(By Nicholas Anakwue)
“In an attempt to have a handle on this macabre situation, an understanding of corruption is apposite. Generally, corruption is seen as the forced diversion of material wealth into private hands intended for the effective achievement of socially desirable ends, resulting in deprivation and impoverishment of the many to the advantage of the few. The underlying themes of greed, selfishness and lust, then play out remarkably, rendering in tatters, the entire sacrosanct mainstay of the common good, on which rests the edifice of democracy.“
WHENEVER the issue of corruption in Nigeria is brought up, there follows in its wake, a very passionate feeling of indignation and angst largely due to the obvious and striking paradox of its consequence – “the rich becoming richer, and the poor yet becoming poorer”. Conscious of the incontestable fact of the inevitable, but yet revolting presence of these evils amidst the essential structures of societal life, the bane of the entire matter, that has got everyone’s knickers in a twist, is the awful audacity with which these most inhumane acts are perpetrated. One needs but reel in a long list of such atrocities, ranging from pension fund scam, to fuel subsidy scam, further down to clandestine dealings in the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), audacious election rigging, bribery, nepotism or godfatherism, embezzlement of the nation’s coffers, insincerity of our leaders in the execution of the affairs of the state, not to speak of the flagrant consistency with which these are daily committed, to fully grasp the enormity of the problem.
Following considerably Achebe’s point in attributing the trouble with Nigeria to the problem of leadership, or the inability of our leaders to rise up to the challenge of personal example, which, he describes, of itself, is a hallmark of true leadership, Nigerians, in turn, have blamed the whole mess of corruption on the impotence of the Nigerian leadership and resultant inhumanity of the leaders. However, is this, it seems, not rather a clear case of passing the buck? Does the issue of corruption not have farther reaching influences? Is it simply restricted to the dark hallways of government offices? Or can it not also be found in the shady and covert ambience of private offices? If our conception of leadership should extend further than the commonplace reference to political leadership, then it is to be reckoned, that the nagging issue of corruption plagues considerably, all the leadership spheres in social institutions in the Nigerian space, as well as the political institutions. Consequently, a viable option in eradicating this widespread anomaly of corruption, would, therefore, entail a change in mindset both from the wider sphere of political leadership, as well as from the more proximate spheres of leadership in various facets of the Nigerian economy.
First and foremost, it is to be noted that the concept of leadership denotes, in theory, the ability of a person or a group of persons to persuade others to act by inspiring in their confidence in the rightness of one’s purposes, courage in their collective execution and obedience in the threat of resistance. The aim of every leadership is geared towards the achievement of a collective goal among individuals of like-minds. The various nuances of a heroic, reconciliatory, transformational and transactional leadership, all, still reflect the particularly important aspect of self-effacement and self-sacrifice, as essential to the concept of leadership. Based on the foregoing, the leader is understood as possessive of the necessary factors of ‘imagination, creativity, discipline, courage and integrity’. It is within this sacred calabash of leadership that the sweet smelling sacrifice of professional and leadership competence, enabling proper application of noble means towards achieving noble ends with knowledge, skill and talent, make for the provision of a more humane society, where the negative fixations of materialistic egoism and crass pursuit of wealth, find no place. It is, however, disheartening that this aforesaid ideal of leadership is far from its application in praxis in Nigeria, so much desecrated by gross corruption within the established hallmarks of competence and integrity, pervading rather the nauseating odor of insincere leadership exemplified in a mock-celebration of mediocrity over proper standard
In an attempt to have a handle on this macabre situation, an understanding of corruption is apposite. Generally, corruption is seen as the forced diversion of material wealth into private hands intended for the effective achievement of socially desirable ends, resulting in deprivation and impoverishment of the many to the advantage of the few. The underlying themes of greed, selfishness and lust, then play out remarkably, rendering in tatters, the entire sacrosanct mainstay of the common good, on which rests the edifice of democracy.
Reacting most indignantly to the foregoing, Karl Kraus points out clearly that corruption, as a crime against humanity, was worse than prostitution, for while the latter endangers the morals of an individual, the former endangers the morals of an entire country. Given the cliché that “nothing succeeds like success”, one could speak ditto, though, in an opposite vein, of the case of the Nigerian problematic, for particular cases of corruption initiates a vicious circle of chain reactions that only results in more corruption and decay. The most gargantuan Gordian knot to cut stands out as the expediency of stalling this fast developing trend of corruption. The daily scenario offers credence to this conclusion, as the stench of corruption lingers from the top cadre of leaders, down to the ordinary working person. An offender against the law, even in cases of corrupt embezzlement of funds, utilises ill-gotten wealth to bribe through the police, the jury and the ‘impartial’ judge and to secure a most ludicrous acquittal. It is, then, not at all strange to realise that the most notable contribution of Nigeria to the English vocabulary is the entry of “419”, expressing the punishable crime of corrupt practice, as is contained in the Nigerian criminal code, dealing with fraud. Statistics show sadly that more than 90 per cent of Nigerians are involved in one form of corruption or the other. The inevitable question then arises, what is the way out of this mess of affairs, if there be any? Are we condemned to an “eternity” of this unfortunate circumstance, or is there any reprieve in the bleak distant future?
While interrogating a handful of eager youth on this aforementioned issue, I was taken aback by their response, with regards to offering a viable solution. Their conformist reply was essentially in line with the notorious maxim – “if you can’t beat ‘em, you join ‘em”. Some argued blindly that if the opportunity of leadership were to present itself, it would be but an avenue to rightly grab one’s share of the hitherto denied proverbial National cake. Sincerely speaking, this mindset does not seem alien to a good deal of Nigerians, as we seem caught up in a blind love of self, to the detriment and even, worse still, annihilation of the common good. It is from this backdrop, that the best solution to the issue of corrupt leadership in Nigeria would entail, totally disabusing our minds from the erroneous philosophy of myselfism and re-defining our commitment towards a more altruistic determination in achieving the collective aim of general welfare. It is this altruism, which seems more evidently lacking on the African continent that requires a renewal of practice. The youth, particularly, need to be at the forefront of this calm revolution of ideas because the very essence of the youth is vivacity and a sign of renewed vigor. The youth, as leaders of tomorrow, must be positioned towards an optimistic assessment of our present predicament. It is only this optimism that can furnish us with the required tools to solving the problem of corruption.
Let us seek to grasp our country out of the shameful predicament she seems enmeshed in, for we share a common heritage, built on a single standard of ‘unity and faith, peace and progress’. From this argument, therefore, the effort towards eradicating the rot of corruption and sanitising our system is a good deal more demanding and encompassing than is generically assumed, when viewed within the meager context of only political leadership. It requires a renewed commitment to diligence and integrity in all spheres of leadership within the state. It is only in this way that we can truly forge a country of true and exemplary leadership.
• Anakwue, a Capuchin Franciscan friar, wrote from Ibadan.
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