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When Corruption Has Become A Culture



Can We Have 'No Victor, No Vanquished'?

The Insight by Lateef Adewole

In recent time, I came to a very difficult realisation and acceptance of an unpalatable state of our country, Nigeria. It is with regards to corruption. It is not that I am just realising that it exists but I have always advocated for its complete eradication. However, when I did a serious and deep thinking about it, I came to term with the fact that corruption might never (I am short of saying ‘can never’, not to give up hope) be eradicated in Nigeria.

I would have said that “we are all corrupt”, but that will be unfair to an infinitesimal few who still live above board in this country, despite the barrage of corruption opportunities that they face on daily basis, whether in private or in public positions, but they resist. Making such sweeping generalisation would have amounted to rubbishing their hard-earned integrity and principle of no compromise. It will be demoralising to such people. And sincerely, I have encountered an extremely few of such people.

We have also seen few in public offices in Nigeria, who tower above others as they discharge their responsibilities with pristine integrity and unblemished character. They are the heroes of our country. One of such persons who is prominent is the current Registrar of the Joint Admssion and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Professor Is-haq Oloyede. So far, he has kept untainted record of public service, which has spanned over four decades and took him to high offices of a Vice Chancellor of a frontline university in Nigeria and now, the current office he occupies. There are others like him in government who might not be known.

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As corrupted as the Police Force is accused of being, we have seen some distinguished officers exhibited highest level of integrity in the face of serious temptation. Same as many ordinary Nigerians we hear of their stories, like a poor cleaner in hotel who saw missing huge money in foreign currencies and returned it to the owner. And so on. My belief is that we have many Nigerians of high integrity who might not be known because they are not in public positions.

What prompted this my new realisation? It was the issue of some new ministerial appointees who many criticised for being appointed despite having one corruption allegation against them or another. Like I also used to demand, such people deserve no place in public offices. But, how realistic is this? I now ask, how many Nigerians are not corrupt, who are in visible place to be appointed?

One thing is clear, anyone who has been in a previous public office is likely to be corrupt or have corruption allegations against them, even if such persons have not been publicly accused of corruption. In Nigeria today, many people are corrupt or have corrupt tendencies. They only do not have the opportunity to manifest it. Many are only waiting for their turn to do so. Therefore, my criteria is if someone has been given ‘juicy’ opportunity in the past and they did not abuse it, and came out clean, only such persons can I take seriously as not corrupt. Many who are claiming to have integrity today while outside government or public offices, will fall “yakata” into corruption if they find themselves there. It is easier said than done.

My conclusion about appointing people to public offices is that, corruption allegation alone is or should not be enough to disqualify anyone from being appointed. This is because, majority in line are no better. The real problem is the system. Corruption is systemic and deeply entrenched in the governance structures. It will take a steel-like strong will to resist it when anyone gets to public office and is confronted by such reality.

By the way, it is not only in public offices that corruption exists. It is also present in private sector. It just happened that when perpetrated in public offices, it has wider negative consequences on the people and country at large, unlike when it is done in silos of private sector. Also, the private sector has quicker and more efficient mechanism to deal with corruption. To hire and fire on allegations of corruption are more fluid in private sector, unlike public sector of civil and public services.

Appointees in public service can easily be sacked more speedily on accusation but the beauracracy in the civil service is itself, corrupt, in many instances. This makes cleaning up the system more difficult. In actual fact, no public servant (elected or appointed) can be corrupt without the assistance and guidance of the deep rooted civil servants. They provide the engine with which corruption runs, oil it and run it, with all due respect to many among them who are not like that.

These are people who could be in offices for 35 years, as allowed by the constitution, compared to political office holders who have four to eight or ten years at most. “Ile ti ko t’oju eni su, a ki mo irin ibe rin”. How can someone newly appointed to a public office knows where and how sleaze can be perpetrated? “Alejo l’oju, ko fi riran”. It is the home rat that invites outside rat to come and eat from the home. So, the entrenched corrupted civil service system remains the bane of anticorruption fight in Nigeria.

