A CELEBRATION OF CORRUPTION
By: Sir Henry Olujimi Boyo (Les Leba) republished in December 2007
Last week, this column republished “Political Power: For Service or Dominion?” This article, like the previous republication, continues in the theme of questionable political rule. The article discusses Nigeria’s failing electoral system (that has persisted for decades) in light of the upcoming elections. All republications can be found in the archives using the below link.
(See www.betternaijanow.com for this series and more articles by the Late Sir Henry Boyo)
Today’s republication laments on the culture of corruption which we as a nation, can be said to have embraced. In this article, the late Sir Henry Boyo touches on everything from the international reputation of Nigerians, to once thriving industries in the nation which have since become extinct as political power focuses on self-interest above service to the people. As we face the new year and the upcoming elections, let us as a nation deeply reflect on where we should be and how to get there, ensuring that we do not repeat the mistakes of our past and that we carve a path that would lead to the benefit of Nigeria.
As you read through the below article taking note of previous events and rates, keep in mind its initial publication (2007), a clear indication that things remain stagnant even as we enter the year 2023.
The horrid face of corruption is best unveiled by a consideration of the string of synonyms listed in most dictionaries. The word can readily be used in place of immorality, rot, putrefaction, foulness, pollution, contamination, bribery, fraud, evil, profligacy, wickedness, falsification; while the antonym for this unflattering noun is aptly captured by beneficent words like purity, honesty, morality and virtue. Regrettably, there appears to be general consensus that our evolving culture and governance are best characterized by those unflattering siblings of whatever is bad and undesirable. Indeed, our country has the infamous adoration as one of the most corrupt in the international Comity of Nations and Nigerians are hounded and treated with disdain all over the world, just because they come from a supposedly polluted and fraudulent people from a part of the world called Nigeria. In spite of the unbridled hospitality visitors to Nigeria continue to enjoy, any holder of a Nigerian passport is an unmistakable target for humiliation at most border posts abroad.
Those Nigerians who were born before 1970 will testify that the rogue image began from about 1980, but had become firmly internationalized by the time that Ibrahim Babangida was forcibly made to step aside in 1993. The denigration of the Nigerian had been facilitated by the reckless devaluation of the Naira and the culture of ‘settlement’ as an instrument of government policy; our shores became notable transit ports for the international hard drugs syndicates and our youths embraced a new insidious financial scam euphemistically christened as 419 deals and with time quickly supplemented such criminality with ‘Yahoo’ skills on the Internet (refers to internet fraud). The fertile ambience for graft promoted by the self-styled evil genius produced a grim harvest of a disoriented populace who had become disenfranchised and acutely impoverished by a rudderless and thieving leadership.
It is worth remembering that in spite of the widespread malfeasance in the polity, particularly with the prevailing anathema towards accountability in the management of public funds at all levels, one does not recall any overt sanction of any public servant for abuse of office and the triumvirate of profligacy, fraud and ‘settlement’ became firmly enthroned in those years!
The rot which was endearingly nurtured pre 1993 was carried to new depths by the despotic regime of the goggled General and even his more polite successor did little or nothing to arrest the decline; Nigerians were the victims, as extreme poverty under military dictatorship also distorted our value systems and brought out the baseness in us! It was not unusual for people to sell their ‘birthrights’ and the trust reposed on them for a pot of pottage and erstwhile good people would swear that wrong was right! Eight years and more of civil democratic rule, the stench from the putrefaction of despotism continue to choke the engine of governance as our people struggle once more to realign their bearing to paths of purity, accountability and selfless public service.
But it is a hard road to travel; our people have been grossly deprived like homeless dogs who traverse the landscape in search of accessible dustbins and have little time or patience to indulge in any meaningful evaluation of government policies and actions. It is less arduous to simply accept government propaganda as truth and resort to hope for a brighter and redeeming future; religion, which has been described as the opium of the poor has provided a ready platform to found our hopes for a better tomorrow, as we gladly donate our widow’s mite in churches, mosques and shrines so that ebullient intercessors can afford the expensive recharge cards and phones to access heavenly thrones with supplications for our daily survival.
Eight years and more into our democratic experiment, concerned patriotic Nigerians wonder about what we need to do to steer the ship of State back to the course of probity, sanity and progress. Those who can divest themselves from the blinkers of self, ethnic or other parochial interest recognize the lie inherent in the preamble to the current constitution which claims to be the product of a consensus of the diverse peoples of Nigeria; discerning Nigerians also know that the notion of federalism is in the letter rather than the spirit of that Constitution. Indigenes of the Niger Delta, for example, have claimed that the Constitution imposes a colonial yoke on their resources and some have maintained that none of the major ethnic groupings would tolerate such a rape of their people if a depleting and environmentally hazardous resource such as crude oil was exploited from their backyards to further develop the palaces of distant cousins, when they, themselves, cannot even access clean drinking water!
The lure of the filthy lucre from the Niger Delta has drawn politicians from divergent ends of Nigeria into a silent conspiracy to ensure the subjugation of what is virtuous and decried the motivation and promotion of active wealth creation in place of the short-sighted pursuit of sharing a cake baked and buttered with the sweat and sufferings of the people of the Niger Delta; no wonder the cake continues to leave a sour taste in our mouths!
The groundnut pyramids of Kano have disappeared, the expansive cocoa farms of the West have shrunk in size and oil has ceased to flow from palm estates of the East and Midwest, because it is easier and less backbreaking to sleep for thirty days and collect huge allocations at the end of the month! Meanwhile, politicians who want to improve their slice of the ‘poisoned’ cake clamour for new state creations under the guise of bringing development closer to their grassroots. The Executive and Legislative positions at all levels of government have incumbents whose ambition is the perfection of the art of shameless treasury looting rather than genuine public service; our economic and monetary policies are deliberately skewed to increase the wealth of a handful of Nigerians while the rest of us wallow in poverty.
Our people have been bamboozled by inarticulate economic jargons and contradictions and made to believe that it is better to borrow money at atrocious rates rather than use our huge idle deposits in the bank. Over $8.3bn of our reserves have been given to commercial banks at concessionary interest rates while we borrow at cutthroat rates from the same banks; we have been tutored to applaud such madness and honour those who lead us down such thorny garden paths! On the political front, the elective process is covertly truncated in place of a selection process, and our hapless people watch in consternation as their votes and their needs play no role in a flawed democratic process.
State and federal budgets have become a hollow ritual to give the proletariat an indication of the money available for stealing. Over 30 Governors and their cohorts are under investigation for corrupt enrichment, yet they are hailed as heroes by Nigerians who do not know any better than the temporary relief from hunger provided by the hirer’s fees which inevitably came also from the public treasury! It is in truth a season of celebration and I invite you all to join me in a celebration of corruption in Nigeria; since that is what we are best at, we might as well celebrate it, abi!
Save the Naira, Save Nigerians!