And Are We Not?

Daily Trust - - SPORT -

Dur­ing a lun­cheon to cel­e­brate his 90th birth­day, on March 15, 2014, Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe of Zim­babwe took a swipe at Nigeria’s cor­rup­tion, warn­ing his coun­try­men not by any chance to be­come like Nige­ri­ans. While the ac­cu­sa­tion was made more than a month ago, the re­ac­tion to it came only last week—and that alone said a lot about cor­rup­tion of an­other sort. Did the govern­ment need the whole of a month to mull over the word­ings of its re­ac­tion be­fore re­leas­ing it? Or did the govern­ment ini­tially be­lieve Mu­gabe was right; but af­ter con­sid­er­ing the im­pli­ca­tions, changed its mind? Or did its em­bassy despatch from Harare fail to ad­vise it of the fact of the swipe in time? Or was some­one wait­ing to be paid to re­act on be­half of the coun­try?

Fol­low­ing the swipe, Zim­babwe’s am­bas­sador to Nigeria was sum­moned to the for­eign min­istry to re­ceive a strong protest note. ‘Not only does it not re­flect the re­al­ity in our coun­try,’ the for­eign min­istry state­ment said about the ac­cu­sa­tion, ‘but to come from a sit­ting pres­i­dent of a broth­erly coun­try is most un­kind and very dis­hon­ourable.’ And other pa­tri­otic Nige­ri­ans have thrown in their widow’s mite in de­fence of the father­land. But nei­ther the of­fi­cial nor the un­of­fi­cial re­ac­tion from Nigeria tried to deny the sub­stance of what Mu­gabe said; and, in the main, the thrust of the re­ac­tions had gone some­thing like this: ‘Mu­gabe is a tyrant and a sit-tight despot.’ ‘There is ru­n­away in­fla­tion in Zim­babwe.’ ‘Nigeria has helped the lib­er­a­tion strug­gle in south­ern Africa.’

Be­cause what Mu­gabe said was true, si­lence to ad­mit it was bet­ter than noise that didn’t dis­prove it. ‘Are we now like Nige­ri­ans where you have to reach into your pock­ets to get any­thing done?’ was all Mu­gabe said. But just how much the Zim­bab­wean pres­i­dent had sim­pli­fied and un­der­stated the mat­ter! If only it was just a case of reach­ing into pock­ets!

He didn’t know that con­tracts here were awarded by ex­ec­u­tives, not by com­pet­i­tive bid­ding; he didn’t know that ap­point­ments here were made by po­lit­i­cal ex­ec­u­tives and not by com­pet­i­tive ex­am­i­na­tions con­ducted by an in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion; he wouldn’t know about se­cu­rity vote, and would never come to know that a Nige­rian pres­i­dent or gover­nor could dash a bil­lion Naira of pub­lic money to his friend or to him­self—and it would be cov­ered, passed and au­dited OK as a proper charge on that so-called se­cu­rity vote; he didn’t even know that that the po­lice here rou­tinely gave their guns out to crim­i­nals for hire, and they shared and demarcated po­lice precinct into dif­fer­ent the­atres of oper­a­tion: and the area of crim­i­nal oper­a­tion would be out of bounds to the po­lice for the du­ra­tion of that rack­e­teer­ing con­tract; Mu­gabe wouldn’t ever know that some judges here write two op­pos­ing judg­ments on a sin­gle case and what they fi­nally read in court as judg­ment de­pends on who pays higher!

Mu­gabe wouldn’t know that, be­cause of cor­rup­tion, they had never con­ducted a free and fair elec­tion in this land—and elec­toral cor­rup­tion is the high­est form of cor­rup­tion; for, it de­prives people of their right to de­ter­mine their lead­er­ship and fu­ture. It in­cludes in it ev­ery man­i­fes­ta­tion of cor­rup­tion: people are bribed, the en­tire state se­cu­rity ap­pa­ra­tus is mis­used, pub­lic of­fice is abused, oaths of of­fice are vi­o­lated, rule of law sab­o­taged, ju­di­ciary is com­pro­mised; while, on top of all this, pub­lic re­sources are stolen to pay for the rig­ging.