I no longer see focusing on fighting corruption as a strategy for which anyone should be elected into office if campaigned with. Not after the calamitous outing of the supposed “Mr. Integrity”, the former President Buhari and his administration. Lucky them that it was their party that won the presidential election. And that the person who won is not on a revenge mission for how he was treated in the past eight years of Buhari, and immediately he declared his ambition to become the president of Nigeria. All the impediments put on his way to prevent him from getting there.

This must have informed the way the mind-blowing corruption allegations sipping out have been managed. Otherwise, blowing open, even the little so far being heard, as was the usual practice by previous governments, would have shaken the country to its root. What we are hearing and reading, are too enormous to be comprehended.

Sincerely, when Tinubu declared his ambition, in as much as I supported him and believe he has what it takes to turn the tide around and fortune of Nigeria, fighting corruption was not one of my criteria for supporting him and I did make that abundantly clear in many of my writings. But he has actually surprised me with the smart and silent ways he has been fighting it. I wasn’t expecting that.

Which reasonable person should even take any politician who use fighting corruption as their focal point serious after Buhari’s massive failure at doing so? In as much as I anticipated many things that Buhari did in his eight years, which was why I didn’t believe he was the right person for a multicultural, multi-ethnic and multireligous Nigeria in the 21st century, which made me not to support him, the depth of corruption he sank Nigeria to was not part of my expectations.

Against all odds, even with my reservations about his true anticorruption capacity, I still gave that to him. I felt that even if he failed in other areas, his leadership could stem the spiralling threat of corruption. And I was glad when he said that “if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria “. Unknown to me, like many Nigerians, that all that was rhetoric. Nigeria has never experienced the kind of public stealing seen under his government, some of which are beginning to be ‘confirmed’.

I emphasised the word ‘confirmed’ because, it wasn’t as if many of these corruption allegations are new and were not made while Buhari was still in charge, but as usual, he turned deaf hears. He was hardly bothered by what people were saying. He often acted as if he was doing Nigeria and Nigerians a favour for being our president. But can we blame him? Many of his sycophants, acolytes and hangers-on made him feel like that, like he was the next best thing to happen to Nigeria after “Agege bread and ewa aganhin”.

They said same publicly to our faces, not just to him in private while massaging his ego. So, no matter the cry of the citizens about the bad behaviours of his appointees in those eight gruesome years, “e no concern am. Na O.Y.O we dey”. That was why those people continued with impunity. They rob it on our faces. I can’t begin to recollect them here. Such was what the former CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, carried overboard when he turned himself to demigod to us, while Buhari looked on.

In the past three months, he has been in DSS custody to answer for his crimes. While snippets of his malfeasance in collusion with too many prominent people, including business men and women, political bigwigs, traditional and religious leaders were filtering out as rumours, a supposed preliminary report of the Special Investigator, Mr. Jim Obazee, who President Tinubu appointed to investigate the CBN operations in the last ten years and other key Government Business Entities (GBEs), came out few days ago.

What I read when I first saw it were too overwhelming that I couldn’t even share it at that point. That was before it circulated all over social media. When money that has been mismanaged is mentioned to the tune of 400 trillion naira, I did not believe it. I felt it was the handiwork of those who don’t like Emefiele, and they will be many actually, given pain of his wicked naira confiscation policy that caused deaths of many people and ruined businesses of millions of others, including mine.

It was reported that about N8 trillion stolen funds have already been traced to private accounts of individuals. I am still finding that difficult to even believe. How did such amount get stolen and mismanaged under a president and he recklessly kept borrowing Nigeria’s future away, while his appointees continued to syphon it? Nigeria was plunged into monumental debt to the extent we have been using over 90% of our revenue to service debts. N8 trillion naira was about the value of the Dangote refinery, touted to be the largest single train refinery in the whole world. And some people stole it.

N400 trillion is almost ten times our total debts home and abroad. That’s twenty times our 2023 national budget. That is nearly double the entire value of our economy that is about $500bn (N225 trillion at N450/ $) before the crash in naira value. How could this happen? I am still in shock and still do not want to believe it. I will wait for the official release of the report, if that will ever happen, because of the tsunamic effect it could cause if all involved, who must be the powers-that-be in Nigeria, are revealed.

