Nigeria: The perspectives and realities of corruption – Adamu Abdullahi


Corruption is not the monopoly of any country.

In recent times, whenever this word is comes across in the media, attention is automatically diverted to the politico-economic sense of it. As it is with most words in dynamic languages, this popular terminology is being constantly redefined by changing times and regions of the world. I bet the term used to have a much wider scope back in the days of the Victorian and Shakespearean eras.

Wikipedia defines corruption as “a spiritual or moral impurity or deviation from an ideal”; Strong, simple and straight-forward in my opinion. By this definition, for there to be corruption, there must be an ideal; ideal way of life, system, structure, model….human being, character- you can put several nouns in that statement and still retain the sense of it. In reality, we humans attribute the concept of the “ideal” to be impossibility or divinity. “No one is perfect”,” To err is human” we say and believe.

The history of corruption in general is one that cannot be accurately traced to a particular point in time. There is no known record of the exact period in which it began. Some say it is part of human nature dictated by the commonsensical laws of good and evil. Others use the religious scriptures to depict Adam’s struggles with Satan (Lucifer) as its cradle.

Corruption takes many forms, shapes and scales. From bribing off a police officer to imposing sanctions on poor nations and exploiting their resources, corruption ranges from the petty to the grand. When it occurs amongst people, corruption leads to various vices resulting in increased crime rates, terrorism, poverty and ultimately the total collapse of a system or society.

Transparency International is an independent organization that has taken upon itself the magnanimous task of fighting against corruption from a neutral and unbiased perspective. Be it as it may, the organization has conducted different analysis and surveys in most of the countries in the world. Out of the 196 countries, it has produced a ranking of 174 countries from the least to most corrupt according to its findings.

Last year, Nigeria was at number 139 out of 176 countries surveyed on corruption with a score of 27 percent similar to Azerbaijan, Kenya, Nepal and Pakistan. Earlier this year, Transparency International conducted another survey on residents in 107 countries. Nigeria, Zambia, Paraguay, Mexico, Zimbabwe, Venezuela and Russia were ranked as the largest countries on the globe with active corruption indices with Liberia and Mongolia leading the table. The KPMG, a global leader in auditing, in its Second Africa Fraud Barometer findings, rated Nigeria as the most fraudulent country in Africa. One would find many other statistics and rankings that would not counter the information presented above.

There is no single cause for corruption in Nigeria or any other nation for that matter. It is born out of human activities and interactions and then like virulent organisms, it thrives until it dominates its environment. It spreads around using people as carriers always scouting for favorable environments where it can expand its dominion. Like vicious psychological illnesses, it takes control of the minds of people. It redefines standards of morality and culture and continues to shake up judicial systems until established laws are altered amidst chaos and anarchy.

Abrahamic religious doctrines of which most Nigerians practice have held the view that prophets were sent to mankind to control, curb and eradicate the social and spiritual corruption of their people. This is based on the fundamental belief that corruption is a consequence of a spiritual illness in the individual. The weaker the spirituality of an individual, the more susceptible he/she is to corrupt actions. Individuals have the ability to enhance their spirituality through increased pious actions whereas negligence of such actions diminishes the power of the soul and weakens human spirituality. In the society, corruption sees light of day when a collection of spiritually weak individuals make up that society.

In Nigeria as it is in other parts of Africa, because of traditions and difference in cultural values, the perception that the western world is corrupt is very much present and persistent. The form of corruption ascribed to the westerners differs in the sense that they are seen as morally corrupt and absent values. Similarly, the western world views our continent as one that is completely corrupt in all its aspects and forms and in dare need of salvation, aid, assistance and interference. The western world sees Africa as a setback to planet earth and Nigeria the architect of it because of the leadership position we hold.

Corruption is not the monopoly of any country. History shows that since before the demarcation of continents and countries, corruption has existed in our monarchies and dictatorships in one form or the other.

For one to analyze corruption in Nigeria, it is paramount to understand what Nigeria is and made up of. Briefly, Nigeria was initially a business venture and as it is with growth and the need for expansion in business, convenient parts of that region in West Africa were amalgamated for the benefits of the owners. The employees who were from the various parts of the country then grew educated and sought freedom and independence from their masters. It was not a smooth transition; a few roars were thrown out, conflicts and battles fought and the end result was a country barely united and set free in independence. This is evident in the current Nigerian scenario where people still identify themselves and others as Northerners, Westerners and Southerners. The concept of North, East, South and West is more than just cardinal directions to be used for geographical mappings and educational purposes. Most despicably, this divisive notion still roams in the minds of leading political figures and form the bases for Nigeria’s poor political culture and weak democratic system of governance.

