the thieving fools.

bubbles August 26, 2007 - 1:57 pm

I would have just said kill them all. But yours is a better written more insightful piece. The bottom line is greed. To remove corruption the elements that cause it to be perpetuated must be eliminated as well.

I'm reminded of an incident where a speaker was on a journey back to the village. Along the way they came upon a police road block. The driver wrangled with the police for a long time, because the speaker refused to pay the mandatory 20 naira. Fuming, he marched out of the vehicle and demanded to speak to the policaman's oga.

The 'oga' who was watching the incident from under a shade calmly strolled toward the speaker who was standing next to his four wheel drive, sweating all over.

The speaker began mouthing off, "You people are corrupt. You are the one's spoiling this country… blah blah blah… give me your boss's number I'll call him right now and report you!"

The 'oga' policeman listened patiently and said, "Well, as you see me so, I'm not being paid regularly yet I have four children three of whom are in the university. Today they'll come to me for handout tomorrow it's money to bribe the lecturers if not they won't pass. What do you want me to do? I'm not asking for much, just twenty naira, pay up and go your way. You people live in big houses and drive big cars and send your children abroad to study while we the masses are left to suffer it in this country. If you call my oga he'll tell you the same thing, you people are to blame as well."

The reality is most police men and civil servants cannot support their family on the salaries they receive monthly – if at all they receive it.

The speaker was dumbfounded. He had no choice but to pay up and go.


From my personal experience it is hard to be honest in Nigeria. EVERYTHING tells you you shoiuldn't be, or are stupid for being. If you don't want to steal you could loose your life blocking those who want to.

I keep praying we have a Jerry Rawlings to do for us what he did for Ghana.


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