Mr Abdulrasheed Maina former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team, PRTT, was sentenced to eight years in prison for money laundering two days ago at a federal high court in Abuja. His case which began around 2017 has been an interesting one with intrigues here and there.
Normally such judgement should bring greater optimism to the fight against corruption, but it is far from it.
Why was Maina caught? Did he step on big toes? Is he just unlucky? No! Corruption often finds a way. Someone who is alleged to have paid $3.4 million in cash for a house should know his way around the system. Or is it because he touched blood money? Pension money is blood money because it is meant for retirees who might have nothing to live on than their pensions. There have been many instances of pensioners who died in the difficult process of accessing their rightful pensions. There are lots of questions to ask.
This is not trying to support Maina, but if we really want to tackle corruption then it must be broad and holistic, not picking one fish out of millions once in a long while. If we are not ready to do that, then let us plead with looters to at least invest their loots in the country rather than hide it away in banks and other means, at least it will boost our economy and maybe provide jobs.
It’s like the Saraki asset declaration brouhaha in the past administration, so the prosecutors in all honesty meant to tell us that Saraki the then senate president was the only one whose asset declaration was questionable. The hilarious ending is that he was acquitted, what can we say but lol!
It is almost sounding cliché to say that Nigeria is corrupt; in fact the term has become a symbol for Nigeria in global affairs. Corruption has become an unwritten culture in Nigeria, it is more institutionalized than established institutions, and it is in the minds of the leaders and the led silencing the voice of reason and patriotism. No wonder David Cameron gave a succinct poetic description of the level of corruption in Nigeria when he said that Nigeria is FANTASTICALLY corrupt.
The way corruption is practiced in Nigeria beats imagination; it is at per with deep spontaneous creative intuition. Create a means to stop corrupt practices and we immediately find an ‘amazing way’ to beat the check on corruption.
You can imagine what it means when we talk about drug cartels in South American countries, cartels so strong that they seem to run parallel and unperturbed governments in their respective countries. But even at this, these countries are not seen from the big viewpoint of drug trade when they are considered in International relations.
It may sound surprising though to note that Nigerians are not actually as corrupt as it appears to be, rather they are very industrious, creative and well-meaning set of people. Consider individual and collective strides of Nigerians in foreign countries as just one aspect.
Then why does it seem as if there are no good men in the system – public and civil service included. It is a culture problem as we stated earlier. Corruption has become culture and this culture has logically seized the system. So we find people who hold much promise of nobility and productivity making impacts as ‘ordinary men’; doctors, journalists, scientists, engineers, lawyers and many others.
These ordinary men by chance, intent or appointment get into the system – political system especially – and lose their productivity and voice, but not their Midas touch. In fact, their Midas touch becomes more refined and ruthless for personal benefits.
If men who showed much promise are failing too, then we might ask again the old question; why has corruption persisted for so long?
One is that Nigerians like other Africans have an excessive fear of hunger and therefore seek to give it an eternal death. The issue is that we confuse hunger with poverty. Hunger is a necessary part of human life; if there is no hunger, how then can we crave food and enjoy it. Hunger is also not just about food, it is the fuel that drives creativity in us, whether for love, fellowship, art, industry and science.
The only problem is when this hunger comes and there is no answer for a long period, then, our fears are justified but embezzlement is still not justified. Human longings are actually insatiable.
Second is the bandwagon effect. As new people come into the system, they see how corruption flows unhindered, they may have a tough time joining the flow as they battle with their fresh conscience, but after a while they board the ship and sail along. Their actions are justified in their minds as they remember what happens to poor people in the country and after all, if they don’t take the money someone else will take it without any consequence.
The third reason is that the judiciary and law enforcement agencies who are to be the last hope of justice are themselves also compromised. In theory they are supposed to be above board and impartial but in practice it is not so. They are human like every other person and might have gotten to their seats through faulty means, so they must maintain status quo. The law enforcers are usually at the beck and call of the highest bidders, and the government in power will always win the bid if the matters on ground concern it, even if it is against the rule of law.
Finally, a weak system or a strong anti-development culture. What do you expect to happen in a hospital without doctors, nurses and medicine; your guess is right! What is even corruption? It is simply the distortion of right processes. More often than not it involves money, even if not directly, at least as a means to its end. Though it has come to be associated with money, it actually goes beyond that.
Let’s take for example the January 6 Capitol invasion by rioters in the US who sought to truncate the democratic process of an incoming president in the person of Biden; that invasion and the circumstances that led to it could also be called corruption. How was it handled? A strong system out it in check and it didn’t escalate.
Way Forward! To be realistic, in Nigeria for now, there is easily no way forward.