Mr. Obasanjo’s writhing vow to deal with corruption in Nigeria finally got an epileptic start in March 2005: he sacked two of his ministers for corrupt practices. A flurry of reactions greeted the belated and halfhearted thrust. None of these opinions however, situated corruption from the point of view of Nigeria, none of them pointed out what Mr. Obasanjo should do as Nigerian to actually combat the social menace.
Corruption a la Nigeria is a reactive phenomenon. It is a crime perpetuated out of the need to survive in the moment and reserve enough for the dicey future. It flourishes because all the survival indices have been submerged in the cesspool of rapacious government fiefdom, and lofty but shoddily implemented policies.
Nigerians are not corrupt by nature. Definitely, the same blood composition that flows in the veins of an average European or an American policeman who will politely book a traffic offender, flows in the veins of his Nigerian counterpart who will demand and collect gratification from a traffic rule violator, in order to subvert the course of justice.
The spate of corruption in Nigeria should be laid at the doorstep of the elected rulership which has constantly refused to regard their election as a call to serve but an avenue to plunder the treasury. This clan of Nigerians has clearly constituted itself into a cabal, mocking and taunting the electorate with its sickning and debauched lifestyle. As an average Nigerian is not blind, deaf or ignorant, his reaction to the crass living of the elected rulership and its select bootlickers, is to assume and replicate the corrupt tendency of the elected rulership.
There is a law in this land that forbids anybody riding a car with tinted windscreen. But, from Ogun State to Sokoto State, right from Borno to Lagos, including Mr. Obasanjo’s Abuja, it appears their excellencies have developed a mind for darkness: I doubt if any of them would touch a car with transparent windscreens. If Mr. Obasanjo and his ministers, the governors and their commissioners can flout an existing Nigerian law with impunity, what is expected of an average struggling Nigerian who regards the elected people as role models?
This is my fourteenth year in the service of the country which, Mr. Obasanjo, by the year 2007, would have headed and ruled variously for eleven years. My total salary is less than five hundred dollars per month. If I have to live like a human being, I would need at least twice that amount. Even in the face of this flagrant under-remuneration, I have to pay for the electricity that is not available for half of the days of the month. The landlord and landladies have constituted an insensitive, callous group of Nigerians who unleash terror on fellow Nigerians on account of the unreasonable rentage they place on their properties. The arbitrariness with which they review upwards the monthly rental would baffle and ridicule a seasoned economist. Inflation is galloping. It is so bad in Nigeria.
The cost of the three staple food items – gari, rice, and beans – has kept rising. For instance, a measure of gari was forty naira in 1999. Today, the same measure sells for over a hundred naira. The price of rice and beans keeps increasing while we wait for the miracle of a reform measure!
The emerging picture is that in the face of this failure of government to adequately remunerate the work force, the workers are being indirectly told to search for the difference between what their take home should be and what they are being paid. That difference is definitely coming from twisting the arms of those the workers encounter in the course of serving and discharging their official responsibilities.
It is not surprising therefore for the policeman to aid an accused for a fee. The NEPA man to doctor his customers’ bill for an agreed amount of naira. The teacher to leak examination questions or peddle his marks for money. The civil servant is at home colluding with the elected official in inflating contracts. Those Nigerians where subsistence does not derive from government are now forced to sink their proboscis in the economic veins of the workers and suck to their satisfaction through arbitrary pricing of their goods and services.
Mr. Obasanjo has repeatedly failed to convince Nigerians that corruption does not pay; that it is inimical to the progress, posterity and esteem of the nation. I will not be surprised if Tafa Balogun is sponsored by Mr. Obasanjo to become Senate President or Fabian Osuji appointed a director general in years to come. Yes, Mr. Obasanjo did it in the case of Ibrahim Salisu. We all still remember vividly that, after the man was thrown out of the House of Representatives following his conviction by a co
urt of law, Mr. Obasanjo granted him a state pardon! State pardon for a number four man who lied to the whole nation about his age and academic certificate. I concluded in a different article that the shameful state pardon has ruined whatever achievement Mr. Obasanjo must have garnered or he is likely to chalk up in the course of his fighting corruption.
What happened in the Ministry of Education was indicative of the susceptibilities of other federal ministries. A system that is determined to combat corruption should have ordered a thorough investigation into the activities of other ministries and their defence of their budget allocation. I am sure more stinking worms would have been discovered.