But Mu­gabe wasn’t the first to ac­cuse Nigeria of cor­rup­tion. Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional, which com­menced oper­a­tion in 1993 and gave out the first Cor­rup­tion Per­cep­tions In­dex in 1995, had by fol­low­ing year dis­cov­ered and ranked Nigeria last; and this earned it the no­to­ri­ety of be­ing the most cor­rupt coun­try in the world; and since then it has been down all the way. And even democ­racy didn’t seem to have helped mat­ters. For the first six of the last 15 years since the re­turn to civil rule in 1999, Nigeria re­mained the most cor­rupt coun­try on earth, al­ways com­fort­ably last or at best sec­ond to the last.

Af­ter those six years of Pres­i­dent Oluse­gun Obasanjo, at a time when cor­rup­tion was strug­gling to at­tain to per­fec­tion in Nigeria, the coun­try’s rank­ing in­ex­pli­ca­bly started to im­prove! The ul­ti­mate in cor­rup­tion would have been reached by Nigeria if it was able to en­mesh Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional as it fell vic­tim to the very pesti­lence it was try­ing to erad­i­cate. But Nigeria didn’t be­come the sov­er­eign of cor­rup­tion by so tech­ni­cal a process; it did so be­cause of the prac­ti­cal, of­ten in­ge­nious, cor­rupt prac­tices of its cit­i­zens at home and around the world.

And as suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments strug­gled with crises of le­git­i­macy and ju­nior of­fi­cers in their em­ploy strug­gled with in­fla­tion and low pay, and se­nior of­fi­cers faced the prospects of job loss or un­planned re­tire­ment, those ex­er­cis­ing dis­cre­tionary pow­ers were pre­sented with bound­less op­por­tu­ni­ties for per­pe­trat­ing cor­rup­tion; and, with­out the fear of be­ing caught or pun­ished, this of­ten be­came a temp­ta­tion few can re­sist. And so, it be­came per­va­sive and it is en­joyed.

In the past, Nige­rian lead­ers have chas­tised even Nige­rian jour­nal­ists and writ­ers for their neg­a­tive re­ports about the coun­try and ac­cused them of a lack of pa­tri­o­tism—and wanted them to stop; be­cause they fig­ured out that it wass a lot eas­ier for jour­nal­ists to stop writ­ing than for them to stop their cor­rup­tion.

Some­times, by way of ex­am­ple, they even cite the case of Ca­ble News Net­work, CNN, say­ing that in its reporting and anal­y­sis, CNN al­ways up­holds, pro­tects and pro­motes Amer­i­can in­ter­est, which may not be un­true; but that just hap­pens not to be jour­nal­ism; and Nige­rian jour­nal­ists are un­der any no obli­ga­tion to copy that brand of flag-wav­ing re­portage. In such a sit­u­a­tion, pa­tri­otic jour­nal­ism is no bet­ter than pe­cu­niary jour­nal­ism; and it doesn’t help the case that it is the na­tion that is pay­ing the jour­nal­ist back with its ci­ti­zen­ship. Any con­sid­er­a­tion other than the truth should be anath­ema to the pro­fes­sional jour­nal­ist, who should never ac­cept to be made to apol­o­gise for say­ing a nec­es­sary truth; nor ever re­gret ex­pos­ing the per­fidy of an un­ac­count­able lead­er­ship.