Few things got cleared in that report if they are true. In line with my thought that it is impossible for only Emefiele to have perpetrated all he is being accused of in the apex bank without his deputies and top management’s involvement. This came out to be true. We saw some of his deputies and directors already invited and quizzed by the DSS. One shocking thing is the revelation that the man in charge in acting capacity now was deeply involved. It was stated that he actually orchestrated the infamous naira redesign policy and Emefiele just bought into it as it suited all their agenda.

Again, I have had many arguments with a friend who have sympathy for Emefiele, as regards that policy. He always tried to excuse him and pin the whole thing on Buhari, being the president and the only authorised person to approve such policy. Constitutionally, he is right but my ‘biased’ mind against Emefiele always told me he must have manipulated the situation, including Buhari, to buy into such evil plans.

It was also alleged that Emefiele actually signed in the place of Buhari, on the memo given to the MD of Nigerian Security Minting and Printing, directing him to print the new notes. If that was also true, it would have also proved my suspicion. That is a bigger crime. Impersonating the president. He also authorised ways and means of about N23 trillion without recourse to National Assembly. Yet, we couldn’t see where the money went to. All these and many more, were in that report. That the new cabal has emerged around Tinubu, who seems to be similarly corrupt and blocking the Special Investigator from having access to President Tinubu to submit this report should be a thing of grave concern.

It is like what the Yorubas would say: “a f’aparo s’abe, a ngbinka”. Tinubu needs to watch out. “B’iku ile ko pani, t’ode ko le pani”. I read many weeks ago how same cabal blocked Tinubu from reaching Obazee for that appointment and assignment, as they know his pedigree and thoroughness when given such assignment. They reckoned that there will be no hiding place for thieves. He has exhibited that so far with his uncompromising position to do his job to the letter. He could fall into the category of few Nigerians I described earlier in the article- incorruptible.

This whole earth-shaking revelation is only in one institution yet, the CBN. What should we expect when it will be the turn of NNPCL and its subsidiaries? What should we expect when many other GBEs are investigated? It is an endless journey. Nigeria a cesspool of corruption. Tinubu is who the Yorubas referred to when they say: “eni a ro pe ko le p’ago, o se bi ere bi ere, o kole alaruru”. Many things that he has been doing were shocking to many Nigerians, including his traducers. They never expected them.

To us, who believe in him based on issues, not emotion or partisanship, he has been meeting many of our expectations. But as far as fighting corruption by him, “he shock me”. I was not keen on that. I didn’t even see him as trying at all. In fact, I feared it might get worse under him. I only banked on the fact that he could transform Nigeria to a more prosperous country, where larger majority will start to live better, even if corruption increases.

But with all the actions he has been taking so far, blocking all the avenues for the monumental corruptions, top of which are the criminal petrol subsidy and forex arbitrtage that escalated round-tripping. Auditing of the activities of many government institutions like the Special Investigator’s assignment and many more to come, and all these done without the usual noise making and funfare that usually heralded such activities even when little or nothing is actually being done, Tinubu surpassed my expectations in that respect. I am happy to have made the right choice of supporting and voting him in the last election.

With the way he is going, Nigeria might just have got its lucky break from perennial incompetent leadership. We are surely on the right track, given the level of interest being shown in Nigeria globally. We can only pray for him to do better. Sadly, the bigger corruption going on are at the subnational governments which Nigerians hardly pay attention to. Until we begin to demand accountability and transparency from our governors, whatever the Federal Government does, might be like scratching the surface. Real lootings go on in the states. Nigerians need to wake up and focus on the states.

All these stolen funds should be recovered. Culprits should be made to pay for their crimes to serve as deterrence to others (does it?). Measures should be put in place to prevent reoccurrence. Proper oversight should be carried out over these government institutions and GBEs. Regular independent audit of their books is important, not to wait until things get so bad like this.

May God continue to protect us and guide us aright.

God Bless Nigeria.

You can follow me on:
Twitter: @lateef_adewole
Facebook: Lateef Adewole
Email: [email protected]
Whatsapp: +2348036034685

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September 16, 2023.


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