Corruption, as the architect of insecurity and national development

As it is today, the global perception is that virtually every public servant and public office holder is corrupt and has a price for compromise in Nigeria. They are not only corrupt but super corrupt and insane to the liking of decent minds. They are tolerated and celebrated with attached pretence in expectation of benefits. But internally, they are hated like their boss, Satan. No one wishes to be like them till death.

Corruption has become an endemic disease more deadly than corona, malaria and other deadly viruses. And the fabric that dresses and addresses the Nigerian society today is corruption. The distrust that it causes became evident at the commencement of the activities to mitigate the deleterious effects of the rampaging coronavirus on the society, such as the distribution of palliative items and the financial donations from local and international donors. For instance, it was claimed that in Bauchi state, the assorted grains donated by National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Dangote Foundation, North East Development Commission (NEDC) and other donors, were not distributed as expected but re-bagged in polythene bags bearing the photo of the state governor. Ostensibly, that was a fast one for cheap political gain while the state government had woefully failed to provide the palliatives despite the partial and total lockdowns imposed on the state.

As we continue to watch how our leaders rate our intelligence, we must gather the courage to voice out our findings that may not attract the attention of those thieving and deceiving morons garbed in leadership garments as leaders. When it does the sycophants that usually surround and run errands for them, are quick to discourage them to act for correction. A large proportion of the funds voted and received for the palliatives in most states is ending up in private pockets or accounts of the people in charge of the implementation of the projects or distribution of the funds. Even when politicians decide to purchase and distribute palliative materials to the civil society from their earnings, the insinuation is that they are giving back from stolen ‘commonwealth’ in their possession.

The beneficiaries do not see the propriety of the action which is quite unfortunate. It does not stop there. Among the civil society, you find people in charge of distribution hoarding some of the products for their friends and family members who might even be in a position to provide for others in distress. Every step taken is assumed to be corruption-enhanced. What is being explained here is that corruption has permeated all the strata of the society from the leaders to the followers and sowed the seeds of distrust. That is the nature of corruption when it becomes endemic in a nation and no country develops when corruption gets to such a horrible level. No Nigerian is seen as a clean person as everyone has become an embodiment of corruption. Honestly, that may a wrong blanket condemnation and rating, because there still exist a handful of decent Nigerians for reference.

Corruption appears in many forms such that the tendency is to overlook some activities as normal and legal. Ruzindana identifies the following forms of corruption that people engage in: bribery, extortion, illegal use of public assets for private use, over-and under-invoicing, payment of ghost workers and pensioners, payment for goods not supplied or services not rendered which is called “air supply”, underpayment of taxes and duties on exports or inputs through false declaration or invoicing, purchase of goods at inflated prices, fraud and embezzlement, misappropriation of assets, court decisions awarding damages in excess of any injury suffered, removal of document or even complete case file, and red-tapism and patronage. Which of those stated is absent in Nigeria?

Rose-Ackerman identifies four stylized types of corrupt states viz: Kleptocracy, bilateral monopoly states, mafia-dominated states and competitive-bribery states. In kleptocracy states, corruption is entrenched at the highest level of government. In a pure kleptocracy, the head of government runs the political system in such a way that it maximizes the possibilities for extracting rents and relocates the resultant benefit for personal aggrandizement. Sometimes, such rulers tend to favour an excessively large state to maximize their rent-seeking opportunities. While they prefer to avoid waste by their subordinates, they may not be able to prevent them from taking bribes also.
Under the Bilateral Monopoly State, the corrupt ruler faces a single major briber who in a large number of cases, are in developing countries and are multinational corporations. The relative share of the gains expropriated from the collusion will depend on the relative strength of the actors. That is the ruler and the briber, with the former using the state’s apparatus and his position to intimidate the latter who can also threaten to engage in violence. In some bilateral monopolies, rulers form an alliance with a mafia group and engage in crime to provide protective services that in ordinary societies are provided by the state.

Depending on the strength of the two actors, the state may become an appendage and efficiency losses as well as forfeiting the ability to tap the profits of economic activities for the benefit of the society.