If I want be a pa­tri­otic jour­nal­ist, what I will do is to drop my pen and pick up a gun to join other Nige­ri­ans in fight­ing the coun­try’s just bat­tles—wher­ever they are fought and who­ever the en­emy is. Or go into pol­i­tics to help spear­head a gen­uine move­ment for a re­form of the sys­tem that will lead to the per­ma­nent en­trench­ment of a true demo­cratic cul­ture in Nigeria un­der the rule of law—at what­ever price; or get into the leg­is­la­ture to en­sure the in­de­pen­dence of the coun­try from ev­ery type of bondage—do­mes­tic, re­gional or in­ter­na­tional; or be part of the non­govern­men­tal over­seers; or just be con­tent with be­ing a con­sci­en­tious, law-abid­ing and an­gry cit­i­zen.

Af­ter all is said and un­done, I pick up my pen and write; be­cause, be­sides that, I don’t owe this coun­try the re­spon­si­bil­ity to tell a lie on its be­half—what­ever in­jury it stands to suf­fer on the in­ter­na­tional scene. And, by the way, sup­pose that the sit­u­a­tion is, in­deed, as the Nige­rian writer says it is, which then will have been more un­pa­tri­otic—the writ­ing that only re­ported the truth of cor­rup­tion, or the cor­rup­tion that prompted it?

For the mo­ment, the govern­ment will do well to leave Mu­gabe alone and at­tend to its cor­rup­tion. It should be­gin the process of con­sid­er­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of set­ting up a com­mit­tee that will pre­pare the modal­i­ties for call­ing a gen­eral meet­ing of all stake­hold­ers to be­gin the great task of look­ing into the ne­ces­sity of study­ing, de­lim­it­ing, de­lin­eat­ing, zon­al­is­ing and di­vid­ing all as­pects of cor­rup­tion; set­ting up ap­pro­pri­ate sub­com­mit­tees to be­gin the oner­ous task of call­ing for mem­o­randa from the pub­lic; col­lect­ing, col­lat­ing and clas­si­fy­ing sub­mis­sions; un­der­tak­ing a world tour to Scan­di­navia, North Amer­ica, Far East and Ocea­nia to study the sit­u­a­tion.

The com­mit­tee’s re­port should be sub­mit­ted to the next Na­tional Con­fer­ence that will be con­vened to find out why the cur­rent con­fer­ence failed. And when that next con­fer­ence sub­mits its re­port, an­other com­mit­tee charged with the task of ex­tract­ing mo­tions, sub­mis­sions, res­o­lu­tions rel­e­vant to the work of the orig­i­nal com­mit­tee should be set up. Its own re­port should be handed over to a White Paper sub­com­mit­tee with pow­ers to ver­ify ev­ery state­ment of fact, sum­mon any and ev­ery stake­holder, and, if nec­es­sary, un­der­take an­other world tour to re­con­firm some of the is­sues. It should im­me­di­ately break into sub­sub­com­mit­tees that must in­di­vid­u­ally and sev­er­ally re­flect federal char­ac­ter to write the sub­units of the White Paper; and when a draft re­port is ready, it should be handed over to an edit­ing com­mit­tee.

The fi­nal clean doc­u­ment must be sub­jected to a ref­er­en­dum in which ev­ery Nige­rian, re­peat, ev­ery Nige­rian, all 150 mil­lion of us with­out ex­cep­tion must give his opin­ion. Then the fight against cor­rup­tion will have be­gun; but for the mo­ment, with its elab­o­rate ar­chi­tec­ture of cor­rup­tion, Nigeria’s pa­tron­age sys­tem is as near to per­fec­tion as any spoils sys­tem on earth can get; and pre­cious few, if any, sys­tems can match its cor­rup­tion-friend­li­ness.

And in the end, it will slowly be­come clear that even the cur­rent se­cu­rity chal­lenge and fail­ure can be seen as the in­evitable re­sult of the amal­ga­mated cor­rup­tion go­ing on—po­lit­i­cal cor­rup­tion, bu­reau­cratic cor­rup­tion, eco­nomic cor­rup­tion, re­li­gious cor­rup­tion, so­cial cor­rup­tion and in­ter­na­tional covert cor­rup­tion; but what is still not clear to many is how Govern­ment Haram fits into this cor­rup­tion jig­saw.

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