Upon The White Horse
Brevity is the soul of wit. Therefore I will be as brief as I can be in my attempt to discuss Nigeria’s case for a thorough anti-corruption campaign.
In her 56 years since independence, Nigeria has lost over $600 billion to corruption with over $400 billion lost over the past 30 years. That’s an economy bleeding $13 billion every year till date to bogus receipts, construction contract scams, shambolic audits of its energy sector and any other imaginable scam you can think of. To put in sharp context, it cost the municipal authority an estimated $80 – $100 billion to transform Dubai from the quiet desert region to one of the most developed cities on earth. That’s a quarter of what Nigeria has lost in three decades!
Corruption in the most populous black nation in the world reached ‘acceptable’ levels when it almost became tolerable to loot public funds if a percentage of same was applied to actually do the work said funds were apportioned for. It became the norm/mentality for governmental appointments to translate to the most attractive job positions in the country. Lowly placed special assistants earned incredible sums off the books. Special advisers had special assistants who had special advisers for their special assistants. This mentally harrowing trend was the norm and the country bled for it.
The effects of corruption on Nigeria have been one of undeniable negativity. From masses who have died because a mansion in the rich suburbs off proceeds of grants donated towards the eradication of a disease was of more importance to an elected government official to the near collapse of an entire economy because reserves had been depleted to droplet levels and debts skyrocketing to astronomically impossible levels.
You see, the problem with the acceptable levels of corruption, is that the progress/completion/success of a task or project while being beneficial to the economy is detrimental to the corruption pipeline. Therefore projects that were seemingly short term turned to lengthy white elephant dredges that dragged on for years. Each administration elongated the term of a project or went about a pointless rehabilitation/resuscitation process for a system/venture that caused more harm than good. It was absolute mayhem. The people lost, fast money won, those who spoke against the fast spreading cancer were jailed or worse.
Corruption became the system and the ideal system became the exception. People who did their jobs as they were expected to were celebrated beyond measure and idolized and it became such a rarity. While good governance should always be lauded, it ridiculously supported the “steal some work some” principle that sought to legitimize corruption. The electorate having given up on anything close to an ideal government embraced the logic that “He will steal, but he is more likely to do the job if I vote him in”. The machine gained its desired pseudo-legitimacy and the country was plundered with more reckless abandon than ever before.
Fast forward to 2015/2016, now armed with the knowledge of what has occurred in the past decade, the war against the machine has assumed priority and rightfully so. Corruption destroys and has destroyed an irretrievable part of our history. It is impossible to measure the costs and damage done to the economy. From the impunity with which the country was looted in the military era to the “olive branch corruption” which followed in the new democratic era, the machine has evolved and evolved. Therefore the fight against it isn’t one to be ignored on any scale whatsoever.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) scandal, Senator Bukola Saraki’s dance with the code of conduct bureau , the Diezani Allison-Madueke inquest and the Colonel Sambo Dasuki situation have shown just how ‘tentacular’ corruption can get.
There have been opinions and clamour from sides claiming that (a) focus should be on other issues outside corruption and (b) this is beginning to read like a witch-hunt of sorts. I completely disagree with both schools of thought. Corruption destroys everything and in Nigeria’s case, is in everything. From education, energy and works to banking, the private sector and yes, wait for it, religion. It is the core of the problem that has set us back a million steps and has us staring at blueprints for rebuilding an economy in the most precarious of times when nobody wants to be doing just that.
Dasuki-Gate is only a microcosm of what has been the norm for an age, only this time the consequence of such lackadaisical corruption was death. Death of soldiers fighting with weapons akin to bare hands because approved funding had gone into electioneering. A country with opportunities that made the sky look so humbly benign has been brought to its knees. It now looks at the world on eye levels that elevates slaves. One reason? Corruption.
The war against corruption is certainly not expected to be met with flowers and celebration, the machine will fight back or it isn’t much of a war. Without relegating other facets of government (particularly the economy) which requires urgent attention to the background, the war against the machine in my view takes precedence at this time.
Perception is everything however, and proper care must be taken not to adversely affect the court of public opinion in the course of this campaign. The rule of law must be adhered to at all times. The anti-Buhari position has stoically persisted with the argument that he is a dictator. Preposterous as this position is, the president must not play into it or allow his deeds to be misinterpreted as such.
With over $50 billion completely unaccounted for over the past decade, the dividends of democracy have been quite the IOU. With every new allegation, it occurs to Nigerians that besides getting the short end of the stick, we were beaten with it. It will not be easy and victory against the machine is certainly not a given, we wait, we watch…we pray.