Nigerians today are products of a very turbulent political and socio-economic journey. Few have the slightest idea of what the country is supposed to be like. The few visionaries that understood and fought for it in the very beginning have been murdered, silenced or oppressed until the vision they had eluded them. What Nigeria has today is a generation of misinformed citizens trying to pursue their selfish agendas and desires.

Bribery and fraud are very much prevalent in Nigeria. In fact, the country mothered the infamous Internet scammers that have challenged the modern world in countless ways. They have infiltrated the very bodies and souls of our educational, governmental, judicial, administrative, political and social institutions. Even auditing, investigating and law enforcement agencies are consistently accused of being the puppets of those in power.

Moral corruption has manifested itself in the form of uncontrolled genocide, rape, homicide, human trafficking and kidnappings of both locals and foreign individuals for ransom among others. The situation is unspeakable. Widespread thievery and armed robbery have only been kicked out of media spotlight by the heinous Boko Haram genocide in the country. Corruption and its derivatives are pushing the once most promising African nation to the brink of collapse and total disintegration.

Several factors fuel the spread of corruption in Nigeria. In a somewhat primary category, the cultures and traditions of our people have played a major role in pervading corruption. The lavish and ostentatious lifestyles of our Emirs and Chiefs had set a life model and redefined the standards of what is understood to be comfortable living. This was not peculiar to any specific region of the country as the primary system of governance in the traditional era was the same. Living up to these set standards was the main catalyst for corruption among our early leaders. Artificial poverty, illiteracy and ignorance are the secondary drivers of corruption in the poor and down trodden whereas ignorance, negligence and greed have enveloped the minds of those in power such that they have become desensitized from the status quo.

Perhaps the most demoralizing part of this analysis would be encountered when a careful look is taken at the younger generation. From toddlers to teenagers in Nigeria, one would observe a very disturbing trend in the growth of young Nigerians. Clear signs and strong potentials for corruption in both the moral and socio-economic aspects are eminent in their actions. This gives room for little hope for the future of the nation.

The fight against corruption is on-going in Nigeria. The establishment of law enforcement agencies whose focus is the control of bribery and corruption is proof that Nigeria has not given up on the battle. While these agencies do try to project their autonomy and neutrality, they continue to lose the confidence of Nigerians. It would be greatly unfair to paint them as corrupt because they have performed outstandingly on one occasion or the other.

There is always room for improvement and to synthesize practicable solutions for bribery and fraud in Nigeria, the cooperation of certain international organizations and institutions must be sought. It is common knowledge that money embezzled in Nigeria is not kept there. In most cases, these funds are stored in foreign banks with the knowledge of their governments. This fact prickles in the hearts of Nigerians and creates suspicion in the sincerity of any such government that claims to assist. Thus the premise,” if they want to assist us in fighting bribery and corruption, they should not keep our stolen money “. Needless to point out, some governments do give Nigeria the needed support. The fight against corruption is an international issue and all nations must work together to achieve a corrupt-free global community.

Internally, Nigeria must develop and implement an extensive plan for fighting corruption.  The candle must burn at both ends. On one end, it should address the grass-root level and at the fundamental level of education. Teachers in primary education should be given the necessary financial resources and quality psychological orientation and training to be able to impart the needed values in the younger generation. A rigid foundation of patriotism, good character and integrity must originate from our basic educational scheme. If we are to hope for a better tomorrow, our youngsters must develop the sense of commitment and belonging to country and community.

Leadership is sacrifice; or should be in the Nigerian context. What teachers are in Nigeria today is what leaders need to become and vice versa. The criteria for our choice of leadership must constitute the fundamental elements of ability, selflessness, transparency and foresight. The need for thorough personal profiling of our candidates in leadership has never been more desperate.

The role of religious institutions in this fight is an essential one. They hold the key to our unity as a nation without which all efforts aimed at improving our lives will end in futility. These institutions must cater for the fundamental spiritual needs of our people. Messages of goodness, tolerance and unity must circumambulate our sermons until they are brought to life in our communities.

Leaders of tomorrow are followers today. There is a need for Nigerians to believe in each other and in Nigeria, to grow confidence in our law enforcement, to support and encourage our able leaders irrespective of ethnicity or faith, to harness the spirit of tolerance and togetherness amidst challenging times and to uphold the glory of the Federal Republic.

It’s never too late to forge ahead and rewrite our destiny. God bless the Fatherland.

Adamu Abdullahi

Warsaw, Poland.

[Photo: Goodluck Jonathan, President of Nigeria]

Corruption has since become the norm in Nigeria