By underlining corruption as Nigeria’s number one enemy, and the major cause of stalled growth, former American Ambassador, Walter Carrington was only reminding everyone that the government’s slogan of transforming the country will be meaningless until that cankerworm is effectively dealt with.
Nigerians ordinarily do not need to be reminded about the extensive damage corruption has inflicted on their well being; but Carrington’s admonition could not be more apt and topical, given that the nation’s anti-corruption campaign has been no more than sound without fury, a campaign that signifies very little in substance.
At the 29th Convocation of University of Ilorin, Carrington spoke on how to effectively move Nigeria, particularly its economy, out of the woods. His lecture on “Nigeria’s Second Century: Challenges for a New Generation,” naturally touched on corruption, among other issues.
He described corruption as “the most terrible monster that confronts Nigeria,” emphasizing that “virtually all the problems associated with governance would be removed if we can all summon the courage to tackle corruption and banish it from our activities.” Development, he said, does not have a bigger enemy than corruption, and “development in Nigeria is hinged on ridding our polity and politics of corruption and corrupt practices.”
Carrington is a friend of Nigeria. He was the first Black American to serve as United States Ambassador to Nigeria. He was a man for the times, pitching his tent, in the heydays of the Abacha dictatorship, with the democratic progressives in the country.
Besides being married to a Nigerian, Carrington’s love for the country is without doubt; and his concern about the country’s underdevelopment amidst its huge potential should be appreciated in that regard. His speech about what he correctly termed, “our nation’s corrosive cancer of corruption?” was therefore, candid.
In September 1999, President Olusegun Obasanjo told the Nigerian community on his first visit to the United Nations General Assembly that his administration would fight corruption, “a serious problem, not a laughing matter.” Acceding that there was no nation without corruption, he vowed that he wanted Nigeria to be one of the countries in which corruption “is not a way of life.”
He described corruption as a crime, a killer and as anti-development. At that time, Nigeria topped Transparency International’s List of countries on the Index of Corruption. Unfortunately, and despite a few measures that he put in place, Obasanjo’s eight years apparently witnessed the growth of corruption in the polity.
Nigerians’ common misery and pathetic living conditions are the consequences of corruption. The refineries Obasanjo spoke about in 1999 are still not functioning. Rather, a petroleum surcharge scam in which the nation would be paying handpicked privileged businessmen huge sums for importing petroleum products was imposed on the citizens.
The SURE-P Scheme that was to utilise the proceeds from withdrawn subsidy on petroleum products was brazenly subverted by card-carrying members of the ruling party. An obvious duplication of functions of existing Government agencies! It is the tragic story of a country earning $57 billion a year but is unable to provide stable electricity and critical infrastructure for development.
Where does the country begin to clean the Augean Stable? There is need for major attitudinal changes in every segment of the populace. What kind of person will pay one million United States dollars for a plot of land? What kind of man will own 40 houses built in all the high-brow residential estates of Abuja and Lagos? And to think that such a man was only at the directorate level of a federal ministry, or head of a government funded bank? To talk of mindless greed is too mild.
Does he or she lack the capacity to learn from history? What became of those who plundered the treasury of the nation in the past? How many of them lived to spend the money? What confusion did they bequeath to their “beloved” relations?
Nigeria, a nation with enough resources to meet the needs of all citizens, is still listed among the poorest in the world, on account of the greed of a few who demonstrate unpardonable insensitivity to the suffering of their people. Such a slave to the quest for illusory material security is like the over-prudent dog burying bones in the sand as it follows pilgrims into the Holy City!
There should be a deeper look at corruption with a view to analysing and laying bare its elements: greed, fraud, avarice, poverty of mind, possible insanity. As a nation, there is need to applaud men of good character and salute integrity. Let Nigerians re-awaken the ethical reorientation of the 70s and its progenitor, the initiative that gave rise to the Ministry of National Guidance.
It is not a task only for leaders in government and industry. Carrington called on the people to use their franchise to vote out corrupt leaders. A populace in which many applaud the clever thief and sell their votes to the highest bidder among candidates imposed on them from a corrupt brand of politics, has no justification to complain against the ills of corruption.
That graft seems to have become the unofficial fundamental objective and directive principle of state policy in the country is a national shame. Carrington was right when he said all hands must be on deck to tame the monster. If Nigerians remain complacent, all the hullabaloo about Vision 20-20-20 and the so-called Transformation Agenda would remain a mirage, with the attendant suffering of its teeming population.
Source: The Guardian
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