The President of Nigeria, Mr. Muhammadu Buhari is engaged in a frontal war with corruption as he promised during his election campaign. He has the support of many Nigerians and we all wish him success. But a frontal confrontation with corruption will not succeed because corruption, the Nigerian specie, is a hydra-headed monster. If you cut off one head it will continue to live using its other many heads. The approach must be multi-pronged, aimed at cutting off one of its head at a time until most are trimmed to make room for a frontal approach.
One head of corruption is made up of evil people who would steal from the government, or corporations or friends and relatives. Corruption is in their DNA, this type of corrupt people are all over the world and ply their trade everywhere. This corruption may account for as much as 10% of lost funds and are perpetrated by as few as 5% of the population. It is the group that would be dealt with last and frontally after the other heads have been trimmed.
Another head of corruption is made up of opportunity thieves. These set of Nigerians steal because they discovered that they could steal and get away with it. They are the big “Ogas” in our system of government: heads of departments, politicians, university professors, ministers, etc. They discovered that the institutions are weak and have extremely weak internal controls that cannot catch them; and even if caught, cannot convict them; and even if convicted, would let them get off free by crossing GO. They see the opportunity and they exploit it. This group is responsible for about 50% of the loot in the country. This group may be as many as 10% of Nigerian population. The fight against this group would start with building and strengthening our institutions from police, courts, judges, congress, civil services, banks, local governments, etc and constructing internal controls that would not only detect corruption, but would be able to prosecute, to find guilty, and ensure that the sentence is served as ordered. It should be the war that would be fought after economic war has been won.
The third head of corruption is the economic head. This is the most ubiquitous of the corruption. This group consists of up to 65% of Nigerians; I make haste to call what they do corruption as I see it as obeying the first law of nature.
The first law of nature is survival. Mankind would do whatever is necessary to be alive, to survive. Take the case of a teacher who is paid a miserable salary but even the pitiful salary is owed for three months. In addition, the students have no copies of books needed to learn. If such a teacher makes copies of parts of the prescribed book and sells them to her students and demands that all the students must buy the copied papers to pass her exams, thereby violating all kinds of laws, from copy rights to creating illegal student fees, etc. is she corrupt? In law she is a felon but in my books she is a mother trying her best to provide a living for her family. Her other alternative is to quit teaching but would she find another job? Will that job, if found, pay her better and not owe any of her alleged salary? The answer is no, for if that were possible she would have done that. If you do not like the teacher example you may choose from the list that includes police officers, government clerks, meter readers, drivers of public buses and cars, reporters, pastors, etc. This group, estimated at 65% of Nigerians, is the group where the war against corruption should start because it is the weakest link in the chain and the possible solution which can be implemented.
Three federal ministers and their state counterparts can begin to solve this problem if PMB would give them the freedom and tools they need to engage the evil head of corruption. They are Messrs Fashola, Amaechi and Ogbeh, the ministers of works and housing, transportation and agriculture. Collectively, they are responsible for infrastructural development and food. The resources they need are money, tons of it. If PMB lets them loose, they would put our boys and girls to work. If they are paid even the minimum wages, they would be taking out of the 65% group. Our roads would be less congested, our food prices would be lower and therefore affordable and self-preservation will be easier and done honestly.
If at the same time PMB and his team begin to strengthen the institutions so that crime could be detected and punished, then the war on corruption would have a chance of success. Arresting and detaining known corrupt officials and sentencing them to long prison terms will not create a corruption-reduced-Nigeria, so long as the conditions that made them do the crime still exists. It is only when the environment has been cleansed that real progress can be expected. Pouring new wine into old wine bottles will not bring the change we want.
Nigeria has gone through frontal confrontation that PMB has embarked upon before. I remember that billions of dollars’ worth of loot was recovered from Abacha’s family. Whatever happened to the recovery? or was it just looted back by another set of criminals. This is the result that we should expect from the most recent recoveries. Doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result is the definition or a common word we know.
President Muhammadu Buhari and Mr. Ogbeh should invest in agriculture to provide abundant food and employment to our teeming population as a part of the war on corruption. Mr. Buhari and Mr. Fashola should start housing construction to provide roofs over the heads of our booming population as another part of the war on corruption. PMB and Mr. Amaechi should start improving our roads, railways and waterways including canals and deepening River Niger all the way to Onitsha and Lokoja as even another war on corruption and providing employment. This would make the distribution of food and cattle to all parts of the country possible and the movement of industrial output, accessible to the south and north and vice versa.
When all these are done, a head on confrontation with corruption becomes easy. Mohammed Ali would first soften his opponents in early rounds in a boxing tournament and then throw heavy punches to defeat his opponents.
One Muhammadu can learn from another Mohammed.
Culled from