Instituting Anti-Graft Culture In Nigeria (1)

(By Dennis Uba Donald)

People get into positions of influence and as opposed to using the positions to support a greater cause, they use them to preserve their access to this limited line of power. The actions rendered give way to severe consequences for both the beneficiary and the victim in the long term. Nigeria, for one, has seen an emergence of such a generation lost in a sense of collective purpose. Where sons and daughters of this nation, well educated in many cases, having had the privilege of inheriting a nation ripe at independence, quickly forgot the essence that prompted the independence struggle. What happened?

‘‘The world is a dangerous place to live not because of the people who are evil but because of the people who do not do anything about it.” – Albert Einstein.

DESPITE the popularity and the adverse effect of corruption in the world, the issue of ascertaining and litigiously defining corruption has not yielded much result. Corruption is generally referred to by Webster dictionary as impairment of integrity, virtue or moral principle. Fundamentally put, this is a lack in standard of good conduct or behaviour. The case of Nigeria being corrupt or being ranked among the most corrupt nations in the world cannot be over emphasised. Our human nature and the social framework within which we exist presents conflicting view-points that can and tend to build justifications both for and against corrupt acts depending on the point you are looking at it from.

   At the centre of this complexity is the failure to arrive at an understanding, at least in principle, on what corruption really is. To a great extent, in Africa, Nigeria in particular, corruption as a term has been connected to the corrupt deeds and it has enjoyed extensive social and media attention over time. Corruption is quickly associated with political affairs, symbolising the general dysfunction of public or political institutions in which government officials, political appointees, and public office holders seek illegitimate personal gain. The method they employ, through acts of commission or omission includes bribery, extortion (brazen or covert), cronyism (bias to friends without regard for their qualifications, especially in political appointments), nepotism, benefaction (“Godfatherism”), graft and embezzlement. In the same vein, other forms of corruption like corporate corruption, which is the abuse of power by corporate managers against shareholders and employees of an organisation. In general, corruption can be argued to emanate from the battle of interests: Between a greater interest (for example, public interest) and specific interests that is personal interests that result in abuse by either party.

   Several research studies referred to corruption as the culmination of human compromise against others’ interest, where the need for self before others is attuned to the need for self even at the expense of others (Corruption and the Global Economy, 1997). We become motivated by the misfortune of others as a means of gaining our own success and fulfillment such that we even invest in the hardship of others as a means of staying successful. We end up existing solely for the purpose of preserving our own wellbeing even if it is to the detriment of a greater cause. Corruption is clearly not the sole facilitator for this shift. The relationship between our survival tactics and scarcity is also a pivotal vector for inhumane compromise. Most people convicted for crimes on corruption are known to have engaged in the act as a means to achieve results (often self-seeking) at the expense of the system in which they work or by taking advantage of the people and the society in which they live.

   It is pertinent to note here that, corruption can be individualistic or in partnership— formally or informally, forcefully or voluntary. Corruption can be achieved with or without connivance with people with mutual concern. During the colonial era, Africa was often raided and taken over by a mere shipload of foreigners. How did they (the foreigners) manage to achieve such a feat? The inhabitants, with their stronger understanding of the local environment and greater numbers, were overwhelmed by a couple of foreigners by just simply taking advantage of the corrupt greedy chiefs. The colonial forces were very clear in what they wanted and were willing to do anything to get it. They engaged local hands, often people of influence like chiefs and bestowed them with jewels (amongst other things) in exchange for right of entry in a land that was not theirs. Quickly, these chiefs and their cronies, bamboozled by the elements of power, focused on re-enforcing these relations with the “colonial commandos” as opposed to resisting them.  They traded off their own folks and gave away land to the detriment of many generations yet unborn. What they may have not realised is that these elements corrupted them and seeking self-gratification through obsession for slaves surged. Colonial powers, in many cases, left behind endless communal clashes and carnage in consequence, while they quietly plundered wealth that was siphoned to faraway lands.

   People get into positions of influence and as opposed to using the positions to support a greater cause, they use them to preserve their access to this limited line of power. The actions rendered give way to severe consequences for both the beneficiary and the victim in the long term. Nigeria, for one, has seen an emergence of such a generation lost in a sense of collective purpose. Where sons and daughters of this nation, well educated in many cases, having had the privilege of inheriting a nation ripe at independence, quickly forgot the essence that prompted the independence struggle. What happened? Was our objective to just simply kick out a foreign power or to rid our society of the corrupt elements that were propagated by these foreign forces that purposefully marginalised the interests of the multitudes in favour of those that benefited the few? Yet in the last half a century we have witnessed an alarming decline in anything that represents collective interest. Education, for one, which is at the heart of any society’s sustainable development, is a classic example of the blindsiding effects of corruption. We have seen the same educated few (privileged by circumstance at a time when education was in shortage) endorse misguided and imprudent  policies; undermine the sheer fabric of the professions that put them into power and our society in its totality in the process without  batting an eyelid. Is corruption more acceptable when you are a beneficiary and is much more deplorable when you are a victim? Martin Luther King is noted for having articulated it, that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

   Enough of the impacts and the forces at work on corruption, what about an enduring solution? Like any other difficulty in the world it is much easier to pull apart than to construct. It takes a conscious systematic collective effort to correct this attitude before it manifests as behaviour. By this it means that corruption springs from a person’s inner thoughts and feelings, while behaviour is usually an outward expression of this attitude. Like all attitudes corruption can be assessed, predicted, organised, modified and considerably controlled. Research studies conducted on corruption have all suggested that a collative approach is to be enacted to solve this issue. We all agree to a much higher degree that a collative approach should be implemented. What remains is the how and who, should carry out this scheme. The question has an answer and the answer is to self-reorientate oneself into rejecting corruption in any form or practice. As simple as this may sound, it can take more than a generation to put it into full effect and less than a decade to start reaping the gains. Contradictory as this may sound, it is as simple as a people recognised or reputed to take seriously, issues pertaining to dishonesty in its society. This is nothing political or scientific.

   There is enormous power in when we fight for a common good. If the society does not welcome the corrupt, the corrupt will not stay. Corrupt behaviours are usually selfish in agenda seeking the gain of one individual or a group. Corruption can never be for the common good. Let us not welcome it as a people. Corruption is in every ethnic group, in every religion, creed or society. But the tolerance rate should be low we do not need a Federal Court to tell us how to combat it. We can put an end to this “malaise” by imbibing a novel culture. It is important in this day and age to be proactive especially on issues concerning the welfare for the common good. There is no better knowledge than one that benefits the continued existence of a people. The issue of corruption should be seen as a collective responsibility. Examples may be few, but the outcome is enduring, far reaching, benefiting generations yet unborn.

To be continued.

• Donald is an M.Sc Clinical Psychology student, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba, Ondo State. Email: uba_dennis@yahoo.com Phone: 08035076266

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