Monday letter

When former Nigerian President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan affirmed a few years back that “corruption is not stealing”, he was crucified and vilified. Perhaps, among other things, that statement cost him the presidency. Also, once upon a time, a former British Prime Minister of Britain referred to Nigeria as “a fantastically corrupt nation”.  Angered, by this declaration, many came out to condemn the former Prime Minister’s frank assessment of our country’s corruption status. As if to further validate the truth about the nation’s corruption situation, the Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics’ recently reported that a total sum of N400 billion is spent on bribes each year since 2015.

Stealing is just one of the branches of corruption just like gynaecology is a branch of medicine. Corruption is an abuse of power; it is the father of stealing. Werlin described corruption as the “diversion of public resources to non-public purposes,” in which the public office holder illegally appropriates public resources for personal use. Earl J. Friedrich called corruption a deviant behaviour associated with selfish gains at the public expense.

In Nigeria, corruption manifests in diverse ways. For instance, it could come in the garb of a policeman demanding for bribe from offenders or a public officer trying to cut corners in awarding a public contract or even a religious leader or body soliciting for favour from public office holders towards building a mega cathedral. Corruption in Nigeria is a national culture, a way of life that has been endorsed by institutions and supported by all and sundry. It does not matter how you make your money in the country whether you are a drug baron or ex-agitators, traditional rulers would offer you chieftaincy titles, religious leaders will offer you prominent roles and even make prominent mention of your name from time to time as a pillar in the ‘House of God’.

Among all countries of the world, the cost of construction of road in Nigeria is the most expensive. A careful assessment of road projects in Nigeria shows that averagely a kilometre of road costs N1bn. Road projects are also constantly being reviewed with government increasing the contract sums either biannually or once in five years. A recent report indicates that even in Africa, the cost of constructing roads in Nigeria is far higher than what is spent on constructing roads in other nations on the continent. The minimum wage as at now is N18,000 but our lawmakers are paid huge sums of money that makes other hardworking compatriots cringe.

But the truth is that almost every segment of the country is corrupt. From the least to the greatest, the young to the old, Nigerians have become fantastically corrupt people, almost without conscience.  This is why it is sometimes amusing to see so -called analysts and critics always blaming political elite for our corruption status. The reality on ground is that almost every professional in the country has one or two things to do with corruption. Teachers in higher institutions either sleep with female students or demand for financial inducement before they could scale through in examinations. Parents connive with officials to procure admission into tertiary institutions for their wards.

Personnel in public hospitals either hoard or illegally sell drugs that are procured by government for patients.  Members of informal sector such as tailors, mechanics, builders, plumbers, painters, etc., end up buying inferior materials when they were actually given money for ‘original’ products. And they swear to high heavens that what they have is original. The list is endless. There is also the high incidence of “ghost workers,” in the public service which was estimated at 60,000 in 2014, in addition to 50,000 fictitious workers in 2013. Undaunted by the anti-corruption credentials of the current government, civil servants, in connivance with politicians and crony-contractors, have continued to “pad” the federal budget.

Sadly, in our tertiary institutions of higher learning, where ‘future leaders’ are being produced, the situation is even more alarming as student union elections become a bloodbath. Unlike in those days when student unionism was quite vibrant, the reverse is now the case. Student union leaders have somehow mastered the art of corruption more than their seniors across the country. They give phantom awards to political and economic elite in the country with the sole intent of collecting from the (suspecting?) awardees their own part of the commonwealth.

It is that bad. Money is now our God in Nigeria. And unsurprisingly, animals in the country are closely watching. From the look of things, it won’t be long before snakes, monkeys, fowls, lizards and other animals in the country would outdo their human counterparts in the area of undue love and craze for money.

Tunde Omisore, Ikeja, Lagos