One cannot divorce morally from governance. If a ruler is morally bankrupt, his followership responds by being morally insolvent. In a more clement clime, Mr. Obasanjo would have questioned his 2003 election if the judgement of the Court about the votes cast in Ogun State, his home base, is anything to go by. The implication is that, if the election results of other states are challenged, the likelihood of a similar discoveries is very high. So, what moral obligation did Mr. Obasanjo subscribe to in his quest to banish corruption from this shores?
This view does not attenuate corrupt. It does not extenuate the flourishing and thriving of the likes of Fabian Osuji or Mobolaji Osomo. It is a position that supports the notion that the nature of corruption and the means of eliminating it goes beyond money – related issues and the sacking of two ministries.
Corruption is when a man promulgated a decree in 1976 which he called Land Use Decree and applied the dictates of the decree to acquire a large expanse of land to the detriment of the real owners. Corruption is not telling Nigerians the relationship between the two OFNs – the one of 1977 and the one of 1979. corruption is turning a two-way traffic lane into a one-way in Ogun State Capital because Mr. Obasanjo has his residence located near the two-way lane. It is a serious act of dishonesty and a criminal dereliction of duty, tilting heavily towards corruption for an individual who prides himself as successful chicken farmer not to be able to inculcate the dexterity of chicken farming to his country men and women in order to make his country self sufficient in chicken production.
How do we interprete a situation where an individual has repeatedly supported the creation of local government as a panacea for rapid grassroots developments only for that same person to withhold the allocation for the created local government because that person is the president of Nigeria? It becomes an aberration of the first nation for that same person to continue sitting on the allocation when the highest court in the land had ruled that such withholding is illegal. What other manner of corruption are we searching for?
One should commend a government that realizes that there is poverty in Nigeria. That government should be eulogized for releasing money to fight the economic monster. However, the ecstatic ululation should turn a mirthless grin when one is told that the N10billion naira released for alleviating the poverty level in Nigeria was hijacked by some party men. Up till this morning, the N10 billion a government signed and released to the people was gulped by some faceless Nigerians, some party stalwart! And the effort made by Mr. Obasanjo, the man who signed the cheque for the N10billion naira and authorized the payment was, after the money had been stolen, to bemoan the thievery resignedly.
The most abused, ravaged and enmeshed in the juice of corruption in Nigeria today is the oil industry. In 1999, shortly after he was sworn in as the President of Nigeria, Mr. Obasanjo released $700million about N90billion for the Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) of the four refineries in Nigeria. At the time Nigerians were expecting to enjoy a first-rate performance from their refineries, Mr. Obasanjo announced to bewildered Nigerians that, his government intended to sell the refineries: an indication that the N90billion was a waste.
Up till today, Nigerians are yet to be told who the contractors who collected N90 billion for an unexecuted project are. The daily fuel consumption in Nigeria is about 32million litres. In January 2004, a fuel tax was of N1.50 was imposed on Nigerian motorists. This felonious tax was collected for two weeks before an Abuja High Court ordered the maintenance of “the status quo”. Nigerians are still waiting for this “transparent, due-processing” government to tell them how much of the illicit tax was collected and what it was used for.
With this gargantuan pile of corruption – accusation against the oil industry in Nigeria, shouldn’t Nigerians ask their or Minister in the person of Mr. Obasanjo a few pertinent questions that demand urgent and exhaustive answers?
Nigerians should not forget so soon, that while they starve, the future of their children receding into a bottomless abyss as a result of the tattered and directionless system of education the future leader are receiving, Mr. Obasanjo splashed a mud bungling N80billion to build and host the worthless, economically irrelevant and wasteful 8th All African Games in Abuja. As if the N80 million plunder was not enough, two months after the games jamboree, Mr. Obasanjo doled out another N15 billion for the accommodation, security and logistics to host Commonwealth leaders.
Since year 2000 deficit spending has continued to mount, yet the quality of implementation and growth of developmental infrastructure has been slow and stunted. Instead of the nation’s agricultural sector absorbing the thousands of agricultural studies graduates the many Universities of Agriculture in the country train each year, we import farmers from Zimbabwe to come and teach us how to nurse vegetables. Instead of the health sector becoming vibrant and dependable, doctors and other professionals are on daily strike because of unpaid salaries and allowances. In spite of the N352 billion contractual involvement of the Federal Ministry of Works between 1999 and 2003, out of which N118.42 billion naira was paid for “all completed and certified works”, it is an eye-confirmed fact that federal roads across the country are in a condition comparable to how they were when the world was first created.