Nigeria’s disturbing season of probes and scandals – By Kamal Ololade Ahmed

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The ongoing probes in the Niger Delta Development Commission and the EFCC saga have once again raised the issue of corruption to the critical threshold of our national concern. I doubt if it has ever ceased to be like that save for our persistent denial. We are all watching with dismay how the cat and mouse game between the different sides has been a close one.

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The anxiety with which we are following the investigations is to see whether these like many of the previous ones will end up generating more heat than light. However, one fact a keen observer will not be inclined to deny is that we are on the verge of making corruption a behemoth that will become more difficult to eliminate in our national life except we take a serious action now.

These probes and investigations are sending a stronger message than we can imagine. Those observing across the world would want to see how we define ourselves as a nation in the fight against corruption. The not too young among us are learning from all the coups de theatre that are broadcast on our national TVs.

It’s really a harvest time for corruption in the country. It is most likely going to end with the sowing of another seeds. Those contracted to do the harvest must impress the people, roll up their sleeves, create chaff to blow away and make it a jamboree. Then, we sue for mitigation and let those who have plundered the treasure of the land go with the remaining baskets of grain.

Just like the evergreen inaugural lecture delivered by Professor Patrick Igbinovia of the University of Benin,“The criminal in all of us: Whose ox have we not taken?”

We are at the cross road of proving corruption is not in our character. We have to show that we have not made corruption our culture. With the serious allegation by the Minister of Niger Delta against the lawmakers that many contracts that are used as conduit pipe to plunder the resources meant for the development of one of the hitherto most marginalized regions are given to the lawmakers we need to resolve the systemic dysfunction that is making corruption an unholy but ‘sacred’ institution in our land.

Professor Igbinovia after many years of research in criminology posited that Nigeria clime works to maintain rather than eliminate crime. According to him,

“Because in Nigeria crime seems to pay, because the benefits far outweigh the costs, and often there are even no costs at all, Nigeria has become a society inhabited by criminals and their cohorts who breed, recruit and maintain ready and reliable supply of deviants and criminals. Crime is not only a normal and consistent product of our life; the impelling forces making for delinquency and crime are actually inherent deeply and pervasive in the culture of the Nigerian society.”

Those words were said seventeen years ago just around the time EFCC was created. As they may sound too sweeping a generalization, with where we find ourselves today, are the postulations not holding to be true? One could remember how we were praised to the high heavens all over the world few years after the EFCC began operation.

The Executive Director of United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime in 2005 said, “Nigeria is an example of what can happen when leaders and governments say “Enough!” to official corruption.” With current revelations would anyone make such remark about our nation?

The way corruption is making some among us to lack the human touch is really alarming. How do you explain it? At the time Covid 19 pandemic is showing us how we are the same in the face of health crisis and why we need to do things differently; at the time leaders around the world are thinking critically on how to cushion the effects of Covid-19 on their people and economy, some are leeching the commonwealth of their region in the name of palliatives for themselves.

Ours is now a compound problem of disruption, eruption and corruption. Disruption as brought about by the ongoing pandemic is the unexpected decline of flow on which our economy and well-being have been predicated.

Obviously, disruption does not stop the engine of corruption from being in motion in our country. Eruption is too much flow or too much of undesirable events such as the rising cases and death from Covid 19, possible surge in the number of people out of job because of the affected businesses and economic sectors. Corruption is dishonest practices creating dangerous flow that compromises the proper working of the entire system. If one may ask, which is the worst threat of the three?

The Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria and its different policies is not doing badly in the bid to straighten out the disruption or at least minimize the effect and also stem the economic eruption from it.

Corruption by several measures is definitely the most difficult problem. It is not solved by mere pronouncement or economic policy. With the system we are running it is difficult to determine it has taken place. It upends our preparedness to tackle a problem such as the ongoing pandemic effectively.

For example, Rwanda President sacked a minister of health for lying about the availability of kits to test individuals for Covid-19. How many people get away with such impunity here? Today, Rwanda is receiving international plaudits because in Rwanda you might just get tested randomly as you are going down the street.

But, where corruption is high and goes unchecked, you fight two wars; the war against Covid 19 and the war of trust where people see the whole thing as just another avenue for embezzling fund. Hence, they do not take the government’s word for it.

We are harvesting the fruit of corruption in our fear right from the outset that our health facilities would be easily overwhelmed because some looted the money meant for building them. We are harvesting the fruit of corruption in the number of people who are dying because their medical conditions required that they are taken abroad while they have pillaged the fund meant for building such world class hospitals here.

We are harvesting the fruit of corruption in the number of doctors we trained subsidizing their tuition while they retreat from leading the fight because the system has failed them.

We are harvesting the fruit of corruption in the number of people we have emboldened to take to crime seeing that the economic and political elite also establish themselves and their families by undermining the rule of law. We are harvesting the fruit of corruption in the number of people we have made to obtain power through relationships and networks which sometimes involve security forces and in turn visit terror on our lives.

It is time we truly say enough to corruption! Let our civil societies lead the call for reforms that will save the institutions created to fight corruption from undue interference. Our social-cultural groups should for once see this as cross-cutting issue that deserves commitment from us all and not a time for such populists’ agenda they always try to justify their existence with; each clamouring that others are only trying to attack them as ethnic group.

We must rebuff all entreaties to be distracted. We can talk on a general problem while not losing focus on an urgent and specific one. The ongoing investigations must not be swept under the carpet.

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