If you have ever taken time to read The Trouble with Nigeria, you would think the book was written just last year. The embedded corruption in Nigeria and the general confusion described in the book is just as though Nigeria has been on a spot, probably since independence or the country has not made remarkable progress, in terms of the character of the nation. Not surprisingly, over thirty years of the book’s publication, Nigeria still struggle with leadership, Nigeria still is marred by corruption. In fact corruption in Nigeria has attained a level of sophistication and has become deadlier and more sundry than it had been. It is therefore a very welcomed development that President Muhammadu Buhari is focusing on cubing corruption or in his words killing corruption before it kills Nigeria.
To fully understand what corruption has done to Nigeria, one has to appreciate the fact that as at nine years ago, Nuhu Ribadu former EFCC chairman remarked that $220 billion has been stolen by past Nigerian leaders. This amount nine years after must have almost doubled. But that is not the main concern, the amount only serve to offer some insight into the real cost of corruption in Nigeria. For instance, during Obasanjo’s eight years as President, Nigeria earned $223 billion, “two and a half times the amount earned over the previous eight years”2. If of course logic proves to be true in this case, Nigeria under President Yar’Adua/ President Jonathan earned nothing less than $557 billion between 2007 and 2015. To imagine that a country which has earned such amount of money is struggling to pay workers’ salary is just completely awestruck, and perhaps one of the wonders of 21st century made possible by stealing of public money. So without further rigorous effort, without going further to remind us that many people who died in Nigeria these past years would not have died, without further stress on the fact that our lives would have been far better than it is if not for corruption, we can simply establish that Nigeria has become even dangerously corrupt. Therefore, every effort at killing corruption in Nigeria is one in the right direction which all well meaning Nigerians must appreciate. For the sake of all that is true, even if we are able to contain corruption in Nigeria, the country will change for good. In other words, we don’t need to literally kill corruption in Nigeria, though if the President achieves that, it is perfect, but what I am saying is that even if corruption is contained in Nigeria, believe me, Nigeria will be great for it.
The rate at which our leaders steal our collective wealth and stash it away suggests a deeper problem that needs a more coordinated programme of action beyond punishing corrupt officials and recovering stolen funds. Yes, corrupt officials found to be guilty should be punished, and the stolen monies returned to the government. But there is more, why do our leaders steal our money? Is it because they are just corrupt and greedy? To think that “nobody forced corrupt leaders in (Nigeria) to steal from their people”, really raises serious concern on what could be responsible for that and how we can handle it from the roots. Public office holders steal public money for several and different reasons. We cannot say here is the reason or there is why, there may still not be any reason. In any case, this may sound hard or too far but there is something wrong with us as a people, there is a culture of purposelessness, certain general confusion, identity crisis and mass irresponsibility that have attained a level of integration in our society. The same reason a Nigerian driver drives as though he/she is the only one using the road. The same reason a Nigerian carries on with his/her activities without consideration for his/her neighbor’s wellbeing or comfort. The same reason we are unpatriotic, it is for the reason that our leaders steal our money. No, we are like that, we are not a people that care about the other before we undertake any venture. Here, the self is supreme, self interest is all, it is the self or nothing else. There is no major difference between Nigerian leaders who steal billions of public funds and other Nigerians who exploit fellow Nigerians in very many ways, who violates the other fellow’s right to live happily. So you see, if President Buhari succeeds in the war against corruption and the dangerous virus is finally killed or contained, that on its own will not transform Nigeria into a society of orderliness and goodwill. If in four or eight years, President Buhari and the APC succeed in dealing with corruption, what happens thereafter? Jerry Rawlings first adventure in Ghana’s leadership at ensuring sanity in that country quickly comes to mind. Nigeria may not be as fortunate. The implication of isolating corruption as peradventure Nigeria’s only problem is that, the solution that will emerge if the war is won may not be sustained. The problem of Nigeria is deep, it is not enough to hunt down public thieves and get our money back. To fix Nigeria therefore, there is the need for structural, cultural and behavioural transition on the part of all or most Nigerians in terms of our attitude to fellow citizens individually and then collectively; this will directly impact our society and institutions. President Buhari and the government should focus on that too.
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