In the Mafia-dominated State, many officials are engaged in freelance bribery and they face a monopolist briber in the private sector. The briber could be a mafia group or a large corporation that dominates the state. the mafia may be powerful but the organization of the corporation may limit its ability to purchase the benefit it wants. This is because reaching an agreement with one official does not preclude another official from coming forward while the Competitive-bribery State is one of loose relationship. Here, many corrupt officials deal with a large number of ordinary citizens and firms. A fundamental problem, in this case, is the potential for an upward spiral of corruption. The corruption of some officials can encourage others to accept bribes until all but the reconstructed moralists are corrupt. We cannot look at these as stages of corruption such that society moves from one level to another but the society is described based on the characteristics of corruption it displays at a particular point in time. It also depends on who is interpreting the situation.

Whichever type of corruption state, low compensation for work done, such as the recent minimum wage debate that is too low to basic needs of the wage earners and weak monitoring of subordinates are generally considered as the main causes of corruption especially in the public services. When corruption is allowed to thrive uncontrollably in society and particularly at the top, it moves down the ladder so rapidly that it becomes an endemic disease that only a bloody revolution can cleanse. Such revolution need not be through the use of gun but self-rediscovery and taking action, even through the ballot boxes and spiritual cleansing as Nigerians tried to do in the 2015 elections.
However, the level of corruption in Nigeria requires more than spirituality or voting activities either which in itself, is enmeshed in corruption toga.

Public commentators are divided on the role of corruption on national growth and development. The view that corruption assists in ‘greasing the wheels of commerce’ started with an article to my knowledge titled ‘Economic Development Through Bureaucratic Corruption’ written by Nathan Leff. The general idea on the benefits of corruption is that it assists in facilitating smoothness of trade among countries which would not have taken place thereby promoting efficiency in resource allocation. This is because individuals in the private sector latch on the loopholes provided by corrupt practices to ‘correct’ preexisting government failures of various sorts.

Some authors also concluded that corruption in many developed and developing countries that stimulated foreign direct investments through circumvention of regulatory and administrative restrictions. However, the majority perceive corruption as a major obstacle to economic growth and development.

Most global reports on “failed states” in over 10 years have never excluded Nigeria from those countries so categorized despite the denials. Nigeria remains underdeveloped despite continued crude oil receipts in several years and huge government expenditure through the profligate budgetary system. Former minister for education and later a presidential aspirant Obiageli Ezekwesili posited that Nigerian governments mismanaged about N400billion crude oil money in a span of few years. Eight years after, the mismanagement has not stopped and that is not unconnected with the endemic corruption in high and low places.
Ruzindane, over 20 years ago, explained Africa’s corruption situation thus: ‘Corruption has led to bad roads and decaying infrastructure, inadequate medical services where they exist, poor schools and failing education standards, and the disappearance of foreign aids and foreign loans and of entire projects without a trace of their delayed completion, leading to higher costs. Corruption has meant that fewer imported goods enter the country than were paid for, foreign exchange earned from exports is not repatriated, national assets are run down and ruined; and repairs of buildings, equipment, vehicles and physical and social infrastructure have been paid for repeatedly but never performed.

This summarizes the past and present situation in my country despite the quest for socio-economic development anchored of promises by leaders. A country so blessed with human and material resources yet so poor! If we want the same picture to be painted about Nigeria in 20 years from now, then we do not need to say now that ‘enough is enough’. Albeit, the fault is not in our stars but right in our hands by changing our living styles, effecting some corrections in our governing systems where governors will have no powers over state resources and we have to shine our eyes to do the needful no matter the consequences involved.

Lest I forget, I was told that a state governor in one of the North-eastern states was reported to have sourced over N4billion loan from a commercial bank just to procure exotic cars for 4 senators and 12 members of the House of Representatives from his state while portable water is gold to the people in that state and fertilizer beyond the reach of an ordinary farmer etc. Do I hear you calling that governor a psycho? No, he knows what he wants to achieve even if the state goes in flames. It is all about 2023 because he has already lost bearing from his first day in power.

Is it not same governor that rented out his personal residence to his government at a yearly rent of N900million and occupies the same residence? I was told that it is the same governor that petitioned EFCC to freeze the account of the state government at FCMB at the exit of the former government. The same governor is now desperate to get EFCC de-freeze the account that has a lodgment of over N11billion. Should EFCC dance to the macabre dance? Allah Sarki!

Muhammad is a commentator on national issues

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